To some, any roller coaster is a scary roller coaster. But to the brave at heart, the faster they come, the bigger they smile.
Does that sound like you? Do you laugh in the face of 300-foot drops, four Gs of acceleration, or top speeds north of 100 miles per hour? If so, then you might want to plan a road trip to check out this collection of America's biggest, fastest, tallest, and all-out craziest coasters.
Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ
Towering over the New Jersey landscape, Kingda Ka is the world's tallest roller coaster -- and when it opened in 2004, it was the world's fastest, too. The jungle-themed ride uses a hydraulic mechanism to rocket riders to speeds in excess of a hair-raising 130 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. If that's enough to make your stomach churn, look away now: next up for Kingda Ka's intrepid riders is a 456-foot, near-vertical, twisting climb…and a corresponding plummet down the far side. The fun's all over in under half a minute, but trust us, it feels like forever.
El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ
Once you've recovered from Kingda Ka, simply turn around and stare your next challenge in its rickety wooden eyes — the terrifying El Toro is right next door. Whereas Kingda Ka is all glossy steel, high-tech and gleaming, El Toro is built out of old bits of dead tree. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course: some of history's greatest rollercoasters are made of wood. Most of them, however, are smaller, slower, and a fair share mellower than this rocking, rollicking beast. El Toro's towering 188-foot crest makes it the third tallest wooden roller coaster in the world.
Intimidator 305, Kings Dominion, Doswell, VA
Named in memory of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator doesn't quite reach the pace of a NASCAR race, but with a top speed of around 90 mph, it's not too far off. It boasts no fewer than five hills so sharp you'll be weightless as you hurtle over them -- one, indeed, had to be toned down last year after riders complained it was causing them to lose consciousness. Completed in 2010 at a total cost of around $25 million, its 300-foot drop is one of the largest in the world.
Big Shot, Stratosphere Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
On paper, Big Shot isn't all that impressive in this company. With a top speed of about 45 mph, it's not particularly fast, and its simple up-and-down path covers a modest 160 vertical feet. But as your friendly neighborhood realtor will tell you, location is everything -- and the Big Shot happens to be perched atop the tallest structure in Las Vegas, the hundred-storey Stratosphere hotel. So while you're being slung up its steel track at an acceleration of over four Gs, your feet are dangling in mid-air above the immeasurable glitz and glamor of the Strip. Over one thousand feet above it, to be exact. Gulp. Word to the wise: save your visit to Stratosphere's extensive dining facilities for after the ride.
Superman: Krypton Coaster, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio, TX
You don't need to be the Man of Steel to ride this coaster. Nerves of steel would not go amiss, however. Appropriately, it's a floorless ride, slinging you over 50 yards into the skies over Texas, with your legs dangling merrily in the breeze. Along the way you'll take in no fewer than six inversions, not to mention a turn around the world's largest complete vertical loop. And although its 70 mph top speed is not quite faster than a speeding bullet, you'll find it's plenty fast enough.
- roller coaster
- Kingda Ka