I have to confess I am a bit of a roller-coaster addict. I cried my eyes out and refused to go on the kiddy-coaster at Disneyland Paris when I was a kid but something happened along the way and suddenly I was obsessed. After riding everything to death at Thorpe Park and being the luckiest 18 year old in the world and getting to go to Florida, I decided I’d take on the mission of visiting every theme park I could while I was away. This is ambitious because theme parks are absolutely ridiculously expensive, but I have my ways! My top ten are spanned across seven of twelve theme parks I have visited.
10. The Kraken, Sea World, Orlando, Florida
Thrill Factor: 8
Fun Factor: 8
Mean Score: 8
Pros: The Kraken is actually the less popular of the two roller coasters at Sea World, the more famous being Manta – the only flying roller coaster of its kind in the world. I personally didn’t enjoy this ride as much as I’d hoped considering the praise it receives from ride enthusiasts, the main reason being that it hurt my neck and gave me head rush towards the end. The Kraken, however, is my favorite floorless dangling coaster among the several I have ridden (including: Nemisis Inferno at Thorpe Park, Dragon Challenge at Universal Studios, Orlando and Scream at Six Flags Magic Mountain) although these are not technically categorized as floorless considering the floor is not removed at the start. The ride begins with a chain lift hill which takes you 149 ft up then drops you to only 5 ft from the ground at speeds nearing 65 mph. The track contains vertical loops, a cobra roll, dive loop and corkscrew along 1273 m of steel track. The theme is also fun and fitting; the ride is certainly comparable to a huge monster tearing through the ocean.
Cons: With an impressive seven inversions and high speeds I don’t have any criticisms of this ride. Could it be higher and faster? Always.
9. El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
Thrill Factor: 8.9
Fun Factor: 8.9
Mean Score: 8.9
Pros: I have been on many wooden roller-coasters and I’m actually not a huge fan. I think they look fantastic but I don’t like the lack of loops and corkscrews and if I’m honest they hurt my neck and my head always bangs against the seat.I wasn’t even going to ride El Toro at Six Flags but someone told me that it was one of the biggest in America and it was made recently so I decided to put my prejudices aside.
I don’t know why El Toro was different but it didn’t hurt my neck and the thrill of going up and down 19 stories, up to 176 ft was phenomenal. I loved the ride so much I queued again to try it at the back instead of the front and I think the G-force felt even more intense. Reaching 70 mph, the whole roller-coaster felt like it was shaking during the ride so I suppose the name ‘The Bull’ is relevant as it really does feel like a vicious bull trying to shake you off its back. I went on many amazing rides at Six Flags in New Jersey but this is the one that surprisingly stood out. I unfortunately didn’t get to ride one of the tallest roller-coasters in the world, the Kingda Ka, because I saved it for the end of the day and then it started storming and all the rides closed.
Cons: The only cons of this ride are its natural limitations. It’s classic and fast but at the end of the day, they stopped making roller-coasters out of wood for a reason. They just can’t spin you upside down like steel ones can!
8. The Cheetah, Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida
Thrill Factor: 7.8
Fun Factor: 9.9
Mean Score: 8.9
Pros: Cheetah hunt is a Launch coaster, well, a Triple-Launch coaster to be precise. The track is an impressive 4,400 ft and takes three and a half minutes to complete. This ride has no loops or inversions which limits the thrill factor, but the ride is nevertheless ridiculously fun and achieves a top ten worthy 9.9 on the fun scale. Tying in with the Busch Garden animal theme, the ride is meant to mimic that of a cheetah as it hunts for its pray. The track literally zooms through grass and trees, sharply turning left and right giving that exact impression. The ride is entertaining up until the very end and I think this is down to the launches which keep the adrenaline pumping as you race around in your train.
