Imagine you’re waiting in line to see the next blockbuster movie. The line is huge, and one hour passes, then a second hour. When you finally get inside the theater after three hours, the movie starts … and it’s over in less than a minute. You would be furious. This is what roller-coaster enthusiasts endure to ride some of the most popular coasters. Sometimes they’re so thrilled they get right back in line to do it again. These steel coasters are far bigger and faster than your grandfather’s rickety old wooden coasters from yesteryear. Here are 10 “point-of-view” videos that put you in the front seat of some of the most incredible coasters in the U.S.
10. Magnum XL-200 (Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio)
In a scenario akin to the U.S.-Soviet arms race during the Cold War, major theme parks have been engaged in a battle in recent years to build the fastest, tallest and most spectacular coasters. Industry analysts cite the Magnum XL-200 with launching that trend of one-upmanship in 1989. When it opened, Magnum was the tallest, fastest and steepest coaster in the world. It was also the first so-called hypercoaster, with a height exceeding 200 feet, a figure now bested by more than a dozen other coasters in the U.S.
9. Intimidator (Carowinds, Charlotte)
Legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt earned the nickname “Intimidator” for his menacing presence on the racetrack. This coaster themed after that tough nickname doesn’t disappoint. Debuting in 2010, the Intimidator isn’t the biggest or fastest coaster on this list. There are no inversions. But it’s got numerous twists and turns and outstanding air time. Industry publication Amusement Today has been handing out Golden Ticket Awards since 1998, honoring the best coasters in the world based on surveys from amusement park enthusiasts; the Intimidator has been ranked in the top 10 coasters in the world since 2012.
8. Apollo’s Chariot (Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Va.)
Apollo’s Chariot got off to a rocky debut in 1999. Busch Gardens brought in Italian model Fabio to promote the new ride; on the inaugural run, a 10-pound goose struck him in the face, cutting his nose. While it started out as the punch line for jokes by late-night TV hosts, Apollo’s Chariot has had mostly good news since; it has ranked in the top four or five coasters in the world in most of the annual Golden Ticket Awards surveys.
7. Nitro (Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.)
This coaster has been around since 2001, but is still among the 10 fastest coasters in the U.S. It’s a perennial fixture in the top five of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards survey.
6. Top Thrill Dragster (Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio)
With a top speed of 120 mph and 420 feet tall, Top Thrill Dragster is the second-highest and second-fastest coaster in the U.S. It’s one of many amazing coasters at Cedar Point. It’s classified as an accelerator coaster, which uses hydraulics to launch the coaster from a dead stop to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds.
5. Superman: Escape From Krypton (Six Flags, Valencia, Calif.)
Like several other coasters mentioned in this story, Superman was once the biggest and fastest coaster around before other parks built bigger ones. Even though it opened in 1997 — a millennium ago in coaster terms — it’s still ranked third in the U.S. in both speed (100 mph) and height (415 feet).
4. Fury 325 (Carowinds, Charlotte)
Opened in 2015, the Fury became an immediate hit with coaster fans. The longest coaster (6,602 feet) in North America and fourth longest in the world, it ranks fourth in both height (325 feet) and speed (95 mph) in the U.S.
3. Kingda Ka (Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.)
Meet the king of the mountain in North American roller coasters. Kingda Ka is the world’s tallest coaster, at a staggering 456 feet. And it’s the second-fastest coaster (128 mph). Kingda Ka goes from 0 to 128 mph in about 3.5 seconds. Then you climb a 90-degree incline, and, as the Six Flags website helpfully notes, “once you get to the top you’ll be plummeting right back down in a 270-degree spiral that is not recommended for wimps.”
If there’s a knock on the coaster, it’s a relatively short ride, less than a minute. Is that worth waiting in line several hours? We’d say yes. It’s essentially the same coaster as Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, with some variations. Both were designed by noted Swiss coaster design company Intamin Worldwide.
2. Superman the Ride (Six Flags, Agawam, Mass.)
It’s changed names a couple of times since opening in 2000, formerly known as Superman: Ride of Steel and Bizarro. This coaster has rated first or second in the Golden Ticket Awards survey every year since 2003.
1. Millennium Force (Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio)
Other bigger and fasters coasters have been built since Millennium Force opened in 2000, but it has remained incredibly popular. That view of Lake Erie stretching out toward the horizon from the top of the first drop is a moment no roller-coaster fan will ever forget. Millennium Force has been voted the No. 1 steel coaster in the world 10 times in the Golden Ticket Awards, including in 2015.