10 Las Vegas alternatives to Interop

What if you had some spare time to wander around while attending the Interop conference in May?

IT pros flock to Las Vegas every spring to attend Interop and gather all the info they can about products and services that might help their companies meet business goals. And that’s all they do. But just in case someone going to the show this year has a little extra time outside all that diligent research, here are a few things to divert them, leaving out the usual gambling and stage shows. Warning! This might involve actually traveling off the Strip, but it could be well worth it.

Mob up

The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement, a.k.a. The Mob Museum, just opened in February at the old post office building. There you can see a range of memorabilia: a grisly photo wall entitled Mob’s Greatest Hits; the barber chair occupied by mob hitman Albert Anastasia when he was shot and killed in 1957 (formerly owned by standup comic Henny Youngman); a reconstruction of a courtroom where the Kefauver committee investigating organized crime met; and a bullet-riddled section of the Chicago garage wall that was the backdrop to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. There are 17,000 square feet of exhibit space so there are plenty of exhibits with tenuous links to actual crime. 300 Stewart Ave.

Dive a bomber

SCUBA dive on the wreck of a B-29 Superfortress bomber that crash landed and sank in Lake Mead in 1948 in 130 feet of water - more or less depending on the current level of the lake. Divers run down a line to a concrete block and follow horizontal lines to the wreck itself, which is pretty intact given that it hit the water at 250 mph. You have to stay off the wreck itself because its skin is fabric and after 64 years in the water it’s pretty fragile. While you’re there, be sure to notice the Hoover Dam, which holds back the Colorado River to form the lake. You can’t miss it.

Fort of The Latter Day Saints

Visit the Old Mormon Fort, an 1855 settlement in Las Vegas built by a group sent to convert the Paiute tribe to Mormonism. The ruins of the original fort are still there as is a reconstruction. The Mormons’ effort failed after two years and the site came into the hands of Archibald Stewart who was killed in a gunfight with a disgruntled ranch hand and whose widow, Helen, kept the place running both as a ranch and as a rest stop for travelers. She is known as the First Lady of Vegas. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 500 E. Washington Ave.

Shotgun Wedding

At The Gun Store, visitors can shoot just about anything – handguns, grease guns, Uzis, sniper rifles, Tommy guns – with same-day instruction and supervision. The place caters to bachelor and bachelorette parties and even hosts weddings – shotgun weddings. Access to the private gun range, photos with up to three guns each for the bride and groom, firing five shots each with a shotgun, two The Gun Store hats and shirts and a legal wedding ceremony are all included. The place can even supply a limo and flowers. 2900 E. Tropicana Ave.

Ghosts

Try Haunted Vegas Tours to see if you can connect with the spirits of Bugsy Siegel, Elvis and Liberace, among other noted dead. The 2 ½ hour bus tour hits sites where ghosts are reputed to roam, including a place known informally as the Motel of Death, an establishment the company doesn’t name on its site, but where it is said that many celebrities have met their demise. The guides include a hypnotist, a magician, a mortician and the author of a book named Weird Nevada. Ghost-finding dowsing rods are included. 99 Convention Center Drive

Pawn2pwn

World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, home base for the TV series Pawn Stars, is right in downtown Vegas, where pawning pros offer up cash for items their customers bring in. The place is an operating commercial pawn shop despite its celebrity, so there’s no guarantee that crews will be filming while you’re there, but if you’re having a tough evening at the roulette table, you might be able to come up with some scratch by trading in that iPad you won at the Cisco booth. The shop is open 24 hours a day. 713 Las Vegas Boulevard South

No tilt

The Pinball Hall of Fame is the work of one man, Tim Arnold, who has amassed more than 1,000 pinball machines in his personal collection, with 152 of them on display and ready to play at his strip-mall storefront a short bus ride from the Las Vegas Boulevard. From a 1947 Bally Heavy Hitter game to a 2009 Stern CSI game, the hall of fame has something from every era of pinball in between. The place has electro-mechanical games as well as solid state games, single-player, two-player and four-player. And if you’re lucky, you might see Arnold himself in a corner repairing one of his machines. 1610 E. Tropicana Ave.

High wire act

A section of Fremont Street is now a pedestrian mall - The Fremont Street Experience - closed to car traffic and featuring old-school casinos, roving chorus girls and $5 blackjack. It’s also got a zip line that runs down the street, giving patrons an 800-foot run and a 17-foot drop on a ride with speeds up to 30 miles per hour. They travel on a steel cable down a section of the mall 50 feet above shoppers below. The place also features an arched canopy over the street that has downward-facing video screens 90-feet up and 500 yards long that display an assortment of light shows. The zip liners glide along beneath it.

Men in black

You can take a tour out highway 375 to a stretch of road known as Extraterrestrial Highway, the main road into Area 51, the government R&D facility where many believe there has been interaction with alien life. Vehicles run by Adventure Photo Tours pick you up at your hotel and drive you 150 miles to the edges of the test range, which is sprinkled with government cameras and listening devices among the Joshua trees. The tours stop at the Little ALEInn (pronounced alien) for lunch where the menu includes the Alien Burger. The ride through mostly vacant desert and mountains serves to emphasize just how wild and open the land is.

Other Conferences

Las Vegas is one of the top cities for conferences, catering to multiple conventions and trade shows all the time. During Interop week, there are other gatherings you might try to crash using that ID tag and lanyard. Political? The Libertarian National Convention is in town to choose its presidential candidate. Obscure? International Garage Door Exposition. Entrepreneurial? The Car Wash Show. There’s a lot to choose from, but if you’re having trouble deciding, Mike Ditka is the keynote speaker at The Carwash Show.

Pee at the Berlin Wall

A wall in the men’s room at the Main Street Station Casino is actually a section of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany until, after Ronald Reagan’s admonition to “tear down this wall,” East and West Germans did so. At its current location the wall is festooned with urinals and topped with photos of the wall in its younger days.