Everyone asks, "what's your favorite coaster?"
While I do have favorites, it's always a subjective thing. Which coasters top my list will often depend on what kind of mood I'm in... do I want a supercharged adrenaline rush, or do I want something that's just tons of fun that I can ride over and over? Do I want a smooth, comfortable ride or am I more in the mood to tackle something a bit more rough-n-tumble? Am I looking for classic, up-and-down thrills or do I want to get thrown for a loop or two?
So with that in mind, here are a list of my favorites with the understanding that after you get past #2 or #3, they can pretty much change around based on my preferences that day.
- these are defined as coasters that ride on a track made of wood with a steel rail on top. The material comprising the structure under the track doesn't matter.
Seriously, everything you could ask for in a wood coaster. Huge, fast, airtime-filled, intense, underground drops, ridiculous turns, non-stop mayhem. Occasionally brutal, always challenging. Not for beginners.
If this ride were longer, it would easily be the #1 coaster on my list. If this ride were longer, it would need defibrillators and a nurse on hand at the end of the ride to jump-start people's hearts again. This is the most intense wood coaster on earth, screamingly fast, fun, and smooth with ridiculous airtime and crazy acrobatics all set down in a wooded valley.
3. Boulder Dash - Lake Compounce, Connecticut
Set on the side of a mountain, once this thing starts downhill, it's a crazy-intense romp through the woods on the way back to the station, flying over boulders and narrowly missing trees. Awesome at night!
4. El Toro - Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
One word, seven letters: airtime. That's pretty much what it does and it does it better than just about anything else out there.
5. Ravine Flyer II - Waldameer, Pennsylvania
One of the best top-of-the-lift views ever gives you an awesome glimpse of Lake Erie just before all hell breaks loose. The fact that it crosses over a highway (twice!) won't even occur to you until later, as everything's pretty much a blur during the ride.
6. Prowler - Worlds of Fun, Missouri
Set back in the woods, this is a rollicking, crazy mess of turns and hops. Great fun.
I seriously hated this coaster for many years, never quite "getting" it. Not sure what happened later, whether it changed or whether I did, but lately I've had nothing but amazing, incredible, heart-pounding rides on this thing.
8. Wodan - Europa Park, Germany
One of the most beautiful wood coaster structures I've ever seen, an intricately themed queue line, superior trains, and a layout that never failed to bring smiles and laughter.
Old-school handbrakes, flanged wheels, crazy airtime, and the most comfortable wooden coaster trains anywhere in the world. What's not to love?
10. Wooden Warrior - Quassy, Connecticut
How does a kiddie coaster make into my top ten? You only need ride it to understand. What it lacks in height and speed, it more than makes up for in pure, unadulterated FUN. Oh, and airtime. Lots of airtime.
- these are coasters that run on all-steel rails, regardless of what the supporting structure is made of.
No pictures or video will give you any hint of what this ride is like. Easily one of the most intense steel coasters ever built.
2. Medusa Steel Coaster - Six Flags Mexico
Insane speeds, crazy airtime, an unpredictable layout, and relentless intensity make this coaster worth the trip down south.
3. Expedition GeForce - Holiday Park, Germany
Fantastic first drop, twisting and plunging nearly straight down, followed by multiple airtime hills, twisting corners, and non-stop speed.
Hanging below the track, this coaster navigates loops, rolls, and corkscrews mostly over water. A killer banked spiral around a rock formation puts an awesome twist on this world-class ride.
"Insane" doesn't even do it justice. It has forces that rival coasters two or three times its size, but because it's smaller, there is simply no time between elements to recover and get your bearings. Crazy, wicked fun.
Ultra-smooth, eerily quiet, funky trains, and some of the most insane, intense, violent airtime ever engineered into any coaster ever.
7. The Ultimate - Lightwater Valley, England
One of the strangest coasters in the world, it mostly sits on the ground and runs through the countryside past grazing sheep and hedgerows. Then there's a second lift hill and the track disappears into the forest. That's when all hell breaks loose.
Perched around, on top of, and through a limestone cliff, Iron Rattler lives up to its moniker as a "twisting coil of thrills at 70mph"
9. Bizarro - Six Flags New England, Massachusetts
Once my favorite steel coaster ever, it has gotten new trains that my 6ft frame doesn't fit into well at all. There's still a really, REALLY good ride to be had if you fit, but much of my fun is now hampered by discomfort.
10. X2 - Six Flags Magic Mountain, California
The seats stick way out off the sides of the track and rotate so that riders do somersaults independently of the visible track layout. It's an unpredictable hot mess of intensity complete with on-board soundtrack, fire cannons, and vertigo.
Gone but Not Forgotten
Sometimes, your favorite coasters don't stick around. Stuff happens and the coaster doesn't always get saved. Here are a list of rides that were once in my top ten, but are no longer around to ride.
Hurricane Katrina killed it, unfortunately. It was a riot of forces, it took corners like a beast, and it had the best second drop of any coaster anywhere.
Screechin' Eagle - Americana, Ohio
One of my all-time favorite memories is the day I sat on this ride (often the only one on the train) for nearly three hours in a torrential rainstorm with water sloshing around on the floor of the car and the operator just keeping it going.
Texas Cyclone - Astroworld, Texas
The coaster that made me an enthusiast, I took more than 10,000 rides on it during its 29-year life. It had its good years and its bad years, but when it was good it was REALLY good. The original 1976 version of the Texas Cyclone is still considered one of the greatest wooden coasters ever built.