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What are the tallest roller coasters in Southern Nevada?

Las Vegas may be known as an adult theme park, but many visitors might not know about the area’s thrilling roller coasters — including one south of the city that was once the tallest coaster in the world.

Here are the biggest roller coasters in Southern Nevada:

People ride The Desperado roller coaster at Buffalo Bill's in Primm, Nev. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 ...
People ride The Desperado roller coaster at Buffalo Bill's in Primm, Nev. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. The roller coaster was free to ride all day. (John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Desperado: 209 feet (225-foot drop)

The Desperado, located about 40 miles south of Las Vegas in Primm, was the tallest roller coaster in the world when it opened in 1994.

The 5,843-foot steel track coaster includes a 21-story drop — taller than the adjacent 16-story Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino — that takes riders below ground, back up and around the property, reaching speeds up to 85 mph, the Review-Journal reported weeks before the casino’s grand opening.

The coaster and Buffalo Bill’s closed for nearly three years during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the hotel reopened in December 2022, the coaster is still not in operation.

Affinity Gaming, the parent company of Buffalo Bill’s owner Primm Valley Resorts, did not share when exactly the coaster would reopen.

Guests take a ride on the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York on Thursday, June 4, 2020 in L ...
Guests take a ride on the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York on Thursday, June 4, 2020 in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Left_Eye_Images

Big Apple Coaster: 203 feet

The Big Apple Coaster, formerly known as the Manhattan Express and The Roller Coaster, opened in January 1997 with the opening of the New York-New York hotel-casino on the Strip.

The 4,777-foot coaster reaches speeds up to 67 mph and includes a 14-story drop and 3.4 g-forces on the five-minute ride, the Review-Journal reported in the late 1990s.

The idea for the coaster came from Gary Primm, who also dreamt up the Desperado and Buffalo Bill’s resort.

Primm told the Review-Journal in 1996 that he would “stay up nights sketching ideas on a pad” for the hotel’s New York City skyline-inspired facade. Primm also came up with ideas for the resort with former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Sig Rogich and developer Mark Advent.

“It was such a phenomenal idea,” Primm said. “This was a project that if you’d taken it and not done it right, it would have been a disaster.”

Though tickets for the ride cost just $5 in the late 1990s, a trip today costs $25 with a $10 re-ride charge.

Guests ride the Canyon Blaster roller coaster inside the Adventuredome at Circus Circus on Aug. ...
Guests ride the Canyon Blaster roller coaster inside the Adventuredome at Circus Circus on Aug. 24, 1998.

Canyon Blaster: 94 feet

The Canyon Blaster at Circus Circus’ Adventuredome theme park is the only double loop, double corkscrew roller coaster in the United States. It became Las Vegas’ first roller coaster when it opened in 1993, according to Review-Journal reports.

Reaching a top speed of 55 mph, the minute-and-a-half coaster ride drops you 66 feet into back-to-back loops and around the inside of the pink 350,000-square-foot park.

The Adventuredome charges $60 for a ride-all-day pass that gets you on the Canyon Blaster and all other coasters in the park.

The closed El Loco roller coaster in Circus Circus Adventuredome in Las Vegas Thursday, April 4 ...
The closed El Loco roller coaster in Circus Circus Adventuredome in Las Vegas Thursday, April 4, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

El Loco: 90 feet

The 10-year-old coaster at the Adventuredome can reach a maximum speed of 45 mph and includes a 90-degree drop with 1.5 vertical g-forces, a reverse 240-degree roll and a 45-degree outside tilt.

Tragedy struck the coaster in March 2019 after a woman lost her limbs when she fell from the coaster, despite the coaster passing an inspection in January that year.

The coaster reopened in August 2019 after a monthslong ride inspection and new employee training. It has not had any major safety incidents since.

Contact Taylor Lane at tlane@reviewjournal.com.

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