After attending the annual Glass Craft & Bead Expo in 2005, Richmond, Va.-based glass and fiber artist Lura Dillard wanted a lasting memory of her “unforgettable” first visit to Las Vegas. 

“Purchasing dice, poker chips and other materials from local shops, I created my mosaic-ed ‘Vegas Memory’ hubcap,” Dillard said. “It inspired a series of destination-based pieces, with gallery shows and sales.”

Vegas is a marketplace for ideas and commerce like no other. Inaugurated in 1994, the three-day Expo has called South Point Hotel Casino and Spa home for 13 years. 

“Exceeding 8,500 in total attendance for 2018, we are celebrating all things glass at our 25th anniversary show in April 2019,” said Lee Anne Short, CEO of Creative Endeavors & Las Vegas Management, and the show’s owner since 2008.

“And we appreciate our partnership with South Point, where we utilize their entire conference center and much more for education, exhibiting and events," she added.

"The space is perfect, rates are reasonable, activities plentiful, and the staff always helpful with our complex event," Short concluded.

In Vegas, art and culture are tickets to ride.

Simply Brilliant!

In September 1928, Ethel Guenter, owner of Fremont Street’s Overland Hotel, switched on an innovative new customer lure. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “The Overland hotel is displaying a new Neon gas-electric sign, of the most modern design, adding considerably to the appearance of that section of the city.”

Two months later, the Hoover Dam was announced. For Las Vegas, then a struggling railroad town, it was electrifying news—with neon to become its beacon.

“Neon is our art form and identifier,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “Visitors see neon and think of Las Vegas.”

Replicas of the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” and other signs will reportedly serve as wayfinders at the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion. 

While few vintage Strip signs remain, save the Flamingo’s facade (1953) and clown (1976) at Circus Circus Las Vegas, yesteryear neon is alive and well Downtown. Highlights include the El Cortez (1941) and Atomic Liquors (1952), Hacienda Horse and Rider (1967), and other remounted signs lining Fremont East, and glittering original casinos of the Fremont Street Experience, where a $33 million upgrade will transform the LED Viva Vision Light Show into a new floor-to-ceiling interactive experience.

The Holy Grail is the Neon Museum, where the outdoor Boneyard, home to some 200 retired signs, hosts private events, photo shoots, education and guided tours.

In the North Gallery, Oregon-based digital artist Craig Winslow’s nighttime Brilliant! experience magically transports guests to vintage Vegas. Opened in February 2018, this mesmerizing 30-minute show features inoperable classic neon signs reanimated via projection mapping, a laser-perfect augmented reality technique. Matched to tracks by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Liberace and more, Binion’s Horseshoe, Stardust and other signs dance back to life. Immersive, joyous and emotional, it is a dream date for groups.

With visitorship surging, the museum, just opened additional exhibition and event space in a 15,000-square-foot warehouse on the Las Vegas Review-Journal campus. The entire Downtown arts and cultural scene is switched on, with other illuminating options for groups. 

Downtown Diorama

At the Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, groups can relive the nationally televised 1950 Kefauver mob hearings in the original courtroom, view gripping images of mob hits, and much more.

Unveiled in April 2018, The Underground is a permanent new Prohibition exhibition that doubles as an event-capable speakeasy and distillery. Exhibits include Sean Connery’s machine gun prop from The Untouchables.

Unveiled in February 2018 as part of the first floor’s $9.2 million upgrade, three new interactive programs are group musts. In Use of Force, a former federal officer led me through digital and live role-playing training scenarios. Armed with a CO2 pistol, I verbally negotiated several intense criminal situations. De-escalate or shoot? Were it real, a colleague would be writing this story.

The Crime Lab experience offers hands-on forensics, including autopsy, DNA and fingerprint analysis. And the Organized Crime Today installation features a 16-foot interactive touch-screen wall that takes users around the world of organized crime.

Elsewhere in Downtown, groups can enjoy headline acts and Broadway shows at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts; music festivals, rock shows and viewing parties at the open-air Downtown Las Vegas Events Center; and at multi-venue Container Park, outdoor entertainment and 360-degree visuals paired with classic rock inside the 25-seat Dome. 

Opened in 2010 in a stand-alone Modernist landmark, MEET Las Vegas is a creative canvas for indoor and outdoor events. And Las Vegas’ status as the only large U.S. city without an art museum could soon change, with discussions moving ahead for funding a proposed new-build museum as part of the redevelopment of Downtown’s 61-acre Symphony Park.

Alter Your Reality

Strip culture is most associated with global superstars on tour or in residencies, theatrical extravaganzas, and the world’s hottest nightclubs, like Hakkasan. And the non-stop action on and off the Strip is about to go where no destination has gone before. “Vegas: Alter Your Reality” is a project recently commissioned by the LVCVA in which five renowned artists depict Vegas in immersive virtual reality animation.  

Slated for 2020, Madison Square Garden’s MSG Sphere, to be built east of the Sands Expo Center, will completely recast the live entertainment experience through next-generation audio and visual immersions. Also planned for 2020, Kind Heaven, the $100 million, 100,000-square-foot virtual reality experience at The LINQ Promenade, will transport visitors into uncharted holographic and simulated reality.

And slated for late 2019, Area 15 is a 126,000-square-foot “radical reimagination of entertainment and retail for the 21st century.” Planned for land behind Palace Station, the venue’s first tenant is reportedly Meow Wolf. This Santa Fe, N.M.-based arts and entertainment collective creates “immersive, interactive experiences to transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration.” The group collaborated with Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin on the award-winning multidimensional House of Eternal Return.

Set your sights on many repeat visits to Vegas—the future is here.