Extreme thrills on America’s most intense roller coasters


Based on my experiences and the general opinions and buzz from other roller coaster enthusiasts, here’s a list of what I consider to be America’s most intense roller coasters.

The Voyage at Holiday World
Holiday World’s The Voyage is one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters in the World. The out and back terrain coaster provides an intense 2 minute and 45 second marathon of thrills. After leaving the station, The Voyage delivers an onslaught of large hills, five underground tunnels, three ridiculously banked 90-degree turns, and a record-setting 24 seconds of air time as riders are lifted out of their seats throughout the adventure. Each time I got off of The Voyage I was physically exhausted, but also excited to get back in line and take the trip again. The Voyage is a rare wooden roller coaster in that it’s intense and a tad rough, but still fun and completely re-rideable.

X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s X2 has an insane riding position. It places riders on either side of the track instead of on top or below it. In turn, exposing riders and giving them virtually no place to hide. Not only is the seating position off-putting and intimidating, but the seats rotate riders 360-degrees forward and backward. If that wasn’t enough, the ride’s opening dive sends you plummeting head first towards the ground. X2 was so intense that it made the middle-aged mom that I rode with see her life pass before her eyes.

Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka and Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster are two very similar roller coasters that boast staggering stats. At over 40 stories tall, they’re literally skyscrapers earning them the rare distinction of strata coasters. While the climb to that lofty altitude and subsequent plunge are both very memorable moments, the rides’ launches are a 10 out of 10 on the intensity scale. Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster accelerate their passengers from 0 to speeds of 128 mph and 120 mph respectively in about four seconds. Overall, I wouldn’t call them the best all-around roller coasters, but the feeling of that sheer power and acceleration is something that has to be experienced. As my cheeks flapped in the wind I wondered, “How much faster can this thing go?”

Clearly there are other intense roller coasters, but for me these are the most extreme. Which roller coasters would you consider the most intense? [Photo Credit: Flickr user - Intamin 10]

Cedar Point opens WindSeeker in the year of the tower ride

Cedar Point opened their new tower ride WindSeeker last week. The 301 foot tall ride spins riders in two-person swings at speeds of 25 to 30 mph. At 30 stories above the park, guests are treated to a great view of Lake Erie, the beach, and Cedar Point’s massive collection of roller coasters and theme park rides.

Here’s a video covering the Cedar Point’s WindSeeker as it opens. At about 4 minutes into the video you can see the ride operate with its impressive lighting system. It looks pretty incredible at night.




Like Hollywood’s summer of sequels a number of theme parks are all inexplicably opening tower rides this year. There are WindSeeker clones that will be popping up at sister Cedar Fair parks Kings Island (near Cincinatti), Knotts Berry Farm (near Los Angeles), and Canada’s Wonderland (near Toronto). Add to that Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Mach Tower and Six Flags’ SkyScreamers at Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (near San Francisco) and you’ve got quite an unusual trend.

Fast & furious roller coasters: 6 coolest race car themed rides


Intimidator at Carowinds - Race themed roller coasters


After watching the Daytona 500, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at race car themed roller coasters. Although there have been many over the years, for me, these six really stand out. They emphasize speed as they include some of the fastest roller coasters in the World. And, the coasters that I feel deliver the best race car-like experience, also offer intense acceleration and cheek flapping g-forces.

Intimidator at Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina – United States)
Built in the heart of NASCAR country, Intimidator at Carowinds, bears the nickname of legendary race car driver Dale Earnhardt. Pictured above, the coaster’s trains are designed to look like his black #3 Chevy Monte Carlo. The attraction also includes a full-sized replica of his car as well as a tribute area that details his enormously successful career. While the ride itself is one of the best of its type and it is well-themed, it doesn’t do the best job of delivering a NASCAR feel with a hilly course and only one banked turn that reminded me of a turn in a race.

Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia – United States)
Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar PointLike Intimidator at Carowinds, Kings Dominion’s Intimidator 305 has a Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR themed experience. Intimidator 305 starts with an un-race like 305 foot tall lift hill, but the heavily banked turn that follows the first drop and top speeds in the 90 mph range incorporate the racing feel better than the aforementioned Intimidator. Also, the train’s restraints are padded belts that are somewhat similar to what race car drivers use. Still, a roller coaster with a lift hill isn’t the best for simulating a race car.

Speed – The Ride at NASCAR Café (Las Vegas, Nevada – United States)
Speed - The Ride at NASCAR CafeSpeed – The Ride, is a launched shuttle roller coaster at the NASCAR Speed Café in Las Vegas. The ride begins with an exciting 0 to 70 mph launch in 2 seconds thanks to a magnetic propulsion system. After the launch, riders speed through a vertical loop and eventually climb a 224 foot tall pike. Then the train slows and reverses its path. The launch is race-like, but the loop and backwards traveling doesn’t simulate any races that I know of.

Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point – (Sandusky, Ohio – United States)Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
For years, Cedar Point had a track record of topping everyone in terms of the biggest and fastest roller coasters in the World. In 2003, they continued their trend with Top Thrill Dragster. It not only set a new speed record with a 0 to 120 mph launch in 4 seconds, it also set a height record with an unheard of 42-story tall top hat tower. The ride’s cars are themed like dragsters and the ride begins with the same “Christmas tree” lights used in official drag races. I’ve ridden a very similar and slightly faster coaster in Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. The launch alone is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had on a roller coaster. The sheer power of these hydraulic launches is quite remarkable.

Ring°Racer at Nürburgring (Nurburg, Rhineland-Palatinate – Germany)
Ring Racer at NurburgringLocated at the famous Nürburgring motorsport complex and race track, Ring°Racer might have the best location of any race car-themed roller coaster. The coaster uses a compressed air launch system that delivers a quicker accelaration, and likely a more intense launch, than Top Thrill Dragster. Unfortunately, Ring°Racer has been closed due to defects in its launch system. Hopefully, Nürburgring and the ride’s manufacturer S&S can reopen it this year. It was designed to feature a blistering 0 to 134.8 mph launch in only 2.5 seconds.

Formula Rossa at Ferrari World (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
When Formula Rossa opened last November at the new Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi it became the World’s fastest roller coaster. Designed by Intamin AG, the launch coaster rockets riders from 0 to 149.1 mph in 4 seconds generating an intense 4.8g’s. With trains resembling red Ferrari Formula One race cars and guests wearing safety glasses just like the real drivers, Formula Rossa looks like the coolest race car themed roller coaster.




[Image credits: Flickr users - daveyinn, woofiegrrl, & mjohn2101]

Top ten Halloween theme park events

Theme parks around the United States are getting in on the Halloween fun this week, with special events featuring everything from horror-filled haunted houses to magic shows to trick-or-treating for kids. Here’s a look at our top 10 Halloween theme park events:

1. Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, Florida
Universal’s Halloween scarefest, which tops lists of horror attractions year-after-year, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. But rather than make it solely a look back, Halloween Horror Nights XX blends new with the nostalgia. There are eight haunted houses, six streetside “scare zones” and two shows. Be sure to catch a glimpse of Fear, the towering character Universal says is the creator of all the scares of the past 20 years. Tickets are $74.99, with discounts available for Florida residents.
Scare level: This event is geared toward adults and older teens. Trust me, it’s not for children.

2. Halloween Haunt: Knott’s “Scary” Farm, Buena Park, California

Now in its 38th year, Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt is the granddaddy of all theme park Halloween event. Unlike many theme park events where rides are open, but don’t differ from the rest of the year, Knott’s re-themes 13 of its rides and turns the ride queues into “walk-through mazes.” There are also seven live shows at Knott’s “Scary” Farm and more than 1,000 monsters, mutants and goblins standing in the shadows waiting to jump out and scare. Tickets are $50 in advance, with several discount packages available.
Scare level: This event is for adults and older teens. Knott’s Berry Farm also offers “Snoopy’s Costume Party” during the day for the younger set.

3. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Mickey, Minnie and all their friends don Halloween costumes for this special event at the Magic Kingdom on select nights each year. Families are allowed to come in costume and there are trick-or-treating stations set up throughout the park. Highlights of Disney’s Halloween party include Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Parade that features a pre-parade appearance by Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman, and the Hallowishes fireworks show. There’s also a live show at Cinderella Castle featuring many of the Disney villains, including (new this year) Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog.” Tickets are $59.95, with discounts available for passholders.
Scare level: This one’s for just about everyone, though children who fear Disney villains or the Haunted mansion ride could be in for a few mild frights.4. Fright Dome: Circus Circus, Las Vegas, Nevada
Every year, the haunted houses at Las Vegas’s Circus Circus offer some serious scares, and this year, there are three all-new houses including My Bloody Valentine, Flesh Feast and a house that pays homage to the “Saw” horror movies. Fright Dome is also known for its live shows featuring cutting-edge magicians, and for its celebrity visitors – Paris Hilton, Holly Madison, David Copperfield and other frequent Vegas visitors tend to visit Fright Dome each year. Tickets are $34.95.
Scare level: Definitely not for kids or the faint of heart – this is one of the scariest events around.

