Trip Report: Las Vegas Rides
May 24, 2003
This report covers amusement attractions at:
"Attractions in the horizon are further than they appear"
This weekend I traveled with my Uncle and his son to Fabulous Las Vegas. As part of the trip, I arranged to have today to do a tour of Vegas attractions, coaster enthusiast style.
Accordingly I started the morning at 9AM at Circus Circus. The resort was only a short 5 minute walk from my hotel. I entered Circus Circus, one thing you will quickly learn is that the casino's NEVER put their ballyhoo attractions anywhere close to the front door. Do not be confused by signs pointing to the "Midway", the Midway in this case is an arcade on the second floor of the casino with video games, and a carnival style games of skill area. The midway does have a couple interesting points, such as the Horse In Around Bar. This bar looks like a carousel, and the tables have 'horses' mounted to their endsand the whole thing turns slowly. The Midway also has a Maxflight Coaster Simulator. To quote a line from Thrill "Why would anybody sit in a plastic box and pretend to have an experience when they can have the real thing?" Past experience has taught me that I am too heavy for the Maxflight unit, so I skipped it even though I had been given a complimentary ticket for it.
I headed back the long, long trail following the signs to the Adventuredome, stopping off at the Market Express convenience store to pick up a Fun Book. Fun Books are coupon books that casinos give their guests. Unfortunately you often need to obtain a coupon to get the fun book. I was able to get several Fun Book coupons from a book called "American Casino Guide 2003" The Circus Circus fun book has the complimentary ticket for the Maxflight simulator as well as a $4 off coupon for the Adventuredome.
I walked back a long ways some more, took an escalator up to the second floor and found myself in a shopping area. A short ways down the shopping area and I reached the entrance. I also noted the signs changed from reading "Adventuredome ->" to the more generic "Theme Park ->"
I entered the Adventuredome, and started walking clockwise until I found a ticket booth. I presented my coupon to the attendant and announced that I would like a Ride All Day ticket. The clerk looks around and finally says in a meek voice "For you?" I guess the amusement rides of Vegas are not meant for adults, whom they would rather have amusing themselves in a different fashion. I stated that the ticket was for me. $15.95 later I had a purple plastic wristband.
I walked some more until I found the ramp up to the second level of the park where Canyon Blaster is located. I stopped to look at the Rim Runner which is a shoot-the-chutes ride. I only looked at it because I thought I saw targets and a score table at the end of the ride. I then noticed there was an arcade machine next to me with a rifle attached that was meant to shoot those targets off in the distance. I made my way up to Canyon Blaster and with no fanfare I found myself in the load station. I noted the empty station but with a full ride crew there. I entered the lane for the front seat and the queue gate opened right on cue. I took a seat in 1.1, a few moments later the train was dispatched. Canyon Blaster has the new-style Arrow trains, a design that is found, well I guess only on this ride, now that Drachen Fire is no more. Very roomy trains, actual spongy seat cushions. Soon we were off with a turnaround to the right out of the station, up the lift, a turnaround to the left, first drop, two vertical loops, a turnaround to the right, two corkscrews, then a helix like section through a cave, then the train entered a tunnel which probably holds the transfer/train storage area, then back into the station, WOW! Smoothest Arrow multi-element ever. Its got an off color scheme with pink track and white trains. I exited the train, passed through a turnstile, then noted the re-ride bridge. There is a bridge that goes directly from the unload side of the station, over the track and down into the load side of the station. It's party time, and I rode Canyon Blaster almost continuously for nearly an hour, in various seats. Operations were Cedar Point efficient, train pulls in, unload it, load it, send it. None of this waiting to fill the train business. Canyon Blaster is $5 if you use ride tickets, therefore I would have no problems justifying this $15.95 bracelet I purchased.
Before leaving Adventuredome, I took a walk around the park, and stopped next at the Chaos. Why not, they were currently loading it, and it had empty seats, and I had a wristband. Chaos delivered a great ride with several upside down passes near the loading deck. I then noted the signs for the EXIT from a Fun House, but I never did find the entrance, and it wasn't on the park map I was looking at, so I figured it must not exist anymore. I made one last stop at the Chance Inverter. It was right next to the park exit, and it was loading. I boarded the Inverter. I didn't know it was possible to run these in "Wimp Mode" Yawn. Then again since the ride was shaking violently from side to side, it's probably a good thing they were only running it in "Wimp Mode"
I then retraced my bread crumb trail down the long walk through the casino to Las Vegas Blvd. I exited the casino, looked and saw the Sahara sitting a couple doors down on the opposite side of the street. I crossed the street and figured I'd just walk it. It was still early morning and it was an enjoyable morning stroll. Especially as you pass by Wet N' Wild. Lets just say that whoever is promoting Vegas as "family friendly' has not been to Vegas.
