For the ultimate vacation, spend a few days at a Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. I’m completely serious: if the purpose of the ultimate vacation is to temporarily rid one’s mind of all everyday stress then a Las Vegas Star Trek Convention could be the ultimate vacation.
Recently I returned from four days at Rio Las Vegas, and for those four days, not once did I mull through the stress of world economic woes, nasty party politics, unemployment or family health problems. For four days, I was a “Trekkie” – albeit an imposter – more like a “wannabe;” I was a convention “newbie” in a Starfleet uniform.
So here I was in the Rio Las Vegas and I wasn’t here to see magicians Penn & Teller or the Chippendale dancers. I was here in “Sin City,” the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” but I wasn’t here betting at game tables, or even shopping at designer boutiques — not even wandering around with a half-yard of some flavored vodka-infused slushie drink.
Rather, I was entertained by everything Star Trek. I was overwhelmed by the intricate costumes and make-up of the attendees, many even acting their parts from five different television series and 11 movies. I was attending panel discussions, with examinations of such various topics as “Which Star Trek Captain was Best” or “The Geek Girls of Star Trek.”
My eyes were opened wide on this trip. My son had made several trips to Las Vegas, with friends to the convention and I never realized what kept him wanting to return each year. Now I know. The energy here is both electric and magnetic. There are star sightings everywhere and of course, I’m not referring to those massive balls of plasma in space. Dozens of celebrities casually interact with convention-goers. Many pose for photos with the fans; other sign autographs. But it’s more. It’s the camaraderie, the friendships, that seem to transcend time, and well, space.
The Rio Las Vegas is an excellent property for this convention and accommodates the attendees very well with ample room for the large sessions, smaller venues for the panel discussions and many meeting rooms for the photo ops and autographs. Lots of eateries meet the needs of all types of wallet sizes and a variety of menus meet the desires for different cuisines. The casino even featured some Star Trek-themed slot machines.
One highlight for me was the merchant’s room – a large exhibition hall that holds all the memorabilia vendors displaying a wide selection of posters, stickers, shirts, hats, jewelry, you name it! Dealers sell everything from those furry little Tribbles to ocean cruises with Star Trek celebrities. I was fortunate to hear three Star Trek Captains speak at one presentation as William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew took the stage in the main ballroom. But perhaps the part that I’ll never forget was watching Leonard Nimoy bid farewell to his fans, indicating this year would be his final set of Star Trek appearances.
After the presentations, panels and appearances during the day, the nights come alive with parties throughout the Rio. Some require VIP tickets, or cover charges; but others have minimal fees or no charge. The party we attended at Rio’s McFadden’s Irish Pub boasted a drink menu that would have made Deep Space Nine bartender Quark proud. Servers rotated around the pub with Warp Core Breach drinks – an explosive concoction of various liquors and fruit punch; and James Tea Kirks – a kind of Long Island iced tea with Blue Curacao. One party featured Star Trek trivia for those with excellent memories – these were very entertaining to watch even if the answers were far beyond the reach of convention newbies like me.
In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re unable to memorize lines from The Original Series (TOS), The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9) or other television series. It makes no difference if you can’t distinguish the costumes, culture and language of a Klingon from a Romulan or a Cardassian. (No, not Kardashian!) What is important is the entertainment value this convention can produce. There were activities for children; a kid’s craft workshop was on the agenda for Saturday morning. Trekkies are all ages; they come from all walks of life, from all parts of the globe… maybe even the galaxy? All are brought together for a common passion for Star Trek. Anyone who comes to a Star Trek Convention and isn’t thoroughly entertained and relieved of all stress and worry – the definition of an ultimate vacation — is probably from another planet… or maybe an assimilated cybernetic organism (“Borg”).