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(Updated: 8/25/08)

I admit it, I’m a theme park junkie. I also consider myself an expert in the Theme Park field and have visited nearly all of the Top 50 Most Attended parks in North America. I was born and raised in Southern California, lived in Orlando, Florida for five and a half years and now live in North Carolina. In my lifetime I’ve managed to ride over 280 different coasters, so I consider myself a fairly well rounded junkie.

Coasters represent to me the Ultimate Thrill. These monstrous machines are not only some of the world’s largest works of art, but they can be your key to Nirvana. Raging forces tear at your body from all directions while your brain sends chemicals to your every cell to compensate. The fusion like result sends your soul to another state of being, if just for a few moments.

So without any further ramblings, I give to you my TOP COASTERS list!

"The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails,
whereon my soul is grooved to run.

Over unsounded gorges,
through the rifled hearts of mountains,
under torrents' beds, unerringly I rush!"

Herman Melville "Moby Dick"

1) Thunderhead (Dollywood) - Thunderhead (from Great Coasters International) toppled GhostRider from the top of my list. From start to finish, Thunderhead simply does not let up, seeming to get faster and faster with each twist and drop, delivering loads of airtime pops throughout and a very unique layout that includes the first station fly-through.


LightningRacer_mini2) Lightning Racer (Hersheypark) - Perhaps the best racing coaster ever built, Lightning Racer creates a unique combination of dueling head on rushes and aerial manuvering that is more like what you would expect from two racing jet fighters. You are constantly aware of the other train as you jockey for position to cross the finish line first. I can’t believe that more parks haven’t tried to copy this formula yet and the frosting on the cake is that no matter if you choose Lightning or Thunder, you’ll be riding in style on a GCI Millennium Flyer train.


3) GhostRider (Knott’s Berry Farm) - At long last, California has a top rated wood coaster! Even better, this is the first real coaster in California that offers serious Airtime! This UNRELENTING monster is a SPEED DEMON. Defying the laws of physics it seems to get faster as it goes on.


4) Shivering Timbers (Michigan’s Adventure) - Though it stands only 125 feet tall, anyone looking at the endless mountain range tall hills stretching off into the distance would swear that it must be closer to 200 feet tall. If that wasn’t enough, Shivering Timbers is over a mile in length... with an intense layout that does not stop from the first drop to the fast helix finish as it ranks in just barely behind GhostRider.


5) Phoenix (Knoebels Amusement Resort) - In a former life this coaster was known as The Rocket before it was moved from San Antonio, Texas. Saved and rebuilt at historic Knoebels it stands as the symbolic Phoenix. This is one wild ride my friends, starting with a fun tunnel and ending with a treasure trove full of Airtime.


6) The Beast (Paramount’s Kings Island) - With an all new trim braking system, The Beast seems to be reborn as it flys through the woods with incredible and unrelenting SPEED. Want to make your ride even better? Try a ride at night just before the park closes when you can ride in total darkness.


7) Dania Beach Hurricane (Boomers!) - While at first glance it doesn’t look to be the biggest or best coaster, you’ve really just got to ride this thing to appreciate it. Of course, first you’ll have to find yourself down in South Florida near the Ft. Lauderdale area. This thing has plenty of lateral moves and more than enough Airtime. Plus the thing is built into a FEC park complex that also features a Skycoaster, Slingshot and the world’s longest Go-Kart track.


8) Cornball Express (Indiana Beach) - Built and intended to be a family coaster, the Cornball Express exceeded those expectations rather quickly as the small coaster was found to be loaded with Airtime hills and a short but twisted layout interwoven with several other park rides.


9) Giant Dipper (Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk) - The Giant Dipper is one of the oldest coasters in the country, having celebrated its 75th Birthday in 1999. This classic Prior & Church coaster still packs a hell of a punch and has the single best tunnel leading from the station to the lift hill that I’ve ever seen. The surprising thing is that it runs smooth as silk with Morgan California style trains, which are often despised elsewhere.