Soon enough I made it to the Sahara. Their coaster runs alongside the front of the casino. Do you think the station is anywhere near the front door? WRONG! I walked all the way through the casino, and then through the Nascar Café. About halfway into the café I see the ride ticket booth. I had a coupon for $5 off the $20 all inclusive deal, which includes simulators and other things. I did note that while Speed is like $6 a ride, they sell an Unlimited Coaster Only ticket for $10. I purchased the coaster pass. Again I was greeted with "For you?" I indicated that it was, and soon I had a red tyvek bracelet to go along with the purple plastic bracelet. The clerk pointed to the empty queue area behind her, which leads to a staircase which leads to the station. I made my way to 1.1 and waited out the delay between rides. The queue gate opened, and I took a seat in the train. I then realized that this Premier train still has OTSR's. Didn't Premier win an award for yanking these bars OFF of ALL their other launched coasters??? I had forgotten just how bar these bars sucked, how little elbow room they leave, how annoying the ear pillows are. Soon the brakes opened up, and the ride launched. Another WOW. The wind in your face in the front seat. The train leaves the station does a Millennium Force style turn to drop into a tunnel, passes under the sidewalk, comes back out, into a vertical loop, then follows along side a path in front of the hotel, passes through an impossibly small cutout in the big Sahara sign, travels around the front of the hotel some more, then goes up into the spike. Then you do the whole thing backwards. A Fantastic ride. We returned to the station, exited to the right down a real narrow diamond plate walkway, and then crossed over a short bridge that crossed over the track to the service bay. A real neat idea as you can cross the track without an elevation change. With the short line the chain separating the entrance and exit was removed, so all you had to do was exit, walk to the back of the train, cross the bridge, then walk back up into a seat queue. I rode this for about an hour in various seats. They run an annoying "Runs every 3 minutes unless full" policy. With the actual ride, and bar checks, it boils down to a ride every 5 minutes. I made my way out of the Sahara, and walked around to the rear of the Sahara. I saw the Las Vegas Hilton, I walked towards the Las Vegas Hilton, I walked some more, I walked some more. Why is it I keep walking and the Las Vegas Hilton never seems to get any closer??? I passed a real neat looking retro McDonalds. It's a McDonalds but it looks like the photographs of their 1960's era stores. What is it with Vegas and McDonald's, they have their fast food eateries just about everywhere. Is this part of the family friendly thing???
CAUTION: STAR TREK THE EXPERIENCE SPOILERS BELOW
I walked for 3 years, and eventually got to the Las Vegas Hilton. I entered the gate that said "Star Trek The Experience" I followed the long ultra windy walkway up from the sidewalk, passed by the convention hall and eventually wound up in the casino. I then followed a confusing pathway of signs leading me to the other end of the complex to get to Star Trek. You almost miss it, and next thing I knew the wall sings were saying the attraction was behind me. You enter a futuristic looking room in the casino, and then up a short ramp. Above you is an Enterprise, a Bird of Prey and so on. A friendly Klingon entertains you as you wait in line You get to the front of the line to purchase tickets and then sticker shock occurs. The current price for Star Trek: The Experience is $29.99. you can leave your Paramount Parks season pass at home, at it will do you no good here. $29.99 later I had an admission ticket. I walked a short path to the admission gate. At Star Trek, you get your handstamp on the way in. To get your stamp you put you hand into a 3D mold that forces your fingers into a significant Star Trek hand signal. Thumb in one slot, next to fingers in another slot, last two fingers in the third slot. (forming a V between your four fingers) The clerk then tears your ticket, and stamps your hand. You are then admitted to the Star Trek museum. The Star Trek museum tries to act like any other museum of history, except that it's the history from the point of view of Star Trek. It starts all the way back with Gallileo and has a short section of real history before launching into Star Trek history. It talks about the NASA space program, and the founding of the United Nations, it even covers the 1986 Challenger explosion, but has not been edited to cover the 2003 Columbia disaster. According to the timeline presented, WWIII is scheduled to occur in 2053. While one wall has the timleline, the other wall has display cases with "historical artifacts" (read: movie and televison props" ) Just about every thing you have seen in a Star Trek episode is represented somewhere. Even a Macintosh computer, with a label "This primitive computer was used to" You could see enough different kinds of phasers to keep a gun enthusiast thrilled. Tricorders, communicators, PADD's, combadges, uniforms, and lots of interesting 'artifacts' The museum also is designed to contain the queue for the Experience. It took me a good long time to tour the museum.
