What is the must-do for Vegas visitors who are innate thrill-seekers? The Stratosphere thrill rides are, hands down. I won’t pretend to be the ultimate thrill-seeker, but do enjoy a certain level of adrenaline pumping through my veins. So I opted to give the rides at The Stratosphere a whirl, and I am glad I did.
Going at night was recommended by those I questioned about my latest Vegas Strip endeavor. Knowing The Stratosphere offers an unlimited daily ride package, I opted to arrive in the early evening to enjoy day views for a couple rides, hit the AirBar for a while, then go back to experience the awesome bright lights on the Strip. For those with abundant time, I recommend taking the same course I did. The AirBar offers breathtaking Vegas panoramas.
First of all, the observation tower is a must when in Vegas even if the thrill rides are not your thing. It holds the distinction of being the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. The Stratosphere has both indoor and outdoor decks offering expansive views of Las Vegas. Several places to eat high above Vegas at The Stratosphere exist, but of course anyone seeking to sample the thrill rides is best to hold off on indulging in an expansive meal before tempting fate on a thrill ride! The same could be said of avoiding the ultra-cool AirBar, but I managed well enough to sample a couple cocktails before completing my thrill ride attempts.
My first venture was the Big Shot at The Stratosphere. This thing is amazing. It is essentially a reverse bungee ride taking riders 160 feet up at 45 MPH. I felt this the safest bet despite it being ranked first in the world for thrill ride height. Riders go from positive to negative Gs as weightlessness is experienced at the peak. It is an awesome feeling and in my opinion, the least frightening of all the thrill rides at the top of the Stratosphere. It helped that I was seated next to two slender teenage girls who were obviously braver than I.
The Insanity thrill ride was my subsequent attempt. This aptly named Insanity is the second highest thrill ride in the world. Riders are dangled 900 feet in the air and are waved over the edge as Insanity rotates in a circular motion at about 30 MPH. Hardly for the faint of heart, this ride is not made for anyone afraid of heights. In line, I struck up conversation with a retired couple who had the thrill rides on their bucket lists. Their intent was to pen a series of reviews of Stratosphere thrill rides for a blog they maintain, and I did not want to be detailed as the man screaming like a girl next to them, so I manned up, and rode the ride as if I wasn’t scared out of my mind. But I was. I questioned my decision to round out my Stratosphere visit with the X-Scream.
Before completing my extreme to-do list, I conversed with a bartender at AirBar, who told me Clark County leads the nation in standards for ride maintenance. That assured me that the Insanity would be a safe enough bet. I’d survived the previous two, so I felt pretty good about leaving her with a generous tip after sampling two of their $4 strawberry and lime margaritas.
The X-Scream was worth it and likely doable only because I had a slight margarita buzz going on. Despite ranking third highest thrill ride in the world, this one felt less secure to me than Insanity and Big Shot. Basically, this ride is like a giant teeter-totter. Riders are propelled off the track courtesy of the cars having only rear wheels. The design alone left me feeling overwhelmingly trepidatious. Lacking overly brave teenage girls or a thrill-seeking retired couple to lend me a sense of needing to man up, I could have easily backed out of the X-Scream line. At 900 feet in the air, feeling as if my lap bar could fail at any moment, I knew I wouldn’t be back on the X-Scream. I highly recommend it for those with less fear than this guy, but the feeling of being sent right off the edge of the track is a lot to stomach.
Before departing, I could have had a go with the final ride, but opted out. The Stratosphere SkyJump, reviewed highly by adrenaline junkies, would have required more mustered valor than I was willing to expend. This ride holds the Guinness World Record for being the highest commercial decelerator descent. At 829 feet, one is well-harnessed and dropped from The Stratosphere’s 108th floor to a platform below. The descent lasts 16 seconds, and I just couldn’t man up enough to do this, but may be back.
Overall, I give high reviews for The Stratosphere thrill rides. They are unmatched by other blood-pumping, thrill excursions on the Strip. Taking advantage of unlimited rides, and spreading the time out between daylight and night is a great way to experience two points of view without spending an abundance of cash going different days. Since my eyes were tightly closed during my seconds on the X-Scream, I rode the Big Shot a second time before leaving, and was in awe of the view of the Strip at night.
I am definitely loving the abundance of things to do for a single guy in Vegas, and highly recommend The Stratosphere thrill rides for a genuine adrenaline rush in Las Vegas. Hopefully those taking the plunges put on a braver front than I!
The Stratosphere Observation Decks: http://www.stratospherehotel.com/Activities/Observation-deck
The Stratosphere Thrill Rides: http://www.stratospherehotel.com/Activities/Thrill-Rides
Big Shot Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BigShot(ride)
SkyJump Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyJumpLasVegas
X-Scream Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BigShot(ride)

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