Feel the need for speed? Check out these bad boys
For some people, a ride on one of the world’s top roller coasters can be the entire reason to take a trip somewhere. The adrenaline rush, the thrill, the speed, the sense of danger, some people will cross the globe in search of all of these things. For that reason, we’ve rounded up what we think are some of the greatest examples of the art of the roller coaster from around the world. Hold tight!
Millennium Force, Cedar Point, Ohio, USA
Located on Lake Erie, Cedar Point is the second-oldest amusement park still operating in the USA, having opened in 1870. But it’s by no means outdated, and this coaster goes to prove it. One of 17 roller coasters in the park, Millennium Force broke six world records and coined the term giga coaster when it was completed in the year 2000. Featuring a 300-foot drop, a top speed of 150 kph and forces of up to 4.5g, it’s still regarded as one of the most thrilling rides in the world.
Located near Sandusky, equidistant between the cities of Cleveland and Toledo, Cedar Point isn’t necessarily somewhere you might think of as a charming holiday destination, but its location was precisely what gave rise to its popularity. The emergence of a more affluent middle-class in America meant that a trip to the shore was a popular way to spend your increasing amount of free time, and the park was founded to cater to that whim. Its continuing popularity and fame mean that it lives up to its claim as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World.
Oh, and an honourable mention to the Steel Vengeance coaster for giving you the feeling of being spun around in a giant metal washing machine that might take your head off at any point.
The Edge, Cebu City, the Philippines
The slowest ride on this list by a long, long way but, perversely, one of the most terrifying. Let’s put it this way: if you don’t like heights, look away now.
On the 38th floor of the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers is a track with cars designed for two people, one of whom is at the controls. In you get before the car slowly makes its way out onto a track circling the very edge of the very top of the building. And then it tips forward. It’s up to the rider at the controls to decide how far, but it’s a brave person who pushes it all the way, leaving you dangling at a 55-degree angle, 130 metres in the sky over Cebu.
The whole rooftop is basically designed for thrillseekers. As well as the coaster, there’s the Tower Zip, the world’s first urban zipline, meaning you can hurtle between two buildings 250 feet apart, and even people who want to keep their feet on the ground aren’t safe; the Sky Walk Extreme means wandering around the very edge of the building on a totally translucent glass floor with the city spread out hundreds of feet below.
Tron, Disneyland Shanghai, China
Fancy sitting astride your lightcycle and racing around at 100 kph? This is the one for you. Based on the films Tron and Tron: Legacy, the coaster zips riders inside and outside a building in the Tomorrowland section of the park, underneath a colour changing canopy that does a decent impression of recreating the film.
Compared to a lot of the roller coasters on this list, this isn’t the most extreme, but for film fans who want a bit of adventure, it’s a must. It’s also odd in the way riders are positioned; as mentioned earlier, you’re actually sitting on a lightcycle saddle and gripping the handlebars, as opposed to being strapped into a traditional seat.
Another bonus comes with the fact that if it’s not feasible to get to Shanghai, there’s a version of the ride coming to the Magic Kingdom at the Disney resort in Florida. Under construction at the moment, it’s expected to take its first riders by 2021.
Thunder Dolphin, Tokyo Dome City, Tokyo, Japan
Winding its way across rooftops at up to 130 kph, combining banking, switchbacks and two unforgettable dives, one through a building and the other through a ferris wheel (the wheel doesn’t have a centre – that’s a story for another day), Thunder Dolphin is one of the best-known roller coasters in Japan.
Located in the Tokyo Dome City amusement park in the Bunkyo district of the city, because it’s in such an urban setting and people need to wander through to get to the baseball stadium, shops, bars and restaurants, the entire park is free to enter and you only pay for the rides you’d like to sample. Feel like a bit of an adrenaline rush on your way to work? ¥1,030 ($9.35) will get you a ticket for the coaster.
Plus, on top of all that, you’ll be in Tokyo. Fantastic!
Kingda Ka, Six Flags, New Jersey, USA
A similar idea to Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster ride, this is the tallest roller coaster in the world, which is basically its raison d’être. Riders are catapulted from a standing start, hitting 206 kph in just 3.5 seconds and sent hurtling vertically upwards to a height of 140 metres before plunging head-first down the other side. Despite the entire ride lasting under 30 seconds, it’s still a sickeningly visceral experience.
In a fabulously convenient – and money-spinning – piece of planning, Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park (to give it its full name) is located between New York City and Philadelphia. Brilliantly, from New York, you can buy a combined ticket that will get you to the park by bus from either Port Authority or Penn Station, as well as into the park ($80 from Port Authority or $70 from Penn for an adult) making it a perfect day out for Big Apple-based thrill-seekers.
Do-Dodonpa, Fuji-Q Highland, Japan
55 seconds in duration and with one massive, lazy loop, the reason people ride Do-Dodonpa is for its acceleration. With an almighty whack, riders go from 0 to 180 kph in 1.56 seconds, being exposed to more g-force than astronauts experience on liftoff.
To build tension before the launch, riders hear the sound of deep, ominous drums getting gradually louder. These are taiko drums, used in ancient Japanese warfare to psyche the warriors up into a frenzy and the sound of the drums (“do do-don PA”) gives the ride its name.
There then follows a 3-2-1 countdown before the stomach-churning launch… most of the time. The designers have added a false start feature, meaning sometimes the ride will jerk forward in a failed launch, accompanied by the sound of an emergency bell, before a surprise accidental launch a couple of seconds later when riders are momentarily off-guard. Just another way this coaster can bite you.
The park itself is located in the shadow of Mount Fuji in the town of Fujiyoshida, and like Six Flags, there’s a bus-park entrance combination ticket. It’s about an hour and 40 minutes from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, and the combo ticket will set you back ¥7,800 ($70).
Expedition GeForce, Haßloch, Germany
One of Europe’s largest roller coasters, this barrels along at 120 kph and subjects its riders to seven periods of weightlessness along its 1.2 kilometre track. Consistently voted in the top 10 of the world’s best steel roller coasters, its combination of hills, drops, banked turns and bunny hops make it a challenge keeping your currywurst down. In fact, along with El Toro at Six Flags, we reckon it’s one of the most extreme coasters for air time in the world.
It’s built in the creatively-named Holiday Park, and the nearest decent-sized town is Mannheim, just to the north-east. Alternatively, Stuttgart – around 90 minutes away to the south-east – is a much bigger city if you’re planning a longer stay in Germany. There are bus transfers to the park from the railway station in Haßloch, which take roughly 20 minutes, and tickets are based on your height, the most expensive being for people over 140 centimetres, which will cost you €33.
Eejanaika, Fuji-Q Highland, Japan
Okay, I kind of promised myself I wouldn’t restrict myself to just the USA and Japan for this list, and I’ve generally succeeded, but now I’m going to cheat my own system by including two from the same park. Fuji-Q Highland has been mentioned for the Do-Dodonpa above, but this one is definitely worthy of inclusion too. Oh yes.
With a name that roughly translates to “Ain’t it great?!”, this coaster is one of very few fourth dimension rides, meaning that as well as travelling along a track, the seats can rotate forwards or backwards in a 360° spin while the ride is moving. The track itself only includes three inversions, but due to the spinniness (it’s a technical term) of the seats, riders are inverted 14 times. It’s… well, it’s pretty extreme.