Roller coaster technology is constantly improving, but if you’re looking for a real thrill, sometimes the older coasters provide the most fun. Here are 11 classics that are still must-visits for thrill seekers.
1. Cyclone: Brooklyn, NY. Astroland (Coney Island)
The Cyclone may not be the oldest or the biggest coaster in the world, but it is arguably the most iconic. Sitting between the street and the beach on Coney Island, the Cyclone still thrills tourists and native Brooklynites alike—although a ride costs considerably more than the twenty-five cent admission fee from when it opened in 1927.
2. Leap-the-Dips: Lakemont Park. Altoona, PA
Altoona, Pennsylvania is home to some real roller coaster history. Leap-the-Dips at Lakemont Park is the oldest operating coaster in the world. Built in 1902, this is also the only surviving working example of a side-friction coaster in North America. (A side-friction roller coaster is an archaic design built without a set of up-stop wheels underneath to keep the cars from jumping off the track.)
3. Jack Rabbit: Kennywood. West Mifflin, PA
A trip to West Mifflin, Pennsylvania offers the chance to ride Jack Rabbit, a classic coaster in its own right. Built in 1920, this ride still routinely ranks high on “best roller coaster” lists. Its 70-foot drop was a massive achievement when it opened, and it will still leave your stomach in your throat.
4. The Wild One: Six Flags America. Upper Marlboro, MD
Built in 1917, this coaster called Paragon Park in Massachusetts home for decades. There, it was called “Giant Coaster” and was nearly destroyed in a fire before being rebuilt. It was eventually moved to Maryland where it was renamed “The Wild One” in 1986. This coaster’s lived a long life, but it still thrills like the day it was born.
5. The Beast: Kings Island. Mason, OH
While not necessarily an antique, The Beast was a revolutionary roller coaster when it opened in 1979 and still holds the record of the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Riders are treated to 7,359 feet of shake, rattle, and roll through the woodsy scenery of southern Ohio.
6. Blue Streak—Cedar Point. Sandusky, OH
It’s hard to believe, but Cedar Point—the Roller Coaster Capital of the World—didn’t have any coasters for over a decade starting in 1951. That all changed with the construction of Blue Streak in 1964, a classic wooden ride that started the park’s coaster boom and turned it into the destination it is today.
7. American Eagle: Six Flags Great America. Gurnee, Illinois
Like The Beast, American Eagle may not be ancient, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an iconic coaster. Located in Gurnee, just outside Chicago, this giant wooden ride is a racing coaster, meaning two cars go up the hill together and race down the 147 foot drop before separating and navigating identical track courses before a winner comes into the station first. It’s the biggest wooden racing coaster in the world, and it offers riders a truly unique experience.
8. Roller Coaster: Lagoon. Farmington, Utah
Head out to Utah for a roller coaster so classic, it’s just called, “Roller Coaster.” The twisting maze of latticed wood looks wild amongst the mountains of Farmington, and the ride is worth it for the view alone.
9. Giant Dipper: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Santa Cruz, CA
What’s more west coast than riding the Giant Dipper on the Santa Cruz boardwalk? Opened in 1924, the Giant Dipper is a coaster buff favorite and enthusiasts have been known to make pilgrimages to soak in the sun and take a “dip.”
10. Dragon Coaster: Playland Park. Rye, NY
This celebrated coaster has been thrilling riders since 1929 at Playland, one of the few government-owned theme parks in the country. (Westchester County operates the park.) The wooden Dragon Coaster gives riders a scenic view of Long Island Sound from an elevation of nearly 80 feet before zipping through a drop and careening into a tunnel that looks like the mouth of a large dragon. A ride only lasts 100 seconds, but it packs in plenty of action.
11. Revolution: Six Flags Magic Mountain. Valencia, CA
We take it for granted today, but for decades the thought of going upside-down on a roller coaster was ridiculous. As the first-ever inverted steel coaster, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Revolution forever changed that and made insane inversions the norm. Its two corkscrews and one vertical loop keep thrill-seekers satisfied (and a little dizzy) to this day.
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