Cons: The lack of twists and inversions on this ride is not necessarily a criticism as much as it is a limitation when comparing it to the other rides that overtake it on this list. I am a thrill seeker and I loved Cheetah Hunt, but I didn’t get that wonderful nervous feeling in my stomach as I strapped myself in that I get on Stealth, for example. I wouldn’t say the ride was boring but a twisted horseshoe roll or a couple of corkscrews wouldn’t have hurt. Anyhow, commendations to Busch Gardens for developing a ride which is genuinely fun for everyone – thrill seekers and fun seekers alike.
7. The Incredible Hulk Coaster – Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Florida
Thrill Factor: 8.9
Fun Factor: 9.5
Mean Score: 9.2
Pros: Before I delve into explaining my rating I have to say that a big factor in the beauty of this ride is its location. Centered as the main feature of Marvel Land on the lake at Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure, The Hulk stands out like a trophy in a magical display cabinet. I was incredibly excited to ride it and didn’t mind queuing at all, especially as in true Universal style, the entire waiting line was themed and decorated with flashy superhero settings and props. When you step on the ride you are pulled up a big green tube (or Dr Bruce Banner’s gamma-accelerator if you prefer) on an 8 train car surrounded by flashy lights and laboratory sounds. The movie is quoted followed by a countdown and then you are blasted off onto the rest of the track to create an authentic Hulk experience.
The highlight of this ride for me is this start, for the same reason I love Cheetah Hunt – I am a sucker for launch tracks. Accelerating from 0 – 40 mph in under two seconds is the reason I queued for the ride over and over again during my time there. As the ride length is over two minutes long and the track, like Hulk, is huge – the wait time always felt worth it. The ride also features a cobra roll, which if you’re not familiar is the part of the track that resembles a cobras head (basically a half vertical loop up, two corkscrews and then a half vertical loop down.) The ride features several other inversions but for me they aren’t nearly as memorable as the launch and the cobra roll at the start.
Cons: Ironically, as people tend to complain about rides being too short, I found Hulk to go on for a little bit longer than necessary. Although the track looks ridiculously impressive, the end part feels slow, jerky and starts to hurt your neck a bit. At 67 mph the roller-coaster is a little slower than its more modern rivals but still manages to reach a 9.0 thrill rating for its impressive inversions and fantastic launch.
6. Full Throttle – Six Flags Magic Mountain, Venice, California
Thrill Factor: 9.5
Fun Factor: 9.0
Mean Score: 9.3
Pros: Full Throttle is a new ride at Magic Mountain and it is another record breaker being the tallest and fastest looping roller-coaster in the world. To begin with, I wasn’t convinced and thought that this might not be as impressive as it sounds as after all, a loop is over in a few seconds and isn’t usually the highlight of a roller-coaster compared to the drop. After riding Full Throttle, however, I was completely persuaded by it. The loop is 160 ft high and features a top hat, which I didn’t even notice before I rode it. For me, the selling point was that the ride has three launches. I was completely unprepared when I was shot from a stand still to 70 mph up the loop and then dropped into a break run. Thinking the ride was over, I turned to talk to my friend but my words were stolen by another launch backwards, back up the top hat where we stopped mid way up and then were launched back down. All this was over in a minute but it was one hell of a ride.
Another thing I really appreciated about Full Throttle was that despite the break run, the ride was smooth rolling and din’t hurt my neck at all. The seats were really comfortable and despite the launching and stopping there were no kind-of-worth-it-but-painful moments where your heads smacks into the back of the seat when you’re ruthlessly jerked forward.
Cons: I think the only thing I can criticize Full Throttle for was that it didn’t feel long enough. The launches kept the ride exciting and stimulating only to finish the journey within a minute. It was a thrilling, intense minute but I would have liked a grand finale of some sort because the ride left me wanting to jump straight back on, only to notice the queue time had jumped back up to two and a half hours. Worth it once? Definitely. Maybe not the second time though.
