My family loves theme parks, but we don’t love them in the summer – it’s too crowded, too hot and too muggy. Come fall, though, it’s a whole different story. This fall, we’ve got a plan: Let’s ride as many cool roller coasters in as many fun places as we can. The kids are up for it, my husband (who’s scared of heights) has offered to hold our stuff while we ride, and we’re hitting the road.
To help me figure out the best coasters in America, I asked the roller coaster expert Big Mike. His thing is traveling the world riding roller coasters, and he’s a contributor to Theme Park Review, the number one theme park website. He’s also a member of the cool and hip new coaster club, Club TPR (complete with coupons for over eighty amusement park discounts). Big Mike’s the man – at least for all things roller coaster-esque.
His six top picks? Five different kinds of coasters (kiddie, wood, 4th dimension, steel, and flying) spread out across America. They’re in regular chain parks, a family-owned park, a chocolate-themed park, and a government-owned park.
My only job? Riding them.
First stop: Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My family loves Hersheypark: it’s close, it’s cool, and it’s full of chocolate. It’s also home to Fahrenheit, a coaster that’s been the subject of many dares in my family – and, no, I’ve never been able to bring myself to accept the dare; for more on this, read about my terror here). This brand-new coaster goes straight up at first, then drops you 97 degrees – yes, that’s greater than vertical. Yikes! If I do ride it, I’ll deserve the chocolatiest treat in the park.
Next up: The Kiddie Coaster at Rye Playland, in Rye, New York. Rye Playland is the only government-owned and operated park in the USA, and the Kiddie Coaster is only for – you guessed it – kids. This is a nice wooden coaster for kids to start on, as its track circles the whole kiddieland area. There is a small lift hill and an easy first-time 10-foot drop, with a maximum height of 18 feet. Zoe and Abby are going to love it!
After they’ve gotten used to roller coaster riding, we’ll head a few hundred miles down the road to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and we’ll take a stab at Millennium Force, a steel coaster that goes 93 miles per hour and drops 300 feet. Big Mike loves this one both for the thrill of speed (it broke many records when it opened) and for the cable lift, which is a ride in and of itself.
While we’re in the Midwest, why not hit Indiana? At Holiday World, in Santa Claus, Indiana (the name alone is enough to get me there), Mike’s favorite wooden coaster, The Voyage, goes 67 miles per hour and drops 154 feet. The 24 seconds of “air time” (or the weightlessness feeling you get on a roller coaster) make this one particularly special.
As the weather cools in our home state of Pennsylvania, we’ll cap off the fall with trips to Florida and California. In Orlando, Sea World’s got Mike’s top pick: the Manta (sounds scary, huh?), a flying coaster that simulates gliding like a manta ray. Although my kids are terrible about waiting in line, they love fish; the Manta’s got 10 aquariums to keep you entertained while you anticipate.
Last up? X2, at Six Flags Magic Mountain, the world’s first 4th dimension roller coaster. What’s that? I asked Big Mike. Turns out that it’s a type of coaster where the seats don’t sit on the track, and, even better, they spin 360 degrees. It’s got a built-in stereo system that plays music on a speaker near your seat. The coaster track also has fire cannons that shoot out bursts of flames as you ride by. The seats actually flip forward and backwards as you ride; as you go down the first drop, the seat rotates you into a complete front flip.
I’m going to need a rest after this. How about a nice beach somewhere?
But, somehow, I think the kids will be begging for more.