Near the end of the museum, an ensign has you stand for an "ID Badge" photo, against a blue panel. You are then given a card with a serial number and a promise that "We have just taken a FREE* souvenir photo of you which you can see after your ride."
(SEVERE SPOLERS AHEAD!)
I pocketed the card, and continued touring the exhibits until I came to a short queue. It was only a one cycle wait. Before entering they ask everyone to hold their right hand out over the railing. You can then see the invisible hand stamp glow. You see, you can purchase a museum only ticket, without the ride. ($19.99) A shot time later I was admitted to a nondescript holding room. They show clips from the various Star Trek films as you wait to be admitted. The automatic doors open, and the ride attendants usher you into a dimly lit room. In front of you there are four automatic doors. The attendants act like you are just going to ride a motion simulator ride.
(LAST CHANCE TO SKIP AHEAD WITHOUT SPOILING THE EXPERIENCE!!!)
The attendants then become very stern about forming 4 lines, one in front of each door, each line to contain EXACTLY 7 people, single file. They then tell you to step back from the automatic doors so that everyone can see the monitors. They also make sure that no one is standing against any wall. The attendant then talks with operations, and they tell you they are going to show a safety video about the ride. The video starts out with all the health warnings. (A pregnant woman leaves the room in the video while the husband stays behind), you see the automatic doors open in the video, and people starting to board what looks like any other cabin based simulator. Then the picture and sound on the video start deteriorating rapidly until all is lost. You get the message from ride operations that something has gone wrong. The room lights go out. A strong blast of air hits you. Some bright light, and suddenly you are awestruck as you find yourself standing on the transporter bay. They give people a couple seconds to realize what happened. Then your ride escort calls out to the transporter operator ahead of you "Would you like to explain what happened?" You are then told that you are now on a spacecraft, the Enterprise, and that you are now way ahead in the future. The ride escort complains about missing their break. An ensign is then told to take the two ride escorts to security for debriefings. You on the other hand will be taken to the bridge. You walk down a hallway that looks like part of the enterprise, and are shown to the bridge. They have the tour party stand at the back of the bridge. You are told there are Klingon fightercraft behind you, that you were abducted through a time rift by the Klingons, and that the crew of the Enterprise was able to intercept you. They then note that Picard is missing. It seems that he disappeared when you appeared. The story is that one of us must be Picards ancestor,and unless we are returned to the present, Picard will never be born. We then see a menacing video from the Klingon ship, before being escorted to a Turbolift to Shuttlebay. Of course the Klingon's attack while you are on the Turbolift assuring a very rough ride, with the lights flashing on and off. You then exit the Turbolift into a hallway leading to shutlebay. You are then grouped into rows again, in front of a huge garage door leading to Shuttlebay. You then get a briefing about what is about to happen, followed by a safety video. The video starts out in an alien language, then revered to English. Standard motion sim safety video topics are covered. Those people who don't meat the health requirements are allowed to bail. (Q: Has anyone taken the alternative exit, and how to they keep the continuity intact if you do?) The door in front of you opens to reveal the shuttlecraft. You board, fasten seatbelts, yada yada, the gullwing door closes. The motion film ride starts. This cabin has a screen in front of you, screens in the ceiling and small screens above the gull wing doors. This plays with your peripheral vision and makes the movie more effective. The movie is about going with a team of other shuttlecraft to head back through the time rift to take you back to the present, along the way you destroy a Klingon cloaking device, and escape from the Bird of Prey. Towards the end you fly over the Vegas strip at night seeing all the different casinos, have the Las Vegas Hilton in sight, when the Klingons have one last battle before you land safely on top of Hilton crashing into the Hilton logo. You find yourself in an elevator shaft and the narration goes "According to historical records before being abducted you were about to board this simulator, we'll sit you down next to it." You get a inspirational message from Picard. The gull wing door then opens to reveal a maintenance room, and a bewilidered maintenance man. "What are you doing here?" "Riding Star Trek, you are on the wrong floor! This is the maintenance level" He then tells you to exit the ride vehicle and then escorts you out of the maintenance shop, down a utilitarian service corridor and shows you to an elevator which will return you to the ride area. I did not a continuity flaw. While still in the ride vehicle he states that the ride is above you. When you get in the elevator it goes DOWN. "This is just a normal elevator, nothing is going to happen" It was just a normal elevator but I could not help but think they might get one last stunt in. They did, in a way, you exit the elevator, turn left as instructed, and they do a sales pitch related to the little card you received earlier. You can get your photo for $19.95 OR sign up for the no annual fee Star Trek Mastercard and they will give you your photo as a complimentary gift. It's a nice 8.5"x11" full color photo of you with the star trek characters, the series of your choice even. In fact here is mine: http://www.coasterville.com/DaveTrek.JPG I will leave as an exercise to the reader to figure out which one I am.
