76-Second Travel Show: “Las Vegas: ScIeNce City”

Episode #008
F E A T U R I N G * 7 6 * B O N U S * S E C O N D S
Includes interview with “inclinator expert” at the Luxor;
music courtesy of New York City’s defunct TW-in-87.

Good trips often get a “moment” — that single experience where, when the trip’s reflected on, your thoughts fall first.

For my Vegas 2009 that will ever be the sidetrip to Valley of Fire State Park – a stunning scene resembling decayed nougats of red fudge poking out of the desert floor. The bearded rangers wouldn’t talk on camera for us, but they pointed out the best place to hike: not just around the White Domes Trail, at the north end of a 11-mile scenic drive, but right up them.

Atop the White Domes’ prehistoric snakeskin-style “walkway,” I dangled my legs over the side of a cliff and took in the desert’s complete silence. There I finally learned the key to appreciating Vegas: leaving it. Just outside town, you begin to appreciate how the nation’s fastest-growing city could ever grow in a Mars-like landscape of formations created 150 million years ago.

People call Vegas “Sin City,” but considering the inescapable questions of geography (among other sciences) that come up here, it’s a “ScIeNce City” too. And the SSTS proudly presents the SIX BEST SCIENCE ATTRACTIONS:

Few know of this back on the Strip, but the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) opens its observatory on Friday and Saturday nights for a full-on glimpse of the stars. There’s also astronaut ice cream. It’s $6, beginning with an astronomy program at 7:30pm. Go by rental car. The taxi would run $75 minimum, one way.

Near the strip, this Smithsonian affiliate has a fairly defensive look at the state’s involvement in atomic testing from 1961 to 1992. Plenty of videos with former employees talking about their role in the Cold War, and an interesting shop and Miss Atomic Bomb knick-knacks. You can also arrange tours of the blasted domes at the Atomic Testing Site, north of town from here.

All the glitter of Vegas’ neon past has been collected in this non-profit museum. There are some objects to see around downtown’s Fremont Street, but the real attraction is its “boneyard,” an outdoor collection of rescued neon signs that can be seen by reservation only. Call 702-387-6366.

Appearing in reality TV shows on occasion, we’ve noticed, this $250 million education complex features a “Desert Living Center” and two miles of (free) walking trails that piece together Nevada’s cultural and natural history. Right in town.

It’s certainly national-park-worthy and well worth bringing some food out for a fun meal in the retro picnic shelters, and taking a walk around Silica Dome, where Captain Kirk perishes in “Star Trek Generations,” or so we think. Only pop and some snacks available, so pack ahead. Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten a hat; they sell curious “Nevada State Park” hats for $15.

Tours of the he New Deal 726-foot dam – packed between Lake Mead on one side and the distant hydroelectric plant on the other – are available, but it’s worth even just a walk across. Drive to the Arizona side for free parking.

–> STTS scientific experiment: It took 38 seconds to enter the Hoover Dam gift shop and find the first souvenir that did some “dam” word play (t-shirt: “This is My Dam T-Shirt”).

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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4 Responses to 76-Second Travel Show: “Las Vegas: ScIeNce City”

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  2. Las Vegas Hotels says:

    Wow, fantastic! I liked your travel show, very nice post. I’m exactly sitting in the web and searching good attractions for me and my family in Vegas, where we will come soon on vacation:) I will add to our planning list all the science city activities, my boys will love it!

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