5. SheiKra – Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida
Thrill Factor: 9.5
Fun Factor: 9.0
Mean Score: 9.3
Pros: The first advantage of SheiKra is that it does actually take you to a decent height of 200 ft before you are released onto the rest of the track. The ascent is slow and is followed by a seemingly endless turn where you are then suspended over a 90 degree drop. I can’t say how long you are left dangling but I can say that it definitely felt like longer than the matter of seconds it probably was. The rush when you are released at 70 mph downhill into an Immelman loop pushes the thrill factor up to an impressive 9.5. and makes SheiKra stand out among the other floorless dive coasters (e.g. Oblivion at Alton Towers), especially as it is the first to achieve a true 90 degree drop. The ride finishes with a splash down finale, pushing my fun score up to a respectable 9.0.
Cons: I am a huge fan of this roller-coaster and its track layout is one of my favorites. It unfortunately only falls short as it does not have the “wow” factor that the top three have. The ride is only ten years old but it would have to either double in height or get a flashy theme to compete with the newer, crazier roller-coasters out there. This is not a criticism of the ride at all, just an acknowledgement that theme park standards are continuously and surprisingly rising.
4. Goliath/New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster, Six flags La Ronde, Montreal, Canada
Thrill Factor: 8.7
Fun Factor: 9.9
Mean Score: 9.5
Pros: I had no idea La Ronde existed when I went to Montreal the first time but when I saw there was a theme park a ten minute metro ride away from my hostel, I naturally had to go.There were seven roller-coasters there so I had high hopes but after trying a few I decided that none of them really stood out – until I went on Goliath.
One of the things I like about Goliath is that you don’t have a big over shoulder seat strap, but one that goes round your waist. As you speed up and down the track you are therefore not inhibited by your seat and can lift your arms all the way up as you fly towards Montreal’s beautiful river. I also enjoyed the fact that once you reach the end you turn around and do a similar route back so you can see the city and the bridge from 170 ft in the air – approximately the height of the first drop. The track is over 4,000 ft long (possibly the longest ride I’ve been on) and you enjoy the view as much as the thrill of the multiple drops.
When I went back to Montreal a year later, Goliath had been upgraded to a virtual reality coaster. I had never been on one before so I had to go back to the park and built up the anticipation by waiting until the end of the day to ride it.The theme was an intergalactic battle and seeing sheer drops off skyscrapers instead of a sheer drop on a track did make the ride even scarier. It took me some time before the ascent to get used to the headset – I kept turning to my friend to talk to him but obviously all I saw was the inside of a fighter jet! During the ascent you can shoot targets from the side of your headset which was a nice touch.The experience is fully immersive and I grinned all the way through – despite the fact I was technically experiencing a life threatening alien invasion.
Cons: I am not really sure which I prefer of the two experiences. I absolutely loved trying the virtual reality headset but I feel like by using it you are missing something of the original first hand roller-coaster experience. Luckily in the queue you have the choice of whether to ride with or without the headset. The track itself is flawless. I guess it could always be faster…?
3. X2 – Six Flags Magic Mountain, Venice, California
Thrill Factor: 8.8
Fun Factor: 9.8
Mean Score: 9.3
Pros: X2 is by far the craziest ride I have ever been on. The ride is unique in several ways: First, the wing seats are not only positioned so that you are dangling off the track, but they rotate whilst you ride, leaving you completely disorientated and unsure of where the track is heading next. In the queue line I inspected the track thoroughly to see which dives and dips to look out for, but I can honestly say I had no idea when we were heading up or down, especially when my seat was flipped upside down. The track also contained two raven turns which is a type of half inversion followed by a half loop that has only been used on three roller-coasters to date. This type of turn is a feature of a 4D roller-coaster, i.e. a coaster where the seats are rotated independently of the track direction.
