Spending the holidays with family in northern California, I found myself on a unique journey back to Denver. Facing a lack of reasonably priced direct flights, I opted for a strategic one-stop route through Las Vegas for just $120 via Spirit and Frontier Airlines. What made this deal even sweeter was the cost-saving decision to travel light, carrying only a laptop bag that neatly stowed underneath the airplane seat in front of me. This savvy choice not only saved $110 in luggage fees but also spared me from the hassle of lugging around a suitcase in Las Vegas.
The freedom of movement with just a laptop bag allowed me to seamlessly navigate the city’s car-themed attractions during my 12-hour layover. The decision to travel light turned out to be a game-changer, enabling a more agile and enjoyable exploration of the automotive wonders that awaited me in the entertainment capital of the world.
Shelby American: Icons of the 1960s
My first stop was at Shelby American, which I arrived at through a combination of the RTC 109 southbound bus from the airport and 15 minuted of walking. Shelby’s headquarters—which has a production line inside—treated me to a visual feast of iconic cars, including two of my favorite vehicles from the 1960s: the Ford GT40 and Shelby Cobra. There was also a fleet of classic Shelby Mustangs.
Cars of Hollywood Museum: A Hidden Gem
A Lyft ride took me to the Cars of Hollywood Museum, a hidden gem with no other visitors while I was there, likely due to mixed reviews and a $20 entry fee. Despite this, the collection, featuring originals and replicas, proved captivating, from KITT in Super Pursuit Mode to the Back to the Future DeLorean.
I was also heartened to see the A-Team’s GMC van, some James Bond vehicles, and a Vespa collection.
Count’s Kustoms: A Missed Opportunity
An attempt to visit Count’s Kustoms hit a snag, arriving at 4:30 p.m., mistakenly assuming they closed at 5:00 p.m.—a lesson learned about the importance of checking closing times. Too bad, as I’d have loved to have seen Count’s custom creations made famous by the TV series I have yet to watch.
Resorts World: Unexpected Discoveries
I walked over to Resorts World to explore Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, dubbed the Vegas Loop. Exploring Resorts World led me to another car-themed delight: a Formula 1 store. This was likely set up as a tribute to the Las Vegas Gran Prix Formula 1 race, which was inaugurated only last year in November.
There were lots of Ferrari attire. However, the piece of clothing I would have been most interested in was this Alfa Romeo jacket.
The Vegas Loop: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop
Next to the Formula 1 store was an escalator to the Vegas Loop. Finally, I would be able to experience this innovative concept of subterranean transportation beneath the city’s glitzy surface after reading about it for years.
Upon reaching the entrance, the website’s claim that only those with LVCC credentials could partake in the Vegas Loop didn’t deter me. The Vegas Loop employees didn’t seem to care too much that I wasn’t a badged CES (Consumer Electronics Show) event goer–what the Convention Center was being used for the next few days. A nominal $5 ride fare later, I found myself inside the unconventional transport system.
While the experience didn’t necessarily convince me that this was the future of transportation, it undeniably added an intriguing chapter to my car-themed day. Inside a Tesla Model Y, driven by a sociable elderly woman, I gathered insights into the Vegas Loop’s functionality and purpose. Although not a vision of future commuting for me, the encounter was a thought-provoking highlight in a day filled with diverse automotive wonders. Exiting at Central Station to board the Monorail, I left with a blend of fascination and curiosity about the innovative transit possibilities that Las Vegas had to offer.
The Monorail, an off-the-ground mass transportation system, was more impressive than the Hyperloop in my eyes. It provided an autonomous journey with breathtaking views of the dazzling Strip landmarks, including the new Sphere.
Ferrari Movie Finale
The day concluded at an AMC theater—to which a Lyft took me to from the MGM Monorail stop—to watch the new Ferrari Movie. While not reaching the heights of Rush or Ford v. Ferrari, it offered a unique, albeit somber, experience with excellent cinematography.
Reflections and Lessons
Reflecting on the day, I acknowledged the sprawling nature of Las Vegas beyond the Strip. If I were to do it again, I would seriously consider renting a car. It would have provided greater convenience and flexibility, and since everywhere I went was off the Vegas Strip, there was abundant parking. But then I likely would not have experienced the Vegas Loop or the Monorail.
In hindsight, I pondered the priorities, considering a potential shift in focus to prioritize places like Count’s Kustoms for original, functional cars over the movie props showcased by the Cars of Hollywood Museum. But this perspective might have been skewed by having seen so many of the same famous film cars (or replicas of) in other automobile museums such as the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles and the Dezer Collection in Miami.
Regardless, the plethora of car-themed activities I did during my half-day layover in Vegas made for an exciting auto-centric mini-epic.