Six Flags Magic Mountain
Los Angeles (Valencia)
Brace Yourself: First opened in 2002 as the world’s first “fourth-dimensional” ride, with 360-degree rotating seats and headfirst, facedown drops, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s X was closed in 2007 for a $10 million rejiggering. This May it has emerged, phoenixlike and more spine-tingling than ever, with new immersive tunnels, more audio and visual enhancements, and sleeker wing-shaped trains. For the uninitiated, it’s called four dimensional, or 4-D, because the seats extend off the track to the sides, allowing riders to independently rotate head over heels, forward and backward—giving that mind-bending dimensional effect.
Brace Yourself: Opened in May 2008, the so-called “sweetest place on earth” just got edgier. This inverted vertical loop “lift” coaster starts off swooping riders up 121 feet above the ground only to plunge them right back down in a gut-wrenching, 97-degree negative drop—the steepest in the U.S. At the 121-foot crest, the upcoming drop is at such a steep incline that the only thing riders in the stadium-seating trains see is, well, nothing. No track at all. Once you survive that first drop, there’s still more to come: a 107-foot inverted loop, an inverted corkscrew roll, cobra element, airborne inverted S-roll, another inverted corkscrew, a little airtime hill (stomach floating), a high-speed banked curve, another hill, and then a high-speed banked curve to end it. All this action takes place in about 85 seconds—less time than it takes to polish off a Hershey bar.
Stratosphere Hotel and Casino
Brace Yourself: Not all the scariest rides are roller coasters, a fact that everyone who has been to the top of the Space Needle-like Stratosphere hotel in Vegas knows only too well. Perched over the Strip, the most frightening of the Stratosphere’s three rides is an electric-green-colored centrifuge called Insanity, which extends 64 feet over the north edge of the tower. Spinning over 40 mph, riders are angled down by 70 degrees so all they see is the street, 900 feet below. This is truly one of the world’s most harrowing rides.
Chertsey, Surrey, U.K.
Brace Yourself: Sure, Britain’s mostly dreary climate can seem like a strange choice for a theme park, but this roller coaster, built in 2002, still holds the record for number of inversions: 10. It flips riders over and over and over again in maneuvers called the double corkscrew, the cobra roll, and the quadruple heart-line roll. If you’re more likely to be in China than the U.K., an exact replica of this ride, called the Tenth Ring Roller Coaster, was built in 2006 at Chimelong Paradise in Guangzhou.
5. Kingda Ka
Six Flags Great Adventure
Jackson, New Jersey
Brace Yourself: The current big daddy of coasters, this ride towers, quite literally, above all others. At the ride’s highest peak, the brave folks who step aboard soar a record 456 feet (the equivalent of 45 stories) aboveground. Catapulting up with the help of a hydraulic launch at a record-setting speed (128 mph), Kingda Ka reaches its top height in just 3.5 seconds. On the way down, there’s a 270-foot spiral; this is not a world record, but there’s plenty of spinning action for this hair-raising trip, during which riders will experience both negative and positive G force.
Brace Yourself: The name translates roughly to “hey, what the hell,” which is what you will hear others shouting in Japanese when you’re on this ride. Only the second “4-D” coaster in the world (X2 is the other), this has the same 360-degree turns and insane style of head-over-heels spinning on the winglike cars as X2. But there are plenty of differences; for one, this track is a little longer and the ride is far taller—at 250 feet, it’s the seventh-highest roller coaster in the world. And from the top, riders have a spectacular, if brief, view of nearby Mount Fuji.
7. Tower of Terror
Gold Coast, Australia
Brace Yourself: Australia’s Gold Coast is a little off the map for most people, but if you are in the neighborhood, head for this: the fastest, tallest thrill ride in the Southern Hemisphere (and at 100 mph, the fourth fastest in the world). After climbing at a rate of 4 G’s to a heart-stopping height of 38 stories, or 377 feet aboveground, the steel shutter roller coaster has a 6.5 second, 100 mph, zero-gravity drop, and then stretches straight out for the equivalent length of three football fields.
8. Expedition GeForce
Haßloch, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Brace Yourself: Always tops in any list of the best coasters in the world, including Internet Coaster Poll, which polls fans from around the globe, GeForce is not only one of the largest coasters in Europe, it’s always one of the most complete and satisfying because it’s long enough and not gimmicky. But it’s also harrowing, reaching 4.5 G, a height of 203 feet, and speeds exceeding 74 mph. And there are seven coveted moments of weightlessness when your stomach just floats…and floats again..
Cedar Point Amusement Park
Brace Yourself: No list is complete without mentioning at least one of the 17 roller-coaster rides at the self-proclaimed home of the roller coaster, Cedar Point. Of the many to choose from, Maverick, the newest (built in 2007) and most expensive ($21 million), is not one of the park’s highest-tallest-fastest record-holders, but it’s one of its best. It’s plenty fast—at 70 mph—and features eight airtime-filled hills and countless twists and turns. It’s just a more complete ride, and during the longish 2.5-minute trip, there’s even an unusual surprise…which would be spoiled if we told you beforehand.
10. Superman Ride of Steel
Six Flags New England
Brace Yourself: There are three versions of the Ride of Steel coaster in the U.S.: one at Darien Lake in New York State, one at Six Flags American in Maryland, and one here. But this is the one that wins the awards every year as the best roller coaster in the U.S. With its speeds of more than 77 mph, a 221-foot drop into a tunnel, two bunny hills, three camel backs, and a grand total of 10 seconds of weightlessness, it’s easy to understand—with your wobbly legs getting off the ride—why this ride won Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award (the Oscar of the amusement park industry) again in 2007.