Summer has arrived, and scores of thrill seekers have begun to visit their favorite amusement parks as they test their mettle on looping, free-falling roller coasters.
Many historians credit Russians with inventing the first roller coasters, which may have been inspired by Russian ice slides. However, others suggest it was the French who first added wheels to slides and therefore created something that resembles the modern-day roller coaster.
LaMarcus Adna Thompson, an American inventor widely considered the father of gravity rides, obtained a patent for roller coasters on Jan. 20, 1885. Thompson worked on Switchback Railway, which opened at Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1884. Coney Island would one day become home to another historical roller coaster when, in June of 1927, the Cyclone opened. Still functional to this day, the Cyclone has been declared a New York City landmark.
Today roller coasters are found all over the world, and North America plays home to several top-rated roller coasters. Thrill seekers can make summer pilgrimages to amusement parks to determine if the following coasters live up to their reputations.
- Leviathan: The Leviathan coaster is located at Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario. It makes top roller coaster lists because of its size and speed. Leviathan can travel 92 mph (140 km/h).
- Millennium Force: This thrilling coaster in Ohio’s Cedar Point Park reaches a maximum height of 310 feet and can top speeds of 93 mph. Amusement Today magazine routinely ranks this coaster as one of the best in the world.
- The Desperado: Riders can plummet 225 feet at 80 mph on this coaster located at Buffalo Bill’s Casino in Nevada. Expect some free-floating air time and amazing views of the desert.
- Nitro and Kingda Ka: These two coasters are located at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. Nitro is a steel coaster with 5,394 feet of track. A series of large drops and various curves keep thrill seekers happy. Kingda Ka is the tallest and second fastest coaster in the United States. The train is launched by a hydraulic mechanism that takes riders from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds and climbs to the top of the main tower, a height of 456 feet.
- Apollo’s Chariot: Opened in 1998, this coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia features eight air-time hills.
- New Texas Giant: For many years, visitors to Six Flags Over Texas enjoyed the famed wooden roller coaster “Texas Giant.” But over the years the ride became rough and uncomfortable so, in 2011, the park unveiled the New Texas Giant after an 18-month refurbishment to replace the track with steel.
These are just a few of the coasters that dot North America’s amusement park landscape. Thrill seekers unable to make it to any of these legendary rides can no doubt get their thrills on coasters closer to home.