LOS ANGELES, CA – February 3, 2012 – The LA Times travel show, held January 28 and 29 at the LA Convention Center is a joyfully overwhelming frenetic beehive of adventurous, far-flung insanity. Grass-skirted fijians strum upbeat island melodies over a kava kava ceremony enticing would-be tourists to come check out their exotic destinations and peculiar elixirs while screaming thrill seekers zip-line overhead. In one corner Rick Stevens lectures on efficient European travel while somewhere else, audiences watch as a chef prepares meals eerily and elegantly inspired by the menu of the titanic in honor of the anniversary the century old tragedy.
Booths from Japan, China, India, Ecuador, Mexico, Yosemite, Costa Rica, Africa, Ireland, Wales, Guam, Yukon, Alaska, Argentina, Egypt, Mongolia,Malaysia and many many more inundate potential travelers to carve out a weekend, a week, month or even six months to come explore the wonders of their city, state or nation. At every turn is a giveaway or a discount. Laker girls inexplicably but effectively entice sports fans and pheromone driven males to inquire about Taiwan and the Ecuador Department of Tourism makes handmade local ice cream as a culinary gateway to their expansive and diverse country.
Each booth offers a variety of pamphlets, DVDs, business cards, and fliers loaded with glossy photos, travel deals, and pre-arranged packages. Many go so far as to offer enormous discounts to individuals that book at trip at the time they visit the booth.
Not only are there official booths but young entrepreneurs roam the show floor offering a variety of services from passport expedition to LA tours. One gentleman with a thick accent and a backpack approaches attendees with a flier selling underwear with zipper pockets sewn into them. He is from a company called clevertravelcompanion.com. The discussing underwear with a stranger is at first peculiar, but upon consideration of the product, it is hard to defeat its logic. This clever product could unquestionably defeat any pickpocket.
On one end, a predatory property timeshare company attempts to sucker visitors into a tour of a San Diego property in exchange for a free two day trip to Hawaii. It is only after a fifteen minute inescapable deluge of a sales pitch that the already horrible experience goes further south when they ask you for a forty dollar deposit in order to secure your spot on the San Diego property tour. So unpleasant is this experience that one can only feel sorrow for the neighboring booths as attendees go running away, eyes down as quickly as possible to escape these used car salesmen.
Despite this peculiar and unnecessary thorn in the side of an otherwise tremendous convention, the day is a true joy. While each experience sounds so otherworldly and unique, they all blend into a strange blur of potential adrenaline rush mixed with profound relaxation. To anyone interested in learning more about travel, getting first hand advice from people that know the countries you want to see, and for people who have traveled so much that they don’t know where to go next, the LA Times Travel Show is a perfect place to satisfy any global curiosity.
When it comes to bachelor parties, few if any other city can hold a candle to constant hysteria and hyper stimulation of Las Vegas.
While this age-old ritual of pre-matrimonial inebriation is one that for millions has been tried and true, there is more to The Entertainment Capital of the World than the glittery breasts of strange women or the thrill that accompanies the pairing of a royal face with an elusive ace.
At any hour, day or night, along this frantic sparkling strip of taxis, limousines, and malfeasance, one can find tight clusters of chino-clad, testosterone-crazed males puffing cigars, sipping purple tinted Everclear from “yard glasses” and scratching their heads in effort to unravel the mystery of the previous night’s nefarious activities. While such a journey for many males is a Rite of Passage, Las Vegas also offers a variety of activities that provide thrill seeking travelers with rare opportunity and an unrivaled release of endorphins.
Just one block off of The Strip, located off of Convention Center Drive on the north end of Las Vegas Blvd. is Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving. The first one of its kind in the country, Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving has been a part of Las Vegas since 1982. Indoor Skydiving provides customers with the thrill of free falling without ever having to set foot on an airplane.
After a ten minute safety briefing, a friendly instructor escorts clients into a small room where they are issued a diving suit, Velcro shoes, goggles, gloves, a helmet and ear plugs. Unlike actual skydiving suits, the suits at Indoor Skydiving must be extremely baggy so that they can capture the up to 140 MPH wind needed to lift them off of the ground.
Once waivers are signed and signals necessary to communicate with the instructor are understood, the participants make their way into the vertical wind tunnel, a three-story circular room with padded walls. The mesh net floor functions like a trampoline to ensure jumper’s safety.
After a brief lesson in how to “fall,” guests, one at a time, lay flat on the net-like trampoline and the 1200 horsepower engine beneath them roars to life. Within seconds, their faces and suits begin to flap in the massive gust as they are suspended anywhere from five to fifteen feet off of the ground, where they will remain for roughly a minute to a minute and a half.
After this introduction to the art of flying, you are put into groups of four and allowed three attempts over a thirty-minute period to master the art of indoor flying. The experience is surreal and inspiring. You are guaranteed to leave with your heart pounding.
