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May 3, 2015

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5 former thrills with a spot in Las Vegas history


Steve Marcus

Swimmers enjoy the wave pool at the Wet ‘n Wild water park during its last day of operation on Sept. 26, 2004.

The valley is home to myriad thrill rides, from roller coasters wrapped around buildings to whirling dervishes at the top of towers. Sadly, some of the area’s most popular attractions have been shut down, but others are cropping up to take their place.

Here’s a look at some of the region’s past thrill rides.

    • Thrill Ride: Sahara 1
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Speed at the Sahara

      A quick but fun ride that lasted less than a minute, the Speed roller coaster shot riders from zero to 70 mph in just four seconds. It featured a loop, a large hill with a 224-foot drop and an interesting twist. Once you completed the ride, you did it a second time — backward.

      The roller coaster shut down in May in advance of the hotel’s closing May 16.

    • Thrill Ride: Strat2
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      High Roller at the Stratosphere

      Once the highest roller coaster in the world, the High Roller ended its run in late 2005. The 10-year-old attraction needed expensive updates, estimated at more than $500,000, and was the least popular of the Stratosphere’s rides.

      Its main appeal was its height; it towered 900 feet above the Strip. But its speed and loops were by all accounts tame, the equivalent of a kiddie ride at a mall. It reached only 30 mph and dropped only 20 feet. Operators had a hard time justifying its existence.

    • Thrill Ride: Wet Wild 2
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Wet ’n Wild

      Originally touted as a tourist destination, the water park morphed into a local favorite, then disappeared. Its slides and pools opened in 1985 then closed in 2004, leaving a void in the lives of sunburn-seeking Las Vegans. Archon Corp., owner of the 27-acre parcel that housed Wet ’n Wild, pulled its lease with plans to build a resort on the land. That never happened. Instead, the plot stored construction equipment. Company executives said that was more profitable than renting to the water park operator.

      In 2006, the hopes of local water adventurers were raised when Disney and Universal Studios honchos announced plans for Las Vegas Wet, a resort featuring “the largest indoor water park in North America” and indoor ski slopes. It was to open on Las Vegas Boulevard south of Interstate 215 in 2008 or 2009. Five years later, it has yet to materialize.

    • Thrill Ride: MGM Grand
      Photo by Aaron Mayes

      MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park

      Built in 1993 with a movie studio theme, MGM Grand Adventures lasted only seven years. It was conceived as a smaller-scale Disneyland that offered children too young to gamble something to do, but it opened with steep ticket prices and attendance languished.

      MGM closed the park to the public in September 2000. It was used for private events and corporate training programs for a few years, then closed permanently before being redeveloped into three high-rise condominium towers and a pool.

    • Thrill Ride: Stripper Mobile
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      The stripper-mobile

      One of Las Vegas’ most unusual attractions, the stripper-mobile debuted in November 2009 and featured bikini-clad strippers inside a Plexiglas-enclosed cargo area. The ladies swung and shimmied around a brass pole affixed to the middle of the truck bed as it cruised the Strip.

      The vehicle was the marketing brainchild of Déjà Vu Showgirls and worked from a PR standpoint. It got international attention. But outrage ensued. Clark County commissioners vowed to fight the stripper-mobile on grounds that it was unsafe for the strippers and gawking drivers. Wanting to be “a good corporate citizen” (and not wanting to jeopardize its application to get a liquor license), Déjà Vu decided to park the stripper-mobile after less than two weeks of late-night runs.

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    1. Another short lived attraction we liked was the GM Drive Experience located just east of the Sahara, maybe 4 0r 5 years ago. For a small fee, one could drive new GM vehicles around a track with a professional who encouraged you to floor it on the longer stretches. I drove new Corvettes, Cadillac V models and other cars in a way that a dealer test drive simply wouldn't allow. They also had a Hummer course with very steep hills, trencnes, etc. that the average hummer driver will never experience. It was fun while it lasted. Way more fun than the average go kart track (which themselves are very fun) and a lot less expensive. They did mak you blow into a breathylizer before allowing you out to the cars. I think it lasted only a year or so.