Today is National Roller Coaster Day, an unofficial holiday celebrating the extreme thrill rides that millions of Americans flock to ride each year. On this day, 1878, the first wooden roller coaster was patented.
Yes, it was exactly 137 years ago that Richard Knudsen and J. G. Taylor received a U.S. patent for the first roller coaster. On their design, the four-passenger cars had to be pulled up to the top of a tower, and then shoved down a sloped railroad track. Then a second tower opposite the first would pull the car back up for the return trip. It was a very simple roller coaster design, but many were soon to follow. Just six years later, LaMarcus A. Thompson built the first Switchback Railway at Coney Island. On this improved design, the car would follow a hilly course to the other tower and then ride operators would “switch back” the car to a second track. He went on to build many more such rides across the country. Since then, the roller coaster has adapted to the rides we have today.
Many people set today aside to take a trip to a theme park. I won’t be coastering today (I just took a trip to Cedar Point), so instead I thought it might be fun to share my “roller coaster bucket list”. If I had the chance to ride any roller coaster for the first time, these would be the ones I picked:
New for 2014, Banshee became the world’s longest inverted coaster with over 4,000 feet of track. Standing at 167 feet tall and reaching a maximum speed of 68 miles per hour, the coaster relentlessly drags riders through seven inversions. And because of the hilly terrain around the ride, the loops get bigger and bigger as the ride progresses. Banshee also features strap-style restraints to prevent head-banging. I definitely want to take a trip to Kings Island at some point and experience the coaster.
Superman: Krypton Coaster
Superman: Krypton Coaster, located at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, is the world’s tallest floorless coaster (excluding dive models). With a perfectly paced layout, the coaster sends riders through six inversions, including the world’s second tallest vertical loop. I loved Rougarou at Cedar Point, so I’ll have to try out the Krypton Coaster if I ever take a trip to Texas.
Located in Tokyo, Japan, this Intamin Mega Coaster takes great advantage of its urban surroundings. With a high speed section on the rooftop of a building and a plunge through the park’s Ferris wheel, Thunder Dolphin treats riders to a thrilling experience in the middle of a city. While there doesn’t appear to be much airtime on the coaster, it still looks like a lot of fun.
Everyone has dreamed of flying. Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain challenges riders to 3,602 feet of head-first adrenaline. After a 111 foot drop, the train glides through four epic inversions including a gigantic pretzel loop.
Standing at 305 feet tall, Kings Dominion’s Intimidator 305 is a super intense Intamin Giga Coaster. With high speed turns instead of the giant hills found on similar coasters, the coaster presses riders into their seats with a force five times stronger than gravity. Themed as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt, the ride’s layout was designed to create similar feelings to those experienced in a race car.
Considered by enthusiasts to be one of the best steel roller coasters in the world, Bizarro is an Intamin Mega Coaster packed with airtime and over-banked turns. The ride starts with a 221 foot drop into a tunnel at 77 miles per hour, and the rest is pure thrill. Bizarro is often compared to Millennium Force at Cedar Point, my favorite roller coaster, so I really wish that I lived closer to Six Flags New England.
El Toro is a super-fast, super-smooth wooden coaster manufactured by Intamin. It was the first “woodie” to have prefabricated track rather than constructed on-site, making for a much smoother ride than traditional woodies. El Toro features an almost vertical drop and numerous ejector airtime hills throughout its layout, making it many enthusiasts’ favorite wooden roller coaster.
I am a big fan of B&M Hyper Coasters. They are fast, smooth, and packed with airtime. From what I’ve heard, Diamondback is no exception. Standing at 230 feet tall, the coaster’s layout is hill after hill after hill of ejector airtime. Until the end, that is – Diamondback features a splashdown finale, which in my opinion is a cool add to the coaster. Now I have two coasters on my bucket list from Kings Island. I really do need to take a trip there sometime…
Meet Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. Launching from 0-149 miles per hour in just 4.8 seconds, the ride is so fast that riders are required to wear goggles to protect their eyes. But there’s more to the coaster than just the launch – the train zips around a 6,790 foot course complete with wide turns and bunny hops. I’ve ridden Top Thrill Dragster and loved the intense acceleration, but wished that the ride was longer. If I ever make it to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, I’ll really have to see how Formula Rossa measures up.
New Texas Giant
Rocky Mountain Construction created an entire new category of roller coasters with their conversion of the old Texas Giant wooden coaster at Six Flags Over Texas. During an 18-month refurbishment process, RMC stripped off the old wooden track and replaced it with steel I-Box track that could do feats previously unattainable on wood coasters. The lift hill of the coaster was heightened and the drop made steeper. Several over-banked turns were added and the layout was improved overall. The finished product was magnificent.
Today enthusiasts recognize this groundbreaking coaster as flawless and I think it deserves to be #1 on my bucket list. Watch an on-ride video of New Texas Giant below:
Do you have a roller coaster bucket list? Feel free to share it in the comments section below. Have a great Roller Coaster Day 2015!
Read next: Top New Roller Coasters for 2016