Live Through the Rides at the Top of the Stratosphere Casino in Vegas

Life is full of ironies - unexpected contradictions and surprises. For example, I am such a chicken on my rollerblades that I roll to the nearest patch of grass and choose to walk whenever I encounter the slightest incline. I am terrified of going downhill on my rollerblades because I worry I won't be able to stop, and I'll either crash so hard I'll get hurt, or roll straight into a busy intersection and get flattened. (The former scenario I have actually done, and lost a front tooth in doing so, and the latter scenario I nearly did, but ran into a bush at the last minute, in front of a group of very attractive men at that...)

My point is, I am not a daredevil - but I'll do anything for a thrilling theme park ride. I love rides - roller coasters that loop and loop, spinning rides that make me dizzy, and rides that make me wonder where my stomach went to. There's not much for theme park rides in Alberta, unless you count Calaway Park in Calgary (which I do, because I love rides). Each summer I try to hit at least one traveling carnival or rodeo that has a fairway so I can get my dose of ride adrenaline. So when my husband and I went to Las Vegas for New Years of 2008, I begged him to go on all the exciting rides Sin City had to offer. He went with me on all of them, which must mean he really loves me, seeing as he gets sick just by riding the subway.

Waiting in line FOREVER to get on the rides, but enjoying the view as we do so.

Although there are exhilerating rides at many of the casinos, we focused on the Stratosphere as our mountain to climb that first visit to Vegas. I had seen an episode of "CSI: Las Vegas" where one of the characters rode a roller coaster that wrapped around the top of the towered casino. However, to my dismay, when we ventured to the Stratosphere, the roller coaster was no longer in existence. To my delight... they had other rides to try.

The XScream ride (image via because my camera at the time was awful for night photos)

We went to the top of the Stratosphere after eating a late dinner, when the sun was beginning to slink into the horizon. It was an attempt to avoid the glaring sun and heat which we figured would inevitably be a part of standing on roof of one of the tallest casinos in town. What we really didn't think about was that everyone else would have that same idea. Note to travelers: if you want to ride the Stratosphere rides in the evening, be prepared to wait in line! A long time! The line up zigzagged across the top of the casino roof, filling every square inch with human bodies.

Insanity Ride - my favorite one. This image is borrowed from the casino's website.

We waited in line for over an hour to try the XScream ride, which is basically a giant teeter-totter with vinyl seats and chest straps. The teeter-totter tilts you back towards the center of the Stratosphere roof, sliding the seats towards the downward pointing end, then tilts over the edge of the roof (1000 feet above the Las Vegas strip) and sends the seats screaming over the side to rest at the other end of the teeter-totter. (P.S. - It also takes really embarrassing pictures of you as it does so. You can buy them for $25.00 a shot.) It dips you over the edge a few times, then lets you back on to the safety of solid ground. But that's not the worst ride at all!

 The video has no sound... sorry! It was taken with a really old digital camera before I 'upgraded'.

Insanity was my favorite ride. This ride consists of several chairs, suspended from a crane-like structure, arranged in a circle. You are guided into a chair, strapped in, and then told to hang on. The crane lifts you off the ground, then swings you over the edge of the roof, where you can view the twinkling lights below from between your dangling feet. If this wasn't freaky enough, the crane then begins to swing you, around and around and around. As you watch, the Vegas skyline glitters, then quickly changes to the side of the Stratosphere tower wall, where you feel like you just might bang into it. Then it's back to the Vegas skyline again. I loved it! It was frightening and gorgeous all at the same time.

The insanity of Insanity - once again, taken with my ancient digital camera.

The third ride is called The Big Shot, but we didn't get to try it. After waiting in line for an hour for the XScream, and nearly another forty-five minutes for the Insanity ride, we felt that we just couldn't handle one more line-up. We vowed to try it next time, and then went shopping in the Stratosphere shops, which are one level below the rides.

Please, don't let the line-ups deter you. These rides are thrilling, fun, and simply unforgettable. (Not to mention, safer than rollerblading down a hill!)

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