Since the first wooden roller coasters emerged in the late 1880s and the early 1900s, people have been entertained with the idea of going higher and faster on these amusement park rides. Even the first known roller coasters in US continually competed with each other to be higher and scarier than their predecessors, by using tunnels and other scenic devices as they rode through them or past them.
The first roller coasters were built from wood, with the first one debuting at Coney Island in New York, and many of them still stand today in cities around the world. Organizations exist to preserve these historic amusement rides and not only do some of the wooden roller coaster still exists, but some are still operated in amusement parks. However, for thrill seekers, the extreme roller coasters built today are of much more interest to them.
Today's roller coasters are giant steel structures, carefully engineered to be safe, but thrill passengers with loops, high drops and rolls as they move at faster rates of speed. Some of these rides go as fast as 120 miles per hour as they drop from heights of over 400 feet. Some of these coasters push passengers at g-forces as high as four as they dip, spin and loop along their circuits.
Scattered across the United States are some of the most extreme roller coasters in the world. They provide thrills and chills for millions of daredevils visiting some of the most popular amusement parks in America. If you are ready to take on one of the wildest rides you will ever go on, here are the 10 most exciting and intense coasters in the US that will spin, dip and drop you from incredible heights.
Photo by Chun Yip So via Flickr
With its debut in 2005, this roller coaster became the tallest coaster in the world and it still holds that distinction. It is 456 feet tall, or about 45 stories, at its highest peak, which is about 39 feet higher than the second tallest coaster in the world. Located at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, Kingda Ka also holds the record for having the longest, and fastest, drop at 418 feet.
It also holds the record for being the fastest roller coaster in the United States, traveling at a top speed of 128 mph. It held the record as the fastest roller coaster in the world until November 2010 when the Formula Rossa in the United Arab Emirates clocked a speed of 149 mph. Even though it was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, it was repaired and began running again in 2012. There was no damaged noted from Hurricane Sandy.
Top Thrill Dragster
Photo by Christopher Paulin via Flickr
Until Kingda Ka came along, this roller coaster held the records for the tallest roller coaster in the world, the fastest roller coaster and the highest and faster drop from a roller coaster in the world. While it no longer holds those records, it is still one of the premiere coasters not only in the US, but the entire world. Like Kingda Ka, and many other coasters in this category, riders stand throughout the ride.
Top Thrill Dragster, located at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, moves along at 120 miles per hour and has a drop of 400 feet. It was the first full circuit roller coasters to exceed 400 feet in height, standing at 420 ft tall. The speed of 120 mph is achieved in about 3.8 seconds after the train is launched and it rapidly climbs up to its highest point, with a 90 degree counter twist before dropping back down.
Superman: Krypton Coaster
Photo by Rei at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons
This roller coaster has been thrilling riders since its debut at the Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio in 2000. One of the first floorless roller coasters in the world, passengers ride sitting down, but there is no floor between their feet and the coaster's track, so their legs can swing freely. The Superman coaster once held the world record for the tallest vertical loop at 145 feet, but that record was broken in 2013.
Superman: Krypton Coaster is 168 feet tall and has a top speed of 70 miles per hour. While it's not the tallest or fastest, it not only has one of the world's tallest vertical loops, but it also has a 78-foot-tall cobra roll, two corkscrews and a zero-gravity roll. That is a total of six inversions that will turn you topsy-turvy.
Photo by Jeremy Thompson via Flickr
When it debuted after it was built in the year 2000, it promptly broke, or helped to break, 10 world records, including the world's first Giga Coaster, which is any complete circuit roller coaster to exceed 300 feet in height. It stands at 310 feet and has a top speed of 93 miles per hour. It also helped break the records for the longest drop at 300 feet, the steepest non-inversion banking on a roller coaster at 122 degrees and the first coaster to use a cable lift system.
The Millennium Force, located at Cedar Park, is still a very popular roller coaster with coaster aficionados, even 12 years after it has been built. The Golden Ticket Awards, which rates the best amusement park rides in the industry, has named it as the number one roller coaster 7 out of 12 years and it has been named the favorite steel roller coaster for 7 years in a row from 2005 to 2011 by the National Amusement Park Historical Association.
X2 Roller Coaster
Photo by Jeremy Thompson via Flickr
It started out as X Roller Coaster in 2002, but with upgrades, it was dubbed the X2 at its home in Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA. It was the world's first 4th Dimension roller coaster, meaning that the passenger seats rotate via a horizontal axis that is independent of the track's orientation. Basically this means that the seats can rotate 360 degrees, forwards or back, in a controlled spin.
