If you're not a gambler, here are some tamer bets in Vegas
January 8, 2012 10:00 AM
At CBS's Television City testing facility in Las Vegas, visitors can voice their opinions on proposed new TV shows.
By Rob Owen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Las Vegas isn't just about gambling. Tourists also come for the fine dining scene and live entertainment options, including eight Cirque du Soleil shows.
Other entertainment experiences await those who venture from the beaten path.
Circus Circus, at the near-vacant north end of the Strip, opens a museum on Jan. 19 dedicated to the art of a legendary Warner Bros. cartoonist with the Chuck Jones Experience.
Visitors will get to try their hand at drawing cartoon characters while learning about Jones, who died in 2002, through a short film. Admission cost will range from $14.95 (students, seniors, military, children 5-17) to $19.95 (adults).
In downtown Las Vegas' Fremont Street, the canopy light show flashes above a zip-line ride that careens 60 feet above the pavement for 800 feet, reaching speeds of 30 mph. (Cost: $15 before 6 p.m., $20 after. Hours: noon to 2 a.m. weekends, noon to midnight Sundays through Thursdays.)
Most of the entertainment options remain at the south end of the Strip, including CSI: The Experience at the MGM Grand. This touring exhibit began at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry in 2007, has an outlet at Discovery Times Square in New York and will soon open temporarily at the Buffalo Museum of Science (Jan. 28-April 29).
CSI: The Experience encourages visitors to play crime solver. But it's not cheap: $28 for adults and $21 ages 4-11 (plus a service charge), although coupons abound and Tix 4 Less booths sell discount tickets.
Newly enlisted investigators don CSI vests, view one of three crime scenes, take notes and then receive videotaped hints from the original "CSI" cast as they piece together whodunit and how. It's not much of a challenge.
For less expensive entertainment -- free, actually -- visit CBS's Television City, across from the "CSI" attraction in the MGM Grand's Studio Walk area (toward the back, near the pool).
Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with shows generally starting every half-hour, Television City is a test facility where visitors preview pilot episodes of unaired TV programs. While watching, visitors twist a dial to register their approval or disapproval. Afterward, they answer pages of questions about their likes and dislikes of the program. The whole thing takes about an hour.
The facility doesn't just test CBS programs. In early November, the site was showing "Bridal Boulevard," a wedding dress shopping show that appeared to those who saw it to be destined for cable's TLC.
And that's the challenge of attending a TV show test: You never know if you'll get something great or just another cruddy reality show. Regardless, for your efforts you're rewarded with coupons to various food stands in the MGM Grand, $5 off CSI: The Experience and 10 percent off the purchase of merchandise at the Television City store (T-shirts from "The Big Bang Theory," "Dexter," "Jersey Shore" and "NCIS" were on display, among other trinkets).
If you actually want to earn some money, visit Test America in the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood. Test America is ensconced in a second-floor space across from the V Theater/Stripper Bar, next to a restaurant called Blondie's.
A clerk at Tix 4 Less recommended Test America, saying she often stops in there after work if she needs a little extra cash. The key word is "little."
During a November visit, the facility was testing a new juice drink for children and their parents. Other visitors previewed and evaluated a trailer for the movie "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and then had to answer a lengthy series of questions on a computer screen. The whole visit lasted about 30-45 minutes and payment was a check for $2.