“You’ll be with me. Blue group heads out at 6:15,” says David Hardy, Creative Director at ArtsVegas and Field Trip guide, as he straps a blue paper bracelet onto a visitor’s wrist. Its quarter to six on the evening of Sept. 21 and the small Tastyspace gallery is packed with people checking in to attend the inaugural Las Vegas Fieldtrip. And it all started with an app.
The Field Trip app, created by Google, runs in the background of a smartphone and emits alerts when users pass cool things, from famous statues to cocktail lounges, based on preference settings. Google taps local organizations and experts to get places and items of interest listed in the app in the first place. As it happens, edgy arts and culture blog ArtsVegas was tapped to lead the Field Trip in Las Vegas.
“Google provides the platform, we provide the content,” explains ArtsVegas writer Nate Serefine. Google launced Field Trip tours in other cities including London, New York and Portland, Ore., to test the app.
One of three groups of 25, the blue group marches out of Emergency Arts and into the street to visit 11 iconic Vegas hotspots trying to guess our next destination based on a list of fun, campy clues such as “this might have been a championship volleyball move,” for Goldspike or “learn the history of sleeping with the fishes” for the Mob Museum.
The tour has a social media photo contest going on; whoever wins gets a Polaroid Z2300 as the grand prize. At each stop, while Hardy is explaining “the federal government sold the former post office and federal building for a buck, so it could be restored,” or “Binion’s was the first casino to have carpeting,” everyone is busily snapping photos and uploading them to #VegasFieldTrip.
Soon, the group enters the blinking sensory overload that is Fremont Street. We pass a Hello Kitty and bizarre old guy with a revealing wedgie and pink wings offering free breast exams. We also encounter a costumed Native American drumming a slow beat accompanied by a live monkey. There are no official Field Trip alerts, but plenty of photo-worthy highlights along the way.
At Neonopolis, we learn its history as a Woolsworth’s store. “Its neat to be able to hear about the history,” one Field Tripper says. Next, we head down Las Vegas Boulevard, partially interrupting a wedding at Wee Kirk O’ the Heather, the city’s oldest continuously operating wedding chapel. The happy couple quickly warms up to the attention and smiles into the photos. We continue down Bridger Avenue, eyeing the classy gold and white Art Deco façade of Las Vegas High School, turned Art Academy in 1993.
“I knew they moved it but I didn’t know they moved it downtown” says another Field Tripper as we pause at the mid-century modern Morelli house. “It’s nice that it came downtown and didn’t go to the ‘burbs or a museum.”
Last stop was Atomic Liquors, ending our fieldtrip with refreshing atomic-era inspired cocktails. But the adventures don’t have to stop there. “This was just proof of concept,” Hardy explains. “ArtsVegas is breaking out into more personal, curated art related tours.” It feels like a natural shift in focus for a blog that has been committed to relating tales of art and culture off the beaten track in Las Vegas to begin guiding others to those places and adventures.
Of course, you can always go out adventuring on your own. With a name like Field Trip, the Google app recalls our youthful forays visiting planetariums, zoos, and wax museums, while reminding us our field-tripping days don’t have to be over.
Field Trip app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/field-trip/id567841460?mt=8