Las Vegas (11/23 - 11/27/04) Part I

Associated parks:

A trip to Vegas has been on the agenda for Linette and I for the past few years but, for one reason or another, never happened. Looking back, I’m not sure why that is. Airfare is fairly cheap. There is more than enough to do in and out of the city. And we were given an open invitation to stay at my cousin’s house at the foot of Sunrise Mountain, which sits vacant except for two weeks out of the year. Running out of vacation days for the year, we decided to make the trip over Thanksgiving weekend. Beginning the holiday season in Sin City- what a concept!

This trip report is divided into two sections: the first part is about the parks and the coasters while the second part is about everything else. Naturally, there are going to be people to complain about a non-coaster TR on a coaster site. Whatever. If it bothers you that much, don’t read the second part- my feelings won’t be hurt. But if you’re planning a trip to Vegas or just want to know more about the place from the perspective of a tourist and not a coaster enthusiast, you may want to read the second part. I promise to make it interesting, not to mention detailed (as all of my TRs tend to be).

High Roller, Big Shot & X-Scream- Stratosphere Tower

An amusement park at the top of a huge Space Needle-like tower. What a concept. Well, truthfully speaking, it isn’t really an amusement park, just three rides. But the price you pay to get up there and ride them all will cost you almost as much as it costs to get you into any theme park outside of Orlando or New Jersey. Not only do you pay for the rides but you pay for access to the tower, most of which probably goes to the operation of the super-fast elevators that take you up there.

Big Shot was first for me because, quite frankly, it was the ride I was most intimidated by. I’m not one to get all nervous and bent out of shape over rides (thanks to years and years of being made numb by relentless coaster riding) but the idea of being shot into the sky while already IN the sky was pretty unnerving. And while the experience was just that, I will say that it wound up being more fun than anything else. Once I got past the idea of being so high off the ground only to be shot even higher, I enjoyed a spectacular view punctuated by two doses of nice airtime.

The High Roller was just the opposite of the Big Shot- boring and not at all enjoyable. For those who’ve been hibernating the past decade or so, there isn’t much to this coaster. Sure it sits way up high, but all it does is circle the top of the tower three times, dropping from the loading station and ending with a tire-driven lift hill. The cars have OTSRs (why, I have no idea) and look a lot like the cars from those awful SDC Windstorm coasters (again, I have no idea why). For a small coaster that does nothing at all aside from Roll way up High, it certainly was jerky and uncomfortable. It felt as though the people putting the thing together were afraid of heights and connected the pieces of track while ignoring the concept proper alignment so as to get back on terra firma as quickly as possible.

X-Scream, the newest member of the “Whose idea was this, anyway?” park was a big surprise. I knew that they idea of being held off the edge of the tower would be downright frightening but I didn’t realize just how much until I was seated in the car as it went hurtling down the arm towards Vegas below. The idea is crazy enough but what really makes this thing a winner is how quickly the car accelerates and decelerates. It may not stop on a dime but in true Vegas fashion, it does stop on a quarter. I wish that I had waited for the front seat but the second row was good enough for me. For now, anyway.

Speed- Sahara NASCAR Café

For some reason, I never really paid any attention to this coaster- all I knew about the ride experience is what I obtained from watching Gil Grissom ride it at the end of a first season CSI episode. Naturally, it was a surprise… a pleasant surprise. It’s a Premier launched shuttle coaster with OTSRs- what would normally be a recipe for disaster- but they really didn’t create too much discomfort, possibly because the ride doesn’t twist and turn too much. There is a great overbanked turn out of the station and a wide s-curve around the grand domed entrance to the Sahara complex, but other than that, it is pretty straightforward- two launches, a vertical loop and a vertical spike. Definitely short but definitely good. Next time in Vegas I may have to take more than one ride. An added bonus were the ride ops, all of whom were very friendly… unlike most others in Vegas that couldn’t have cared less about being personable or efficient.

Canyon Blaster- Circus Circus Adventuredome

I guess this is why theme parks are usually located outdoors.

The concept is a novel one- a theme park impervious to fluctuating weather conditions. But while packing rides into a small, enclosed space certainly makes sense from an income generating point-of-view, it makes less sense from an ergonomic one. With the majority of rides squeezed into an area between the outer rim of the dome and the mountain in the middle of it, the park is a messy maze of narrow paths that feel congested even when crowds were rather light. The Adventuredome felt packed even though it was far from overrun with people.