I was so awestruck by the experience that I used my re-ride privileges to do it one more time. (A ticket allows for unlimited access for the day, but tis so time consuming I figure most people only go through once) It was about a 20 minute wait for my second trip.. Equally impressive, and I noted the dialogue is ad lib as it changed slightly. I then stopped past the restroom for the famous talking urinals. My urinal told me that it would be a good day to gamble.
END OF STAR TREK SPOILERS - YOU MAY NOW SAFELY CONTINUE!
I then left the Las Vegas Hilton and took a $1.65 trolley ride to the Stratosphere. Much easier on the feet to ride. I entered the Stratosphere, and followed the signs for the tower. The signs led me eventually to a Ticket Center. The Tower has confusing wide array of ticket packages.
Ala Carte Tickets:
They have packages that combine the tower admission with one or more of the above, at a discount, therefore no one should ever pay the posted rates for rides. The most popular ticket is Tower plus Big Shot and High Roller - $18. However I noted an even better deal, if you read past "Tower plus audio tour, Big Shot, and High Roller ($21), you come to "Unlimited tower access plus unlimited rides - $20.95" I did some mental gymnastics and determined that even if I wanted only one re-ride the wristband was best way to go. Therefore it seemed strange that I saw no other purple tyvek wristbands up on top of tower. Perhaps it was because I bought my package at the casino services desk instead of at the base of the tower. Perhaps the wristband is not offered at the tower ticket booth. What was offered was a Ride Guarantee! If either ride should close within a designated time period, I would be eligible to receive a refund on the ride component of the wristband. I wish more parks offered a Foul Weather Guarantee. As it turns out I would not need to seek a refund. I now have an arm with a purple plastic wristband, a red tyvek wristband, a purple tyvek wristband, and an invisible hand stamp.
I then learned that the Stratosphere has a shopping mall, and that the tower ticket office is at one end of the mall, and the elevators are at the other end. I walked my way through the mall. At the tower end of the mall is a an outdoor amusement are on ground level that has amongst other things an Eli Ferris Wheel and a frog hopper called "Little Shot" I did not venture into the Strat-os-Fair. I did venture into the queue line for the elevator. It was not a large number of people and probably would not have needed a queue if not for the "Due to the High threat of Terrorist Activity, all guests must pass through a security screening to visit the Tower" Each person is issued a casino coin cup and told to empty their pockets of ALL objects. Remove all jackets, remove all fannypacks. This caused me some trouble as they wanted me to remove my camera holster. To do that requires removing my belt. They don't have a baggage scanner, so instead you present all your personal effects to security who then does a thorough hand search. When you clear the handsearch your items are pushed down to the other end of the table and you walk through a metal detector. After being screened, you are then shown to an elevator. You board the elevator and it takes you to the 108th floor very quickly. Advertised as about 30 seconds. I exited the elevator at the 108th floor, and proceeded to take photos and look around.
