Perhaps you have out-of-town guests who would like to see something other than the Strip—or out-of-town guests you just don’t want to (or don’t have time to) show around.
After enjoying success in western Canada, GyPSy Guide—your personal, self-paced GPS-enabled audio tour guide—has arrived in Las Vegas (and a new, island-specific version is available in Hawaii, too). The hands-free device goes for $49 a day and is delivered to your door (reservations are made via a toll-free number).
The GyPSy Guide, left, uses a FM transmitter to play audio.
GyPSy includes two pre-programmed tours: One to Red Rock Canyon and another to Hoover Dam, and both start at the south end of the Strip.
It is easy to set up the device: The kit includes the modest hardware required to suction-cup the holder to your vehicle’s windshield or dash, and you can use the included auxiliary cable or FM transmitter to play the audio over your vehicle’s sound system. A universal 12V power connector is also included to make sure the device doesn’t run out of juice and leave you stranded.
Although it’s not a traditional, enter-your-destination-and-let-it-find-the-best-way-to-get-there kind of GPS unit, GyPSy uses the same satellite-enabled sensors to queue pre-programmed, location-specific narrations along each route.
You can leave your assigned route at any time, of course, but GyPSy won’t resume the tour until you reach another activation point along the tour route (there’s usually points every few miles or so). The device tells you where to turn and identifies points of interest along each route as optional where you can stop and explore—or not—but if you stop at every one, each of the tours (which took me seven hours to complete, combined) could easily take all day.
The narrator covers some great content, but also rambles on about historical things he thinks you might want to hear. On the Hoover Dam tour, for example, you hear stories of the mob’s impact on Las Vegas, which is entertaining. But the commentary plays as you are passing the M Resort, home of the best off-Strip buffet in Las Vegas, which is not mentioned at all.
The tour is informative and pleasant enough, but it misses opportunities. Recommended attractions, such as Bonnie Springs and Spring Mountain Ranch on the Red Rock tour, are subject to set hours of operation and some spots charge fees for admission, which add to the cost and are not always mentioned in the tour’s audio.
The accuracy of some of the content is suspect as well. On the way to Red Rock, for example, the GyPSy suggests stopping at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, and recommends checking out the saltwater aquarium while you’re there. However, the aquarium is part of the Silverton, which is not mentioned at all.
A little later on the Red Rock tour, the narrator erroneously identifies a home as belonging to Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller. Jillette’s house is nearby (on Wigwam Avenue just east of Buffalo Drive) but is not really visible from Blue Diamond Highway, on the tour path.
These errors and omissions are balanced by some good myth-busting. For example, on the Hoover Dam tour, GyPSy correctly asserts that despite the legend, no bodies are buried in the dam, and that the large mountain on the east side is not Sunrise Mountain, but is actually called Frenchman Mountain. However, after proudly declaring this common error, GyPSy fails to mention that Sunrise Mountain is close by, too, just to the north of Frenchman.
When I look at the device itself, a Windows Mobile device running the GyPSy Guide multimedia GPS tour application in kiosk mode, I keep asking why. Why isn’t there just an app for this? An iPhone or Blackberry can connect to GPS and show a map with elevation change, distance and average speed for the same routes as the GyPSy; why can’t a smartphone be empowered with an app version of a GyPSy audio tour?
Still, GyPSy eliminates any concern over data plans, coverage areas and roaming fees, which could be a major concern (and headache) for out-of-towners. All things considered, it seems a dedicated rental device may be easier to use for many people—tourists, especially.
While I enjoyed the voice of the narrator, I would have liked to have seen more options there. Perhaps some local flavor with news anchors Dave Courvoisier (a voice-over actor on the side) or Nina Radetich—or Carrot Top, Mayor Oscar Goodman or Wayne Newton.
No advertisements are included on the audio, but the rental fee could be reduced with the addition of location-specific ads. For example, a restaurant could offer beverage deals to parched GyPSy-guided tourists as they approach the establishment.
GyPSy Guide is a pleasant experience for independent, self-paced travelers. The current tours have lots of insightful commentary, historical references, gambling tips and generally useful advice, yet it would be nice if GyPSy added to its offerings. My suggestions: the Valley of Fire, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.