Vegas Bright writer Gennadius details Happy Hour in one of the High Roller pods.
Just under a year ago, I was in Las Vegas to support some of my friends who were running in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon. This is a trip that my friends and I often make, and I have previewed and followed up on races in the past. The weather for this race was much nicer than the one the year before, which was great both for the runners, as well as those of us spectating towards the end of the marathon route.
We had decided earlier in the trip that a nice way for everyone to relax together after the race would be to take a ride on the High Roller since none of us had been on the attraction before. Additionally, we decided to go for the Happy Hour package, since it would allow us to drink throughout the 30-minute ride. Unlimited booze sounded like an appropriate way to get back into the Vegas swing of things after the marathon.
We walked from PH down to the LINQ Promenade and made our way down its entire length towards the High Roller. Once there, we all had to get our tickets. As a Diamond Total Rewards member, at the time I was able to use my monthly show ticket benefit to get two free High Roller tickets. This benefit was only good for the regular tickets, so I had to pay $15 to upgrade each to a Happy Hour ticket, which was still a great discount. Unfortunately, as of 2017, it seems that the High Roller is no longer on the list of available show tickets for this benefit. In its place, Diamond members now receive a discount on the purchase of these tickets, which I’ve heard is greater than 50%. That still makes it better than a buy one-get one deal, but it does make me wonder what caused Caesars to remove it from the available options.
Most of the rest of my friends ended up purchasing their Happy Hour tickets through Groupon, giving them almost a 40% discount, which was also a very good deal. In all of our cases, we needed to complete our purchases at the actual ticket desk for the High Roller. This area also contained space for a line if there is one (there wasn’t), and had a nice mural of the Caesars Entertainment Las Vegas properties.
After ticket purchase, we had to go through a basic security station and then proceeded up the escalators into an area that had a green screen for photo ops, and a bar and expansive waiting area for us to use while waiting for our ticketed time to head out to the loading area. The bar seemed to be fairly extensive, including frozen drinks and premium alcohol. For riders that do not have a Happy Hour ticket, this is where they would be allowed to purchase a drink that they would be able to bring into their High Roller pod. No other external beverages are allowed. This is also the last bathroom available before actually boarding the ride.
Our time to board came pretty quickly, so we didn’t have any time to make use of the bar. Besides, we had our own bar to get to. As the cover photo shows, and the photo above, the ride doesn’t stop moving in order for people to board. The LED lights keep changing, and the show goes on, even as one group of riders disembarks, and the next group starts their ride.
The boarding is not hectic or difficult in any way, the ride is moving at a constant pace, and at a slow enough rate that it is easy to simply walk into the pod. If one takes a quick look below the pods, there is a huge net that spans the entire area, just in case someone doesn’t negotiate the transition between the platform and the pod correctly.
Once inside the pod, we can see that the setup for observation is quite remarkable. There are clear views in all directions, and the first thing one notices is the lack of any real sense of motion. The ride is extremely smooth, without any starts and stops or any other kind of jumpiness. A normal pod holds 40 passengers, the Happy Hour pod devotes a lot of space to the bar, thus cutting the passenger count down to 25.
Speaking of the bar, immediately as we board, there is a short briefing that takes place, with the goal of trying to make the most of our 30-minute experience. Our bartender was extremely social, and he got directly to the main point, drinking. He stated that the goal for us would be to try to get as many drinks for everyone at the time of the ride, while also allowing everyone to enjoy the sights as much as possible. To that end, he had one drink, a fruity vodka-based mixed drink, that he would simply constantly make and people could just come up and grab them as they needed. Beyond that, he said that in the interest of efficiency, simple drinks with perhaps one mixer only would be the best to order.
This all seemed to make sense to us, and to do our part to make things go smoothly, many of us simply tipped a larger amount up front, thus allowing us to simply pick up drinks and enjoy the rest of the ride. The bartender lived up to his word, drinks flowed freely, and people settled in to imbibe and enjoy the views as our pod made the climb up to the top.
