Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Nevada

In the mid-20th Century, the state of Nevada began to move towards a different kind of society than its neighbors in California or Utah. With mineral resources, little water, and harsh terrain, it was our nation's least populated state. To counter act this and encourage development, Nevada chose not virtue, but vice. Counties could license legal prostitution and the state welcomed casinos. When Castro overthrew the Cuban government, Vegas became the de facto replacement, with money pouring in to build increasingly large and ostentatious hotel resorts, and Reno soon after being developed in a similar manner.

By the 1980s, themed resorts were the craze in the state. When talking about "known" amusement entities in Nevada, we're talking primarily about the big Vegas casinos constructed during that era. Among the rides and attractions still open after the maturation and consolidation period of the early 2010s:

-Circus Circus Las Vegas and the Adventuredome is still the primary home for families visiting The Strip, with a large indoor theme park and multiple roller coasters.

-New York, New York is home to the Big Apple Coaster, previously known as the Manhattan Express. This 200 foot-plus Togo coaster is the largest attraction the Japanese manufacturer had built in the United States before their US operations were taken over by with Premier.

-Stratosphere's High Roller Coaster is gone, but the Big Shot S&S Tower attraction and a pair of flat rides still operate on the side of the 1,000 foot plus tower. The Big Shot is perhaps the most iconic ride ever built by S&S.

-Buffalo Bill's in Primm, just over the stateline from California, has the huge Arrow hyper coaster Desperado, as well as a motion theater and a log flume. The S&S Turbo Drop located here has not run in well over a decade.

There were many more to potentially mention: Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, Race For Atlantis at Caesar's Palace, Speed: The Ride at Sahara, and MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park. There's also the rides that were designed and never went up: one old tale is that Custom Coaster International had a 8,000 foot long wood coaster to run along the mountains in Primm at Whiskey Pete's. After Desperado failed to make the kind of impact hoped, the idea was scrapped.

Another thing that was scrapped was Wet N' Wild's location on the strip south of Sahara. After closing the region went without a proper water park for many years until two opened in a span of mere months. The new Wet 'n' Wild is a subsidiary of Village Roadshow, the group responsible for the nearly identically named-but-different Wet 'N' Wild Australia parks, and not the George Millay run chain that started in Orlando. Along with them is Cowabunga Bay, operated by Shane Huish, a long time theme park enthusiast who's old Youtube channel is filled with all sorts of classic and rare park content. The two water parks feature all the kinds of super modern water slides that the major manufacturers can bring to bear. Should you be up north, Sparks' has Wild Island for the Reno area residents.

This is not a surprise to tell anyone, but Nevada is generally hot. Really hot. During the summer, temperatures soar well over 110 and stay there for months. When things are this hot, outdoor attractions are not well received. Indoor ones get a lot more play, and nothing gets more play than arcades. Vegas has two enormous ones on the strip at Excalibur Hotel & Casino (Fantasy Fair) and Gameworks north of MGM Grand. Off strip on Flamingo Blvd. is the Pinball Hall of Fame, operated by the man who once was in charge of the Pinball Pete's arcade empire across the upper midwest's college towns. Well over 100 games are playable here, including some of the rarest in existence. Reno, like in most instances, tries to keep up with the Jones', but in a low rent way. The Boomtown Casino has a sizeable arcade with some small amusement rides, and Circus Circus Reno has been renovated to join their carnival games and circus acts together for additional synergy.

Reno does have some advantages over Vegas, most namely that its northerly and mountainous location makes it cooler in summer and better for outdoors fun. Whitney Peak Hotel opened as the Fitzgerald's, but when gambling revenue cratered and the parent of the Fitz went under, it went to auction and emerged as a rock climbing/adventure themed hotel. Most notable is that one entire exterior wall of this 16 story building has been turned into a massive climbing wall for its guests. Grand Adventure Land in the Grand Sierra Hotel & Casino (the former MGM Grand/Bally's) has a small attraction park of its own with mini golf, go karts, and a Skycoaster.

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