Beginning at $89 for your first flight and $50 each additional flight, Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving offers a series of group rates and takes reservations. For more information visit www.vegasindoorskydiving.com.
THE GUN STORE
If being suspended in mid-air isn’t enough to solidify a place within Masculinity’s Hall of Fame, it is easy to raise the bar. Jump into a cab and make the three-minute drive down to 2900 E. Tropicana Ave. to The Gun Store where guests have the opportunity to fire a variety of weapons ranging from the infamous Dirty Harry 44 Magnum to the rapid fire of the inconceivably powerful M249 S.A.W.
Upon pulling into the rather inconspicuous parking lot of the gun store, guests are greeted by beautiful “Promo Girls” who wait in a tent just outside the Gun Store’s entrance. These well-informed and scantily clad sirens hand visitors a pricing sheet, which is divided into three categories and prices: Machine guns, which run $50 for anywhere from twenty-five to fifty shots, handguns which run $25 for anywhere from five to twenty shots, and semi-automatic rifles, also running $25 including anywhere from five to twenty shots.
The author and his Range Master
The Promo Girls inform shooters about the forty-five different guns they can choose from. The machine gun category includes the Thompson .45, the AK-47, and the Uzi. Handgun options include the Ruger MKIII, the Beretta M9, the Glock 17, and the Dirty Harry 44 Magnum.
Rifles include the Sniper Rifle, Beretta CX4 and a 12 Gauge Shotgun among many others.
Once guns and/or gun packages have been selected, you make your way inside and wait in line to receive your ammo. Lining the wall are a dozen or more targets with the likenesses of mischievous clowns, terrorists, and kidnappers, all waiting to be riddled with bullets.
The Gun Store offers fifteen shooting lanes and is currently adding more than thirty additional ones to accommodate its ever-increasing number of customers. Once your ammo and targets are in hand, a range master provides eye and ear protection, escorting you to your lane. The range master then provides instruction on how to handle each weapon before firing.
After that, the shooting begins.
Because one magazine of machine gun ammo takes just under twenty seconds to fire, guests are encouraged to choose two or three guns. Typically such packages include one machine gun, one semi-automatic rifle, and finishing it off with the powerful blast of a machine gun.
Between the constant explosive percussion of guns being fired in every lane and the thrill that comes from firing forty bullets from a military style machine gun, there are few things more thrilling than an afternoon at The Gun Store. For more information go to http://thegunstorelasvegas.com/.
EXOTICS CAR RACING
If high-powered weaponry or skydiving isn’t enough to satisfy that need for adrenaline, just twenty minutes outside of Las Vegas is Exotics Racing. Located adjacent to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Exotics Racing offers customers a chance to drive some of the most expensive exotic cars in the world, including Audis, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis the way they were meant to be driven on an actual race track.
Guests arrive to a festive environment. Over the loud hum of sports cars whizzing around the track, music blasts and a food trucks sells barbeque as guests await their turn to get behind the wheel.
After checking in and selecting your car, soon to be drivers are taken to a briefing room to be educated on not only how to operate the controls of the car but also how to actually drive the car on a race track to ensure that the car is driven at its maximum performance and speed.
Next, pile into one of two Porsche Cayennes where another instructor proceeds to drive you twice around the track familiarizing new drivers with the various apexes and straight-aways.
A Ferrari and a Lamborghini on the Exotics Racing Track
While guests may be overwhelmed at the vocabulary and expectations of the track, upon receiving your helmet, your personal instructor greets you and escorts you to your car, providing additional information.
Once in the car, the instructor reiterates the information from the briefing, tailoring it specifically to the vehicle you will be operating.
The flowing, friendly dialogue allows drivers to ask any questions or clarify any concerns before actually driving onto the track.
Once on the track, drivers are immediately instructed to gun their automobile as they make their way to the first turn. Upon acceleration, drivers are thrown back into their seats as the automobile rockets forward reaching upwards of 80-MPH in just a couple of seconds before having to apply the brakes to scream through the track’s first turn.
Finally settled into the car, you grow comfortable, pushing the accelerator to the floor, taking turns at high speeds well over 100MPH, and ultimately feeling in control of the $500,000 piece of machinery. By the last lap, you are taking the turns like NASCAR racers. Pulling off the track you can’t help but feel exhilarated from the entire experience.
Each ride consists of five laps and range in price, depending on the car from $199 for a Porsche Carrera S to $399 for a Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640. Other cars include the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, theFerrari 458 Italia, the Audi R8, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the Nissan GTR. Multiple car packages as well as private events are also available. For more pricing go to exoticsracing.com.
What better last stand before a march down the aisle than an afternoon of being suspended in the air under a wind current of 140MPH, shooting off dozens of rounds of explosive weaponry and driving in exotic cars at breakneck speeds on a professional racetrack.
While it is easy for a memory to get lost in a night of joyful and celebratory debauchery, by taking Vegas truly to the limit, one can have an experience that is truly unforgettable.