Orange cones cordon off a section of Las Vegas Boulevard. Huge pieces of camera equipment poke into the skyline. Police lights blaze, and people gather behind temporary barriers, craning their necks to try to steal a glimpse of a Hollywood A-lister.
It’s October 2012, and the stars of The Hangover franchise are back in Las Vegas to film the third installment of their blockbuster movie series.
Even if you’ve never been to Las Vegas, you’ve likely seen our city on the big or little screen. Hundreds of television shows and movies have been shot here over the years, and they just keep coming.
The city’s skyline is iconic, its nightlife epic, and its people quirky – all things Hollywood producers love. Hence, they flock here year-round to film productions big and small. And so too do film lovers and TV-show fans.
Want to be a part of the action? There are dozens of things to do and places you can visit to relive your favourite scenes or be part of an actual production.
Gold and Silver Pawn skyrocketed to fame as the setting for hit TV show Pawn Stars
Credit: Jay Galvin
Tour companies make it easy by planning guided excursions of television and movie hot spots. For about $70, for instance, you can take a 4.5-hour bus tour of sites featured in such Las Vegas-based reality TV shows as Tanked, American Restoration, Counting Cars, Toy Shack and Ultimate Sports and Memorabilia. If you’re lucky, you may even meet the stars.
For something out of the ordinary, there’s also a tour lead by ex-mob member Frank Cullotta that takes you to the sites made famous by the cult mobster film Casino (1995). And then there’s CSI: The Experience, which attracts fans of the TV series, as well as adventure-seeking visitors looking for an immersive experience.
For many smaller venues around the city, the clout and influx of fans that comes with being featured on film is highly profitable, with many shops and third-party tour vendors capitalising on Las Vegas as a Hollywood backdrop. The resorts where many of the movies are shot, however, maintain a much lower profile. It adds to the allure. Typically, the only time they promote the action taking place on site is at movie premieres for the films shot locally, when they roll out the red carpet and host special VIP events. Otherwise, filming typically is unannounced and often takes place overnight to minimise disruption – both to the film crews and to the casino-hotel.
If your schedule or pocketbook are more limited, it’s just as easy to go on your own tour of the city to spy filming locations.
On any given day, scores of people line up behind velvet ropes outside downtown’s Gold and Silver Pawn, the pawn shop that doubles as the set of the hit reality television show Pawn Stars.
The Bellagio has featured in many films, one of the most famous being Ocean’s Eleven
Credit: Zach Dischner
Thousands of people stream through the store daily, hoping to score an autograph, buy Pawn Stars merchandise, land on camera, take pictures with Rick Harrison, Chumlee or one of the show’s other stars, and occasionally, do actual pawn shop business. Store managers say only about one in 100 visitors come by the shop to buy or sell goods; the rest are fans.
“I just love the show,” gushed Amanda Wallace, 74, of Nebraska, who stood in line outside the pawn shop with her grandchildren. “I don’t know what I’ll do if I see the guys. I might ask Richard Harrison to marry me!”
The most famous film backdrop in Las Vegas, unsurprisingly, is the Strip, and on it, Caesars Palace. The iconic resort has hosted dozens of productions.
Recreate scenes from The Hangover in the lobby, pool, elevators or front drive. Imagine yourself part of television’s Entourage at the gaming tables. Or book the high-end suite where Rain Man filmed.
Just down the street is the Bellagio, where Brad Pitt and George Clooney tried to pull off a massive casino heist in the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven. If you’ve seen the film or its sequels, many sites will look familiar, but don’t even try looking for the vault, the public never gets to see the money rooms.
For comedy lovers, check out the Mirage Resort and Casino, where Chevy Chase’s classic Vegas Vacation was filmed. You’ll know the pool when you see it. Parts of the resort also appear in the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
To party like a cast member from The Real World, head to The Palms Casino Resort, where Season 12 was filmed, or the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the setting for Season 25. Hit up Mr. Lucky’s 24/7, a funky, fun retro diner, for a midnight snack or dance the night away at Rain, where a Real World cast member worked as a go-go dancer.
For a true 24-hour reality TV experience, rent the 30,000-square-foot Real World suite, which includes a pool table, hot tub and the same over-the-top embellishments featured in the show. The resort advertises the space as “the real deal without the cameras”. Just beware: Rates start
at $5,000 a night.
Are you a fan of film and TV? Book one of our Las Vegas hotel deals and explore the settings made famous on the big and small screens.