Roller coasters have been the focal point of theme parks for decades, often singlehandedly making or breaking a venue’s reputation for death-defying fun.
While there has been the occasional accident — and even a groovy 1970’s disaster movie — these steel and wooden adrenaline boosters offer a ticket to real-life action-adventure in a safe and controlled environment.
But with close to 4,000 documented roller coasters in the world, according to the Roller Coaster Database Census Report, how do you know which ones to try out before you die, and which ones simply aren’t worth the time?
Location: Cedar Point Park in Sandusky, Ohio
Backstory: The GateKeeper is a $30 million steel roller coaster that opened on May 11, 2013. Another creation of Bolliger & Mabillard, it was only the fifth Wing Coaster when constructed. A “Wing Coaster” is designed so that two riders are side-by-side with the track between them and nothing above or below, thus creating a “dangling” effect for the passengers.
What makes it awesome: Other than Wing Coasters being awesome by their very nature, this one has a very special claim to fame. It features the No. 1 tallest inversion of any roller coaster in the world. It is what those in the industry call a “dive drop,” in which a half-inline twist is performed at the top of a lift hill, which leads into the initial drop.
Location: Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Backstory: While the Lightning Rod will open on March 19, 2016, and thus hasn’t had any riders at this time, it has the pedigree to belong on this list. For starters, Rocky Mountain Construction is in charge of the manufacturing. Also, Alan Schilke is running the design. This is the same team behind Goliath.
What makes it awesome: With the Lightning Rod now finished and through with its test runs, the coaster can safely lay claim to the distinction of tallest wooden roller coaster in the world at 206 feet in height. It is also the fastest wooden coaster at 73 miles per hour, and the No. 2 for longest drop (165 feet). Last but not least, it places fifth in the “steepest” category with a 73-degree MVA.