Las Vegas: The Game Turns Usual Party Bus Fare on its Head

Photo by Jon Estrada

Photo by Jon Estrada

Ah, the party bus. Before the economy tanked, it’s how people who didn’t really care too much about clubs got into several high-profile nighttime hot spots, had time to have a drink at each, then continued to drink on the bus until it dropped them off, hopefully at the location where it picked them up. For big groups, it proved to be a way to visit as many locales as possible; for solos or couples, it hooked them up with a batch of single-serving drinking buddies for the evening. And, presumably, shenanigans would ensue, the result of the combination of alcohol, strangers and Las Vegas. It’s this expectation of the Las Vegas experience that Chad Hardy and partner Justin Oswald capitalize on with their new endeavor, Las Vegas: The Game, where the party bus becomes an even wilder ride.

The night I played the game, I had piled onto a bus with others in the media. The ideal situation for Las Vegas: The Game is that only a few people who organize the outing are in on it, while the rest of the revelers are clueless as to how the night will unfold, or know that all the characters we meet along the way are actors. So when a neon-clad transvestite on crutches picks a fight with the tour’s VIP host in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, it’s a surprise. An assortment of Las Vegas archetypes peppered our night: We picked up a showgirl with a full-on headdress from the lounge at Mix, had a bounty hunter board our bus at Champagnes and had shots poured into our mouths by our recovering alcoholic VIP host. Shenanigans ensued.

When I first met Hardy in 2007, I wrote about the corporate scavenger hunts he organized in town. Hardy was ahead of his time, actually, finding a use for the monorail, which teams would use as transportation for their adventures. The game back then was of the spy variety, having to meet clandestine characters in shadowy spots on the Strip.

I also wrote about the 2008 “Men on a Mission” calendar that Hardy produced. It was like a hot firefighters calendar, but instead of hot firefighters, it was returned Mormon missionaries—sans white shirts and nametags, of course. The publication eventually led to Hardy’s excommunication from the LDS church. That in and of itself seems like an only-in-Vegas story, which is exactly what he’s trying to create for clients with this concept.

“The original plan was not even pranks,” Hardy says. “The reason it’s called ‘Las Vegas: The Game’ is because it was going to be a reality show competition that you did down the Strip on the bus. And it just never felt right. Then one day, I was like, ‘It’s not a game, it’s a metaphor.’ Let’s not try to offer something that’s not out there; let’s mimic what already exists here, and let’s prank it. And that’s when it became more of a tour.”

Before the concept developed into the two to three-hour adventure it has become, it began as one-off pranks requested by visitors, who had heard about Hardy’s services by word of mouth. One bride-to-be asked to be arrested by a bounty hunter in front of her bachelorette party. A stag party from the U.K. asked to be picked up at the airport by strippers. One of the strippers was a plant who was given previous knowledge of the bachelor, which she revealed on the bus, and subsequently “stalked” him throughout the rest of their night.

“So we have the bounty hunter, we’ve got the monkey, Elvis—we’ve got all these different personalities,” Hardy says. “And normally it would just have been a one-off prank somewhere along your night, but now we string them together into one hilarious show.”

This very Vegas night costs $2,500, no matter how many people are in your group, which may be a deterrent for those traveling in smaller packs. But it will likely be more cost-effective to play the game soon.

“We’re not fully set up yet to do individual tickets,” Hardy says. “We’re trying to change that so it can be a nightly show, and you can buy a ticket and be right there along the same pricing as Cirque du Soleil. That’s my goal.”

Not a bad goal for a guy who just a few years ago was sending groups of coworkers zooming up and down the Strip in search of secret spies.

“I wonder what happened to my life to get to this point. I used to be super corporate and worked for big companies,” Hardy muses. “And now I’m actually having conversations with people about strippers and midgets and being kidnapped.”

What’s it like to play Las Vegas: The Game? Read one writer’s experience at

Get on the Bus

In the event that you’re interested in a progressive party without the pranks, these drinking tours have you covered.

MaxVegas: The newest addition to the party-bus scene, MaxVegas starts at PBR Rock & Grill and Rockhouse before heading to two more hot spots on the Strip. $50 per person,

NiteTours: NiteTours has stuck it out since the recession, and is still chugging along with its luxury ride, what they call the Nightclub on Wheels. $59 per person and up,

Sin City Club Crawl: The sleek, double-decker buses in this fleet not only show you the town on weekend nights, but also can be reserved for transportation to Electric Daisy Carnival. $79 and up,