Will You “Get Made”? Las Vegas Mob ExperienceAugust 31, 2011 No Comments
Almost as soon as we arrived in Las Vegas, Dad and I were visually assaulted by a never-ending stream of paperwork. We quickly learned two things: One, never pay full price for anything without consulting the reams of free coupon books and signing up for the player’s clubs at all the casinos. Two, there is enough to do in Las Vegas to last a lifetime. Make a list of the things you most want to see and save the rest for next time.
On our initial overview tour of Vegas with OnBoard Tours, we got some great information about the mob history in town. We were eager to do something interactive, to dig deeper into the seedy side of Las Vegas–what can I say, we have a bit of a morbid sense of adventure. As it turns out, the Las Vegas Mob Experience was one of our top five activities in Vegas!
About the Las Vegas Mob Experience
Opened at the Tropicana hotel in spring 2011, the Las Vegas Mob Experience is unlike anything we had ever seen. The exhibit uses an enhanced Pepper’s Ghost technique known as Musion to make you feel like you are interacting with your choice of five mobsters, who serves as your guide through the attraction. The first large-scale implementation of Musion technology was in 2008, at Universal Orlando’s reboot of the Earthquake attraction, now called Disaster. Musion goes way beyond traditional video or magician’s techniques in its sense of realism. It is also hugely expensive, so I was impressed to see its use in a relatively small Vegas attraction.
In addition, visitors are actually given jobs to do and choices to make when interacting with live actors. Will you join the mob? Will you give up the mobsters to the police? The entire experience takes place on fully-realized sets, from an outdoor café to a busted-up jewelry shop, providing an entirely immersive feeling.
As of 2011, the Las Vegas Mob Experience is open every day from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. The last admission is at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $30 for adults, $25 for local residents, seniors and active duty military, and $22 for children aged 5 to 12. Due to the intense nature, the experience is not recommended for kids under age 5. Coupons and discounts abound in Las Vegas, so check for discounts around town before paying full price.
We arrived at approximately 8:30 p.m. The experience is in an isolated part of the Tropicana, far from the casino. Directional signs are everywhere, and hotel employees are happy to give directions if you get lost.
A couple of actors portraying mobsters were hanging out in front of the attraction, engaging visitors in banter while remaining entirely in character. We picked up our tickets at the desk and joined the short line to enter. We were assigned mob nicknames–Dad was Dasher and I was the Mad Hatter, and chose one of five mobsters to interact with. We were given laminated cards to wear around our wrists. Each card has an RFID chip, allowing the system to track visitors throughout the experience. Incidentally, photos are not permitted inside, and you will be told to put your camera away. However, as media, we were allowed to take photos for this article.
The experience began in the line, which was designed to resemble the pier at Ellis Island. The premise is that you are a new American immigrant in the 1940s, when the mob was at the height of its Las Vegas heyday. Informational signs introduced us to the most famous names in Las Vegas’ mafia history.
At the front of the line was a red velvet rope. Each party was admitted separately, creating a heightened sense of foreboding. The line moved fairly quickly as everyone chatted nervously, wondering what was to come. When we were admitted, our first order of business was processing through Ellis Island. OK, so it was actually the obligatory photo, conveniently offered for sale in the gift shop at the end. But we did a few poses and had a lot of fun, and we were impressed how seamlessly the photo session flowed with the rest of the attraction.
We were then sent to knock on a door at the end of the hall. A slot opened and we were greeted by first names by a live actor. As soon as the door opened, he pressed an envelope into our hands and gave us instructions to make a delivery.
From there, we made our way through a series of impressive sets. At each juncture, we were presented with a decision. Do we lie to the police officer? Do we turn in our new mobster friend? How far do we want to go down one path or the other?
Soon we found ourselves in a huge series of rooms, each filled with interactive museum-style displays. Authentic mob artifacts, videos, informational signs…we barely knew where to look first! This section is self-paced, so parents with younger kids may want to take a quick walk-through, while those with older children may prefer to linger. A long video in a comfortable theater explains some of the background on the making of the hit film The Godfather. Without giving anything away, I highly recommend that you watch at least a portion of the video. What they went through is rather amazing!
We soon realized that it was after closing time and we still had the last section of the attraction to go through! The employees were quite good-natured, and did not kick anyone out. We did see them turning off lights behind us, though.
The next portion dealt with the downfall of the mob in Las Vegas. As explained in the attraction, when the mob moved out, street crime moved in. Making our way through some rather dramatic scenes, we reached the final climax. Your decisions throughout the experience determine exactly which of four endings you live. No matter what, though, it’s sure to be something you will never forget!
Tips for Parents
The Las Vegas Mob Experience deals with a topic that is unpleasant for many people–organized crime. If you are uncomfortable with your kids digging into the dark past of Las Vegas, the experience may not be right for your family. However, the information is presented matter-of-factly and a balanced view is provided. We found nothing objectionable for kids of all ages.
The interactive nature of the experience draws visitors in, and each group goes through alone. Who doesn’t want the chance to walk onto a set and become part of the action? The actors are fantastic, basing their performances on the feedback they get from each group. They are also great at involving even the shyest member of the family, allowing everyone to truly feel like an important part of the show.
There is a great deal of information presented via signs, interactive Musion technology and actual artifacts. But the adventure is self-paced, allowing you to decide how long you want to spend. We were there for an hour and a half, and easily could have spent another hour. If you are less interested in the museum portion, you could complete the experience in roughly one hour.
Interestingly, Las Vegas today has largely removed any references to its past. From the mafia to the Rat Pack, the people that built the legendary Las Vegas Strip are barely recognized at all. As students of history, it was refreshing to us to find an entire experience dedicated to the people who started it all. Love them or hate them, without mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel and Tony “the Ant” Spilotro, Las Vegas would never have become a major tourist destination.