The park has a rather small and generic collection of carnival-type rides: a Chance Inverter & Chaos, a Zamperla ferris wheel, a Sling Shot (forget who makes those) a small carousel and a handful of smaller rides. The main attractions are a shoot-the-chute called Rim Runner and an Arrow double loop and corkscrew called Canyon Blaster. I am not a huge fan of Arrow rides because their OTSRs always leave me in pain but people told me Canyon Blaster wasn’t too bad.

But they were wrong.

Canyon Blaster did hurt. Quite a bit, actually. Which is a shame because I really wanted to like the ride. I love the way Arrow’s teardrop-shaped loops compress you into the seat. I love the way the turn after the loops rolls right into the corkscrew element. I love the final helix that runs into the mountain and into darkness. Why, oh why couldn’t some Arrow engineer, after nearly twenty years of building coasters that go upside-down, design a restraint that doesn’t double as a torture device for the majority of riders? How many Arrow coasters would be decent rides if it weren’t for those ill-conceived engineering disasters? And why were Arrow engineers never able to wrap their collective mind around the fact that the radius for a 10 MPH curve doesn’t work on one taken at 40 MPH?

On the bright side, a ride on the lackluster Canyon Blaster costs just $6.00- a Vegas coaster bargain!

Manhattan Express- New York, New York Hotel & Casino

This coaster offended me. Or rather, its designers did. Did they actually imagine anyone finding this abomination enjoyable? It’s a genuine P.O.S. just like it’s little brother, SFGAdv’s Viper. If Viper is LPOS (Little P.O.S.) then Manhattan Express is BPOS (Big P.O.S.).

BPOS certainly looks great. It’s tall- hyper coaster tall- and it wraps itself around the skyline of New York, New York in a very impressive way. But like most TOGO coasters, the restraints leave a lot to be desired. Harder than the rocks in red Rock Canyon, my head banged around between the OTSRs regardless of what the coaster was doing- twisting, turning, looping, moving in a perfectly straight line… how a coaster can be a headbanger on the lift hill is beyond me. With a Premier-style lap bar retrofit, maybe some of this BPOS’s elements (including the Jet Star-style finale) would be tolerable, but as it is right now this is one of the worst coasters in existence. It joins an elite group of rides that includes SFMM’s Viper, X and Revolution and SFGAdv’s GASM and LPOS.

Oh yeah, the $12.50 you shell out before getting abused is pretty offensive too. And people think a REAL New York, New York coaster like the Coney Island Cyclone is expensive at $5.00/ride?

Desperado- Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino

I was told not to expect too much from this thing and considering how much I dislike CP’s Magnum, that wasn’t a problem. I can count on two hands (and maybe one foot) how many good things I’ve heard about Desperado and many of those comments came from the same person. I was expecting this to be another trip just so I’d have another coaster to talk about.

But the thing is, Desperado was a lot of fun… at least once the ten-minutes-of-sitting-and-waiting loading procedure had commenced. Sitting in the front seat, this odd-looking Arrow creation, appearing to be a cross between the sharp-hilled Magnum and the rampy Blackpool Pepsi Big One or whatever they call it nowadays, was not a typical hyper coaster. It had a great first drop and a few nice moments of airtime- the things you expect from a coaster like this- but also some very unique twists and turns. Many enthusiasts call SFGAm’s Raging Bull the first hyper twister but I disagree- I think that Desperado can claim that title. As is the case with most Arrows, there were some sections of track that weren’t as smooth as they should have been and there was a little pounding at the bottoms of a few of the drops but nothing that made the coaster unbearable. While Desperado isn’t even close to Nitro or any S:ROS, I liked it a hell of a lot more than Magnum, which I feel is one of the most overrated steel coasters in the country.

Buffalo Bill’s has a few other rides- a log flume with some kind of interactive element (not sure how that works) and some kind of motion simulator. There was an S&S Turbo Drop tower outside (creatively called “Turbo Drop”) but there was no vehicle attached to the tower, giving me the impression that the ride has been down for quite some time. Being 35-40 minutes outside of Vegas, the prices for the attractions seemed a bit lower- $7.00 for a Desperado ride if I remember correctly. That’s still no outstanding bargain but when you take into account the hideous cost of New York, New York’s BPOS, it comes across as a fantastic deal.

Next Up: Part II- Everything Else

*** Edited 12/1/2004 7:34:09 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

Nice TR Rob, my wife and I also went to Vegas back on Nov 14-21. Desperado was a cool coaster, we got to ride for free since we stayed there, the Turbo Drop was running when we went so not sure why it was down.

