VIDEO AT THE SOURCE: http://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/2014/03/31/las-vegas-high-roller-opens/7111505/
LAS VEGAS – The resorts that line the Las Vegas Strip are mammoth, the biggest boasting more than a dozen restaurants and hotels within a hotel. Drinks are oversized, too, the biggest requiring a souvenir neck strap to lug it around.
So it’s no surprise that the city’s latest attraction, the High Roller ferris wheel, is supersized.
The High Roller, which is the centerpiece of the new Linq outdoor pedestrian mall sandwiched between the Flamingo and Quad hotels at the center of The Strip, becomes the world’s tallest observation wheel when it opens to the public today.
At 550 feet, it will take over the No. 1 spot from the Singapore Flyer, which stands at 541 feet, and will be about 100 feet taller than the granddaddy of modern observation wheels, the London Eye, which opened in 2000 on the banks of the Thames River in England. The New York Wheel, planned for Staten Island, will overtake them all when it debuts in 2016 at 630 feet.
Related: Brooklyn Bowl opens at Linq
Travel + Leisure magazine named the High Roller it one of its must-see new attractions for 2014, a list that also included the 9/11 Museum in New York City and the Glacier Skywalk at Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Both are opening in May.
Executives with Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns hotels up and down the Strip and developed The Linq, expect the High Roller to attract up to 4 million tourists and locals per year. Las Vegas attracted nearly 40 million visitors in 2013, with Arizona a major feeder market.
Caesars treated employees and many visitors who stopped by the High Roller over the weekend to a free preview. The regular admission prices will be $24.95 during the day and $34.95 at night.
Unlike popular attractions at the Stratosphere, New York-New York and Circus Circus hotels, the High Roller is no thrill ride. Each rides is 30 minutes, the time it takes for the wheel to complete a rotation. It is designed to provide thrills of another sort: stunning views of The Strip and surrounding mountains.
“The pace is perfect for taking multiple photos and not missing anything,” said Donna Falck, who was visiting Las Vegas from Canada with her daughter and friends.
The group saw the High Roller under construction on their trip to Las Vegas last year and didn’t think they could fit it in this trip because their eight -night vacation is almost over and they are headed to the Grand Canyon today.
So they were thrilled when they stopped by Sunday and received free tickets for a 2 p.m. ride.
“This was the best score of the trip,” said Lissa Wilder, another member of the group.
Falck’s daughter, Elisse Hagen, said she wouldn’t hesitate to pay the regular admission price.
“I think it’s totally affordable,” she said.
Sandro Rivera didn’t plan to visit the High Roller until his brother spotted it from Interstate 15 on Sunday. They work for a moving company and were taking a break on a drive to California.
Rivera called the views “awesome” and said he likes the spaceship-like design of the passenger cabins. He was happy his ride was free but said he likely would have paid $35 for his sunset ride.
“For the view, why not?” he said. “I think they’ll make a killing on it.”
As with other tourist attractions, revenue won’t be limited to ticket sales. Visitors have their photos taken before they board the High Roller.
“After the ride we’ll attempt to sell it back to you,” one employee announced with a laugh on Sunday.
There is also a bar, of course. Visitors who want to take a drink on the High Roller can only bring drinks purchased at the bar. A glass of champagne is $9.
There is also the Sky Shop, a sizable souvenir store High Roller passengers are funneled through after the ride. Among the items: $6 personalized shot glasses a $19 children’s t-shirt, an $18 High Roller hat and a $29 women’s long sleeve t-shirt.
If the options offered at the London and Singapore observation wheels are any indication, the High Roller will eventually add upgraded admission packages, too. The London Eye offers an afternoon tea as well as a wine tasting, with the latter fetching $80 per person including the ride.
The Singapore Flyer has a Moet & Chandon package and also boasts of the world’s first “full butler sky dining” package.