Taking Fear to New Heights

Big Shot at Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas

Stratosphere Tower Las Vegas Big Shot
••• The Big Shot blasts off on top of the Stratosphere Tower. The High Roller is in the foreground. Jeremy Levine

Tower rides are popping up at theme parks and amusement parks everywhere these days. But, one of the most unlikely spots for a freefall ride is atop the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. At over 1000 feet in the air, it is, by far, the world's tallest thrill ride. And it is both terrifying and exhilarating.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8.5
    Fairly standard tower ride, but at 1000 feet above Las Vegas, the psychological thrills are very intense.
  • Attraction type: Tower ride (Space Shot)
  • Stratosphere Tower Thrill Rides
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • 888-236-7495
  • Compare Hotel Rates for Stratosphere Hotel and Casino:
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Just getting to the Big Shot is an adventure. You must first enter the Stratosphere's casino. If you manage to hang onto your money, you then head upstairs to the second level and walk through the resort's mall. If you've still managed to hang onto a few bucks, you purchase your Tower and ride tickets, and board the elevators, which travel an ear-popping 1800 feet per minute, or three floors per second, to the stratospheric levels of the tower.

Before you brave the rides (the Stratosphere also features the High Roller coaster and the Project X Sky attractions), you may want to hang out on the observation deck. Its panoramic vistas of the Strip, downtown Vegas, and the surrounding hills are incredible.

You could also check out the Top of the World spinning lounge and restaurant or the sky-high wedding chapel (only in Vegas!).

Then it's a short elevator ride up to the Big Shot...which is essentially the world's scariest elevator ride. Like many tower rides, S&S Power built the scream machine. It is a fairly standard 160-foot version of the manufacturer's "Space Shot." The Big Shot uses compressed air to blast riders from the base up to the top of the tower.

Did I say it was fairly standard? Well yes, EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT THE BASE OF THE RIDE SITS ATOP THE 921-FOOT LEVEL OF THE STRATOSPHERE TOWER!

Yeahhhhhh!

The ride attendants help you buckle the over-the-shoulder harnesses into place, give you and the ride operator the thumbs-up sign, and leave you for a few agonizing moments to ponder what in the world made you think about doing this. The ride's compressors whoosh as they fill with air, the seats release and slightly rise, and then--yeahhhhhh--you are blasted with incredible force to over 1000 feet above Las Vegas' terra firma.

It's 2.5 seconds to the top (perhaps the longest 2.5 seconds of your life). The seats momentarily hang as you experience some delirious zero-G airtime floating incredibly high above Las Vegas. The ride then freefalls down and bounces a couple of times for some less intense doses of negative-Gs before it mercifully stops.

There are many psychological factors conspiring to scare the daylights out of you. The sheer height is positively terrifying. The ride leaves you completely exposed with your legs and arms dangling. Facing away from the tower, it's just you, the seat, and the ether above Las Vegas. The force of the launch gets you thinking: What if this seat just rocketed off the top?

For that matter, will the safety harness really tether you to the seat?

If you can manage to get past these not-inconsiderable concerns, the view is captivating. If possible, you might want to hold out for seats on the side of the ride that face the Las Vegas Strip. You may also want to try Big Shot during the day and again during Vegas' neon-soaked night.

Go to High Roller review.