Roller Coasters & Thrill Rides
Last Update: August 2017
Stratosphere Hotel & Casino
The Stratosphere hotel/casino towers over 1,000 feet high and features four rides on the very top, all of them terrifying.
Man, the rides on top of the Stratosphere just keep getting scarier and
scarier. First they put a roller coaster on top, which was the
highest roller coaster in the world. Then they put up the Big
Shot, which accelerates you straight up as the whole world seems to
disappear below you. Then they built a ride that put you over the
edge. Then they built another ride which put you over the
edge, but that one actually points you towards the ground and dangles
you. How were they gonna top that?
Well, they did. The newest ride has you jumping off the tower, "skydiving" 108 stories to the ground. God. Damn! There's no parachute, you travel along zip lines which have a braking system. The only downside is the price -- $100 per jump. (If that's out of your budget then Insanity (below) will give you almost as good a scare for only $12.) SkyJump has its own website. I'll tip off parents with thrill-seeking kids that the minimum age is 14, because typical of the Stratosphere, their website does a pretty good job of making useful info like that near-impossible to find.
The picture at right (which I took from a YouTube video) shows how the launch works. You walk to the edge of a short platform, hold the bar on each side of you, lean forward, and then just let go. So you don't actually "jump", but whatever, close enough.
Insanity. This is a spinning ride that dangles you over the edge. Actually, it's worse than that, because as it spins your seat is lifted backward so you're staring right down at the ground. It's exactly as terrifying as it sounds. The first two times I went to the top to try it I chickened out. I was able to do it only on my third trip. You can hear the screams from ground level, by the way. If all that doesn't give you pause, note that two riders were stuck dangling over the edge for an hour and a half when high winds caused the ride to shut itself down. Anyway, if you want to be scared, this is your ticket. I'll help parents with adventurous tykes by noting that the minimum height for this ride is 52", since typically the Stratosphere doesn't bother to put that info on their own website. This ride opened on March 10, 2005.
X Scream. This one is a see-saw thingie that dangles you over the edge. It doesn't go as far over the edge as Insanity, and you definitely feel more enclosed and grounded, and it's not nearly as terrifying, as long as you're not sitting up front. One nice touch is that on one of the runs after your cars get to the edge of the platform, the whole arm stutters and drops the angle even more, making you think for a second that the thing broke and you're about to hurtle towards your death, ha ha. Minimum height for this ride is 52". It opened on Halloween 2003. In Nov. 2005 six Japanese tourists were stranded on the ride for an hour and a half when the power went out. Photo from Screamscape | Article from Coaster-Net | Article from Vegas.com
Big Shot. This is the one that made the Stratosphere famous. You're strapped into a chair with your legs dangling, and then they shoot you straight up the tower's steeple, 160 feet in two seconds, at four G's. Then they freefall you so you get negative G's, then shoot you up again, etc. If this ride started at ground level it would be scary, but add to that the fact that you're a fifth of a mile from the ground and it's terrifying. As you're going up you worry that the brakes will fail and you'll go straight off the steeple and land down the strip at the Sahara. Minimum height for this ride is 48". (Notice in the picture that you can see Insanity on the right-hand side.)
The Stratosphere used to have a red roller coaster called the High Roller that circled the bulb at the top of the tower, but it was removed in 2006 to make room for a new observation deck. (It's not to be confused with the new ferris wheel at Linq which is also called the High Roller.) I'm a
bit nostalgic for the originalHigh Roller though. It was the very first ride
built on top of the Stratosphere, doing a few circles around the top of
the tower, and was surprisingly tame. It never went very fast, probably
because if it did the centrifugal force would have destablized the
whole tower. But it did give you an awesome view of the strip, and all
of Las Vegas actually, since you went all the way around the tower a
few times, and it was a good one to ride if you wanted to ride something
on top of the Stratosphere but the other rides were too terrifying.
Now, if you want to ride something on top of the Strat, you have no
choice but to have the holy living mortal snot scared out of you. (article about the demolition)
Linq: High Roller ferris wheel
This is a fairly recent addition, opening in 2014, and making a noticeable change in the Strip skyline. It's not scary as the other rides on this page, but it is a whopping 11 stories high, making it the tallest ferris wheel in the world. Ticket price varies from $9 to $47 depending on age, time of day (daytime is cheaper), and whether you ride in a one of the cabins that has an open bar. Don't expect an intimate, romantic ride, though: each cabin holds up to 40 passengers.
Rio: Voodoo Zipline
If you'd like to be scared crapless, try riding the zipline that goes between the two towers at the Rio, a breathtaking 50 stories in the air. Yeah, that's what I said. You get an amazing open-air view of the Strip to go along with your heart attack. The setup is two chairs side-by-side, so you can ride with a friend or by yourself. The ride lasts 70 seconds and reaches speeds of 33 miles an hour. Kids can ride as long as they're ≥48" tall, but must be 21+ to ride after 7:30pm. Tickets are a quite reasonable $28.
Downtown: Fremont Flightlines
The downtown zipline opened in October 2010. It's not as scary (not as high up) as the Rio zipline, and it's more convenient if you're already downtown. You ride along a zipline
right under the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience -- an 800-foot trip at
speeds up to 35mph. Here's a review from one of the first people to ride
it. The lower line is $20 before 5:40pm $25 after, and the upper line is $40 before 5:40pm, $45 after. Buy tickets here. A picture is worth a thousand words, so see the video at
- Canyon Blaster
- Rim Runner
- Sling Shot
The Canyon Blaster is the only indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster on the planet. It drops 90 feet and hits 55mph over a 2,000 foot long track, and lasts 1:45.
Chaos is a three-dimensional tilt-a-whirl, tilting, spinning, and flipping riders at the same time. No two rides are the same. (review at Vegas.com)
Inverter keeps you upside-down and staring at an upcoming wall of concrete for a full four seconds before turning you right-side up again. The ride is a generous two minutes during off-peak hours. (review at Vegas.com)
Rim Runner is the only indoor flume in the world, featuring a 60-foot drop which will soak you but good.
Sling Shot, the newest addition, is Circus Circus' answer to the Stratosphere's Big Shot, shooting you straight up a column at 4 G's.As of September 2006, all rides are $7, but you can get an all-ride pass for $23. Here's the official page for the Adventuredome Theme Park, where the rides are located.
New York New York: Manhattan Express
Casino Player magazine says: "At two minutes and 45 seconds, it's easily the longest-lasting ride in Las Vegas. Top speed is 67 mph and the biggest drop is 144 feet, but what keeps everyone coming back for more is the insane 540-degree spiral, not to mention the fact that it takes place over a pretty solid replica of New York Harbor. If this ride doesn't put you in a "New York State of Mind", nothing will."
I won't ride this one again because it whips your head back and forth into the projections on the headrest. I wonder how many people get mild brain damage from this thing. (more info)
The casino closed in 2011, taking the venerable Speed roller coaster down with it. :( R.I.P.
Buffalo Bill's: Desperado & Turbo Drop
In Primm, Nevada (40 miles south of Las Vegas on I-15), 1-800-FUN-STOP
Desperado is a VERY tall coaster. You start off with a crazy 225-foot drop down a 55-degree hill, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph. Here's more info and video of the ride.
If that's not enough, you can try the Turbo Drop, which is similar to Stratosphere's Big Shot, except that it climbs slowly and then shoots you straight down instead of straight up.
Other roller coaster resources
- G-force of Vegas coasters. The Las Vegas Review-Journal tests and ranks the G-force of the popular Las Vegas roller coasters.
- Ultimate Roller Coaster Guide. The site for enthusiasts. Covers the whole world, not just Vegas.