‘Avengers’ and ‘Hunger Games’ Assemble on the Strip


These immersive attractions offer a one-two punch for movie fans…

Click HERE to read via BestOfVegas.com…

Vegas visitors have long enjoyed attractions based on Hollywood films. From MGM Grand‘s original “Emerald City” motif to Excalibur’s Polar Express 4D and Las Vegas Hilton’s Star Trek: The Experience, just about every major casino has hosted a movie-based attraction at one time or another. Even Downtown has jumped on the trend with SAW Escape Room and Fear The Walking Dead.

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Now that Cirque du Soleil has taken the plunge and premiered the Hollywood-inspired R.U.N. at Luxor, the time is right to visit the two biggest and best movie attractions in the city. They’re Hunger Games: The Exhibition at MGM Grand and Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Treasure Island.

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Victory Hill Exhibitions is the visionary company behind both family-friendly exhibits.  They’ve been creating interactive experiences like China’s Transformers: Autobot Alliance and Madrid’s Jurassic World Exhibition for over 25 years. Victory Hill uses cutting-edge technology made possible by parent company CityNeon Holdings Limited, a sixty-year-old global firm that creates large scale projects for museums, galleries and the biggies….amusement parks. And with this being Las Vegas, you know the two companies have pulled out all the stops.

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Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) opened its doors at T.I. in summer of 2016 (official website HERE). Timed to coincide with the release of mega-hit Captain America: Civil War, it continues to draw fans from all over the world. Newly updated with elements from Black Panther, the multi-level experience allows you to step into the world of the beloved franchise that reached a climax in this year’s Avengers: Endgame.

A self-guided tour of ten character exhibits, Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. uses an interactive Mobile Training Device app to reveal key details and secrets of the Marvel Universe. You’ll receive a briefing from SHIELD Assistant Director “Maria Hill” and must pass a bio-scan designed to detect undercover HYDRA operatives before you can proceed with your mission.

Throughout the 31,000 sq. ft. facility are props and costumes from iconic set pieces like Captain America’s Vita-Ray chamber and Hulk/Bruce Banner’s bio-engineering research lab. Hop aboard Steve Roger’s motorcycle for a photo op, try your luck at lifting Thor’s hammer (only a handful of visitors have actually succeeded) and witness the incredible evolution of Ironman’s suit design at Stark Industries.

Dozens of electronic panels allow you to test your knowledge of Avenger’s history, science, genetics, and technology in their efforts to protect mankind. Theatrical sound and lighting effects immerse you in realism. You’ll even feel an icy blast as you enter the Alien Decontamination Chamber.

As you work through each hero’s case files, your goal is to assemble enough data to prove your worthiness in becoming an honorary member of the team. Your journey culminates in an all-out battle between you and your fellow tour members against the fearsome villain of AVENGERS: Age of Ultron.

As you might expect, an extensive selection of Marvel souvenirs and photos are available at the massive retail promenade. This section of the exhibit is open to the public free of charge. The facility can also host gatherings for groups of up to 200 people.


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At The Hunger Games: The Exhibition (official website HERE), large gatherings are usually reserved for The Reaping, an annual selection of “tributes”. The harsh reality of District 12 is only one part of your excursion to “Panem”, the fictional future America of Lionsgate‘s $3 billion film franchise.

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Located within The District (MGM Grand‘s retail and dining promenade), The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is a stunning collection of superlatives. During a grand opening gala this summer, the attraction’s enormous touchscreen display within the archery experience was certified as the largest in existence by Guinness World Records. Here’s the official statement:

The largest touchscreen display is 56.24 m (605.42 ft), and was achieved by Victory Hill Exhibitions – The Hunger Games: The Exhibition (USA & Singapore) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 6 June 2019.

“We strive to create unique, one-of-a-kind attractions, and the 60-foot wide interactive touchscreen offers patrons an unparalleled experience as they dive deep into the world of Panem,” said Welby Altidor, Group Chief Creative Officer of Cityneon Holdings and Victory Hill Exhibitions. “Our immersive attractions are designed with the latest technology to create hands-on interactives, and receiving a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title validates the quality, precision and creativity we put into every project.”

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Occupying a massive space that was the previous location for CSI: The Experience, The Hunger Games: The Exhibition takes you on an unforgettable ride aboard the “Tribute Train”. Travel from Katniss Everdeen’s poverty-stricken home to the gaudy, utopian Capitol of District 1. Along the way you’ll visit President Snow’s office, take a quiz at the “Capitol TV studio” and pay homage at Panem’s “Hall of Justice”.

