Las Vegas - May 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 9:25 PM

Last week my wife and I spent a few days in Las Vegas; for both of us it was our first visit to “the city of lights”. Our itinerary called for experiencing most of the quintessential Las Vegas activities. We perused the strip, saw a show, took in some beautiful natural and man-made wonders at the Grand Canyon National Park’s Southern Rim, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and the Hoover Dam. And of course I had to experience all of the roller coasters the area offered.

We were staying at Excalibur which is right across the street from New York New York, so it didn’t take very long for us to ride the Big Apple Coaster (previously known as Manhattan Express - which was a way cooler name in my humble opinion). There aren’t many roller coasters I would consider worth paying $14 for a single ride on, maybe the one’s that reside in my personal top-3 list. But $14 is how much a single ride on Big Apple Coaster will cost you (or you can purchase an unlimited ride wristband for $25). While I knew the cost was exorbitant for a bumpy, old Togo coaster, I still had to go for a ride. We were able to ride in the front row with the only wait being for 8 more people to join us, as they will only dispatch the train when there are 10 people on-board. The mostly negative reviews of this attraction had me prepared for a rough and unpleasant ride, however I found it to be a fairly decent coaster. The views of the mountains in the distance and the nearby resorts on the strip were nice while ascending the lift and the first couple drops were thrilling and smooth. I also enjoyed the dive loop element, which provided some fun hang-time.

Later in our trip we stopped by Circus Circus to visit the Adventuredome, home to two more roller coasters along with a handful of other attractions inside a large dome structure. After purchasing a couple unlimited ride wristbands our first stop was El Loco, an S&S looping roller coaster that boasts a couple wild inversions along with a thrilling 90 degree first drop. This was my first experience with an S&S El Loco model roller coaster and I was thoroughly impressed. The short layout packs a serious punch, starting things off with great ejector airtime on the first drop followed by an exciting series of twists, turns and inversions. The lap bar only trains smoothly navigate the convoluted course, and give great hang-time in the inversions.

After a couple laps on El Loco we moved along to Canyon Blaster, an Arrow looping roller coaster that features back-to-back vertical loops and corkscrews for a total of four inversions. This ride was a good bit more intense than I anticipated with a lot of positive g’s, especially towards the back of the train - it was also a fairly rough ride.

Along with a few rides on both roller coasters we also went on a couple of other rides while visiting Adventuredome - a couple highlights included a Chaos flat ride (which is something I had not seen in years) and a quaint 4-D theater experience with SpongeBob Square Pants.

Following Adventuredome we made our way a bit further down the road to the Stratosphere Tower - which at 1,149 feet is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the US. For $20 you can travel to the top of the tower to enjoy the view. For $25 you also receive a ticket to ride one of the three thrill rides perched at the top of the tower (which is what we chose). After taking in the incredible views from approximately 900 feet in the air we opted to use our ride ticket on The Big Shot. This S&S Space Shot is the tallest amusement ride in the world in terms of overall elevation above ground. The 160 foot tall tower stands atop the Stratosphere’s highest deck at 921 feet - which means after being launched skyward at 45MPH you are more than 1,000 feet above the ground below. While short in duration, it is a very thrilling experience. Definitely the most exciting S&S Space Shot I have experienced.

The last roller coaster in the Las Vegas area for us to experience was Desperado at Buffalo Bills Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada. On the final day of our trip we had a rental car which we used to travel outside of Las Vegas to see some sights, and lastly stop by Buffalo Bills to ride Desperado. Buffalo Bills stands right next to the border of Nevada and California, approximately 45 minutes from Las Vegas. We arrived just after 6PM and opted to purchase an unlimited after 5PM wristband for $15 per person (a single ride on Desperado costs $12, so with only two rides it would have more than paid for itself). The attendant informed me Desperado was the only ride operating and the park would likely be closing a little early that night (they estimated at 8PM), I told them that was fine as I only came to ride Desperado a few times. We ended up going for four total rides, each time we were either the only one’s riding or joined by maybe a few others at most. We rode two times in front, once in the middle, and once in the middle row of the back car. The back ended up being the best spot to ride, I found it to be the smoothest of all and provide the best airtime. While the ride was fairly rough (especially at the bottom of the larger drops) and the seats and restraints were not the most comfortable (zero padding), I found I enjoyed the ride more with each ride as I learned how to brace for the rough spots. The first drop is fun, and the following hills had more airtime than I was anticipating. After the midcourse brake the ride maintains a good pace while wrapping up with an intense helix through tunnels and a final surprise airtime hill. Certainly not the best hyper coaster I have been on, but I would say the best coaster of the trip, narrowly beating out El Loco at Adventuredome.