During the climb up there was still a little bit of chatter. People would move from point to point in the pod, taking in the different sightlines, looking down both sides of the strip, staring west out towards the Rio and Palms, and even out east towards the mountains. There is a narrator that is trying to welcome us and give us some facts and figures about the High Roller and what is going on, but all of us are so enamored with the sights and the booze, that we don’t pay him much attention at the moment.
As the ride progressed and we approached the top, the views were quite stunning, especially of the Strip. Looking out west, I could see Palms, where I had many times stood on top at Ghost Bar, and looked back east towards the Strip in a very similar fashion. In fact, looking around at all the surrounding communities that make up Las Vegas, I recall a couple of Fourth of July trips where, from up top of the Palms, one could see multiple fireworks shows going on simultaneously. It was quite a sight, and very unique. I would wager that the experience would be similar, with perhaps a greater field of vision, from the High Roller during the Fourth.
As we approached the top, the chatter died down. We hit a point where we could hear and understand the narrator in between sips of our free-flowing drinks. Looking up, the screens were constantly showing our progress along the wheel, letting us know how high up we were, and pointing out interesting sights.
At the top, it was quite the view. While we had been looking around excitedly for the first half of the trip, the top marked a point where everyone kind of slowed down and just took everything in, absorbed the unique view of having a high, relatively unobstructed view of the Strip, without having to get in a helicopter.
We also all realized that we only had half of the time left to continue drinking, so many of us doubled down at that point. In talking with our bartender for a bit, I learned that they rotate their actual positions during their shift, spending time in the Happy Hour pods, as well as bartending at the bar that we passed by in the waiting area prior to loading. So, if you really want that fancy, complicated drink while on the happy hour pod, they would be able to make it if they have all the ingredients. The bar in the pod is well stocked but is not a full bar, clearly, so some mixers and some alcohol may not be available. Don’t let that fool you, however. These guys are professionals and take pride in what they do, and our bartender was great at providing us drinks quickly and being engaging and funny through the whole ride.
Early on our trip down from the top, we were treated to views of the Bellagio fountain show from fairly high up. This was a bit fortuitous in terms of timing, as it could have been going on while our view was completely obstructed, but lucky for us, we were able to see a good part of the show. This was another example of being able to see something that we have all seen before, but from a much different perspective, making it a unique and memorable. It added to our overall experience that we were all enjoying, and definitely made us glad that we decided to go at night, where the fountain shows run more frequently, and where the lights make it stand out a bit more clearly.
As we approached the base again, our bartender reminded us that we can take drinks to go, so we all loaded up on one last round (or two) and took a look at views that were far less spectacular, but still interesting, relative to the ones we saw just minutes ago.
The pods before us smoothly made their way past the platform, disgorging their current passengers out one side and taking in the next set of riders from the other. The whole time, the trusty net was hanging out below the pods. We took one last look around, said goodbye and thank you to our bartender, and made our way smoothly, and much more alcohol-laden, out of our happy hour pod.
While technically over, our ride experience wasn’t quite done. As you exit, you don’t just get to leave. First, you are run by an area where you can see the photos that were taken of you on the way in. These are placed up against various High Roller backgrounds and can be purchased if you so desire.
Beyond that lies the gift shop, which contained the expected High Roller themed merchandise, as well as some other Caesars Entertainment specific items, and the more generic Las Vegas gift shop staples, such as shirts with funny or self-deprecating statements on them. One pretty nice feature of the gift shop that I enjoyed was a mural depicting images of the construction workers during the assembly of the observation wheel. That was a nice touch, I thought.
As we were making our way out, there were a few kiosks scattered around where they wanted you to tell them if you enjoyed the ride. As you expect, we didn’t take these surveys or whatever they were, but in retrospect, I think all of us really enjoyed the ride. It was a nice and relaxing experience, it provided some great views, and it definitely came through in spades on the unlimited drinks part. Was it worth it? I think so. Especially since none of us had done it before and because of the ability to drink through the ride. So, if either or both of those qualities apply to you and your friends, I would recommend you take a trip on the High Roller Happy Hour, especially if you can go at night, and also if you can get it comped or discounted! Until then, please enjoy the images of our experience throughout this article, as well as a few extra images in the gallery below.