The best hotels in Vegas for: Adrenaline junkies

What was the last thrill you had in your life? If you answered nabbing a pull-through parking spot at the grocery store (and that is a glorious feeling), then it’s a good thing you’re coming to Vegas.

Just being in Sin City can deliver a much-needed adrenaline boost.

As it happens, this week our series on finding the perfect hotel for every type of visitor continues with…drum roll, please (although you’ve probably already guessed)…those who seek out a whiff of excitement laced with danger.

You know who you are. You’re the kind of person who likes to test your limits and get the bejeezus scared out of you every once in a while. So when you come to Vegas, you’re looking to do something that’s outrageous, out of the ordinary and over the top because you love the rush that comes with it (plus you’ll have a cool photo to post on your Facebook or Instagram page).

Well, there are several hotels you can stay at where you’ll find roller coasters, zip lines and other experiences sure to shake you up. We can name five off the tips of our tongues. These hotels are reasonably priced and not only offer high-octane thrills, but they also have lots of choices when it comes to low-octane fun afterward (perfect for anyone traveling with you who may be more weak of knee than brave at heart).

So book your room, pack your bags and steel yourself because you’re in for one helluva ride in Vegas!

Stratosphere combined photo

From left: The exterior of the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower along with the Big Shot and Insanity thrill rides.

Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower

This 2,427-room resort will make a great base for your Sin City exploration because it’s located midway between the Las Vegas Strip and downtown. You can’t miss Stratosphere Tower. At 1,149 feet tall, it dominates the skyline, standing out like a giant index finger. (What? You didn’t think we’d say another body part, did you?) Because it looms so large, many of us locals use it for navigational purposes. So try to imagine the extraordinary view of the city you’ll have from the top. And once you’ve done that, figure out how much courage it will take to get on not one, not two, not three…but four different thrill rides that all begin from way up there.

Insane, right? Coincidentally, one of the rides is named just that. Insanity is a whirling ring of sorts, except the thing doing the spinning is a massive mechanical arm that extends 64 feet over the edge of the Stratosphere Tower. Ready for blast off? The Big Shot is a menacing ride starting on a platform that’s 921 feet high. It shoots you 160 feet straight up in the air and then lets you drop back down while temporarily eliminating the feeling of gravity. Still not frightened to death? Try X-Scream, a giant teeter-totter that will send you 27 feet over the edge of the tower – headfirst. Last but not least, there’s SkyJump, a cable-controlled freefall from a platform at a height of 829 feet that drops all the way to the ground. If these rides are too terrifying, you might get enough of a thrill by simply taking the elevator to the Stratosphere Tower’s observation decks.

New York-New York combined photo

From left: The exterior of New York-New York and riders on The Big Apple Coaster.

New York-New York

Adventure awaits at New York-New York. Located at the busy intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, this 2,024-room resort features 12 re-creations of Manhattan’s most beloved skyscrapers at about one-third of their actual size. You can choose to stay in the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building or whatever tower floats your boat. The resort is also home to The Big Apple Coaster. You’ll spot its trains (designed to look like New York City taxicabs) cruising along the faux skyline and weaving behind a replica of the Statue of Liberty. So what makes this different from other roller coaster rides? Well, you can experience big drops, two inversions and a unique 180-degree heartline twist (similar to that of a jet fighter’s barrel roll) all while taking in stunning views of the Strip. And for those of you with a need for speed, it charges along at up to 67 mph. (Fun facts: The Big Apple Coaster, which debuted on the Strip in 1997, carries more than 1.4 million riders each year, and some people even get married on it.) Afterward, walk off your jittery legs by going to The Big Apple Arcade, where you can play all the latest video games, or check out some of the other attractions at New York-New York, like Hershey’s Chocolate World (there’s an 800-pound Statue of Liberty carved from chocolate in here) and the 300-foot-long clone of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Circus Circus combined

From left: The exterior of Circus Circus and riders on El Loco.

Circus Circus

Boasting the world’s largest permanent big top, Circus Circus is an affordable family-oriented resort at the north end of the Strip with 3,770 rooms spread throughout three towers and a series of motor lodge-style buildings. It has an RV park too. But what’s best about Circus Circus is that it’s attached to The Adventuredome, an indoor amusement park under a pink glass dome where you’ll find several crazy coasters. So what are the most scream-worthy rides, you ask? El Loco (which is appropriately named) opened in 2014. It’s unusual in the roller coaster world because it lifts you and then drops you in such a way that you’ll experience a 1.5 vertical g-force (now we don’t understand the science of g-forces, but we can confirm this is a seriously scary ride). After that, get ready to lose your voice again on the Canyon Blaster. This double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster has four inversions, a sudden 66-foot drop and a maximum speed of 55 mph to its credit. As if those aren’t enough, butterflies are guaranteed to flutter in your stomach on many of The Adventuredome’s other thrill rides – like Chaos, Disk’O, Inverter and Sling Shot. When you’ve had all you can take, head to the Midway on the second floor of Circus Circus for a welcome reprieve. Filled with carnival-style games and an arcade, it also surrounds a stage where you can watch free circus acts throughout the day.

Rio combined photo

From left: The exterior of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and comedian Eddie Griffin on the VooDoo Zip Line.

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

In the past the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary, wasn’t the kind of place that came to mind when you mentioned thrill rides. But that’s changed in a big way. Last May the 2,522-room hotel introduced the formidable VooDoo Zip Line. Taking off from the VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub, situated atop the resort’s 50-story Masquerade tower, it will send you sliding in a chair (strapped in by only a lap seat belt) for about 800 feet to the Ipanema tower, and then return you again…backwards. This ride is perfect for those of you who want to fly but don’t have the guts for skydiving or bungee jumping. However, when you’re nervously staring down at the ground from your seat in the sky, you might not consider it such a safe alternative. The Rio is situated about a mile west of the Strip, so thankfully there will be some great views to distract you. And if soaring between the two towers doesn’t faze you, get tickets to see the Rio’s headlining entertainers. Magicians Penn & Teller will definitely turn your stomach with their gross-out tricks.

Mandalay Bay combined

From left: The exterior of Mandalay Bay and divers at Shark Reef Aquarium.

Mandalay Bay

At 120 acres and 3,211 rooms, Mandalay Bay is a ginormous resort at the south end of the Strip. You can body surf in a 1.6-million-gallon wave pool at its cool beach complex. But if you want a buzz from an experience unlike any other, then you’ll have to go deeper under water. Mandalay Bay is home to Shark Reef Aquarium. Instead of harmless sea life, this aquarium is filled with 15 different species of sharks and other marine predators. And get this…you can swim amongst them. As part of the Dive with Sharks experience, you’ll have the opportunity to scuba dive (as long as you’ve been certified) in the attraction’s 22-foot-deep Shipwreck Exhibit while surrounded by sharks, rays, sawfish and green sea turtles. All of the equipment is provided and you’ll be accompanied by a dive guide. The Dive with Sharks experience takes up to four hours and is only available by reservation on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The price includes a video of your dive (imagine the comments you’ll get when you post that online) and admission for four guests to watch you do it. Be aware: This encounter will linger with you long after you surface. When you do return to land, you’ll find plenty of things to engage your interest at Mandalay Bay – from restaurants of every kind to concerts and nightlife (check out the Minus 5 Ice Bar, where you’ll put on a parka and drink from an ice glass in an ice room where the temperature is kept at a frosty minus 5 degrees Celsius). Or you may want to memorialize your awesome dive in ink at Mario Barth’s Starlight Tattoo.


I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.