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The 20 Best Roller Coasters in America

Your ultimate guide to the most fear-inducing coasters.

If there is any one thing that unites us all, it's our love for a sunny day spent at our favorite amusement park. And for those few of us daring enough, we seek out the roughest and toughest roller coasters in the land to test just how brave we really are.

If you're feeling up to the challenge, these roller coasters were created with the intent to make even grown men scream for mercy. So, close your eyes, yell out obscenities, but above all—hang on tight. Here, accounting for historical significance, speed, height, and sheer insanity, we present you with our picks for the 20 best roller coasters in America. And for more on summer fun, Here is Every "Song of the Summer" For the Past 50 Years.

Millennium Force

Millennium Force Roller Coasters

Location: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Stats: Steel, 93 mph, 310 feet tall

This rollercoaster has unrelenting speed, a succession of banked turns that make you feel as though you're about to flip upside down, 30 stories of height, and a drop so steep (80 degrees) that it makes a bungee jump seem like child's play. It's approximately two and a half minutes of absolute euphoria. For more of America's hidden adventures, check out these 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.

Kingda Ka

Kingda Ka Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey

Stats: Steel, 128 mph, 456 feet tall

Can a coaster ride be any fun if it lasts just 59 seconds and goes over only one hill? Well, if you like being launched out of the gate at 128 mph, climbing straight up a 456-foot lift hill, spending a second on top of the world, and then plummeting straight down (with a spiral twist thrown in just to make sure all traces of oxygen are sucked out of your lungs), the answer is yes. This is the tallest roller coaster in the world and the fastest in North America—meaning it's definitely one of the best roller coasters in the country. For more epic sights, check out these 5 Mysterious Places You Have to See to Believe.

The Beast

The Beast Roller Coasters

Location: Kings Island, Mason, Ohio

Stats: Wood, 65 mph, 110 feet tall

At nearly 7,400 feet, this monstrosity is the longest wooden coaster on earth. It's also a rarity in that it has two lift hills, one at the accustomed start of the ride and another leading to a tumultuous grand finale. A night ride on the Beast, barreling through the pitch-black Ohio woods and climaxing with a disorienting two-tunneled double helix, is enough to bring tears to your eyes. For more bucket list adventures besides the best roller coasters, check out these 25 Adventures You Should Have Before You Die.

Superman the Ride

Superman Ride of Steel Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts

Stats: Steel, 77 mph, 208 feet tall

Many roller coasters are as tall and as fast—just not as good. This coaster simply has a great layout: It has two massive back-to-back hills and a rare extra long straightaway, which allows for a great pickup in speed. It dives into two mist-shrouded tunnels, has plenty of airtime, and finishes with a frantic finale—as all the best roller coasters do. For more family trip ideas, check out these 15 Summer Family Trips Your Teenage Children Won't Hate.

Boulder Dash

Boulder Dash Roller Coasters

Location: Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut

Stats: Wood, 60 mph, 110 feet tall

Arguably the most unconventional roller coaster in the States, the Boulder Dash is built into the side of Southington Mountain. The top of the lift hill provides enthusiasts not with the customary sweeping views, but with close-ups of ferns and dirt. The coaster then drops unsuspecting riders off a 115-foot jagged cliff and hits 65 miles per hour as it screams past boulders and woodchucks alike. For more screams, check out these 15 Most Haunted Places in America.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Nitro Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey

Stats: Steel, 80 mph, 230 feet tall

Instead of sitting in conventional cars, riders zip along in exposed wide-open chairs on this free-falling flying machine. A simple cushiony lap bar locks you in, and you're off. The unobstructed views, excessive speeds, and extreme twists and dives leave coaster-goers feeling as if they may land in nearby Philadelphia.


Ghostrider Roller Coasters

Location: Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California

Stats: Wood, 56 mph, 118 feet tall

Not the fastest or tallest wooden coaster, but definitely one of the nastiest and best roller coasters out there. Its unceasing speed, as it hurtles over 14 hills and crisscrosses throughout the immense wooden structure a dizzying ten times, has caused even the most grizzled of thrill seekers to pray he'll roll back into the station in one piece.

Magnum XL-200

Magnum XL-200 Roller Coasters

Location: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Stats: Steel, 72 mph, 205 feet tall

This, the first coaster to rise higher than 200 feet, sits on the shore of Lake Erie, providing views more breath-taking than that of any other thrill ride in the world. On a clear day, you can see Canada from the ride's peak before you drop into a careening one-of-a-kind pretzel-loop track. This machine is so popular that it has had more than 38 million passengers in just 19 seasons.

Volcano: The Blast Coaster

Volcano, The Blast Coaster Roller Coasters

Location: Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia

Stats: Steel, 70 mph, 155 feet tall

This machine is categorized as an inverted coaster, meaning the riders sit in chairs suspended from the track above. After being torpedoed out of the coaster's station, you zoom along the base of a substantial man-made volcano at breakneck speed, shoot straight out of the volcano's cone, levitate through a series of hair-raising flips, and then plummet back into the abyss—all with your feet dangling above the ground.

