Las Vegas’ Big Apple Roller Coaster

Take a Wild Ride Around Manhattan on The Strip

Big Apple roller coaster at New York New York Casino Las Vegas
MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL

It's unusual for a hypercoaster (a coaster with a height of about 200 to 250 feet) to include head-over-heels inversions. The Big Apple Coaster shows why. When the coaster cranks into high gear, its somewhat rough ride can be disconcerting–especially when passengers get tossed upside-down. For riders caught in the high-speed high-jinx, this is one New York minute that can’t end too soon.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 6.5
    High lift hill, fast speed, inversions
  • Type: Steel looping hypercoaster
  • Height (feet): 203
  • Highest drop (feet): 144
  • Max. speed (mph): 67

This Ride Takes You for a Loop

The setting is surreal, Las Vegas-style. The faux New York City skyline along Sin City’s famed Strip, with its Statue of Liberty, Chrysler building, and other landmarks, is both enchanting and unsettling—particularly with the “Eiffel Tower” looming just across the street. The roller coaster’s red track snakes through the Manhattan mock-up, and creates quite a scene on Las Vegas Boulevard.

It would have been so much more apropos to build a classic white wood coaster in homage to Coney Island’s famed Cyclone (or at least a steel coaster made to look like a woodie, such as the Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure). The casino’s designers, however, opted for a steel looping hypercoaster.

Instead of doubling the fun, The Big Apple’s hypercoaster heights and looping inversion elements cancel each other out—and cause some pain to boot. Rather than being built for height and speed, the coaster climbs over 200 feet, but (to accommodate the inversions?) only drops 144 feet and reaches a relatively puny top speed of 67 mph. In place of the graceful inversions of most looping coasters, the ride’s jarring twists and turns are worse than a cab ride during rush hour in midtown Manhattan.

In fairness, with the addition of new trains in early 2021, the ride experience has improved. The Big Apple dished out an even more painful experience for the first 24 years of its existence. Its original trains provided a rough ride from day one and only seemed to get more ornery over time. In particular, its over-the-shoulder safety harnesses included large padded restraints. When the ride really started rolling, the lateral forces would cause passengers’ heads to ping-pong side-to-side like human pinballs; their ears would get constantly boxed by the unforgiving restraints.

In January 2021, New York New York replaced the trains with new ones from Premier Rides. While we have not had a chance to try The Big Apple with the new trains, the consensus seems to be that the ride is at least a bit smoother. Significantly, instead of the bulky over-the-shoulder restraints, the new Premier trains incorporate more flexible vest-like restraints that generally do not box riders’ ears.

Pocket-Emptying Palace

Speaking of cab rides, the coaster’s trains are painted taxi yellow with a checkered black and white design. Getting to the attraction is anything but an express ride, however. The loading station is inside the casino, at the rear of the building. In the old days, when casinos simply wanted to attract and keep gamblers inside their pocket-emptying palaces, they offered loss leaders like cheap buffets and strategically placed them to lure hungry cheapskates past the blinking slot machines. Likewise, in order to get to the coaster, riders have to navigate a maze that winds through most of the massive facility.

But now, the casinos want everything to be a profit center. New York, New York has the nerve to charge $19 to ride Manhattan Express (2021 prices). For less than twice that amount, you could spend an entire day at some smaller amusement parks. If that’s not bad enough, the casino doesn’t allow carry-on items, and doesn’t permit riders to stow items in the station (as most parks allow). It costs more to rent a locker. For the, ahem, bargain price of $35, guests could get a ride-all-day ticket. Why anybody would want to board this thing more than once, however, is beyond us. If you need a thrill ride fix, you might want to check out other Las Vegas roller coasters.

In 2018, New York New York added virtual reality to the coaster. Passengers have the option of donning VR goggles and experiencing a virtual experience in which they chase an alien along the Las Vegas strip. The visuals are synced to the motion of the coaster. A few years ago, Six Flags and other parks introduced the concept of VR coasters. Most of them have since abandoned the fad. Whether passengers choose VR or not, their Big Apple ride would still be rough.

We must admit that the sight of the coaster careening around Lady Liberty, particularly at night, is striking. Our advice: Skip the ride, and watch it from the Strip for free.

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