“You don’t need a degree in engineering to build roller coasters; you need a degree in psychology,” quipped John Allen, the designer behind the Great American Scream Machine — the world’s tallest (105 feet) and fastest (57 miles per hour) roller coaster of 1973, which remains in operation today at Six Flags Over Georgia. Four decades of ante-upping, record-breaking coaster innovation later, what we really need is a Ph.D. in bravery just to ride these things. Here are five of the best scream machines that will get your adrenaline pumping.
With summer just around the corner, we conduct a roll(er) call to see which coasters theme park enthusiasts shouldn’t miss.
A dozen years may have already passed since this steel game-changer broke all sorts of records, including tallest (over 300 feet) and fastest (93 miles per hour) closed-circuit roller coaster on the planet. Those records have since been shattered by newer models, but the inspiration for 21st-century “giga-coaster” technology is still right here — towering over the edge of Lake Erie, where breathless passengers can (very briefly) view Canada on a clear day before dropping at an 80-degree angle into more than a mile of overbanked turns, parabolic hills, howling helixes and roaring tunnels.
Six Flags Great Adventure
If you absolutely have to ride the world’s fastest roller coaster, then it’s time to head off to Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World for a 149.1-miles-per-hour spin on Formula Rossa. Otherwise, Kingda Ka, the world’s second-fastest roller coaster, should more than suffice. Jetting passengers through 59 seconds of giddy terror deep in the Golden Kingdom section of the park, this feared and revered giant is still the highest roller coaster there is, topping out at 456 feet and reaching a nose-flattening 128 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 90-degree vertical spiral for good measure.
Santa Claus, Ind.
Wooden roller coaster traditionalists got their nemesis with this relentless hybrid (wood tracks, steel structure), which has garnered five straight Best Wooden Roller Coaster Golden Ticket Awards from Amusement Today since debuting in 2006. Themed after the Pilgrims’ voyage to America, the 1.2-mile, out-and-back ride features a harrowing 154-foot, 66-degree drop; 90-degree banks; eight underground-tunnel moments; and 24.2 seconds of weightlessness. Hard to imagine the Pilgrims experiencing anything quite like this.