Five places to nerd out in Las Vegas

Loud nightclubs with trendy DJs, snooty upscale restaurants and bombastic pop-star production shows dominate the current image of Las Vegas, and none of those sound like nerd-friendly activities. What's a geek to do in Sin City? Surprisingly plenty, actually, from attractions in casinos on the Strip to oddball activities off the beaten path. Here are five places in Vegas where you bond with fellow geeks and get your nerd on.

Sci Fi Center

Tucked away in a strip mall in the warehouse district near the Orleans, this endearingly grungy shop has become a Vegas institution, popping up in multiple locations over the years. It's a comic book and memorabilia shop where owner William Powell will talk your ear off about his pop-culture obsessions while selling you some action figures, and it's also the city's weirdest movie theater, with a cavernous, bunker-like screening room that hosts screenings like shadow-cast productions of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, local indie horror and sci-fi movies and all-day Godzilla marathons. Anyone who makes the effort to find this place will be among their people.

Millennium Fandom Bar

Taking over a space formerly occupied by a painfully hip downtown speakeasy, Millennium Fandom boasts the opposite of that exclusive, elitist vibe. This is a place where fans of all types can come together, to celebrate the movies, TV shows, comic books and video games they love so much. Whether that's via trivia contests or cosplay nights or movie showings or other events, Millennium Fandom is a place that encourages and builds the geek community. It's also a pretty cool bar, a place to relax with a themed drink and check out the cool pop-culture items that owner Alex Pusineri has amassed, from Thor's hammer to a full-size R2-D2.

Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

Even the glamorous, tourist-focused Las Vegas Strip has been infiltrated by nerdery, as evidenced by the massive Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. attraction at Treasure Island, an interactive museum of everything related to the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Full-size displays include Iron Man's armor, Captain America's shield and the Vision's birth cradle. Bu downloading the exhibit's app, visitors can learn about the specs and histories of the various Marvel heroes and their technology, and interactive elements include mapping Asgard and battling Ultron. What could be nerdier than an actual scientific museum dedicated to superheroes?

Movies & Candy

Think video rental stores are dead? Think again. Movies & Candy embodies the best of the old-fashioned video store, with thousands of movies available to rent on DVD, from popular new releases to bizarre obscurities. Owner Trevor Layne specializes in the bizarre and obscure, and he's amassed a truly amazing collection of disreputable B-movies, which he will happily recommend (and discuss at length). Don't have a DVD player handy? That's no problem, as Movies and Candy comes with its own screening room, which can be rented out for groups of friends to snark on a weird, Z-grade zombie movie—or watch their favorite cult classic for the millionth time.

Toy Shack

Thanks to its appearances on reality-TV juggernaut "Pawn Stars," this toy store in downtown's Neonopolis complex has become world famous. But while you might stand in line for an hour or more outside Gold & Silver Pawn, Toy Shack is more accessible and less focused on self-promotion and keeping up an image. You can wander the aisles and marvel at the vintage toys on display, or if you're flush with cash from recent gambling winnings, maybe spring for that ultra-rare action figure you've always had your eye on. If they don't have it in stock, they can always track it down.

Josh Bell is a Las Vegas-based writer (and 20-year resident) and the film and TV critic for Las Vegas Weekly. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.