The coaster is sometimes referred to as X-Squared or Xtreme to the Second Power, though the name is officially X-two. It features a climb of 175 feet, though the tallest point is at 190 feet. Its highest drop is 215 feet with a slope of almost 90 degrees, 88.8 to be exact. The coaster achieves a maximum speed of 76 mph during the drop.
Photo by Michael Myers via Flickr
This roller coaster is intense for two reasons, the first because it is situated high atop the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas, and secondly because it moves out 27 feet over the edge of the building before it abruptly brakes. The single car, which is topless, rocks back and forth on the track. The ride has a single track that is 69 feet in length and it pivots vertically in a seesaw motion.
This ride stands at 866 feet, the world's 3rd highest amusement ride and stands atop a structure that is seen as the 9th tallest freestanding structure in the US. The Stratosphere is also home to the tallest freestanding observation tower in the US and the second highest one in the world.
Photo by Stuart Richards via Flickr
This roller coaster, which is located at the historical Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA, was the first hydraulically launched coaster made by the firm Intamin and it debuted in 2002. Intamin has gone on to make the world's fast, tallest and wildest roller coasters, including Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka, and the Xcelerator is one of four installations at Knot's Berry Farm for the company.
The Xcelerator has a height of 205 feet at its highest point and it features a drop of 200 ft. Once the coaster is launched, it climbs to the maximum height, called the top hat, then goes through banked turns of 110 ft and 95 ft. At its fastest, the Xcelerator moves at a speed of 82 mph and is able to achieve it in 2.3 seconds.
Volcano - The Blast Coaster
Photo by David Fulmer via Flickr
Located at King's Dominion in Doswell, VA, this roller coaster known as Volcano is the first and only inverted coaster of its kind to complete a full circuit. An inverted coaster is known for the fact that the passengers have their legs exposed, rather than their arms. The train of the roller coaster is located inside of a giant replica of a Volcano, making it an enclosed roller coaster.
This ride features three heartline rolls, which are when the passengers on the ride move in a 360-degree roll. Its top speed during its first launch is 70 miles per hour and it climbs to a height of 155 ft. It has a maximum drop height of 80 ft. While it isn't the fastest or tallest roller coaster in the US, it is one of the most popular roller coasters in the King's Dominion amusement park.
Photo by David R. Tribble [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This roller coaster is a hybrid made of a steel track on a wooden support structure and it is the tallest of its kind at 153 feet in height at its peak. It originally opened in 1990 and it was renovated with a steel track, new trains and a new control system, then reopened in 2011, in time for its park's, Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, 50th anniversary.
By today's standards, it is a slow roller coaster at only 65 mph at its fastest, but the ride was given the Golden Ticket Award in 2011 for the Best New Ride of that year. The coaster also features a maximum drop of 147 feet and a maximum vertical angle of 79 degrees.
Kraken Roller Coaster
Photo by David Bjorgen [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
This roller coaster, featured at Sea World in Orlando, FL, is appropriately named for the mythical sea monster, the Kraken, that was kept caged by Poseidon and it features seven inversions on the 4,177 foot ride. Passengers are put through two vertical loops, a dive loop, a zero-gravity roll, a cobra roll and a corkscrew as they ride the floorless trains on this coaster.
The roller coaster peaks at 149 feet and reaches a maximum velocity of 65 miles per hour. While most of the ride is above water, three sections of the track feature subterranean dives. This roller coaster first opened in June of 2000 and it is one of four located on the grounds of Sea World.
Enjoying the Ride
While not everyone cares for the thrills that these tall, fast roller coasters offer, millions of riders each year enjoy extreme roller coasters in the US, as well as around the world. Some of these coasters can give up to 1,600 passengers an hour the thrill of their lifetime as they travel at speeds that make the entire trip last three minutes or less and they usually achieve maximum velocity in less than three seconds.
While there have been injuries, and some tragic deaths, on some of these roller coasters, the amusement parks make sure to check them every day for mechanical problems and promptly repair them if anything is found. If an accident does occur, thorough investigations are launched to see if it was a mechanical failure or a failure of the safety equipment, and as a result, safer roller coasters are often engineered with that information.
Even though roller coasters are getting more extreme, they are engineered with public safety in mind. The companies that build these machines are very aware of how dangerous they can be and install several safety features into them. Between the brakes designed for the trains and the harnesses and safety bars at each seat, serious accidents are few and far between.
Roller coasters thrill people every day, not only in the US, but around the world. If you desire to travel up to 400 feet in the air at speeds over 100 mph, the thrills of a roller coaster may be the ride for you. You can visit the websites for the amusement parks of these 10 extreme roller coasters to check the hours of operation for the parks so you can plan your trip to push yourself to the limits of extreme enjoyment.