In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new reason to visit Las Vegas: the High Roller Observation Wheel, officially the tallest in the world.
The High Roller opened in March 2014, and at 167.7 metres above ground level the views from the glass capsules are outstanding, stretching across the Las Vegas strip to the old town of Las Vegas, surrounding desert and distant mountains.
This massive structure resembles the London Eye and dominates the LINQ shopping precinct between the Flamingo and Quad casinos.
On entering the modern building you’re greeted by friendly check-in staff and a security check, then your journey begins (after the ‘obligatory’ photo) in a darkened room with videos and music and a corral – you feel very lucky to walk straight though if there’s no crowd.
Upstairs, a brightly lit bar beckons you to indulge in a pre-flight drink, then it’s up another escalator and at last you emerge outside, to take in the immense size of the slowly rotating wheel above you.
Hosts form visitors into groups of up to 40 people and at last you’re invited to board. Some scramble to take a seat at the two benches in each car but it’s best to stand if you can, as the view unfolds in each direction and you’re free to walk around the capsule.
Completing one turn every 30 minutes or so, the wheel’s movement is almost imperceptible and most keenly noticed if it occasionally stops to permit a wheelchair to board.
A counter keeps track of your capsule’s height and a fun video host gives tips along the way, culminating in a ‘3-2-1’ countdown at the very top.
The view changes as you rise and fall, with a highlight of the descent (from the side you entered the capsule) being the Bellagio dancing fountains, if you’ve been lucky enough to time your visit for their display every 20 to 30 minutes.
The hardest decision to make is whether to ride the High Roller during the day or night.
It’s around $10 more to ride after 6pm, and it certainly seemed the more popular time, with long lines forming as people queued to experience Vegas’s night-time lights.
Keen to experience the night time views as well, I booked a night-time ride and really enjoyed the bright lights, Bellagio fountains and different buzz in the capsule.
On reflection, I marginally preferred the day time ride as there were no queues and my capsule with only 7 people enjoyed stunning views for miles. So what’s my recommendation? if you’re unlikely to return to Vegas soon, go twice.
Whichever time you choose to go, booking in advance is worth it to avoid the queue at check-in, and if you’re staying at the Flamingo or Quad casinos you may qualify for a $5 discount.