X2, however, takes the concept of a 4D roller-coaster one step further by adding music and visuals in attempt to create a ride that “enters the 5th dimension.” I wouldn’t say this is an entirely accurate description, but I enjoyed having Rage Against The Machine play throughout the ride from the back of my seat. I can’t comment on the use of visuals as I was too busy trying to figure out which way was up but I can confirm that the ride was definitely different to any other I’ve ridden and was even more unpredictable than I expected.
Cons: I really did enjoy the unique aspect of a 4D roller-coaster but if I am being brutally honest, the disorientation at times was a little much and I felt queasy after exiting. As this is a personal issue and my friends had no complaints, I didn’t factor this into my fun score but it is worth mentioning. The reason X2 scored slightly less on its thrill score is because despite actually reaching heights of 200 ft, the disorientation made it difficult to appreciate the track itself and replaced some of the adrenaline with sheer confusion. Still, I have to credit this ride on its originality and feel it is definitely deserving of reaching my top three on this factor alone.
2. SAW – Thorpe Park, Staines, London
Thrill Factor: 8.9
Fun Factor: 9.8
Mean Score: 9.5
Pros: SAW is famous for being the world’s first horror roller-coaster and after riding it, I was surprised that the concept had never been done before. Combining the fear from the dark chamber-like corridors in the queue with the anticipation of the ride really added to the overall adrenalin of riding. The first time I rode was near opening and the park had even hired actors to do jump scares while you queued, a fun way to keep you entertained during the wait. The beginning of the ride takes place inside; its dark and there are noises and props from the film around the track. You are greeted by the Jigsaw dummy who quotes the film and lets out his famous chilling laugh. I was really impressed with the way they tied the props in with the track so that the whole ride felt part of the theme, rather than just a roller-coaster with some SAW related memorabilia in the queue line. For example, as you exit the building for the ascent of the inverted drop you corkscrew over a dead body. The drop itself descends into a near miss of giant rotating blades.
The track itself is also impressive. The 100 ft, 100 degree drop is unique in Europe and the vertical ascent is the epitome of anticipation. I also liked the lack of jerky starts and stops on the ride; it felt fluid and smooth, even during inversions.
Cons: In terms of entertainment I would sincerely rate this ride as flawless. If I am being harsh, however, I would say that there was a big build-up (credit to the excellent campaigning though) by the park for this ride and claims that it was to be the scariest ride in the world. I had very high expectations and as much as I loved the first drop, the rest of the track did not particularly stand out to me. Saying that, the overall experience is highly enjoyable so even without the highest thrill score I would still happily rate this ride as number two on my list.
1. Superman: Escape from Krypton – Six Flags Magic Mountain, Venice, California
Thrill Factor: 9.9/10
Fun Factor: 10/10
Mean Score: 10/10
Pros: The Superman ride scores an almost perfect 10 for me as it combines all my preferences for a roller-coaster. To begin with; it’s fast: so fast in fact that it is the first ride in the world to reach speeds of 100 mph and shoots you 415 ft at a vertical angle down at 92 mph. This also means that the ride is over quickly, but I find that on longer tracks the speed tends to feel like less of a factor as the body adjusts, so for me at 1315 ft this ride is the perfect length. Another bonus is that it takes you across a large portion of the park so if you decide to queue for the front seat you get a great view of Six Flags and the mountains on the way up and on the way down – I’d say it’s worth the extra wait. On top of this, the ride has a great theme. You queue in a dimly lit Kryptonite cave and then when you reach the front you have to walk through a set of doors before entering the ride. This adds to the anticipation of the drop as you can’t see how the ride begins or see people’s reactions when they set off. You can assume, however, that people’s faces are something of shock when they get fired like a bullet from 0-100 mph in seven seconds. I’m a huge fan of launch tracks and I’d say that the acceleration on this ride is comparable only to Stealth at Thorpe Park, but, being double the height and ascending in reverse, The Superman takes first place without a doubt.
Cons: I guess the only con is that the queue is one of the biggest in the park for only a few seconds of fun. I can’t say it’s not 100% worth it though.