The Next Generation in Theme Park Attractions

Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton is Holodeck Nirvana

Star Trek: The Experience Vegas photo
••• Assimilation station- Jean-Luc Picard as a Borg robot watches over guests in the Star Trek queue. Jeremy Levine

Note: Star Trek: The Experience closed in September 2008. You can read about the defunct attraction in the following review.

One of the world's most detailed and engaging theme park attractions isn't in a theme park. Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton transports guests into the 24th century for a one-of-a-kind interactive adventure. From start to finish, the level of commitment to the storytelling is truly astonishing.

More than a motion simulator ride, The Experience is a 25-minute immersion into the Trek oeuvre, complete with live actors, multiple sets, shuttle bays, and Klingons. The admission prices are steep, but if you are a Star Trek fan or a theme park fan, resistance is futile; it's holodeck nirvana.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 4
    Typical motion simulator action. Psychological thrills may be intense for young children.
  • Type: Motion-base simulator with highly immersive pre-show.
  • Height restriction (minimum, in inches): 42
  • Location: Las Vegas Hilton, just off the Strip.
  • Admission (May, 2003): $24.99 for adults, $21.99 for children 12 and under and seniors 65 and older.
  • Also features Borg Invasion 4-D, an ambitious 3-d theatrical presentation.

Captain's log-- stardate: early 21st century. We've landed in a bold, new world. The climate is arid and inhospitable, yet the people here have built an enormous city. They have erected huge signs that emit more light than a photon beam. The female species engage in a peculiar ritual of prancing around on stages with almost no clothing except for elaborate headdresses. I've observed people taking all of their hard-earned currency and giving it away at something they call 'casinos.' The crew and I are having difficulty making sense out of this land, so I have scheduled a briefing with someone who appears to be almost like a deity here: Wayne Newton.

Star Trek meets Las Vegas? You bet! As if the famous gaming capital wasn't otherworldly enough, the ambitious Experience blasts guests to a future alterna-universe that's utterly convincing. You'll swear that you've been beamed into a real-life Trek episode.

The fun begins in the massive Hilton's North Tower.

At one end of the Space Quest casino (which, with its laser beams, giant video screens, and touch-sensitive slot machines is an attraction in itself), guests enter the History of the Future museum to the fanfare of Star Trek's various theme songs. Admission is free here; tickets are required to enter The Experience part of the attraction at the end of the museum's hallway. A huge scale model of the starship Enterprise hangs from the ceiling. Props, costumes, video snippets, and other Trek drek from the television shows and movies fill the museum, which doubles as the queue for the attraction. With the displays, there's no risk of line boredom. Although, if you assemble near the head of the line to secure your place on the next "mission," you'll have to endure the watchful gaze of a robotic Jean-Luc Picard in his Borg regalia and a brief, but endless loop of "The Next Generation" highlights.

RED ALERT!

If you want to learn more about the attraction, read on. However, if you're concerned that spoilers may ruin the surprises (and there are some real doozies) before you have a chance to experience them yourself, watch "The Next Generation" repeats, wait till you make the trek out to Las Vegas, and DON'T click to the next page.

You've been warned...

Next page: The Experience experience

RED ALERT!

If you want to learn more about Star Trek: The Experience, read on. However, if you're concerned that spoilers may ruin the surprises (and there are some real doozies) before you have a chance to experience them yourself, wait till you make the trek out to Las Vegas and DON'T read on. You've been warned...

When it's time for your crew to report for your mission, a uniformed guide escorts you to a holding area.

The guide offers some standard simulator ride warnings and directs guests to watch monitors for more of the usual pre-boarding announcements. Suddenly the monitors go blank, rays of light envelop the guests, an unmistakable Trek transporter room sound fills the air, and the room becomes dark for a moment. When the lights come up, the room is transformed and you've been beamed aboard the USS Enterprise, circa the 24th century and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It's a startling illusion, and the 21st-century guide helps maintain the fantasy by playing along. A breathless Enterprise officer greets the group and explains that a gang of rogue villains sent Captain Picard back in time in exchange for us Vegas stowaways. Our mission: get back to the nickel slots where we belong so that Captain Picard can return and say "Engage!" in his inimitable way. The officer whisks the group off to the bridge.

The actors and sets make the attraction. The officer that greeted our group looked vaguely like Commander Riker. He had a (pardon the pun) commanding presence, conveyed a lot of enthusiasm, and never broke character. More officers, looking nifty in their Starfleet uniforms and displaying the same commitment to their roles, were busy on the bridge punching buttons and raising shields to avert enemy fire.

For the approximately two-dozen guests that shared The Experience with me, I counted eight performers that interacted with us throughout the course of The Experience. That's a high ratio and helps convey the realism (and the high price) of the attraction.

Where's the "whoosh?"

With its blinking lights, banks of screens, and other familiar touchstones, the bridge is a faithful reproduction. It's a real hoot to stand there as the action unfolds. From the bridge, one of the officers leads the group to a turbolift--Trek talk for an elevator--for a ride to the shuttle bays level. One quibble: when the doors to the bridge and the turbolift open and close, they don't make that Trekian "whoosh" sound that we all know and love. With the ship taking missile hits and frantic communications from the bridge broadcast in the turbolift, the ride to the shuttle bays is fraught with peril. Leaving the turbolift, the officer leads the group through one of the Enterprise's corridors. Hey, isn't this the part of the program where a few of the minor characters usually are zapped by aliens or blown to bits? As a minor player, you'd better be on the lookout.

The Enterprise officer gives shuttlecraft boarding and safety belt instructions and closes the hatch to send the crew back on its journey to the 21st century.

Motion simulators are ideally suited to mimic space travel; this is the way to experience warp speed. The Star Trek simulator cabins have windows in front, above, and along their sides and use a domed screen to project an encompassing image. The simulator experience culminates with a precarious ride down the Las Vegas Strip and a big bang above the Hilton.

The ride ends with the obligatory shuffle through the gift shop. Pointy ears anyone? How about a free souvenir photo when you sign up for the Star Trek credit card? Don't leave the time-space continuum without it. With all that excitement, guests surely work up quite an appetite so Quark's Bar and Grill offers items like Glop on a Stick and Klingon Kabob. The restaurant is crawling with Trekkies when it shows the latest Star Trek episode on its large-screen televisions.

Previous page: Star Trek: The Experience ratings, general info, and intro