After having my fill of looking around Tower, I headed to the "Thrill Ride Aceess" area, which involves catching another elevator to the 112th floor. High Roller resides on 112, so I headed down the hallway to High Roller. High Roller's loose items policy is "You brought it, it's going on the ride with you" I exited the door from the inner core of the tower to the short queue area for High Roller. No seat queues, they open a gate and you head to the train as a group. I recall hearing that High Roller was converted to lapbars. Not true, as the train I was about to board clearly still uses OTSR. High Roller is the kind of ride that can only justify its existence by being on the 112th floor of a tower. If it were are ground level it would have a hard time making it as a kiddie coaster. Sure its got a view, but its not all that thrilling the drops and rises are real rampy, and the fabled view straight down to earth from an outside seat is blocked by the observation deck below. I rode once, thought it was truly mediocre and didn't bother with it anymore. High Roller uses two stop loading and at the on ride photo booth at the exit there is a person sitting with a ticket cart. This ticket cart sells admission tickets to the rides for $4. "Ride Again $4, Any Ride $4, One More Time $4, Big Shot $4,High Roller $4, Ride Again $4"
I had to rethink my mental gymnastics. Had I purchased the "Tower plus High Roller" ticket for $15, I would be able to purchase a Big Shot ticket for $4, that is $19 for both rides, or $1 more than the value pack. If I purchase one more ride. That would be $23, so the wristband is still the best deal. I reentered the center core of the tower through the re-ride door using my wristband. I then exited the tower through the Big Shot door, then walked through the empty queue area, and up the stairs to the 113th floor. Floor 113 contains Big Shot. It was a 3 cycle wait, and then I was on. Big Shot has boxes for your items in much the same place as Dr. Doom at IOA. I boarded and noted that they have added seat liners to the seats. I won't imagine out loud what for. I sat down and they very efficient crew was around to fasten belts before I could get the bar down. It does no good to fasten it yourself as they will redo it. The ride launched to a false countdown, the speakers blared the refrain from Elvis's Viva Las Vegas, and the ride finishes us just as the sound clip ends. The attendants then reach up to you and unfasten the belts before the gondola reaches the load area. I then gathered my stuff, walked back down to 112, passed through the re-ride door, and rode Big Shot again, the line kept getting shorter, so I rode until I had my fill. After two rides it was a walk on. I then took the path labeled Ride Area Exit, which leads to an elevator that takes you to a gift shop on the 108th floor.
I partook of a beverage at the 1,000' Cocktail Lounge, used the 1000' high doniker, made some phone calls, walked around the inner and outer observation decks. You know the railing for the outer deck is really quite low, then I noticed they have a suicide plan in place. You would only wall one floor, into a cage. I then made my way to the Tower Exit elevators, rode back to ground level, walked clear back through the mall and retraced my steps to the trolley stop. A trolley was there, and he even waited for me to board. $1.65 later I was riding a trolley to New York, New York.
I made my way around a purposely confusing path to the escalator to the Coney Island section of New York, New York this is the children's amusement section, though it does have a neat bumper car ride with cars that look like New York City taxicabs. I eventually made my way to a dead end pathway that is the coaster station. Here some stern warnings about NO CARRY ON ITEMS. Even my camera holster would have to be checked. Loose items went into a coin operated locker. The next sign is that the Manhattan Express is $12 CASH ONLY. I had a coupon which got the price down to $9. They sell a wristband for $25, but I had heard some very bad things about this ride.
I paid $9 in cash to obtain a ticket. The ticket sellers are stationed in the line. I approached the final section of queue before heading up the stairs into the station when I hear "Single Rider Needed!" No one in front of me acknowledged this call so I took an Express to Manhattan Express. Why not it had already been about 35 minutes.
I was assigned to seat 4, and soon sat down and first lowered the lap bar, then the shoulder figners were lowered down until they made firm contact with my shoulders. The ride started with a track section to exit the casino go around a bend and up the lift. I was in 4.1 when I learned the riders in 4.2 are of the scream at the top of your lungs in the shrillest voice possible at all times while on a roller coaster variety. The train crested the lift down a short drop, back up, then the BIG drop, then back up to a fairly ordinary carnival coaster type layout on top of the roof. Lots of curves and OTSR's do not MIX folks. Sure the ride had some very interesting elements but it beats the CRAPout of you. The ride then hits the final brakes, and then re-enters the casino where it travels slowly down a ramp to the separate unload station. As you enter the unload area, a recording starts playing "Ride Again $5! One More Time $5" Several people on the train I was on made it very clear that they were not paying $5 to reride this piece of crap. I'm glad its not just the coaster enthusiasts who hate it. I exited the ride, stopped off for a Coney Island at Nathan's (really, they have a Nathan' in the Coney Island amusement area in this hotel) I then took another trolley ride, this one to complete the circuit and return to my hotel to drop off souvenirs and such.
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