The Steel Dragon, the Big Dipper, the Loop d’ Loop – whatever you call them, roller coasters are the epitome of summertime fun. However, if you’re a true thrill-seeker, any old coaster won’t do; you want the best of the best of the best. Luckily for you, you’re about to get just that.
First, a little history. After all, if you’ve learned anything from eighth grade social studies, it’s that you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. Here are five coaster facts you can use to dazzle your fellow passengers:
- The roller coaster as we know it was first patented by LaMarcus Adna Thompson on January 20, 1885.
- However, the initial concept for roller coasters was actually first conceived in 15th-century Russia. At that time, roller coasters were ice-covered wooden slides, approximately 70 to 80 feet high, and were ridden on in sleds.
- The first American roller coaster, the Mauch Chunk Switchback, was not really a coaster at all, but a train for moving coal down the mountain. Once it was out of commission for its initial use, passengers began to ride it recreationally from the 1850s through 1929.
- A man who couldn’t speak for six years due to shell shock rode the Coney Island Cyclone. After his ride, he uttered three words to a friend after they exited the ride: “I feel sick.”
- According to the Theme Parks in America blog, some of the most common items found underneath roller coasters, besides wallets, change and keys are glass eyes, fake legs and false teeth.
Now that you know some roller coaster trivia, onto the subject at hand. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill coasters. These bad boys pack some punch.
In the Northeast, according to Arthur Levine, travel writer for About.com, it doesn’t get better than Bizarro at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts. Bizarro (formerly known as Superman) isn’t the tallest or the fastest, but with a good combination of negative and positive g-forces, an open and exposed feeling and a disorienting fog-enshrouded tunnel, you’d never guess it. Honorable mentions: Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut and The Cyclone at Astroland on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.
Moving to the West, this next coaster probably wouldn’t make the best-of list based solely on old-school standards, but, for a moment, let’s get a little cutting edge. The Revenge of the Mummy, located at Universal Studios California, (as well as Florida) is bone-chilling fun. It represents a new age of coaster – a hybrid, if you will – of classic kinetic kicks and a special effects extravaganza. In addition to dips and dives, you’ll experience scary scarabs, eerie darkness and bone-chilling fights. It’s safe to say that the Revenge of the Mummy will have you screaming for yours. Honorable mentions: The Desperado at Buffalo Bill’s Casino in Primm, Nevada and The GhostRider at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.
In the Southeast, Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia has one of the smoothest rides out there, plus a 210-foot drop, a g-force of up to 4.1 and speeds of up to 73 mph. Honorable mentions: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney MGM Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Finally, the art of the roller coaster is truly perfected in the Midwest in a little town called Sandusky, Ohio. Did you really think this list would be complete without recognizing the “Roller Coaster Mecca” that is Cedar Point? As of 2010, Cedar Point has more rides than any other amusement park, but it’s the park’s coasters that really set it apart. Choosing just one coaster to highlight at Cedar Point would be like choosing just one bar of gold at Fort Knox. After all, why have one when you can have three?
- Gemini – With small wait times and big fun, this older wooden coaster is the park’s unsung treasure.
- Millennium Force – This towering ride smashed records when it was opened in 2000. With speeds of 93 mph and heights of up to 310 feet, you better hope The Force is with you.
- Top Thrill Dragster – Thrills abound as you hit 120 mph, only to plummet 420 feet from the highest point.
Honorable mentions: The Beat at Paramount's Kings Island in Mason, Ohio and The Voyage at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana.
No summer is complete without a trip to an amusement park, and no amusement park visit is complete without a ride on a roller coaster. So, grab this list and get out there. What do have to lose? Besides your lunch, of course.