Whether you come for the views or the scary rides, the Stratosphere Tower is a uniquely Vegas experience. Indoor and outdoor decks provide remarkable views of the city, southern Nevada, and perhaps even California on a clear day, from this, the tallest observation tower west of the Mississippi (more than 1,100 ft.). Obviously, acrophobics should avoid the tower at all costs.
Atop the tower are four marvelous thrill rides that will test your mettle and perhaps how strong your stomach is. The Big Shot is a breathtaking free-fall ride that thrusts you 160 feet in the air along a 228-foot spire at the top of the tower, and then plummets back down again. Sitting in an open car, you seem to be dangling in space over Las Vegas. Amping up the terror factor is X-Scream, a giant teeter-totter-style device that propels you in an open car off the side of the 100-story tower and lets you dangle there weightlessly before returning you to relative safety. Then there’s the aptly named Insanity, a spinning whirligig of a contraption that straps you into a seat and twirls you around 1,000 feet or so above terra firma. Insanity is right.
Finally, if whirling and twirling and spinning around at the top of the tower is just not rad enough for you, there’s SkyJump, in which you get to leap off the top of the thing. We wish we were kidding. Jumpers are put into flight suits and harnesses, then taken up to the 108th floor where they get connected to a big cable/winch contraption. Then, they jump. It’s a “controlled” descent, meaning that you don’t just drop the roughly 830 feet to the landing pad, but you are flying down at speeds of up to 40 mph with nothing but a couple of metal wires keeping you in place. There are lots of safety features that they tout and the three other SkyJumps around the world (in New Zealand, China, and South Korea) have sterling safety records. Nevertheless, though they call the other ride Insanity, I think this one is the truly insane option. Note: The rides are shut down in inclement weather and high winds.
- Rick Garman