*Please note that the Flightlinez zipline on Fremont Street has been replaced by the Slotzilla zipline. Which means I may actually have to do this again. Dammit. (April 14, 2014)
I’m a little bit afraid of heights, so there are some things I won’t do when I go to Las Vegas: Ride the New York New York roller coaster; step on the clear glass panel of the Grand Canyon Skywalk; and ride any of the rides at the top of the Stratosphere. But I have wanted to ride a zipline ever since I first heard they existed. Somehow, I thought when I did that I would be soaring over the canopies of trees in a jungle somewhere, not above curious onlookers wandering up and down Fremont Street in Las Vegas. But since my first opportunity to ride a zipline happened to come in Las Vegas, who was I to quibble?
Whether or not you’ve been to Fremont Street in Las Vegas before, you will notice the Flightlinez platforms. The landing platform is under the canopy, while the launch tower is located outside the canopy, further down the street. At the base of the launch tower is a little storefront next to Walgreens. That’s where you buy your ticket. For adults, it’s $15 before 6pm and $20 after 6pm. (Why the difference? Because it’s more fun to ride at night when the Fremont Street light show is playing on the overhead canopy, that’s why!)
The weight limits are 60 lbs. minimum and 250 lbs. maximum. Trust me when I say this wouldn’t be the time to shave a few pounds off out of modesty if you happen to weigh over 250 lbs. Besides, they will weigh you to double-check. This is also where you have to read and sign waivers stating that you understand you could plummet 20-100 feet to your death at any time. (That’s a real confidence booster.)
Once you’ve signed your life away and paid for the privilege, you will be directed to the parking garage next door, where you will take the elevator to the 5th floor. I went up on Christmas night, and while it wasn’t crowded by any means, there was a decently long line. . .which gave me plenty of time to consider just how high up that platform really was. The launch tower is 100 feet up. It doesn’t seem all that high when you’re the one standing on the ground looking up at people whizzing by, but when you’re the one up there, it’s breathtakingly high.
Just like at Walt Disney World, it pays to be a single rider here. They take people in groups of four, so if there’s a party of three, they look for a single rider. That was me. I skipped past some groups to the front of the line, which was probably for the best, since it gave me less time to think about bolting out of there like the big chicken I am.
I have to say, once I was directly interacting with the staff up there, I felt a bit more calm. They really project an air of competence. First, they will have you step into the harness and pull it up to waist level yourself, then they tighten it for you so it’s nice and snug. They have mesh bags for your personal belongings that are secured to the back of the belt on the harness, out of the way. Just ask for one if you need one.
Then it was my turn to walk up the steps to the platform with my party. I kind of felt like I was walking to the hangman’s noose or the guillotine. In order for our harnesses to be attached to the zipline, we had to climb a 2-step stool (see what I mean about the hangman’s noose?). I got a bit of vertigo just climbing on top of the stool. Once you’re attached, you step down and they instruct you to sit in your harness and show you how to hold on tight and how to position your legs. Almost before I could think “Oh this is comfortable”, I was shoved off the platform.
For the first few seconds, I felt blinding terror. The blindness came from the fact that my eyes had slammed shut when I went off the platform. And then once I realized I wasn’t going to plummet to my death after all, I opened my eyes and watched Fremont Street go whizzing by me on either side. People down below were looking up at me and taking photos, just like I had done when I was on the ground. It was. . .dare I say it? Fun. A LOT of fun. I got to see Fremont Street from a perspective I never have before, and it was great! I may even have let out a whoop or two on my way down the line.
The smile started to evaporate from my face as I realized how much I was slowing down as I neared the landing platform. The day before, I had seen two kids not quite make it all the way there. They slid backwards and got stuck. The staff on the platform had to harness themselves up and go tow the kids in. I remember thinking at the time how embarrassing that would be. I did not want that to happen to me. Unfortunately, at the very moment I was fearing the worst, that’s when the photography staff was taking my photo on my approach to the platform.
I landed just fine, and was de-harnessed by the staff there and headed down the steps to where the photography staff already had our photos up on computer screens. Photos are $20 for the first one, and $5 for each one you purchase after that. Since I was traveling alone and didn’t have anyone else to take photos or video to prove I’d actually ridden the zipline, I shelled out the $20 for the evidence. The young woman at the first computer scrolled through the photos taken of me, so I could see which ones I wanted. I found one I thought looked the best and indicated I’d take it. As she went off to print it up, a little girl walked up with her mother and pointed at my picture and said, “Mommy, that lady looks freaked out!”
There are people who believe it’s a good thing for personal growth to do something that scares you every day. I think I’d be exhausted if I did something that scared me every day, but I do think it’s a good idea to step outside your comfort zone once in awhile. It reminds you that you are capable of doing things that you think are beyond you, that are scary–and that you will not only survive them, but you might even like it or be good at it. This is something we all need to reminded of from time to time. So go ahead, next time you go to Vegas, give Flightlinez a try. Show yourself what you’re made of.