LivingTravelThe Next Generation of Star Trek Theme Park Rides

The Next Generation of Star Trek Theme Park Rides

Note: Star Trek: The Experience closed in September 2008. You can read about the missing attraction in the review below.

One of the most detailed and attractive theme park attractions in the world was not in a theme park. Star Trek: The Experience at Las Vegas Hilton transported guests back to the 24th century for a one-of-a-kind interactive adventure.

Star Trek meets Las Vegas? You gamble! As if the famous capital of the game was not from another world, the ambitious experience took guests into a future alternate universe that was completely compelling. You could have sworn you were streamed into an episode of Trek in real life.

From start to finish, the level of engagement with storytelling was truly amazing. More than a motion simulator ride, The Experience was a 25-minute immersion in Trek’s play, complete with live actors, multiple sets, ferry bays, and Klingons. It was holodeck nirvana.

  • Excitement scale (0 = Wimpy!, 10 = Yikes!): 4
  • Type: motion base simulator with highly immersive pre-show.
  • Height restriction (minimum, inches): 42
  • Location: Las Vegas Hilton, right off the Strip.

The fun started in the huge North Tower of Hilton. At one end of the Space Quest casino (which, with its laser beams, giant video screens, and touch-sensitive slot machines was an attraction in itself), guests entered the History of the Future museum to the fanfare of various theme songs from Star Trek .

A large-scale model of the spaceship Enterprise hung from the ceiling. Props, costumes, video clips and other Trek drek from TV shows and movies filled the museum, which doubled as the queue for the attraction. With screens, there was little risk of line boredom.

Yes, the participants were beaten

When it was time for the crews to report for their missions, a uniformed guide escorted them to a holding area. The guide offered some standard driving warnings in the simulator and instructed the guests to look at the monitors to see more of the usual pre-boarding announcements.

Suddenly the monitors went blank, streaks of light engulfed the guests, the unmistakable sound from the Trek carrier’s room filled the air, and the room darkened for a moment. When the lights were turned on, the room was transformed and visitors were transferred aboard the USS Enterprise, circa 24th century and Star Trek: The Next Generation .

It was a surprising illusion, and the 21st century guide helped keep the fantasy playing. A breathless Enterprise officer greeted the group and explained that a band of rogue villains sent Captain Picard back in time in exchange for the Las Vegas stowaways. The mission of the guests: to return to the nickel slot machines where they belonged so that Captain Picard could return and say “Commit!” In his inimitable way. The officer led the group to the bridge.

The actors and sets made the attraction. They had a commanding presence, they conveyed a lot of enthusiasm, and they never broke character. Looking resourceful in their Starfleet uniforms, some of them were busy on the bridge hitting buttons and raising shields to avoid enemy fire. For the approximately two dozen guests who shared each Experience, eight artists interacted with them throughout the course of the attraction. That’s a high ratio and it helped convey the realism of the attraction.

Where’s the Whoosh?

With its twinkling lights, screen benches, and other familiar touchstones, the bridge was a faithful reproduction. From the bridge, one of the officers led the group to a turbolift, Trek talk for an elevator, to be brought up to the level of the ferry bays. One objection: When the bridge doors and turbolift opened and closed, they didn’t make that Trekian “buzzing” sound.

With the ship receiving missile hits and frantic communications from the bridge transmitted on the turbolift, the journey to the shuttle bays was fraught with danger. Exiting the turbolift, the officer led the group through one of the corridors of the Enterprise.

The Enterprise officer gave instructions for boarding the transport ship and the seat belt and closed the hatch to send the crew back on their journey into the 21st century. Since motion simulators are great for mimicking space travel, it was a great way to experience warp speed. The Star Trek simulator cabins had windows on the front, top, and sides, and used a domed screen to project an immersive image. The simulator experience culminated in a precarious ride down the Las Vegas Strip and a huge explosion above the Hilton.

The trip ended with the mandatory shuffle through the gift shop. Pointy ears anyone? With all that excitement, guests surely worked up an appetite, which is why Quark’s Bar and Grill offered items like Glop on a Stick and Klingon Kabob. The restaurant was full of Trekkies when it showed the latest episode of Star Trek on its big screen televisions.

Other Star Trek theme park attractions

Next to Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton was a second attraction, The Borg Invasion 4-D. It was based on the television series Star Trek: Voyager . Rather than a motion simulator ride, The Borg Invasion was a 3-D film with sensory effects (making it a “4-D” attraction). It closed when Star Trek: The Experience closed at the Hilton.

For a short time, Universal Studios Florida offered The Star Trek Adventure. For an additional fee on top of the cost of admission to the park, it allowed guests to dress up and act as characters from Trek. Using green screen technology, guests were inserted into a short scene based on the original Star Trek television show. Guests received a VHS copy of their performance to take home. Interestingly, there are strong rumors that Universal Orlando is considering bringing back the Star Trek franchise as part of its fourth planned theme park.

From 2004 to 2007, the roller coaster currently known as Nighthawk at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, was known as BORG Assimilator and incorporated a Star Trek theme. When Cedar Fair bought the Paramount Parks, it dropped all licensed Paramount names and themes, including Star Trek .

Visitors can still ride a themed roller coaster, Star Trek: Operation Enterprise, at Movie Park Germany in Bottrop. The launched roller coaster opened in 2017 and is based on Star Trek: The Next Generation .

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