Let’s not kid ourselves, the High Roller, one of the newest attractions in Vegas, won’t be for everyone. Some people are afraid of heights. Some people find the ticket prices too high. Lots of people go to Vegas with other priorities (gambling, drinking, shows, fine dining, clubbing, etc.) for their time and money.
There’s really only one reason to ride the High Roller: for the views. Not everyone cares about the views around the valley and Strip, and if they do, they can get those views more cheaply by going up to the Stratosphere Tower, the Eiffel Tower, the Voodoo Lounge–well, you get the picture. But if you are at all inclined to go up, just once, just to see what it’s like, I recommend timing your ride for sunset to maximize your views: You get to enjoy the slanting, golden light of late day glinting off high rises, the pinks and oranges of sunset contrasting with the purple mountains on the horizon, and then the city lights as darkness falls around the valley.
Being both a blogger and an amateur photographer, naturally, I had to check it out. At the very least, I figured I’d come away with some great photos (and I did). I looked up the time of sunset for that day on Weather.com and showed up at the LINQ around 7:35 pm.
There are three ways to buy tickets–online, at a vending machine, or at the attraction itself. I used a vending machine located at the top of the LINQ (the street, not the soon-to-be renamed Quad hotel). There was a Total Rewards discount going on at the time, but I’d forgotten my Total Rewards card back in my hotel room, so couldn’t take advantage of it. Boo.
The vending machine is pretty straightforward. You pick the time you want to go up in the High Roller from the options given you and pay and it spits your ticket out. I gave myself 15 minutes to get there by 7:50 (the vending machine is at the top of the LINQ and the High Roller at the bottom; I didn’t know how long it would take me to walk down there, especially since I was taking pictures along the way). As it turned out, the timing was perfect–mainly because there was no line anyway.
It’s obvious they expected Disney levels of crowds for this ride, because they have the queue set up so it wraps back and forth, like Spaceship Earth or something. But there were only a handful of people there besides me, so we zipped right through. They did a bag check of my leather mini-backpack, which is about the size of a purse.
After the queue, I entered a waiting area with a bar. I could have bought a drink to take with me on the ride, but that wouldn’t have left my hands free for photography, so I opted not to. There were a couple of different doorways people were going through, and I wasn’t clear on which one I was supposed to use. It turns out there was a private party for one of the pods that night, so they were using a different doorway. I was pointed in the direction of the general admission entrance. (Everyone who worked there, by the way, was friendly and super helpful.)
Stepping into the pod is like stepping onto a ride at Disney World when it’s still moving: It’s a little disorienting, but moves slow enough that you won’t fall. The ride itself is so smooth, you barely know you’re moving, except for the fact that the landscape out the window is changing. The air conditioning kept the five of us in my pod cool and comfortable for the duration of the ride.
The overhead display screens were interesting when they showed us the schematics of the pod and our location during the ride. But the talking head got really old, really fast.
I shared a pod with a young couple from the midwest on their honeymoon and an older couple who were celebrating their 30th anniversary. (And by “older” I mean not a whole lot older than me, which I found a little disconcerting, since they’d been married so long.) Both couples were very nice, though I didn’t have as much in common with them as they did with each other.
While they were all bonding over their respective marriages, I was taking photos. The younger of the two husbands was nice enough to take my photo for me when I asked. (It became evident that if you want pictures of yourself with the view, daytime is probably best.)
On the way back down, after I’d gotten all the photos I wanted to, I started chatting with the older couple. They were going to go on a helicopter tour of the Strip the following night. I told them about my experience doing the helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, and I think they were starting to consider that as well. I should get a kickback for this stuff.
My biggest mistake during this ride was that I forgot to bring a backup memory card and suddenly ran out of room on the one in my DSLR. I completely panicked until I realized I’d already uploaded all of my Downtown Vegas photos to my tablet, so I had backups of those. I quickly started deleting the hell out of those photos on my memory card so I could continue taking photos. Whew. Crisis averted.
Thirty minutes for this ride is the perfect amount of time. Any longer and you might start getting antsy (or have to pee). Any shorter, and you might feel you got ripped off. I paid about $35 for my ticket, which is pretty steep, but I got some great photos out of it, so I was happy. The couples in the pod with me agreed it was worth it.
Obviously, whether or not you’re happy with the experience depends on your priorities for your time and money when you’re in Las Vegas. I’d rather spend $35 dollars on a 30-minute ride and over a hundred great photos of the Las Vegas valley at sunset than helplessly watch a video poker machine eat that same $35 in 15 minutes flat with nothing to show for it. Your mileage may vary.
Ticket information: You can find updated ticket information on the High Roller website. You can get $5 off if you book a room at the Quad/LINQ Hotel or Flamingo between now and August 30, 2014. Locals also get $5 off on certain days. If the prices still seem high to you, check around online for better discounts. I would not be surprised to see discount tickets at Tix 4 Tonight eventually, if they’re not there now.
The High Roller has also recently instituted a Happy Hour ticket, which sounds like a good deal: for just $5 more than a regular ticket you get to ride in the “Happy Hour pod” which has an open bar. Depending on how fast you can suck a drink down, you might be able to have 2 drinks during that time, though I’d say most people will probably just get one. Still, a $5 drink is pretty cheap for Vegas.
For another perspective of the High Roller, please check out my brother’s review from when he and his wife rode it when it first opened.