All in all it was a very fun and eventful trip and I’m glad I could check a trip to Vegas off the bucket list and get on the coasters in the vicinity.

Last edited by Capitalize, Saturday, May 21, 2016 12:16 AM
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016 11:52 PM

Nice report. I was contemplating a trip to Vegas earlier this spring. Had I actually gone, my itinerary would have likely been very similar. It's good to hear that while Vegas doesn't have anything that is super new, the coasters there are still worth checking out.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016 5:54 AM

I loved the space shot on top of the Stratosphere. It's intense being up that high and then being launched even higher. What a view from up there.

I didn't get to ride the El Loco at the Adventure Dome. My wife got to last year when she was out there for a work conference. She said it was great.

We'll go back some time. Great trip report. Thanks.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016 9:49 PM

Anyone planning a Vegas trip predicated on coasters, should very carefully understand the operating hours for attractions, especially Buffalo Bill's. I have no idea what the operations are currently, but it's not a 7 day a week thing. I honestly question how much longer the ride will run, but that's a different story. Suffice it to say that most reports are that you end up waiting more in the station for riders to fill the train. Therefore, it's not a marathon opportunity Still a big powerful ride, it just has a shorter operating schedule than you would expect.

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Friday, May 20, 2016 1:47 PM

It's too bad they got rid of the best coaster in vegas, what ever happened to speed did it get sold?

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Friday, May 20, 2016 3:51 PM

Well, let's look it up, shall we? RCDB reports its still in its dismantled state, stored at Akita Plaza.

We flew from Hawaii to Las Vegas at night and from my window, way off in the distance, I could see a very bright spot of light in the middle of dark nowhere. As we got a little closer it looked like one of those huge Vegas-style resort signs, but I knew it couldn't be Vegas. Too small for that. As we got even closer I realized it had to be Primm. We wound up flying right over and it looked so cool from that high up. I'd love to go there sometime.

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Friday, May 20, 2016 7:09 PM

Speed: The Ride was fun, but I preferred Manhattan Express/Roller Coaster/Big Apple Coaster/Whatever The Hell It's Called Now.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016 12:08 AM

CreditWh0re said:

Anyone planning a Vegas trip predicated on coasters, should very carefully understand the operating hours for attractions, especially Buffalo Bill's. I have no idea what the operations are currently, but it's not a 7 day a week thing. I honestly question how much longer the ride will run, but that's a different story. Suffice it to say that most reports are that you end up waiting more in the station for riders to fill the train. Therefore, it's not a marathon opportunity Still a big powerful ride, it just has a shorter operating schedule than you would expect.

According to the website when I checked before leaving its currently only open Friday-Sunday - I was truthfully relieved to see it running when we arrived later in the day on a Friday with few people there.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016 1:18 AM

I absolutely LOVE El Loco. It's about the perfect coaster one could hope for in an indoor, small footprint environment. A year or so later, we rode Steel Hawg and I hated it. While very similar rides, it's amazing what a difference those terrible OTSR's on Steel Hawg can make. They completely killed the ride.

3 or 4 years ago we were driving from LA to Vegas to catch a red-eye home. We stopped at Desparado only to find that they closed it down an hour earlier than advertised. The supervisor, after we told her we were on our way out, gave me a signed slip of paper good for 2 unlimited wristbands in the future. Still have it. Wonder if it's still valid....

I take it you skipped the giant Ferris Wheel then? It's a thing of beauty at night. I've been up close by myself, but won't ride it without my son, since it's pretty expensive and I'm not going to do it twice. Not sure I can justify paying $30 x 3 for what's really just an observation deck, but like a lot of things in Vegas, it may be expensive, but where else can you ride a 550 ft Ferris Wheel?

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Sunday, May 22, 2016 7:06 PM

We did skip the ferris wheel - honestly after spending a lot of time on the Stratosphere enjoying that view it didn't seem necessary to pay for a ride. It did look extremely cool, though, especially at night. Maybe next time!

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