If your kids are afraid of heights, you better start breaking them of that phobia now; observation wheels top the list of family travel trends for 2013 and beyond.
To be clear, I’m not talking run-of-the-mill (pun intended) Ferris wheels here. I’m talking big-ass Ferris wheels. Giant ones. Like, wheels that make the legendary Singapore Flyer (501 feet tall) and the iconic London Eye (443 feet) look like rinky-dink rides from a Hobbit-oriented amusement park in the Shire.
Accommodations on these big wheels are posh—instead of rickety, open-air carriages like those on Ferris wheels of yesteryear, the (mostly enclosed) sitting areas are called “pods,” and essentially are floating luxury suites.
Many of the attractions also have shopping malls, restaurants and video arcades on their respective ground levels.
The spate of giant wheels started in 2011 with the SkyWheel on the beach in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
This summer, two other popular U.S. tourist destinations added big wheels: Pensacola, Fla., (with 360 Pensacola Beach on the boardwalk) and Seattle (with the Seattle Great Wheel, which sits on a pier overlooking Elliot Bay).
Next up: Vegas, baby. Next year, Sin City is expecting two new observation wheels.
The first—the "High Roller"—will measure 550 feet, making it the largest in the world (for a short while). The attraction also will be the centerpiece of a new entertainment complex (dubbed Project Linq Las Vegas) at the center of the Las Vegas Strip, across from Caesars Palace between Flamingo Las Vegas and The Quad Resort & Casino (formerly Imperial Palace).
The second Vegas wheel, a 500-footer named SkyVue, will sit at the south end of the Strip, across from Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.
Eventually—provided plans are still on track after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy—New York City will lay claim to the world’s largest wheel, as the New York Wheel planned for the north shore of Staten Island would measure in at 625 feet. Earlier this fall, developers estimated the attraction would open in 2015.
That leaves plenty of time to beat that vertigo, y’all.
What do you think of the current observation wheel trend? Would you take your family on one of them? Leave a comment and let us know.