Theme Parks and Water Parks in Las Vegas and Nevada

Where to find thrills and fun (as in coasters and water slides) on the strip

Big Apple roller coaster in Las Vegas.
••• The Big Apple roller coaster is one of the rides in Las Vegas. New York-New York Hotel and Casino

It could be argued that Las Vegas is one giant theme park. There is no gate around it. Nor is there one owner/operator controlling everything. But there are bright lights and whimsical architecture as well as wild shows and a festive atmosphere. And let's not forget the compelling themes including Egyptian pyramids, the decadent Roman Empire, the circus, and the canal city of Venice. Take that Epcot!

There are no cuddly costumed characters to meet and greet, but there are plenty of plumed, topless showgirls and hookers on the prowl.

Amid all of the blinking slot machines and endless buffets, there are actual roller coasters and other rides to be found in Vegas. And despite its desert location, there are also water parks. If Las Vegas is one giant theme park, it is one that is marketed to adults and not-too-fidgety children or thrill-seeking teens. In the early 1990s, Sin City was trying to partially reinvent itself as a family-friendly destination. At that time, there were more theme parks and attractions along the Strip than can be found today. The effort was largely deemed a failure. The park-like attractions that remain are largely geared to adults who live by the decidedly non-family-friendly creed, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." If you find yourself staying in Vegas, you'll find plenty happening.

Before we get to the listings, here are some resources you might find helpful:

  • Las Vegas Go Card Explorer Pass- Pick three or five attractions, including the High Roller Observation Wheel, Madame Tussauds Las Vegas, or a visit to the top of the Stratosphere Tower for a single, discounted price.
  • Las Vegas Go Card Build Your Own Pass- Choose the attractions you want to experience, including the Gene Woods Racing Experience, the Mob Museum, or a helicopter tour of the Strip, and get discounted rates.

The following theme parks, water parks, and attractions are arranged alphabetically.

Adventuredome Theme Park (at Circus Circus)
Las Vegas
Indoor, climate controlled theme park features roller coasters such as El Loco.

Bellagio Fountains
Las Vegas
The free fountain show in front of the Bellagio hotel and casino is stunning and was surely one of the inspirations for the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure.

Buffalo Bill's Hotel and Casino
Primm, Nevada (at the CA border)
The rides at this casino on the outskirts of Vegas include the Desperado, one of the early hypercoasters, a log flume, a motion simulator theater, and a freefall tower ride.

Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Major outdoor water park that includes some innovative slides and attractions.

The High Roller
Las Vegas
550-foot tall observation wheel, one of the world's biggest Ferris wheels. Located at The Linq on the Strip.

The Big Apple Coaster
Las Vegas
The steel coaster that used to be known as the Manhattan Express snakes around the "Statue of Liberty" and other NYC landmarks in front of the New York-New York hotel and casino. This is not one of my favorite rides, as you can read in my scathing review.

Star Trek: The Experience (at the Las Vegas Hilton)
Las Vegas
Note: Star Trek: The Experience closed in 2008. You can read about the wonderful, but defunct attraction in my review.

Stratosphere Tower Thrill Rides
Las Vegas
Read about the unusual attractions at the top of the 900-foot tower including the Big Shot freefall ride and the absolutely insane Sky Jump.

Wet 'n' Wild Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Major outdoor water park includes plenty of wild slides and unique attractions.

Wild Island
Sparks, Nevada
Medium-sized outdoor waterpark with a wave pool, speed slides, lazy river, family slides, Hurricane Cove kids area, and Scorpion half-pipe tube ride.