Roller Coasters & Thrill Rides
Last Update: November 2021
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.
| Big Shot
| X Scream
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
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.
- The ride opened on March 10, 2005.
- The very next month, the ride automatically shut down because of high winds, leaving an 11- and 19-year-old stuck on the ride, dangling hundreds of feet above the Las Vegas Strip, for about 75 minutes. Stupidest Response Award goes to the Strat's manager, Bobby Ray Harris, who said, "The ride operated exactly as designed. We cannot anticipate sudden changes in the weather." (CBS News)
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. My favorite quote from an article about the
incident: "[A Strat spokesman] said the ride was designed
with a manual override that allows workers to
bring the X-Scream back to the observation deck in emergencies, but he could
not explain why the tourists weren't returned to safety until power came
back on." Par for the course for the Strat. (Photo from Screamscape | Articles from: Coaster-Net | Vegas.com | LVRJ)
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.)
- In 2018, a power failure stranded a rider high in the air for 25 minutes. (Fox 5)
Roller. 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 original High 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
The ferris wheel made a dramatic change to the Strip skyline when it debuted in 2014. 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 North America. (It was the tallest in the world until a new one in Dubai beat it in 2021.) 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.
- Or 9/23/21, the ride malfunctioned, leaving riders stranded in the pods for two hours. Worse, some of the pods tilted, forcing the riders to pile on top of each other against the window. Caesars Entertainment, true to form, did not issue an apology, and the only compensation offered was a refund of the ticket price. And they wonder why vacationers are increasingly choosing to skip Vegas. (8 News Now)
- On 2/16/19, a 23-year-old man was running around an unauthorized area of the loading platform, and fell 50 stories to his death. (Daily Mail)
- On 2/5/16 a couple was arrested for having sex in one of the cabins. (KTNV)
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.
Start at a tower 12 stories high at the strip, and ride 1,121 feet to the High Roller ferris wheel. Tickets start at $35 (2021 pricing). (website)
- El Loco
- Canyon Blaster
- Rim Runner
- Sling Shot
El Loco is an awesome coaster with a 90-foot drop and 1.5 G's, drawing roller coaster enthusiasts from all over. Replaced the Rim Runner.
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)
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.
only indoor flume in the world, featuring a 60-foot drop which
will soak you but good. Shut down in 2013, to be
replaced by El Loco.
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)
Downtown: Slotzilla zipline
The downtown zipline has you zooming right under the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience, which is quite a thing. It's not as scary (not as high up) as the Rio zipline, but it still starts at a nerve-wracking 7 or 11 stories up, depending on which line you choose. The trip is 800-feet at speeds up to 35mph. The original opened in October 2010 but was replaced by a new one with a new operator, at a reported cost of $12 million to build. Prices range from $20 to $49 (cheapest is the lower line, before 6:00pm, and Sun-Thu). Buy tickets here. If a picture's worth a thousand words then a video's worth a million, so see the YouTube clip on this page.
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.
When the Sahara casino closed in 2011, the venerable Speed roller coaster went down with it. The casino later reopened as SLS, and then became Sahara again, but the coaster never returned.