At its southern end, the Las Vegas Strip is bookended by MGM Grand, Park MGM, New York, New York, and Aria and the recent addition of T-Mobile Arena, the home ice of the NHL Golden Knights.
This dense cluster of entertainment attractions in this area of Las Vegas Boulevard has been further intensified by the recent opening of FlyOver Las Vegas — right next to the Hard Rock Cafe.
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FlyOver is an immersive virtual flight ride that straps passengers in front of a 52-ft spherical screen, sending them soaring over the world’s most iconic vistas and natural wonders. And as passengers hang suspended with their feet high above natural wonders, the experience’s sequences are strategically aided by the multi-sensory special effects of wind, mist, and natural scents.
FlyOver Las Vegas is the most advanced and largest of the growing number of FlyOver chain of flying rides by attractions and hospitality company Pursuit.
With a cost of USD$50 million, it occupies over 50,000 sq ft of prime commercial real estate on the Strip. Prominent signage on Las Vegas Boulevard directs guests into the hole-in-the-wall main entrance that was previously the storefront of the Famous Footwear store. Guests are then taken through a highly Instagrammable illuminated “Endless Hallway” that leads to the former United Artists Showcase Theater — now transformed into two flying theatres for FlyOver.
From the main entrance, passengers transition through three zones, reaching an expansive lobby that carries the theme of the bottom of a canyon.
“The purpose of theming here is a decompression zone. Everyone is crazy out on the Strip; there are strippers, snakes, and all kinds of stuff happening out there,” said Jack Kenn, the general manager of FlyOver Las Vegas, during a media tour.
“So we want everyone to come in, the section is very bright and airy, we’re trying to tell you what FlyOver is, we’re trying to get you excited about what it is. This is the first stage. Getting your eyes adjusted from being outside, and then you get your tickets… We’re moving lower and lower into the canyon as we get into our lobby. This all helps us decompress, we forget everything that’s happening. This is part of the self-guided journey. We’re just trying to decompress here and move away from everyday life.”
The lobby doubles as a waiting area and a full-service bar, named The Lost Cactus, where passengers can enjoy beer, craft cocktails, mocktails, wine, and snacks before or after taking off. The bar is accessible without a ticket.
As a mockup of an airport gate, digital signage and helpful staff advise passengers in the lobby when it is time for them to board their scheduled ride.
Before getting strapped into their flying ride seats, passengers are guided into a pre-show experience — first into a boarding area, and then a circular room featuring 360-degree wraparound projection walls and a central, hanging medallion-shaped screen. This pre-show, designed by Montreal-based Moment Factory, establishes the setting of the flying ride as part of the entire storytelling package, providing a deep sense of place.
FlyOver Las Vegas’ feature flying ride is The Real Wild West, specifically made for the new attraction on the Strip.
The six-minute pre-show highlights the booms and busts of the American West, from the Cambrian explosion to Gold Rush ghost towns and Silicon Valley startups.
Thereafter, passengers buckle themselves into the flying theatre for a fast-paced, 10-minute ride that takes them over nearly two dozen natural landmarks and points of interest across the Western United States, including nose diving into Grand Canyon, gliding over Lake Tahoe’s expanse and the colourful evaporation ponds of Moab, riding alongside stallions in Yellowstone National Park, surfing San Francisco’s biggest waves captured on film 20 years ago, ascending over the Golden Gate Bridge, and a nighttime view through the Las Vegas Strip’s electric canyon of lights.
Expect to be immersed in the best of the landscapes of Nevada, Oregon, Washington State, Montana, California, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona.
The Real Wild West‘s sequences were filmed using a helicopter specially outfitted with a high-definition camera, with Canadian award-winning director Dave Mossop responsible for the direction. Mossop, a co-founder of Whistler-based Sherpas Cinema, also directed the the feature flying films for other FlyOver rides.
The original scores for FlyOver Las Vegas’ pre-show and flying ride were composed by Grammy-nominated Tom Holkenborg, who was also behind the soundtracks for Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
For anyone who has rode Soarin’ at Disney theme parks worldwide, the concept of FlyOver should be a familiar one. FlyOver’s original ride in Vancouver was not only inspired by Soarin’ but it was made by its creator.
Rick Rothschild was an executive show director at Walt Disney Imagineering for over 30 years, up until 2009. He is hailed for inventing the immersive flight ride experience; he was responsible for creating Soarin’, which was first introduced at Disney California Adventure in 2001.
Rothschild has served as the creative director for all four FlyOver attractions to date, in which he designed every aspect of what guests see in FlyOver. While he now has his own firm developing creative concepts for attractions, he still holds a pivotal role as a consultant for Disney Imagineering.
While there are conceptual similarities, the ride technology used by FlyOver Las Vegas is far more advanced than what is currently used by Soarin’.
FlyOver Las Vegas uses state-of-the-art moving platforms made by Taiwan’s Brogent Technologies, which have six degrees of motion that allow guests to feel more movement. In contrast, Soarin’ has just four degrees of motion.
Kenn notes the ride, camera, and projection technologies used at Las Vegas are also more advanced than the original FlyOver ride in Vancouver.
As well, the Las Vegas attraction has a higher capacity, with two identical flying theatres as opposed to the single flying theatre of other attractions.
Each flying theatre in Las Vegas carries a capacity for 40 passengers. In each theatre, passengers are spread across two levels, with each level containing two 10-person moving platform pods.
With each flight experience — both the pre-show and flying ride combined — taking about 30 minutes to complete, FlyOver Las Vegas is able to process four rides per hour, accommodating thousands of passengers per day.
Currently, FlyOver Las Vegas is dedicating one theatre to showing The Real Wild West, and the other theatre for FlyOver Iceland. Kenn explains that while dual rides at other FlyOver attractions are accomplished by having passengers remain in their seats, FlyOver Las Vegas requires them to board the other theatre. This system provides Las Vegas passeners with the unique flying ride-specific boarding and pre-show experience to ensure they are “connected” to the full story laid out by the flying ride.
Using the secondary theatre, other flying rides that will eventually be showcased through rotation include FlyOver Canada, FlyOver America, and Hawaii From Above. There are synergies to be gained as FlyOver’s network of attractions grows and showcases more of the planet, with each attraction sharing films for alternating rides.
FlyOver Canada opened in 2013 within Vancouver’s former IMAX theatre at the Canada Place convention centre and cruise ship terminal. Its namesake ride captures the sheer scale, beauty, and geographical and urban diversity of Canada.
In 2016, FlyOver America opened inside the Mall of America in Bloomington, but it is under a different ownership structure, outside of Pursuit’s collection.
Pursuit opened FlyOver Iceland in a new purpose-built building in September 2019. They are also planning to open a second FlyOver Canada attraction in 2024 in downtown Toronto, within a new purpose-built building near the base of the CN Tower.