Las Vegas for Thrill Seekers

The X-Scream ride at the Stratosphere Hotel, Casino & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada. http2007
By Rick Garmin

The thrills in Vegas don't come solely from games of chance. While efforts to sustain full-blown amusement parks have failed, there are still plenty of rides, and other what-a-rush-type activities scattered about the city. Many of the hotels, in an effort to lure business, have some kind of attraction designed to make some of us nauseous and others exhilarated. If you have balance or nerve issues, this ain't the tour for you.

Photo Caption: The X-Scream ride at the Stratosphere Hotel, Casino & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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For speedy thrills, racing fans flock to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch the pros rev their engines. John Pyle/Cal Sport Media/drr.net
Just about anything with wheels that goes really, really fast can be found here in one form or another. A $200-million state-of-the-art motor-sports entertainment complex, this 176,000-seat facility serves up drag racing and super-speed courses in the viewing department. If participation is more your thing, get your speed fix at the go-kart tracks, driving schools, and other attractions.

Details: 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., directly across from Nellis Air Force base (take I-15 N to Speedway exit 54). tel. 702/644-4443 for ticket information; www.lvms.com; Tickets $10-$75. Race days vary.

Photo Caption: For speedy thrills, racing fans flock to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to watch the pros rev their engines.
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CSI: The Experience at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. francessun
This good exercise in forensics will give your brain a workout -- think mental thrill (uncommon in Vegas) more than a physical one. The 3-D whodunit (best for age 12 and up) puts you in the middle of a crime scene investigation studying DNA, fingerprints, and more as you make your way through an interactive lab and get to the bottom of one of three crimes. Think Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick, times 1,000.

Details: At MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (at Tropicana Ave.). tel. 877/660-0660 or 702/891-7006; www.mgmgrand.com; Admission $28 adults, $21 kids 4-11. Daily 9am-9pm.

Photo Caption: CSI: The Experience at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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The Roller Coaster at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. fwp
I consider this "classic" Las Vegas, not because it harkens back to the Rat Pack days, but because it's one of the few remnants of the Family Friendly era. More than a decade ago, the attitude was "why not put the Coney Island-themed roller coaster (originally known as the Manhattan Express) right through the lobby and around the outside of the hotel?" Why not, indeed? In any case, it's indisputable that the coaster (which pours on the adrenaline with a 144-ft./44m drop, plus various inversions and twists) does replicate a ride in the New York City cabs its cars resemble -- with all that entails.

Details: In New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. tel. 800/689-1797; www.newyorknewyork.com; Must be at least 54 in. (137cm) to ride. Single-ride pass $14, day pass $25. Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat 10:30am-midnight.

Photo Caption: The Roller Coaster at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Insanity: The Ride at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada. ducatisti
The Stratosphere tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi. That's 1,149 feet (350m) up, for those keeping track. So naturally, one puts thrill rides on the top of it. The Big Shot takes you up the final 160 feet (49m) or so of the spire before letting you free-fall back down again. Once your heart is back where it belongs, you can then try the X-Scream, a giant teeter-totter that teeters and totters over the edge of the 100-story tower. Try not to throw up on the smart people who stayed safely below on the Strip, okay? Finally, there is Insanity -- an appropriate moniker, given that the very thought of this ride elicits an "are you nuts?" from me -- which whirls you around 1,000 feet (305m) in the air.

Details: In Stratosphere Las Vegas, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S. tel. 702/380-7777; www.stratospherehotel.com; Rides $12-$13, plus fee to ascend Tower ($16 adults; $12 seniors & hotel guests; $10 kids 4-12; free for kids 3). Discount multiride & all-day packages available. Sun-Thurs 10am-1am; Fri, Sat & holidays 10am-2am. Hours vary seasonally. Minimum height requirement for all rides is 48 in. (122cm).

Photo Caption: Insanity: The Ride at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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A visitor leaping off the Stratosphere Tower at its SkyJump feature. Matt Belton
If the rides at the top of the Stratosphere Tower are too tame for you, why not check out the ride to the bottom of it? Yes, these days they actually allow you to jump off the 108th floor of the tower, albeit with a lot of safety equipment firmly in place. This is not a bungee jump, but rather a "controlled descent" that allows the truly crazy (as far as I'm concerned) to plummet face first 855 feet straight down at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. It's worth noting that if you change your mind once you get up there, they don't offer refunds, but they will put your face on a "Chicken" t-shirt.

Details: In the Stratosphere, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S. tel. 702/800/99-TOWER; www.skyjumplasvegas.com; Rides $105 per jump, includes Tower admission. Sun-Thurs 10am-1am; Fri-Sat 10am-2am.

Photo Caption: A visitor leaping off the Stratosphere Tower at its SkyJump feature.
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Fremont Street at night in Las Vegas, Nevada. Frommers.com Community
Compared to SkyJump, this zip line above Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas is practically a kiddy ride, but only serious adrenaline junkies will complain. The ride takes you several hundred feet along the Viva Vision canopy at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, offering some spectacular views of the Glitter Gulch neon at night -- that is if you can keep your eyes open, of course.

Details: 425 E. Fremont St. tel. 702/410-7999; www.fremontstreetflightline.com; Rides $15 before 6pm, $20 after 6pm. Open Sun-Thurs noon-midnight; Fri-Sat noon-2am.

Photo Caption: Fremont Street at night in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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