Taking it to the extreme

Jumping off buildings. Coming face-to-face with sharks. Racing at high speeds through desert terrain.

Who said adventure in Vegas had to strictly be about all-night partying? (Although you may be tempted to have a drink or two before facing some of the extreme adventures Vegas offers.) On your next trip, why not try one (or all) of the daring attractions Vegas has to offer? This way, you’ll have something else to tell your friends besides the same old, crazy stories about your night on the Strip.

Dive with the sharks

shark_blogIt’s not every day you get to see sharks, so diving into their territory and swimming with them takes it to a whole new level.

Dive-certified hotel guests staying at Mandalay Bay can experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by participating in the hotel’s Dive with the Sharks program at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef.

“Extreme activities have grown quite a bit in Vegas,” Jack Jewel, curator at Shark Reef and facilitator for the Dive with the Sharks program said. “This is an incredible opportunity, not only because you get to dive with sharks up close and personal, but also you get to dive in a stainless steel mesh suit.”

This suit is not something the average diver gets a chance to experience. Divers must wear this type of protective gear when diving up close with sharks.

“It’s outside of the range of cost,” Jewel explained, “but it is a great opportunity to engage diving with that unique equipment plus getting in the water up close and personal with the sharks.”

The Dive with the Sharks program includes a guided tour of the aquarium and the exciting, supervised, 45-minute dive.

For those who think diving in the wild is more adventurous, think again. “Typically you’re going to be in a cage and you may or may not see animals,” Jewel said. “There are no guarantees in the wild. Maybe you’ll see one, maybe two if you’re having a great day. Your interaction with them is very minimal. They’re dashing around [and] your vision of them is not necessarily the best.”

At the Shark Reef, the animals are behaving as if they were in their natural environment: “You’re just there, in their space,” he said.

“It’s exciting, especially when the first shark comes up and lays itself by your feet or your knees.”

You’ll see everything from sand tiger sharks to grey reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, a couple different species of rays, barracudas and thousands of tinier fish.

Be on the lookout for the potato grouper, who likes to get really close to divers. “When you get in the water, he’ll come over and park himself above your head because he likes to get the air bubbles from your exhaust going into his gills,” Jewel explained.

Surprisingly, the real ones to watch out for are the sea turtles. Weighing more than 325 pounds, these sea turtles may be vegetarian, but have major grazing tendencies.

“Those guys like to come right up, take a look at you [to] see what’s going on!” Jewel said. “They’re the ones more likely to reach out and grab ahold of something and see what it is.

“It’s almost impossible to have the same experience in the wild,” he continued. “You just don’t find these kinds of animals and the numbers collected in a given space and condition. The ocean’s the ocean – you can’t always count on it for visibility and calm conditions.”

The program provides a wetsuit, protective stainless steel chainmail as well as a mask, fins, tank, buoyancy-control device, regulator, weights and booties. Guests also receive a certificate, a video of their dive and even souvenir teeth that they collect during the dive.

Whether you try this dive once or decide to come back, Jewel said it will be something new.

“One of the things I really love about this dive is that it’s completely unique every single time,” he said. “The crazy part of it is, I’ve dived about 500 times and every single time you go in, it’s different.”

Diving with the sharks costs $630 for one person or $1,000 for two.

SkyJump for joy

skyump_blogFrom the water to the sky, Las Vegas thinks outside the box with its extreme adventure locations. After your diving excursion, go high in the sky and visit SkyJump Las Vegas at the Stratosphere.

Standing more than 1,000 feet tall, just looking at the Stratosphere counts as intimidating. And knowing that it’s the tallest building on the Strip, it may be hard to imagine jumping from it, but it’s worth your leap of faith.

Brave souls dive 855 feet from the 108th floor of the tower, soaring at 40 miles per hour.

After getting fitted in your jumpsuit, you’ll take an elevator up to the ride’s platform and be connected to a “descender machine.”

Since you’re attached to a vertical zip-line, the experience is more like a controlled freefall rather than just jumping off the building. This way, the ride goes more smoothly.

Also, you won’t get that queasy feeling in your stomach that you experience from a standard freefall ride or a steep rollercoaster drop.

The scariest part may be scooting your toes over the edge to prepare for your jump, or counting down to your leap.

Right before reaching the ground, the machine slows down, giving you more than enough time to land smoothly. You’re not jerked around, nor do you swing all over the place. Once you land, you’ll feel such a rush you’ll want to run up and do it all over again. Currently, SkyJump Las Vegas is the only SkyJump in North America, as well as the highest one in the world. A jump costs $99.99.

