By Greg Aragon
The Stratosphere stands out among other hotel-casinos in Las Vegas. Not only is the 1,149-foot-tall tower the tallest resort on The Strip, but it also boasts some of the scariest rides I’ve ever seen up close – including one that I actually experienced.
My recent getaway to the Stratosphere began when a friend and I checked into an 18th-floor guestroom overlooking the glitzy city, sprawling mountains and desert beyond. One of 2,427 guest rooms and suites at the property, our room was spacious and comfortable. It came with two luxury queen beds, contemporary decor, a work area with desk and a big flat-screen TV.
Once unpacked, I took the elevator down to the 80,000-square-foot casino for a little action. With more than 1,200 exciting slot and video poker games and 50 table games luring me in, I began at the quarter slots, where I played long enough to drink a few beers and lose a mere $15, which wasn’t bad for about an hour or so of gambling fun.
With the gambling fever out of my system, I met my friend for an elegant dinner at the Stratosphere’s award winning Top of the World Restaurant, located more than 800 feet above Las Vegas. Here, in an elegant dining room that revolves 360 degrees every 80 minutes, we absorbed fabulous views, good wine and great food.
Our meal began with a delicious warm spinach salad, with shallots, apples, pecans, blue cheese and bacon vinaigrette. We followed this with a comforting bowl of lobster bisque, with brandy and lobster cream garnish. While enjoying the appetizers we sipped Robert Mondavi Merlot from Napa, California and watched the lights of the city slowly drift past as the floor of the restaurant slowly revolved.
For the main course I devoured fresh Alaskan cod, with soba noodles, bok choy, cashew raisin and soy butter. My friend enjoyed the chef’s special Rosen Farms Colorado lamb chop, with mint jelly, horseradish, and natural jus. With these plates we split ample sides of lobster mac and cheese with mascarpone and béchamel sauce; and grilled asparagus.
After dinner we finished the night with a couple martinis at AirBar, located near the restaurant, on level 108 of the Stratosphere tower.
In the morning we were back atop the tower, which is said to be the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. But this time we weren’t there to fill our stomachs, we were there to empty them. In other words, we were about to board X-Scream, the craziest amusement ride I’ve taken.
The adventure begins when passengers are strapped into an eight-seat rollercoaster sitting on one short track. The coaster is then fired up and the victims, I mean passengers, are propelled 27 feet out over the edge of the 866-foot high tower observation deck. After being shot over the edge, we dangled weightlessly above the Las Vegas Strip before being pulled back and propelled over again for more. It all sounds pretty simple, but it is also the most thrilling thing I’ve done since skydiving.
But this isn’t all. Besides X-Scream, the tower offers thrill seekers three other rides. These include Insanity, which employs a massive mechanical arm extending out 64 feet over the edge of the Stratosphere Tower and spins passengers in the open air at speeds of up to three Gs, and an angle of up to 70 degrees; and Big Shot, which sits at the very top of the tower and catapults people 160 feet in the air at 45 mph, until they reach an altitude of 921 feet.
The last ride, and maybe the scariest of them all, is Skyjump, which is part skydive and part reverse bungee. The highest controlled free fall in the world, the Skyjump allows guests to put on a flight suit and attach to a high-speed “descender” cable and then literally jump off an 855-foot-high tower ledge.
Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower is located at 2000 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. Parking is free.
For more information on the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and all of its amenities and thrilling rides, call (800) 998-6937 or visit stratospherehotel.com.