                      Actor Elden Henson (Pollux) attends the grand opening on 6/6/19…

Throughout the exhibit are plenty of hands-on displays, trivia games, costumes and props from the movies. Rarities like an actual Mockingjay pin prop and the wedding gown worn by Jennifer Lawrence are included. Uniformed guides stay in character throughout the Experience while offering insight, guidance, little-known facts…and perhaps a helping of President Snow’s propaganda.

Much like Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., The Hunger Games: The Exhibition‘s grand finale is a full-scale interactive game. Join other freedom fighters (up to 40 at once) at District 13’s “Rebellion Facility”. Demonstrate your fortitude by arming yourself with a bow and arrows for the ultimate test at “Beetee’s Archery Training” (a waiver must be signed in order to participate).

The innovative archery range simulation uses… (Click HERE to continue reading)

Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Treasure Island is open 10 am to 7 pm daily. Click HERE to purchase discount tickets via BestOfVegas. Children 3 and under are free with a paid adult admission.

The Hunger Games: The Exhibition is open 10 am to 7 pm daily. Click HERE to purchase discount tickets via BestofVegas. Children 3 and under are free here as well. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Westgate Turns Strip-side Gouging On Its Ear


Find out why I’m constantly fawning over Westgate Las Vegas…

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It’s worth noting that, since this article’s original publication nearly two years ago on another website, I have stayed numerous times at Westgate during non-peak/non-convention periods. During those visits, the gates were conveniently open..and so were the opportunities for free (and hassle-free) parking without even the need for ticket validation or a room key. Apparently the resort is enforcing controlled access only when the situation demands it…to enhance the experience of their own guests.

The following section, although a re-publishing, has been updated and revised with current information.

Ever since MGM Resorts instituted a complex and ever-rising parking charge at their Strip properties, it was only a matter of time before others like Caesars properties, Cosmopolitan and Wynn/Encore followed suit (let’s call it “resort fee deja vu”). But while these insulting fees basically stick it to everyone (excluding certain levels of play and resort-branded credit card holders), Westgate Las Vegas has a parking policy to protect and reward their guests.

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That statement might initially sound like the infamous public-relations nonsense issued by Caesars Entertainment Corporation when they instituted resort fees “because the public demanded them.” Not so at Westgate, where the intent is clearly to ensure that their lots aren’t being jammed by drivers who are actually heading elsewhere.

You see, Westgate Las Vegas is in the sticky position of being both 1) adjacent to a convention center that charges hefty parking fees, and 2) located on a monorail line that takes riders all the way to MGM Grand and other properties along the way that now charge parking fees.

When I met with reps from the Westgate marketing team a while back, the subject of parking policies came up. Rumors had been swirling about MGM’s plans and Westgate was already considering their options to address the ramifications.

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Soon after, both my friend (photographer Greg C.) and I separately discovered that the multi-story garages and open-air lots had been secured. Automated ticketing kiosks had been installed and a ten-dollar daily fee was now in effect.

But….this is important….the fee was reimbursable for hotel guests, restaurant diners, attendees to Westgate shows and those who come to visit the casino and sports book.

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The “To Serve You Better” double-talk that’s usually issued in these situations is actually genuine here. Westgate patrons won’t have to be concerned that conventioneers and monorail riders are using up the available parking spaces.

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Signs are liberally posted throughout Westgate to show where to get your ticket validated. Naturally, you’ll need to present your dining/show ticket/betting receipt/player’s card as proof of your patronage.

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Then you simply insert that validated ticket into the automated exit gate at the lots and garages. Hotel guests have it even simpler, as their room key operates the exit gates as well.

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In addition, Westgate charges $20 to utilize their valet service during events and conventions, especially those at the adjacent Las Vegas Convention Center. But once again, this fee is reimbursed for hotel guests.

While walking the property to photograph the lots, gates and kiosks, I noticed several circumstances where cars approached the gates, read the new policy signage, then backed out and left. This is only conjecture, but I have to assume that these persons weren’t actually Westgate customers, meaning the intent of the fees is working.

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If this program turns out to be successful, perhaps we can eventually expect other resorts in similar situations (think Tropicana, Venetian/Palazzo and Treasure Island) to try their hand at customer-friendly parking programs. And once again, this could work in their favor to take on the money-grubbing bigger chains.

The policies and practices in Las Vegas are ever-evolving…and they’re rarely designed to truly improve the Vegas visitor’s experience. So, while MGM and copycat properties are using parking fees as a blatant cash grab, more guest-friendly resorts will be protecting their own.

