In Memoriam: Star Trek the Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton

Opening in January 1998, Star Trek the Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton was a living testament to the Star Trek franchise. Containing both a museum and a simulator ride, as well as a recreation of Quark’s Bar from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek the Experience was a must see attraction for Star Trek fans. Originally operated by Paramount Parks (and later Cedar Fair after their 2006 acquisition of Paramount’s Parks division), the Experience remained at the Hilton for 10 years.

Guests entered into the History of the Future Museum, which contained many of the actual costumes, props and set pieces used in the various Star Trek series and movies. Guests could peruse the displays at their leisure, and at the end of the Museum, a small corridor formed the queue for Klingon Encounter, a highly immersive simulator ride. Guests would enter what seemed to be a mundane motion simulator loading platform. The lights would suddenly go out, and when they came back on, guests were stood on the Transporter Pad of the USS Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This transition has always fascinated me, and to this day I have no idea how it was done. I’m sure I could find out, but I don’t think I want to know. One thing is for sure though, it was awesome.

Guests then entered a replica of the Bridge of the Enterprise, before being lead to the Shuttle Bay (after a shaky encounter in a Turbolift) and joining the Enterprise for a battle with a Klingon Bird of Prey over the Las Vegas strip. Whilst breaking no new ground in simulated attractions, the immersion and detail in the ride made it a wonderful testament to the Star Trek franchise, and the return of Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Levar Burton for the ride’s film and pre-show segments was most certainly welcome.

In 2004, following the final season of Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek the Experience expanded with the opening of Borg Invasion 4D, again an immersive simulation of a Borg attack on the Copernicus Research Station. Utilizing a 4D cinema, guests were surrounded by live actors in full Borg regalia in the pre-show segments, and an awesome ride film for the show segment. Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Alice Krige also returned to their respective roles for the film.

Declining attendance, as well as contractual issues between Cedar Fair and the Las Vegas Hotel, finally meant the demise of Star Trek the Experience in 2008. The closing ceremony was open to the public, with Avery Brooks and Garrett Wang in attendance, and longest serving cast member April Hebert was awarded with a United Federation of Planets banner. Later in 2008, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman hinted that Star Trek the Experience would reopen at either the Neopolis Mall or the nearby Freemont Street Experience. However, no deal was ever reached and many of the Experience’s set pieces have now been sold off or destroyed.

All in all, Star Trek the Experience was a true delight for Star Trek fans, and Theme Park fans could revel in the immersion and detail that went into the attraction. Be ashamed of yourself Las Vegas for letting this true gem slip away!

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