Life is full of twists, turns, loops… well, life is just one big roller coaster! With today, August 16th, being National Roller Coaster Day, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite coasters from parks I’ve visited around the country.
Let’s start off here in Central Florida, where there’s no shortage of theme parks:
Busch Gardens – SheiKra
If you’re a roller coaster fan and looking for thrills in Florida, there’s plenty to be had at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. From classics like Scorpion to one with three launches, Cheetah Hunt, it’s a coaster junkie’s paradise. With so many to choose from, there’s just one that stands out – SheiKra. SkeiKra was the first dive coaster to be built in the United States and takes riders up a 200-foot lift hill, hangs the train for a few seconds, and dives down taking riders on a trip that reaches a top speed of 70 miles per hour.
Mako is the longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster in Orlando. Riders travel 200 feet into the sky and reach a top speed of 73 miles per hour! There’s no shortage of airtime on this thrilling coaster that made its debut at the park in 2016.
The Incredible Hulk coaster at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure has been a staple of the theme park since 1999, but was completely rebuilt in 2016. With a breathtaking launch that takes riders from 0 – 40 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds, you’re taken on a journey that includes seven inversions including a zero-g roll, a cobra roll, two vertical loops, and two corkscrews. The highest point on the ride is 110 feet and max speed is 67 miles per hour.
With four parks, there’s no shortage of rides at the mother-of-all theme parks, so picking a favorite was tough. But at the end of the day, Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom wins. Built at a cost of $100M, it’s the most expensive roller coaster ever built. Coming in at just under 200 feet, 199.5 to be exact, the coaster takes riders on a journey to the forbidden mountain in a quest to find the mythical Yeti, who makes an appearance at the end of the ride. This coaster features forward AND backward motion and a top speed of 50 miles per hour.
Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH) – GateKeeper
Picking just one coaster at The Roller Coaster Capital of the World was tough. Every coaster at Cedar Point is amazing! From the 120 mile per hour Top Thrill Dragster to the 300-foot Millenium Force, ever ride is a fave. But I have to choose GateKeeper for this exercise! This wing coaster is located at the park’s entrance, hence the name. GateKeeper is known as having the highest inversion in the world at 170-feet. Riders sit on the “wings” on the train and speed along the track at 67 miles per hour and experience amazing 4 Gs!
Another tough one! Would I pick the first steel coaster, Matterhorn Bobsleds, as my favorite, or would it be Space Mountain? Neither… my favorite at Disneyland is the Incredicoaster – formerly California Screamin’. Following a retheming earlier this year, this launch coaster designed to resemble a classic wooden coaster, is not only my favorite at Disneyland, but may be my favorite coaster of all time. Following a launch that takes riders from 0 – 55 in 4 seconds, the ride features one loop and plenty of twists, turns and life-you-off-your-seat fun.
Knotts is known for having great coasters and with the addition of Hang Time, the only dive coaster on the west coast. But even with the newer rides, the one older coaster is my pick for fave – GhostRider. This wooden coaster made its debut in 1998 and was re-tracked in 2016. Simply put, this roller coaster is fast, fun and one that you can’t pass up when visiting the park. With 14 hills, a speed of 56 miles per hour and nearly three minutes of ride time, it’s worth waiting in line for even on the busiest of days.
This was another park where I had a hard time picking a favorite because there’s just so many good coasters spread around the park. But when it comes down to picking just one, the honor goes to Twisted Colossus. Six Flags took one of their old wooden roller coasters, Colossus that was built in 1978, and turned it into a steel-tracked coaster renamed Twisted Colossus. The new hybrid coaster is fast at 57 miles per hour, features two inversions, plenty of off-the-seat moments and amazing thrills during the nearly four minute ride that leaves you saying, “holy shit that was amazing!”
Knoebles in Pensylvania is an amusement park that doesn’t charge admission, but charges you to ride rides – old school concept there! Without a doubt, the star of this park is the 1947 woodie, the Phoenix. This coaster was originally called the Rocket and was in Texas. It was purchased by Knoebles and moved to the park in 1985. Phoenix may not be the fastest coaster at 45 miles per hour, but over the course of the two minute ride, you experience plenty of hang-on-tight airtime and classic thrills that has landed this coaster as one of the Top 10 for years.
Another wooden makes my list! This time it’s at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. While not a “classic” wooden roller coaster, this one was built in 2000, Lightning Racer has all the thrills and excitement of one of those old timers. Billed as the first wooden/dueling coaster in the United States, trains are dispatched at the same time and race each other to see which one makes it back to the station first. With a 90 foot drop and speeds of 51 miles per hour, this is another coaster that continually wins awards as being one of the best in the country.
Even though Dorney Park has a wooden that dates back to 1923, I’m picking a newer coaster as my fave – Steel Force. This 1997 built steel roller coaster features a 205 foot drop, 75 mile per hour speeds, and is the longest steel coaster on the east coast. With three minutes of ride time this mega-coaster is recognized as one of the best steel roller coasters in the world.