Close your eyes. Imagine coming to the end of a long snaking line just as your roller coaster car glides into position in front of you. The bar lifts and you quickly slither into your row, seated or maybe stuffed next to your friends as a safety bar comes down and locks into place.
You can hear the clank of a brake releasing in the distance as the cars release, perhaps in a slight downward direction as they approach what looks like a mammoth incline. Immediately the click, click, click of metal wheels on a metal track – or better yet, a white wooden stairway to heaven. The climb begins, accelerating its slope and correlating with the building of a knot in your stomach – because you know exactly where you’re heading. Five to ten seconds of this synced clatter and knotting bring you to a zenith of a view and a question of “Why am I doing this?”
Are the palms of your hands getting sweaty?
Almost everyone has experienced a roller coaster at some time in their life. Some have found their initial wild ride to be enough for a lifetime while others conversely will spend a lifetime looking for that bigger and better thrill.
If you are one of the seekers and searchers of that ultimate thrill, where should you go? Here are 3 unique lists of the best roller coasters in the United states, each offering five different choices for your exhilaration.
But first a few fun facts about roller coasters:
- Lamarcus Thompson is considered the father of the American roller coaster for inventing the Switchback Gravity Railroad, a patented coaster that visitors to Brooklyn’s Coney Island could ride for just a nickel.
- Remember centripetal force from science class? For roller coasters, particularly loops, this is the force that keeps us from falling out of a rollercoaster while it’s upside down.
- A roller coaster can dislodge a kidney stone. Researchers at Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad have shown that repeated rides can dislodge a kidney stone about 2/3 of the time as long as the rider is seated near the back.
- The tallest roller coaster in the world is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. The fastest roller coaster is the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
Enjoy and happy coasting!
Top 5 USA Today Roller Coasters (ThinkFives List)
Mako – SeaWorld Orlando in Orlando, Florida
Orlando’s tallest, longest, and fastest coaster gets its name from one of the world’s fastest sharks – appropriate for a thrill ride reaching speeds of 73 miles per hour.
Phantom’s Revenge – Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
The 3,365-foot track of Phantom’s Revenge in Kennywood brings visitors frighteningly close to another of the park’s coasters, Thunderbolt. A hair-raising highlight is the second drop – a 230-foot thriller at 85 miles per hour.
Phoenix – Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Consistently ranked as one of the best wooden coasters in the country, Phoenix offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills, as well as thrills in the form of a double out-and-back layout and speeds of 45 miles per hour.
Fury 325 – Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina
Fury claims to be the world’s tallest and fastest “giga coaster,” which means it specializes in speed and height with a 325-foot drop. Fury 325 reaches extreme speeds of 95 miles per hour and will surprise riders with a dive underground beneath a bridge.
Lightning Rod – Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wooden coaster, launches Dollywood thrill-seekers from zero to 45 miles per hour. Themed after a 1950’s hot rod, the roller coaster tops out at speeds of more than 73 miles per hour.
Top 5 US Roller Coasters (Thrillist)
Millennium Force, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
This rollercoaster has unrelenting speed, a succession of banked turns that make you feel as though you’re about to flip upside down, 30 stories of height, and a drop so steep (80 degrees) that it makes a bungee jump seem like child’s play. It’s approximately two and a half minutes of absolute euphoria.
Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey
This is the tallest roller coaster in the world and the fastest in North America – meaning it’s definitely one of the best roller coasters in the country.
The Beast, Kings Island, Mason, Ohio
At nearly 7,400 feet, this monstrosity is the longest wooden coaster on earth. It’s also a rarity in that it has two lift hills, one at the accustomed start of the ride and another leading to a tumultuous grand finale. A night ride on the Beast, barreling through the pitch-black Ohio woods and climaxing with a disorienting two-tunneled double helix, is enough to bring tears to your eyes.
Superman the Ride, Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts
This coaster simply has a great layout: It has two massive back-to-back hills and a rare extra long straightaway, which allows for a great pickup in speed. It dives into two mist-shrouded tunnels, has plenty of airtime, and finishes with a frantic finale.
Boulder Dash, Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut
Arguably the most unconventional roller coaster in the States, the Boulder Dash is built into the side of Southington Mountain. The top of the lift hill provides enthusiasts not with the customary sweeping views, but with close-ups of ferns and dirt. The coaster then drops unsuspecting riders off a 115-foot jagged cliff and hits 65 miles per hour as it screams past boulders and woodchucks alike.
Top 5 Roller Coasters For Families
The Bear Trax at Seabreeze in Rochester, NY
The Bear Trax, a first good first roller coaster for kids, takes families on a speedy journey through the park’s beautiful scenery. More adventurous riders can try the Jack Rabbit, Whirlwind or Bobsleds.
Rollie’s Coaster at Morey’s in Wildwood, NJ
Families can find Rollie’s Coaster on the Mariner’s Pier. The ride seats up to four people and it travels up and down four hills. Those looking for more of a thrill ride can check out the Great White on the Adventure Pier; the wooden coaster is known for its 105 foot drop.
The Cyclone at Coney Island’s Luna Park in Brooklyn, NY
This one is one of New York’s biggest attractions. The Cyclone, which first debuted on the Brooklyn boardwalk in 1927, has 12 drops. Once your stomach is settled, walk over to Nathan’s for a hot dog.
The Little Dipper and Wooden Warrior at Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury, CT
The low-speed Little Dipper, a fan favorite since the early 1950’s, is perfect for beginners – there are no height requirements. Bigger thrill seekers can try out the Wooden Warrior, which is currently rated among the top 50 coasters in the world.
The Kingdom Coaster at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA
Try the wooden Kingdom Coaster – after its initial drop, cars go up hills, through tunnels and make sharp turns.
What is your favorite roller coaster?