Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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What to Do in Vegas When Pool Season Ends

Hunger

For most people living it up in Vegas, the itinerary is drinking, gambling, shows, and dancing at night; brunch, swim, and sun during the day. With pool season wrapping up, including the Luxor's epic LGBTQ pool party, visitors not prone to spending six hours in front of a slot machine or blackjack table are forced get creative with their daytime hours. There's certainly no shortage of shopping on the Strip, as well as slightly kooky destinations off of it, including museums devoted to pinball and the mob. Two other options, one spanking new, offer relatively inexpensive diversions that will fill the hours between mimosas and the dinner toast.

MGM Grand recently cut the ribbon on The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, buried underneath the concourse leading to the resort's pool. Descending the stairs transports you from the controlled chaos of the MGM to the slightly menacing world of Panem. Turning the apocalyptic film series into a themed experience at a casino is an interesting idea that will hopefully catch on with attention-deprived travelers; there's a lot of curiosity and fun to be had here.

The immersive trip begins in a recreation of the forlorn home of Katniss (memorably played by Jennifer Lawrence in the films), where she works to keep her starving family alive until she's forced by fate to join the cruel entertainment known as The Hunger Games. If you're not familiar with Suzanne Collins's page-turners and the equally enjoyable films, it explores a dystopian world where teenagers are forced to kill each other as entertainment for the masses, as well as a way for an authoritarian government to keep its citizens in fear and in check.

Visitors to "The Exhibition" will wonder through Katniss's hunting grounds in District 12, a replica of the elaborate train that takes her to Panem's "Capital," and the stark office of the nation's evil leader, President Snow (a menacing Donald Sutherland in the movies). Original costumes are displayed throughout and fill up an entire room near the end of the exhibit, allowing visitors to view the intricate detail of the four films' futuristic gowns, suits, and military gear.

You'll also learn how "Tributes" trained for The Hunger Games, and try to master their combat techniques. An interactive computer includes information on the 13 districts of Panem, allowing the curious to see how places like California and New England turned into barren wastelands.

At the finale of "The Exhibition," an instructor teaches guests how to operate a bow and arrow like the one mastered by Katniss, before they're led into a giant, sparse room where video screens cover the walls. Soon participants are competing to hit the deadliest targets as a clock ticks down. The stakes effectively seem high, even though you're safely ensconced in the basement of a giant resort casino. It's a hoot. Give yourself about 90 minutes for the whole "Exhibition," with tickets $35 for adults and $25 for kids.

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The T.I. resort (formerly Treasure Island) has a similar experience for comic book fans — and we all have a queer geek in our life, if we're not one ourselves. Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., taking about an hour to 90 minutes to cover, trains participants to become superheros via technology and special effects. This S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (you'll understand the acronym when you get there) is perfect for kids, but entertaining enough even for grown-ups not familiar with the Marvel Universe — we perused a rapt lesbian couple pouring over every exhibit. The experience is layed out like an elaborate maze, leading you through costumes (Captain America and Black Widow, to name a few), props, interactive experiments, Bruce Banner's laboratory, and a finale like that of The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, but rather then competing with your friends, you team up with them to save the world. Why didn't we have this stuff when we were kids? Adult tickets run $34, kids get in for $24.

If you're still burning hours before your nightly reservation, get a guest pass for either the T.I. or MGM Grand spas, and soak in the sauna, hot tub, and steam room. Services like facials and massages can also be booked, and the MGM features a barbershop if you need a cut.

MGM's dining options are vast and include the excellent Morimoto, a three-year-old sushi and Japanese fish house from an Iron Chef winner. If you're visiting the Marvel S.T.A.T.I.O.N. or T.I., don't miss Senor Frog's Drag Brunch, featuring rotating stars from RuPaul's Drag Race; every Thursday to Sunday. 

Still have time to kill? Check out Virtual Reality Powered by Zero Latency, a massive VR experience at the MGM Grand, where teams of up to eight tackle seriously thrilling challenges in a 2,000 square foot arena. 

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