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That’s why I’ll be booking more stays at Westgate. You should consider them, too.

Follow this link for a current list of Westgate Las Vegas discounted room rates, packages and promotional specials.

 

Photos: Sammasseur

“Drag Brunch” at Treasure Island is a Bold, Giddy Blast


Señor Frog’s Wakes You Up With Breakfast Burritos, Mimosas…and Drag Queens?

These days, the opportunities to say “Only in Vegas” are getting harder to come by. The lions have left MGM Grand.  The volcano at Mirage rarely erupts these days. Bowling with “glamazons” at Drink and Drag Lounge has faded into memory. But there’s an activity in Sin City that you most likely can’t do at home. It’s Señor Frog’s Drag Brunch at Treasure Island.

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When I first heard about Treasure Island’s Drag Brunch, I didn’t think much of it. This writer has covered many weekly mixed-crowd events that quickly “petered” out (no pun intended). But during my weekend mornings at home in Oregon, I noticed plenty of Vegas friends tagging themselves and checking in at the Brunch on the official Facebook page.

Would this be the one that actually catches on? Chances were pretty high, as the concept had already been the rage at Señor Frog’s locations in MiamiNew York City, and Fire Island Pines.

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Then I started getting a Groupon offer that was very tempting. Buffet, unlimited mimosas and a show for $45.00? I was already a fan of Señor Frog’s menu and wacky atmosphere. Throw in some seasoned RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants (like CoCo MontreseDesree St. JamesKahanna Montrese and India Ferrah) dishing out racy comedy and hit songs onstage and throughout the venue…and this makes for one heck of a deal.

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There’s also a VIP option with two-hour premium open bar and preferred seating. Prices are higher at the official site, which also lists a standing-room show-only option with cash bar for $10. I was told by an insider that the Groupon deal will be extended indefinitely, so that’s the way to go.

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As luck would have it, I was just about to purchase my Groupon when I got an official invitation to review the brunch. Despite a whirlwind schedule, I accepted and arrived early enough to take some photos…and get an early jump on the mimosas best seats.

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The venue on the second floor of Senor Frog’s overlooks the Strip (and lagoon for the former Sirens of T.I. show, another lost attraction) and has a dedicated bar and DJ booth. Most tables are large and “family style”, so you may make a friend or two before the show begins.

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If you’ve never attended a female-impersonation show before, this is the perfect opportunity to lose your gender-bender virginity. Drag entertainment has been around for centuries, going as far back as ancient Rome. Even Frank Marino’s DIVAS Las Vegas has been running on the Strip (in one form or another) for over 30 years.

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If you’re feeling a little insecure, the basic admission package includes unlimited mimosas. There’s also a cash bar staffed by muscular masculine bartenders. That should help to loosen your inhibitions and prepare you for the wild ride ahead.

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The Vegas version of Drag Brunch is emceed by Shannel (Bryan Watkins), whom you may have seen at Divas Las Vegas53X at Paris or Piranha Nightclub. Shannel has lightning-fast wit, amazing skill as a female impersonator and just enough gravitas to act as house mom to hold the younger “girls” slightly in check.

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Drag Brunch host “Shannel” will elevate your idea of drag queens….                

The jokes flew fast and furious, as did the wigs, lips and elaborate costumes. A cast of four performers covered the entire floor with outrageous dance numbers, wonderful spontaneity and laughs galore.

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Be aware that drag shows are extremely interactive. You may find yourself as part of a comical moment, dance number or group toast. Almost anything can happen here, but that’s why you come to Vegas, right? (BTW, it’s traditional at drag shows to wave some tip money at the performers, so you might want to have some singles ready).

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Since this review originally appeared on another site, I’ve attended Drag Brunch on numerous weekends and consistently have a great time. It’s a great choice for bachelor/bachelorette parties, anniversaries and any special occasion. They even hosted my birthday party this year, as you can see below.

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If you want to return home with your own “Waking Up In Vegas” tale, this is the one that you want to tell. Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch is a smash hit. Bring your appetite, a camera…and a sense of adventure. But leave your stuffy, uptight friends behind.

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Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch is held every Thursday through Sunday at Treasure Island Hotel Casino. Seating times are 11:30am and 2pm. Ages 21 and over. Prices range from $10 entry-only cash bar to $79.95 VIP including open bar and photo with cast. Group rates available. Discount admission via Groupon starting at $45 via this link.

 

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This review previously appeared on another site. It has been updated with current information and photos.

Photos: Sammasseur, Toshia Marvin, Drag Brunch