By Matt Villano, on September 6, 2014

Seeking thrills in Las Vegas

For most people, the biggest thrills on a Las Vegas visit come after pushing a stack of black (read: US$100) chips into the betting circle during a game of blackjack.

But for others, for the true adrenaline junkies, Sin City offers different sorts of heart-pounding fun. These alternative adventures include new ziplines around town, crazy roller coasters at both ends of the Las Vegas Strip, and a trio of shriek-inducing rides atop the tallest structure in town. No, these diversions aren’t for everybody. But if you like living on the edge, many of them are worth a closer look.

Zipping through the air

Without question, the most talked-about ride-opening of 2014 was the VooDoo Zipline at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, just west of the Las Vegas Strip. This palpitation-sparking ride enables you to zip nearly 500 feet between two different hotel towers. The contraption reaches maximum speeds of up to 33 mph.


The experience begins on the patio at the VooDoo Steakhouse, 50 stories off the ground. Unlike other ziplines, which allow riders to strap right in to a pulley, the VooDoo Zipline requires riders to sit in a seat, making the ride a bit like a crazy ski lift. Warm desert air slaps you in the face as you careen from one tower to the next. Unless you’re riding with a lightweight, the experience lasts about two minutes.

Because the ride shoots over the hotel parking lot, it’s best to go at night, when all you see are lights. Also, though the zip starts at steakhouse, think twice before dining and zipping in the same night.

Another new zipline—the one at SlotZilla—has a different claim to fame: It’s the longest in town.

This ride, just east of the Fremont Street Experience downtown, actually offers two ways to fly: the lower “Zipline” and upper “Zoomline.”

The Zipline costs starts off 7 stories above the ground. Flyers land halfway down the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian promenade, between the Four Queens Hotel and Casino and the Fremont Hotel & Casino. The Zoomline takes off more than 10 stories above the ground, and whisks flyers 1,750 feet down the Fremont Street Experience to a landing platform in front of the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.

The higher option provides even more thrills by sending flyers prone, or what operators call, “superhero-style,” for an unprecedented view of the party down below. Both rides reach speeds of up to 40 mph.

Up and down and up again

Another way to get that adrenaline pumping in Las Vegas: roller coasters. For the old-school experience, ride The Roller Coaster at New York-New York Hotel & Casino. This coaster starts inside the casino, heads outside, then finishes up again back indoors.

When the ride opened in 1997, it was the world’s first coaster to feature a 180-degree “heartline” twist and dive maneuver.

The newcomer to the Vegas roller coaster scene is El Loco, a roller coaster inside the Adventuredome at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino. Experiencing this ride is like biting into a habanero pepper—both give you a blast of intense heat. The roller coaster actually takes less than 90 seconds from start to finish. Because the cars are smaller than most ordinary roller coaster cars (these have only four seat apiece), riders feel like they’re flying.

Other notable specs on El Loco: The ride drops 90 feet and includes a barrel roll, a lateral G turn, a reverse 240-degree roll, a 45-degree banked curve, a doughnut roll, and an inverted drop. It also reaches -1.5 vertical G.

My lasting memory of El Loco features screaming. A lot of screaming. But it was worth every shout.

Viewfinder Tip: Before zipping from SlotZilla, try your luck with a pull of the arm. The 12-story structure holds the record as the largest slot machine in the world.

Stratosphere rides

The most death-defying rides and attractions in town can be found atop the tallest building for miles—the Tower at the Stratosphere Casino & Resort Hotel. All told, the Tower boasts four rides: SkyJump, Insanity, X-Scream and Big Shot. I’m not sure which of the quartet is the wackiest.

SkyJump essentially is a bungee-jump off the side of the tower (829 feet off the ground), while Insanity essentially is a high-speed merry-go-round that hangs 64 feet over the edge of the tower and spins riders at speeds of up to three Gs. Continuing the similes, X-Scream is like a giant teeter-totter, 866 feet above the ground, and Big Shot is like an elevator on speed, shooting passengers 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour to a height of 1,081 feet above the Strip.

All of these rides likely will push your blood pressure to the limit. And that’s precisely what makes them so much fun.

What are your favorite types of thrill rides and why?