Lightning Racer

Lightning Racer Roller Coasters

Location: Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Stats: Wood, 51 mph, 92 feet tall

This is the first racing/dueling roller coaster built in America. It has two separate lift hills and two distinct tracks so that two trains can race and come within feet of each other during the zigzagging journey. For more on adventures with children, check out these 25 Best Ways to Travel with Children.

The Voyage

The Voyage Roller Coasters

Location: Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana

Stats: Wood, 67 mph, 163 feet tall

Similar to other wooden roller coasters, the ride on this coaster is an equally bewildering and slightly terrifying one. Don't let this feel-good park fool you–when it comes to gravity-defying turns and twists, they have the other competition beat. What's even more surprising about this coaster is the theme: the voyage of the pilgrims. At least you'll have a seatbelt for yours.

Intimidator 305

The Intimidator 305 Roller Coasters

Location: King's Dominion, Doswell, Virginia

Stats: Steel, 90 mph, 305 feet tall

This famous coaster themed after NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt shares many of its namesake's qualities—like death-defying speeds and nail-biting twists and turns. To make this coaster an even better investment of your hour (or more) in line, the track is so smooth and easy that it really does give you a feeling of gliding through the air, suspended, and entirely on your own. Don't close your eyes on this one.

El Toro

El Toro Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey

Stats: Wood, 70 mph, 181 feet tall

This wooden coaster packs all of the punch—without making you feel like you've been punched all over your body. While it's still far from a comforting ride through the woods, the newer design of this coaster feels more like gliding and less like 3 minutes of whiplash. The first drop of over 176 feet will make you cry for mercy—or wish that you hadn't just eaten that snow cone.


Diamondback Roller Coasters

Location: King's Island, Mason, Ohio

Stats: Steel, 80 mph, 230 feet tall

There's a reason why this coaster is named after one of the most feared snakes in North America. Not only that, but the limited restraints (just one small bar across your lap) make even the most adventurous rider pray for solid ground. Ride warriors, you've been warned.


Goliath Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois

Stats: Wood, 72 mph, 164 feet tall

Thanks to the modern design of this wooden coaster, featuring a thicker, wider metal covering called a "topper track," riders hang suspended in midair for what seems like hours right from the first drop of 180 feet. Not only that, but the crazy number of inversions is made even more terrifying with the lack of shoulder restraints. For more heart-racing adventure, check out The 7 Best Luxury Fitness Vacations.


Maverick Roller Coasters
Patrick McGarvey / CC BY-ND 2.0

Location: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Stats: Steel, 70 mph, 105 feet tall

While there are plenty of others that boast more astonishing stats than Maverick, the steel coaster makes up for it with grit and gusto. Right from the loading platform, passengers are hoisted up a hill and dropped 100 feet at a 95-degree angle—yeah, that's beyond straight down. Halfway through the ride, Maverick stalls in a dark tunnel, only to launch again at a killer speed of 70 mph. Hold on tight.


X2 Roller Coasters

Location: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California

Stats: Steel, 76 mph, 175 feet tall

Are you ready to enter the fifth dimension? That's the dimension creators had in mind while crafting this roller coaster—complete with rotating "wings" that spin horizontally backward and forwards, independent of the train's movement. So, not only are you approaching every hairpin turn and free-fall from different dizzying angles, but you're also doing all of this while listening to a heavy metal soundtrack curated by the creators. It's the best headache you'll ever have to endure—and one of the most entertaining, best roller coasters in the country.

Apollo's Chariot

Apollo's Chariot Roller Coasters

Location: Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

Stats: Steel, 73 mph, 171 feet tall

This Busch Gardens classic may be one of the older selections on the list, built in 1999, but it still maintains a death-defying punch with smooth precision. Your ride on Apollo's Chariot will feel like a lifetime through every twist and turn in the air.

Lightning Rod

Lightning Rod Roller Coasters

Location: Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Stats: Wood, 73 mph, 206 feet tall

When the Lightning Rod first opened in 2016, it set the record for the fastest wooden roller coaster, clocking in at a whopping 73 miles per hour. The creators of the coaster have genuinely packed lightning into this ride that stuns passengers with a stomach-churning quadruple-down element. In other words: don't miss out on taking this ride.


Cyclone Roller Coasters

Location: Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York

Stats: Wood, 60 mph, 85 feet tall

The oldest still-operating roller coaster in the country is Leap-the-Dips, in Lakemont Park, Pennsylvania. It has a maximum height of 41 feet, a drop of 9 feet, and a top speed of 10 miles-per-hour. Not so terrifying, by any measure. The Coney Island Cylone, on the other hand, is nearly as ancient—it was constructed in 1927, and has earned National Historic Landmark Status—yet offers death-defying thrills. And while it's not quite as fast nor as tall as some more modern rides, it's far and away the most terrifying of the best roller coasters in the nation. Because, again, it was made in 1927. The owners claim this monstrosity is made out of wood, but we can't shake the distinct feeling that, in actuality, it's just made out of calcified dust.

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