CES 2008:  Ten Things To Know -- A User's Guide

Ten Things To Know About CES

Samsung's flat-panel television display is shown at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Jae C. Hong
Samsung's flat-panel television display is shown at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

If you’re an electronics geek, CES in Las Vegas is the place to be. Where else can you experience the thrill of 2,700 exhibitors and the agony of more than 140,000 attendees, all filling bags with freebies and stepping on toes as they fight for a better view from the show floor? For rookies headed to Vegas for the world’s largest gadget-fest, here’s ten things you should—and shouldn’t—do while you’re there.

Book Early — If you’re thinking about going and haven’t booked a room yet, you may as well wait until next year. Unless, of course, you’re planning on staying in a Winnebago or commute from Los Angeles. I waited till the last minute one year and ended up staying at Circus, Circus. Not the hotel, but the shacks, I mean, bungalows, in back. A truly forgettable experience.

Make a Plan — CES is an enormous show and the Las Vegas Convention Center is an enormous place. Unless you’ve got a hankering’ to dodge the throng as you wander the show floor, it’s better to plan your day. You can do that by using the Consumer Electronics Association’s Personal Planner. I did.

Don’t forget headphones & shades—CES is loud, raucous and can induce a skull-thumping headache. You will never see more projection, plasma and LCD TVs, all blaring something different, in one place. So if you’re concerned you might be overwhelmed and suffer some sort of seizure, behave like a New Yorker on the subway and duck under your headphones and shades.

Avoid ground transport —Trying to get a taxi at CES is like trying to beat the house — it could happen, right? I’ve waited and walked enough to know I’d rather ride. Apparently, some local officials couldn’t get a cab either, because city mothers and fathers decided to build a monorail system. And you know what? It’s faster, quieter and, should you care, greener.

Visit Mr. Bill’s Pipe & Tobacco Co.— Vegas is a city of vices, so why not satisfy one of your own with a hand-rolled cigar from Mr. Bill’s, winner of a 2007 Best of Las Vegas Award from “The Las Vegas Review-Journal.” Walk in, select your stogie, then smoke it while strolling down the Strip. Before arriving in Sin City, you may even want a primer of what's available.

See a Show — Sure, Cirque de Soleil is showing at virtually every hotel in Vegas, but that doesn’t mean you have to see it. There are plenty of other shows to choose from and you can book online via this site. And while the idea of seeing Van Halen banging out “Running with the Devil” on the Strip may offend some sensibilities (mine included), I can’t think of a better place to see Monty Python’s “Spamalot.”

Heads up, so to speak — It’s probably no coincidence the Adult Entertainment Expo, the country’s largest pornography convention, comes to town on the heels of the country’s largest geek-fest. The two shows used to run concurrently, but I guess organizers figured why not give folks a reason to stay in town all week. So if you’re a fan of the genre, don’t be surprised if you run into someone who looks familiar. My advice: Just smile and keep walking.