For all of the times that I have been to Vegas, the number of times I have been downtown I can count on a single hand. A time or two was over ten years ago, a more recent time was just over three years ago, and my most recent trip was this past January. The difference from over ten years ago to 3 years ago was quite significant. Since I had not been downtown in so long, almost everything seemed like it was new due to renovations or just the sheer amount of time since I had last seen it. Between 3 years ago and this year, there were additional things that had changed which I noticed, but the one I was most looking forward to checking out, this time, was the updated zip line.
The original attraction, which started in 2010 and ran to the end of June 2013, was operated by the company Flightlinez. It used a relatively temporary starting platform, with it being anchored down by what was essentially a bunch of construction equipment at its base. This original incarnation launched you from about five stories up and sent you about 800 feet down Fremont Street in a sitting position.
Almost instantly it became a big success, drawing people downtown that stated they would not have ordinarily ventured downtown. When I was there in late 2011, there was a line that stretched throughout the five stories of stairs and almost out of the door of the building that led up to the platform. It was such a success, that eventually the Fremont Street Experience wanted to make it permanent, and in a somewhat controversial move, decided to take over the operation and build their own version of the system (albeit, a better version).
The result of that decision is the SlotZilla tower, which opened in stages in Spring of 2014. The permanent starting platform stands over ten stories tall and is located just east of the Fremont Street Experience. It is shaped like a slot machine, including a handle and old school coins coming out, as you can see in the picture above. It is also decorated with some other icons of Vegas, and lights up at night, just like everything else in Vegas.
In order to ride, we first had to go purchase tickets at the associated store. Here, there is ample space for a line to form, a bunch of automated kiosks if you want to use them to purchase tickets, and also several sales people to answer questions and also schedule your ride. One of the first decisions to make is whether to take the Zipline or the Zoomline. The Zipline is much like the original temporary attraction that was set up, as it launches riders from about seven stories up, the ride is done in a seated position that allows people to rotate, and lands them about halfway down Fremont Street. This ticket costs $25.
The Zoomline launches riders from 10 stories up; riders are carried in a prone (superman-like) position, travel up to 40 miles per hour, and gives the riders a view of the entire Fremont Street Experience, landing them at the other end by the Golden Gate Casino. This ticket costs $45.
We were clearly doing the Zoomline, and once that was decided, we purchased tickets and were given a time to be at the elevator to head up. When the time came around, it was a short ride up to the initial harnessing area where we were weighed, given bags that would hold personal effects, and secured into a harness.
The harness for the Zoomline completely covers the front of the torso, and arms and legs pass through loops, with most of the mechanism to hold us on the back. This is what would allow us to fly down Fremont Street in a prone position, letting us look straight down on all the excitement below. Once we were all secure in harnesses, we were grouped into fours, and this would be the people we would fly down the lines with.
A short safety lecture and then a ride in an elevator a little further up, and we were in a short line waiting our turn to go. Watching previous groups go before us, we can see the process that we would have to go through to get attached to the line.
An inflatable platform rises to allow the rider to lay on it on their stomach. The harness that is being worn is then attached to the trolley mechanism at multiple points around the shoulders, back, and legs. The bag that we have been instructed to put all loose personal items in is attached as well, the platform is lowered, and then it is simply a matter of waiting for the previous riders to clear, and for current riders to be sent on their way.
The ride itself is exhilarating. Depending on how good of a push you get from the lowered platform below you, as well as some basic physics like mass, one will quickly accelerate to a certain top speed. The entrance to the Fremont Street Experience canopy comes up quickly, and while at the higher portions, it is a great view of the lights and overall vibe of Fremont Street.
As we reach the half-way point, we are getting lower, and now it becomes easy to see and interact with other people on the ground, as well as to hear the sounds of the bands that are playing. A simple glance to the left or right allows you to see the canopy in a way that would otherwise not be possible.
At the end, there is a braking system that slows the rider gently onto the platform. Once on the platform you are quickly extracted from the trolley and the harness, your bags are given to you so your items can be collected, and you are treated to a quick view back down the whole length of the Fremont Street Experience, as well as an up-close look at the Golden Gate.
Once down from the platform, there is the almost obligatory option to purchase some pictures that were taken in-flight of you and your group. We were able to look them over, laugh at them a bit, and in the end, declined actually to make any additional purchase.
Overall, this was a great experience. We went at a time where it wasn’t terribly busy, and it was probably a little chilly for Vegas, but with the efficiency of the process, I feel it would still run smoothly if it was packed and really busy. The ability to buy tickets and come back at a certain time instead of having to wait in a huge line is definitely a plus, and it really is a unique and thrilling view that one gets on the ride down. I would recommend this ride for everyone, and I can safely say that I will be back to ride it, at least, one more time. The first time just zoomed by so fast!
[Images: Gennadius, SlotZilla website]