As amusement park rides go, there are roller coasters and then there is the Gatekeeper, where riders sit as if on the wings of a plane 170 feet above ground. Experiencing sharp turns, inversions and rolls, Gatekeeper creates the feeling of weightlessness, sending riders turning and twisting at speeds of nearly 70 miles per hour.
Gatekeeper is the latest ride at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park, voted the Best Amusement Park in the World for 15 consecutive years by the readers of Amusement Today. Taking more than 12 million pounds of concrete to build, the Gatekeeper is the park’s premiere attraction but not the only coaster making up nearly 10 miles of track. Cedar Point boasts a whopping 16 different roller coasters with names like Wicked Twister, Raptor, Magnum XL-200 and the Corkscrew. But Gatekeeper is unique.
“GateKeeper is unlike anything our guests have experienced before,” said John Hildebrandt, Cedar Point’s Vice President and General Manager in a NorthwestOhio.com article.
Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland, GateKeeper breaks seven world records, including the longest track (4,164 feet), tallest drop (164 feet) and most inversions of any wing roller coaster in the world.
Always seeking to break records, it looks as though Ohio’s Cedar Point will be building a new winged coaster projected to have the longest drop, fastest run and longest ride of its kind. The coaster, which is set up so riders are suspended in cars that hang out over both sides of the track, is the first coaster to be built at the park since Maverick debuted in 2007. Although rumors about a new coaster have been circulating for months, the news officially broke today when the amusement park put out a press release.
Expected to be completed for the summer of 2013, the ride is named “Gatekeeper” because a section of the ride will arch through two towers directly over the park’s admission gate. Riders will go on a two-minute and 40-second spin that hits speeds up to 67 mph on a 4,164-foot track that reaches heights of 170 feet.
Here’s how a press release describes the coaster: “Once riders crest the top of the 170-foot-tall lift hill, the coaster train will rotate 180 degrees to the right, turning riders upside down before plummeting a record 164 feet toward the ground at speeds reaching 67 mph. Then the train will enter a half loop, go through a half twist and curve out in the opposite direction from which it came. A towering 105-foot-tall camelback hill awaits just before riders glide through a 360-degree giant flat spin.”
Of course, all those numbers come with a cost: the new coaster and a redesigned front gate will cost the park approximately $30 million. According to the Sandusky Register, Cedar Point will also remove two rides – Space Spiral and Disaster Transport – to make room for the new coaster. When completed, the park will once again have 16 roller coasters, which was temporarily set back to 15 when Cedar Point began taking down Disaster Transport.
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’sThe 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’sX2 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’sKingda Ka and Cedar Point’sTop 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 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.
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)
Like 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, 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)
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)
Located 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.