High Roller was actually closed when we went so I was bummed about that but sounds like it isn't worth it. I rode X-Scream in the back and that still scared the heebie jeebies out of me, I can't wait for Insanity. I was the same way about the Big Shot but once we lifted off it didn't see as scary as you would have thought plus you get an awesome view of the whole city, did you happen to ride at night?

I ended up getting the 40 dollar all you can ride pass at NYNY as I didn't want to shell out so much for one ride and then so much more for a couple more rides. I ended up riding about 15 times before my head was spinning round and round.

Couldn't agree with you more about Canyon Blaster, that one stunk and my wife and I were very disappointed.

Speed was too fast of a ride but it was great, I sat in the back seat.

Skol Vikings
Let's shoot us some deer Joe Joe!!!!

Mamoosh's avatar
Its been about 10 yrs since I went to the top of the Strat Tower but when I was there if you had reservations for the restaurant the trip to the top was free. Not that anyone forced you to eat there once you were at the top ;)
I think that High Roller was down for rehab the week before we arrived, which would explain why you weren't able to ride. Not that you missed much at all. I did ride the Big Shot at night and the "sea of lights" that was Las Vegas was very impressive. Still, I'd love to ride it once during the day.

15 times on Manhattan Express? You are a brave man and you've just earned my utmost respect!

As for Moosh, that is very underhanded and wrong. They are an honest business trying to earn an honest living... probably barely turning a profit with their $9.00 elevator rides. How could you suggest people rip them off? ;)

Good TR, Rob. Going to read part 2. And don't worry, I'm not offended at a non coaster TR. Heck, AFAIC, Vegas is the quintessential Theme Park.
It's too bad you didn't have a good ride on Canyon Blaster. When I rode it two years ago it was easily the smoothest Arrow coaster I had ridden.

I can't get enough of Speed. During a visit to Vegas in August of 2003, I purchased a wristband and spent a couple of hours riding it. Since there was no one else riding it, for whatever reason, I decided to ride every single seat on the train. I ended up getting a total of 30 rides no the thing before walking down to Stratosphere.

The last two times I was in Vegas, I spent at least 5 hour or so on top of the Stratosphere. I purchased a wristband and rode Big Shot most of the time (30 rides once again) and got in about 10 on X-Scream.

X-Scream is a strange ride. Out of the times I have ridden it, it ran one program most of the time, and one insane program the first time I rode it. That program featured the standard back and forth movement with a couple of drops, but also included a couple of moments where the entire ramp would bounce up and down very fast resulting in a strange airtime sensation.

I doubt I will ever ride Manhattan Express again. Like a fool, I purchased the $25 all-day wristband to take a few rides. The ride was fresh out of rehab that very weekend and I thought there was a chance it would be running better than the last time I had ridden it.

I was wrong.


Yeah it was down for rehab, I would have taken more rides on the ME but the wife was losing her money so she wanted to leave.

It doesn't help that she has diabetes so I have to watch her like a hawk to make sure she doesn't have an insulin reaction but I am not blaming her for that.

I would definitely get more passes if it weren't for watching out for her but next time we may go with her parents so then I could get the other passes.

If I remember right, my X-Scream ride was the insane one, I remember it bouncing up and down and I was like "holy crap".

I will definitely be back next year, our flight was 150 bucks roundtrip per person + a straight flight so that is nice, plus 20 bucks a night at Binions, how can you go wrong?

Skol Vikings
Let's shoot us some deer Joe Joe!!!!

I'm disappointed as I really wanted to like Canyon Blaster. It looked like it would be a lot fun and there didn't appear to be any moments on the ride that would cause any pain. Then again, I have never gotten along with Arrow restraints... I'm tall and they always push down on my shoulders because they pivot at a point below my shoulders.

I can see how Speed can be an addictive ride, hence the reason I am going to buy a wristband next time I go. I might do the same at Stratosphere because I'd love to get a few daytime rides on Big Shot and X-Scream. Speaking of which, I had thought there to be different programs... while I was waiting for the ride, it seemed to run this very long & intense program but after that it seemed short and uneventful. Since it was late and I was tired from traveling (we visited Stratosphere the first night we were there), I thought it was just my mind playing tricks on me, I guess that wasn't the case and that there are a few different programs the ride can run?

I will usually give any coaster a second chance but I can't bring myself to do that with Manhattan Express. That ride is just evil... evil to the wallet, evil to the body!

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