The Stratosphere

At the far north end of The Strip sits the Stratosphere.  In many ways it is a typical strip casino, even though it has the loosest slots on the whole strip.  But there is one thing about it that makes it unique among all the glittering casinos in Vegas:  the Stratosphere Tower.  At just over 900 feet tall it is one of the tallest free standing structures west of the Mississippi River.  The view from up top is nothing short of spectacular.  But that's not what makes it unique.  What makes it unique is that the top of the Stratosphere Tower, some 900 plus feet in the air, plays host to not 1, not 2, but 3 different roller coasters.

The first is the High Roller.  The track hangs off the side of the platform and goes around 3 different times.  The ride lasts for 2 complete circuits of the track, so you go around the tower 6 times total.  Riding on the outside can be a bit un-nerving.  At a top speed of around 30 mph it's not very fast as roller coasters go.  But believe me, you don't really want it going any faster.

The second is the Big Shot.  It sits on the very top center of the platform, and can carry as many as 16 riders at a time:  4 on each side.  After everyone is strapped down and the countdown completed, you shoot up another 160 feet faster than the blink of an eye.  Really.  Then a free fall back onto a cushion of air.  If you don't hang onto the seat you will experience a couple of seconds of weightlessness during the free falls.  Don't be concerned about fear.  This is over too fast for the adrenaline to even reach your bloodstream.

The last is the X Scream, and the name says it all.  The roller coaster sits on a single piece of track 55 feet long that tilts back and forth on an axis just like a big, long lever.  No big deal.  Right?  Oh yeah.  Did I mention that half of that section of track hangs over the edge?  So when it tilts forward, down you go all the way to the end.  And then some.  When the first daughter and I rode we were the only ones so naturally we road in the front row.  Well, the front row hangs over the end of the track by about 3 to 4 feet.  It seems much longer than that because when you look down between your feet, the first thing you see is the concrete 900 feet below.  There's also a surprise ending, but I don't want to give that away.

The tower sits waaaaaaaaaaaay north of Circus Circus and the Sahara.

You can easily see the red track of the High Roller encircling the platform.  And that big white and red tower is the Big Shot.  You can also see the green track of the X Scream tilted back towards the platform.

This shows the X Scream tilted down and away from the platform.  You can see the rounded end of the lead car sticking out from the very tip.

The First Lady took this shot of the First Daughter and myself riding the X Scream.

But this shot better portrays the wild-eyed rush you get from the X Scream.

Our last night in town we dined at the Top of the World Restaurant.  In honor of President Reagan the lights on the strip were dimmed for 3 minutes.  If you look beyond the Stardust you can see the Strip is blacked-out. The restaurant revolved just right to line up our table for this bird's-eye-view.  Not many people get to see it like this.

Compare this photo to the one above and you can see all the casinos that were blacked out in honor of President Reagan.

Downtown Vegas and the Freemont Street area.


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