Bootleg Canyon Flightlines

bootleg_blogMany people have had dreams of flying. You can make your dreams a reality by visiting Bootleg Canyon and soaring through mountains just like a bird.

You can always have a plane or helicopter experience, but you won’t feel the freedom you do during this tour. Bootleg Canyon Flightlines’ zip-line tour in Boulder City gives you the chance to “fly” and experience the beauty of the Southwest desert mountains.

You’ll sit in your own paragliding harness that’s suspended from cable wires. Travel from one point to another by flying over the desert ecosystem from the top of Red Mountain. Some riders have reached speeds of 50 miles per hour.
No matter your speed, you’ll be coasting more than 1,000 feet above the ground.

After a brief safety orientation, your guides take you on a quick drive up to the canyon. From here, you’ll take a half-hour hike uphill. The ride includes four runs, each providing a different kind of experience. Be ready, because the final run is the fastest. Flights cost $149.

Landsailing away

landsail_blogSo far we covered water and sky. Get your checklist ready because we’re about to share with you Vegas’ land experiences.

The only thing sailing on the water and landsailing have in common is the breeze you feel during the ride – the similarities stop here. While the name sounds like it could be relaxing and peaceful, landsailing definitely counts as an extreme activity.

“Landsailing is wind-powered go-carting and unlike water sailing, you can double and triple the speed of the wind,” explained Pete Lyons, owner of Go Landsailing. “So it’s a lot more speed, more fun and easier to learn. It’s a lot less technical than it is on the water. Any average person will be able to pick it up real quick.”

You’ll fulfill your need for speed in this exhilarating ride located in Primm on the lake beds right next to the outlet mall.

“You got to do this once in your lifetime because it’s a very rare, unique, unusual activity,” Lyons said. “You need to have a location like we have in Las Vegas with the dry lakes to be able to do it. Most parts in the country don’t have that. For most people, it’s a chance of a lifetime for people to have access to try it.”

On windier days, you even may find yourself catching air and having a hard time slowing down. Anyone with a sense of adventure can enjoy this, no matter what your age.

“It was fun,” Jacob Dieck, an 11-year-old rider said. “Sometimes it gets sort of scary when you’re going really fast.”

His sister, Sarah, also experienced a similar sail. “It was very windy, so it was going really fast,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to tip over!”

Their mother, Nancy, got a chance to race against her husband’s boat. “It’s something we can’t do anywhere else,” she said. “It’s quiet [and] you’re in the desert…it’s just a unique

The best times to try it is March through the end of June and September through the end of November, when it’s not too hot.

Landsailing is priced at $155 for adults and $77.50 for kids ages 6 – 12.

Daring dune buggies

dune_blogIf you’re itching to venture through rugged terrain, catch some air and get blasted in the face with plenty of dust, then you’d love the mini Baja dune buggy ride at the Nellis Dunes.

These dune buggies travel through rugged terrain, sand dunes and gravel on 15,000 acres of play space for 90 minutes.

“This is something really unique,” Scott Bradford, operations manager for Sun Buggy Rentals said. “The terrain that we have here is unlike any other place in the world.”

After you get picked up from your hotel, you’ll be taken to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where you’ll be fitted for your helmet and goggles. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes tour and see dune buggies being welded and built right on the spot.

Once you climb into your buggy, the adventure begins. You’ll travel through aggressive and challenging terrain. While most drive these vehicles between 25 to 35 miles per hour, these bad boys can actually go as fast as 50.

Even if you’re just riding as a passenger, it is equally terrifying since you are not controlling the vehicle. Just when you think you’re getting used to the ride, the unpredictable desert grounds take you for another spin.

“It’s a pretty wide demographic,” Bradford said of the tour customers. “Predominantly men, we’ll do 10 to 12 bachelor parties a week. This is the ultimate wild [daytime] activity for bachelor parties in Vegas.”

It is such a wild ride that people have told him that they thought they were going to die a hundred times. “A lady came in and said she prayed more in the last hour and a half than she did in her whole life,” he said.

Despite the thrills of this ride, you can customize it to where you’re comfortable. “This is not like a rollercoaster where you strap in and hang on,” said Bradford. “You’re in control. You go as fast as you want to go. The guides aren’t going to leave you in the dust – they’re waiting on you.

“Every tour is different,” he continued. It’s as extreme as you want it to be. But if you really want to push the edge, this is the place to do it.”

Tours are $307.97.


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.