I have a confession. I’m a closet adrenaline junkie searching for my next fix. Like most thrill-seekers, I sometimes find life on the ground a bit mundane and monotonous. You can walk. You can run. You can hop, skip or even Prancercise. But that’s pretty much where the fun stops. Sigh.Thank goodness for Vegas thrill rides. They’re just the attitude (and altitude) adjustment I need. Not only are there tons of extreme thrills both on and off the Las Vegas Strip, but several new rides are opening in 2013, including the El Loco roller coaster at the Adventuredome, the Slotzilla zip line at the Fremont Street Experience and Skyline Zip Ride at the Rio hotel.
If you want to get your heart pumping during your visit to Las Vegas this summer, read on. Not only did I compile my Top 10 favorite thrill rides in Vegas, but I also went behind the scenes to bring you a rare first-person perspective with the help of Videographer and Editor Chris Sekerak.
Now without further ado … VEGAS.com’s Top 10 Thrill Ride Picks for Summer 2013 (in alphabetical order):
1. Exotics RacingSince the moment I earned a 100% on my Nevada driver’s license test at age 16, I’ve expended a lot of energy trying to stick to the speed limit. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in more than 15 years (knock on wood). So the experience of slipping behind the wheel at Exotics Racing with the sole intention of going really fast was a little bit like a caterpillar emerging from her cocoon as a lead-footed butterfly.
Once I got past my initial fear of spinning out of control and wrecking the yellow Ferrari 458 Italia I was driving, I was able to drive upwards of 110 mph. The ride-along with professional race car driver Rudy Ibanez was even more thrilling. There were times the car was practically sideways on the turns of the track. The experience was one of pure adrenaline and full-throttle fun.
2. SkyJump Las VegasWe mere humans may not be capable of jumping over tall buildings in a single bound, but we can at the very least jump off a tall building in a single bound (and live to tell the tale) thanks to SkyJump Las Vegas at the Stratosphere. That being said, I am neither man nor made of steel, so I was admittedly a little nervous about plunging off the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
As I stood on the platform 855 feet above the Las Vegas Strip on the 108th floor, I was absolutely convinced the ride operators forgot to hook me up and I was about to willfully go splat on the blue and black target below. But once I channeled my inner superhero and stepped off the edge, my fears flew away in the breeze and I felt like (as I say in the video), “I could conquer the world” — in the nicest of possible ways, of course, not in an evil Lex Luthory way. The only thing missing from this experience was a cape.
3. – 5. Stratosphere Thrill Rides: Big Shot, X-Scream & InsanityNo matter how many times I ride Big Shot, I still scream at the top of my lungs upon the initial launch of 160 feet at 45 mph. It’s like calisthenics for my heart and my stomach. It’s also a great stress reliever. The descent from 1,149 feet above Las Vegas is comparatively peaceful and the view is unparalleled.
From my seat up front, my life momentarily flashed before my eyes when X-Scream slid down its 69-foot track at 30 mph toward the Las Vegas Strip below. Even though logic told me the ride would stop at the end of the track — 30 feet over the edge of the building — there’s a small part of my brain that expected the high-tech teeter-totter to just keep going.
I’m not a doctor or a physicist, but I’m pretty sure the human body is not meant to spin repeatedly in circles, and certainly not at dizzing speeds of 40 mph. Throw in the fact that you’re dangling at a 70-degree angle in the open air, 900 feet above the Las Vegas Strip … well, that’s just Insanity.
6. – 8. Desperado, Roller Coaster at NY-NY & Canyon BlasterTucked quietly off to the side of I-15 in Primm, I always pegged Desperado as a fairly innocent roller coaster. It starts out that way as it slowly crawls 225 feet into the air providing views of the mountains and highway below. But ever since plummeting downwards at almost 90 mph, I’ve come to my senses. This two-minute and 45-second ride is exciting, suspenseful and the No. 1 reason why people in Primm are walking around with messy hair.
When I drive past the Roller Coaster at New York-New York, this phrase comes to mind: “Location. Location. Location.” It’s the only roller coaster that is located outside of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip with prime real estate at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. With a replica of the New York harbor and a 150-foot model of the Statue of Liberty, it’s a bit like riding a taxi cab at 67 miles per hour over upside-down loops, corkscrews — and potholes — through a New York City postcard.
Canyon Blaster at the Adventuredome at Circus Circus is relatively short compared to these other two coasters, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in spirit. There are double loops, double corkscrews and a deceivingly demure-looking pink track. There’s also something inherently fun about riding a roller coaster inside an air-conditioned building.
9. Vegas Indoor SkydivingI always thought Vegas Indoor Skydiving sounded like a cool concept. I have yet to jump out of an airplane, though it is high on my bucket list, and this seemed like a good rehearsal.
Ultimately, this indoor skydiving experience was very different than what I anticipated but definitely an amazing thrill. Not many of us can say we’ve literally floated on air before. The DC-3 propeller mounted beneath bouncy wire netting blows you upwards inside the vertical wind tunnel. As an active participant, you are instructed to arch your back, straighten your legs, relax and look up so you don’t slam into the padded wall.
Apparently, I flew upwards of 10 feet (twice my height) with help from Body Flight Instructor Adam Wright (no known relation to the Wright brothers). It was strenuous, but a lot of fun! I had a smile plastered across my helmet-covered face the entire time.
10. Vegas Mini Baja ChaseI walked into the Vegas Mini Baja Chase relatively unsure what to expect. Driving a colorful tinker toy on wheels through desert dunes… how challenging can that be? Well, let me tell you — I could not have been more wrong.
This is not a thrill for the faint of heart. The dune buggies go super fast, the terrain is excitedly unpredictable and the soft desert sand goes flying everywhere! I spent the first part my drive alternating between swearing like a drunken sailor and fits of laughter.
Next, I hopped in the passengers seat with Sun Buggy Fun Rentals driving guide Adam “Malibu” Purser. He did not take it easy on me … in fact, I’m pretty sure he enjoyed making me scream. By the end, I was covered in sand from head to toe and happily exhausted from my adventure.
Honorable Mention: The Zip Line on Fremont Street
I would be remiss to ignore zip-lining across the Fremont Street Experience. If you’ve never zipped at harrowing speeds below the colorful, psychedelic Viva Vision canopy while air-fiving the crowd below, you really need to give it a try. I did not include it in my Top 10, however, because the current Flightlinez Zip Line is slated to close later this month and a new zip line, Slotzilla, is scheduled to open later in the summer.