Big Apple Coaster (formerly Manhattan Express) is one of the most notable features of the Las Vegas skyline. You’ve probably seen it in countless movies and TV shows. The red TOGO-designed steel coaster traverses loops, twists, and turns on top of the New York, New York Hotel & Casino. Fittingly, the ride has scaled down versions of popular New York City buildings as an excellent backdrop. And, it has one of the coolest locations and a pretty strong theme, but I’m afraid that the praise for the Big Apple Coaster stops there.
After visiting Las Vegas, I can clearly understand why people have called the city, “A Theme Park for Adults”. The themes of the top casinos were very impressive in scale and in their details. After a long stroll down the busy Las Vegas strip, I saw the mini Statue of Liberty and rest of the mini-NYC buildings. My friends and I entered the New York New York Casino and weaved our way through the interior which looked like New York City streets; complete with storefronts. We walked past the slots machines and other games on the floor and eventually found our way up to the ride’s entrance.
When I rode it in 2016, the ride cost $14 for one ride or $25 for an all-day pass. Given what I’d heard about Big Apple Coaster, I figured one ride should suffice. Extending the theme of the ride, the queue was themed like a New York City subway and the trains looked like taxi cabs. The seats had lap bars and over the shoulder restraints. According to RCDB, while the ride was designed by TOGO, the original trains were replaced by newer trains from Premier Rides in 2006.
Big Apple Coaster begins with a long slow climb offered an excellent view of the casinos nearby and even the mountains in the distance. Some 203 feet above the Strip, the accent ended. The first drop was rather small (76 feet), but fun. Then (reminiscent of Phantom’s Revenge), we plunged down a second and much larger drop of 144 feet. So far so good, but I knew that the twisted mess of steel ahead might get rougher. And it did.
First, we traversed a vertical loop, which was followed by a dive loop. I don’t remember the vertical loop being all that bad. The dive loop started out great with a sensation of being suspended upside-down for longer than usual. Unfortunately, exiting the dive loop was quite rough. From here on, Big Apple Coaster was a head-bang-a-thon. And not the good kind like you’d find at an 80’s hair metal reunion.
I called on my defensive riding skills so my head wouldn’t bounce off the over-the-shoulder restraints too much. The smaller hills and final helix were much rougher than they should have been. Then the train re-entered the building and we returned to the station.
Unfortunately, Big Apple Coaster (Manhattan Express) lived down to its reputation as one of the roughest roller coasters around. The 20 year old ride is the last TOGO-designed roller coaster in the United States. TOGO also designed the rough (and now defunct) Shockwave at Kings Dominion.
My Take on Big Apple Coaster
The Big Apple Coaster has a strong theme and a really cool and unique backdrop. So even though the potential is there, the ride that the roller coaster gives is just a bit too rough for me to recommend. I’m not saying you should avoid it at all costs, I just didn’t find it too enjoyable (beyond the theme and great view). I rate Big Apple Coaster a generous 4 out of 10. I’m not sure the average thrill seeker will dislike it as much as I did. If you’re in Las Vegas and love roller coasters, it might be worth a ride. Just be ready for some roughness.