view from the top of the Stratosphere Hotel

The whitest of knuckles on the Big Shot at the Stratosphere

I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty brave on rides. I’ll give anything a go and am rarely genuinely scared. Having seen The Big Shot featured on a TV programme about the most thrilling rides in the world, on my first visit to Vegas I was determined to try it…

Walking up the strip to the Stratosphere hotel I was thinking to myself that the tower looked pretty high. The shapes at the top of the tower were just pinpricks and the faint sound of screams in the air could have been bird calls or similar.


Stratosphere Hotel Las Vegas

Getting closer to the hotel I stopped thinking that the tower looked pretty high and acknowledged that it was definitely Very High Indeed (at over 1100 ft high I like to think I was right with that). Still, my excitement took me forward and had me nearly running to the ticket queue to get to the top and on the ride.

Exiting the lift on the observation floor was an amazing thing. The tower absolutely dominates the Las Vegas skyline and the view was just incredible. Seeing all the hotels laid out in front of you – almost like a little living map – is an incredible thing. And I was definitely right about the tower being Very High Indeed.

Walking up to the Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas

From behind huge glass windows I looked down on what is surely one of the best views of Vegas and started to feel just a little overwhelmed by the height of the place. After lots of view-admiring it was time to get in another lift and get up to the rides. Hurrah!

Unfortunately, when I reached the very top of the tower, where the rides are, reality hit home pretty hard and I realised that I had somehow found myself on top of a ridiculously high tower and was about to ridiculously go on a ride that would ridiculously throw me up even higher.

Close to the bottom of the Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas
The Nerves had arrived….

A disappointingly short queue awaited us at The Big Shot. Never in my life have I ever wished for a longer queue on a ride, but this one had me nervous. Getting to the front of the queue and getting strapped into my seat happened in the (seemingly very short) blink of an eye and there I sat, for the longest few seconds of my life, waiting to be fired into the air like a missile, just hoping that the old adage “what goes up must come down” would be the case here, just with the added word “safely” at the end.

view from the top of the Stratosphere Hotel

After several long hours (in reality probably around 30 seconds) all the other crazy fools and myself were securely strapped into our seats, our legs nervously dangling beneath us, waiting for the ominous hiss of air that would mean we were about to be flung to the heavens.

The ride of your life

The ride itself I can’t tell you too much about as fear and adrenalin have made the memories a little hazy. It was over in probably less than a minute, but what a minute!! You are literally fired straight upwards, very quickly reaching a speed of 45mph – apparently this is more than 4Gs which would explain why I left my stomach at the bottom of the ride to be watched over by the people queuing to go next. The shooting upwards seems to take just milliseconds and the view at the top is just incredible if you can manage to keep your eyes open…

Then comes the drop.

The drop seems ominously slow after the speed of going up and as you can’t see below you you don’t know how far you have to drop until you reach the landing. Terrifying!
Stratosphere Hotel - the Big Shot

After the ride, with legs shaking, I was faced with the indignity of looking at the nervous wreck I’d become with the standard ride photograph. I don’t think I’d ever fully appreciated why rides are called white knuckle rides, but now I understand. I was holding on to the bars of my harness so tightly that my knuckles looked like they had been tippexed. I bought the photo. Even though my knuckles are white and my face is grey I wanted proof that I’d just gone through one of the most scary experiences of my life.

It took three pretty stiff cocktails downstairs in the bar for me to stop shaking like a leaf and for the first time in my life I declared that while I was glad I had done the ride, there was no way on god’s holy earth I’d put myself through that again.

As for the other two rides, the delightfully named Insanity and X-Scream, they look absolutely terrifying. If you want to read a review of those you’ll have to go elsewhere, this reviewer wouldn’t have been able to lift a pen again if she’d gone on either of those!

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