5. Howl-O-Scream: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, Florida
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment holds Howl-O-Scream events in Williamsburg, Virginia, San Antonio, Texas, and Tampa, Florida, but we choose the Florida event for this list. The Tampa event typically adopts a back story that adds some edgy fun. This year, the protagonist is Sylvie, the lead singer of a rock band known as My X. Sylvie is out to get revenge on, well, her ex, and just about anyone else that stands in front of her. Besides the eight haunted houses and five scare zones at Howl-O-Scream, you can also see a concert featuring Sylvie and her band. It’s that follow-through with the back story that puts Howl-O-Scream on our list. Tickets are $74.95, with discounts for Florida residents.
Scare level: Teens and adults only for this one.



6. Hersheypark in the Dark: Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Where better to get a sweet Halloween treat than in America’s favorite chocolate town? Hersheypark opens its “rollerghosters” and other rides at night for a Halloween celebration each year. Kids 12 and under can trick-or-treat at eight stops in the park, and there are three family-friendly shows, including one by Halloween band “Bunsen and the Burners.” Hersheypark’s eateries even update their menus for the fall, offering soup in bread bowls, turkey legs and autumn-inspired desserts. Tickets are $38.95, with several discount packages available.
Scare level: This one’s truly for all ages.

7. Halloweekends: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
Cedar Point tries to balance fun and scary during their Halloweekends. While there are plenty of scares in four haunted houses and five scare zones, but much of the rest of the park is filled with pumpkins, sweet treats and family-friendly Halloween fun. All the scary sections are marked so that those not wanting quite the fright can stay away. Cedar Point puts a heavy emphasis on shows – with nine Halloween shows during the event. And for the kids, there are Peanuts shows, a costume contest and the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration Parade. Tickets are $45.99, with discount packages available.
Scare level: There are plenty of frights for horror fans, but just as much fun for small frys.

8. Brick or Treat: Legoland, San Diego, California
Legoland offers Halloween fun for little ones at Brick or Treat, with a costume contest, dance party and fall-themed Lego building activities. New this year at Brick or Treat is a live stage show where kids can find the secret to turning scary monsters sweet, and a new light show, “The Spirits of Halloween.” There’s also plenty of trick-or-treating action at Brick or Treat, with seven-themed trick-or-treating stations along a trail. Tickets are $30.
Scare level: This one is all treats for little ones, with no tricks in sight.

9. Fright Fest: Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois
Six Flags puts an emphasis on shows and music at this year’s edition of Fright Fest, with a new “Full Moon Rocksplosion” show and parade, as well as a new “zombie dance party.” There’s also “scary-oke” (which is what they should call it every time I take the stage), and the classic “Love at First Fright” show is back for a 20th year. Fright Fest also offers four haunted houses, as well as kids activities including trick-or-treating and a Halloween-themed “The Wiggles” show. Tickets are $36.99 online in advance.
Scare level: There’s something at Fright Fest for everyone.

10. Count’s Spooktacular: Sesame Place, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
The preschool set can have a frightfully fun time with Sesame Street characters with one very famous vampire (and no, his name isn’t Edward). The Count von Count hosts a Howl-o-Ween radio show, as well as an “un-haunted” maze at Sesame Place theme park. There are two additional Halloween shows starring Sesame Street favorites such as Elmo and Big Bird, as well as hayrides and trick-or-treating. Tickets are $33 online in advance.
Scare level: Only for the little pumpkins.

Six Flags Magic Mountain to add two roller coasters, bringing total to globe-topping 18

Six Flags Magic Mountain will add two roller coasters and alter an existing coaster in 2011, bringing the park’s total to 18. That gives the Valencia, California, theme park the most roller coasters of any theme park in the world, dethroning Ohio’s Cedar Point, which has 17.

The first addition is the Green Lantern, is a spinning coaster on a vertical track. It’s the first of its kind in the United States, though the builder, Intamin, has a similar model called the Comet Express at Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea.

The Green Lantern’s cars can spin on a vertical axis. The ride starts with a 107-foot lifthill, after which riders will zig-zag through more than 800 feet of track on the way back down. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to see a rendering of the Green Lantern in action. Six Flags says the new roller coaster will debut in the spring.

The second 2011 coaster addition at Six Flags Magic Mountain is an as-yet-unnamed kid’s coaster that will be adjacent to the theme park’s Bugs Bunny World children’s area. It will be 679 feet long with a 28-foot lifthill and top speeds of 21 miles per hour.

Finally, the theme park’s Superman: The Escape roller coaster will get its name changed to Superman: Escape from Krypton, along with a pretty major makeover. New cars will allow riders to shoot up the 41-story tower at 100 miles per hour backwards.

The Superman coaster has two tracks. Six Flags says following the ride’s alterations, both tracks will operate with the backward-facing cars at first. After a few months, one of the cars will be turned around, allowing riders to choose whether they want to ride forwards or backwards.

Superman’s new ride cars will also have lower sides for a more exposed feeling, and new over-the-shoulder harness restraints. Six Flags says the Superman alterations will be completed early next year.