10) Roar (Six Flags Marine World) - Not only does this GCI Twister look wonderful, but it rides great thanks to the new GCI Millennium Flyer trains. This was the first coaster to put them to use, inspired by the more exposed single bench trains of the olden days. The park is lucky to have such a fine machine.

11) Colossus (Six Flags Magic Mountain)

12) Legend (Holiday World)

13) Swamp Fox (Family Kingdom)

14) Hoosier Hurricane (Indiana Beach)

15) Gwazi Tiger (Busch Gardens Tampa)

16) Roar (Six Flags America)

17) Gwazi Lion (Busch Gardens Tampa)

18) Great American Scream Machine (Six Flags over Georgia)

19) Thunderbolt (Kennywood)

20) Twister (Knoebels Amusement Resort)


Just some flesh caught in this big broken machine!!”

Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
“Happyness in Slavery”


GoliathSFOG_mini1) Goliath (Six Flags over Georgia) - A big change to the list this year as Goliath jumps right to the top #1 spot. Goliath takes this special honor from me this year for one reason above all else... it returned fear into my heart. I haven’t felt fear on a roller coaster since 1994 when I took my first ride on Desperado. I felt no fear on Goliath going up the 200 foot lift in the front row and I felt no fear taking the incredible plunge back to the Earth. Upon cresting the top of that second hill however... and upon hitting the top of every single other hill all the way back to the break run I became very reacquainted with fear. While I have experienced ‘ejector seat air time’ on a few other rides before, this was the first time I had experienced this sensation from a B&M’s Hypercoaster highchairs, and I honestly felt that I had to hang on for dear life or I would never see my wife and children again. Upon hitting the brake run my wife, who was waiting for me to do a child swap, knew something was wrong right away. According to her I looked very pale and had an expression on my face as if I wanted to throw up. Based on that alone she changed her mind about riding. I did conquer my fear later in the day however as I took on Goliath one final time before leaving that day (choosing to try the back row instead) and loved it. Goliath is simply an incredible ride and anyone who thinks B&M coasters have have become “soft” or “forceless” over the last few years should really try out Goliath and ride in the front... if you dare.


ApollosChariot_mini2) Apollo’s Chariot (Busch Gardens Europe) -
Popularity of some rides come and go as they get older, but Apollo is still a top shelf coaster that can hold it’s own years later against most newer rides. It may not be the biggest or fastest anymore, but it’s all fun and has one of the best series of drops of all time.


3) Kraken (SeaWorld Florida) -
Once again the Busch parks and B&M have teamed up to create a whole new breed of monster. Kraken is the biggest Floorless coaster built to date and many hold it to be the best of them all. Looking at the layout, it is almost as if Montu & Kumba had an offspring... bringing out the best elements from both.


4) Incredible Hulk (Islands of Adventure) -
By far one of the most incredible sit-down looping coaster on the planet. Nothing can really touch the intensity of the launch, the dives, or the variety of its seven inversions. If the Adventures of Spider-man wasn’t right next to it they would have to drag me out of this thing.


5) Montu (Busch Gardens Africa) -
The king of all B&M Inverted coasters, which I admit used to sit at my #1 spot for years until they added a few brakes to slow it down. Still, it has everything a coaster lover could want, starting with seven inversions, each which is attached to either a tunnel or a trench to increase the sensation of speed and power. Add in some great themeing, unique inversions, and it’s easy to see why Montu is still the best Inverted out there.


Alpengeist_mini6) Alpengeist (Busch Gardens Europe) -
One of the most unique B&M inverted coasters ever built, featuring incredible heights, a good mix of inversions and high speed runs through a themed landscapes. While the view from the front is incredible, there is nothing like the wild out of control and disorienting ride you get in the back during a night ride in the dark.


Fahrenheit_mini7) Fahrenheit  (Hersheypark) - While it’s not the biggest, Fahrenheit jumps right into my Top 10 list for its uniqueness. Starting out with a 121 foot vertical climb followed by the world’s first 97 (Beyond Vertical) first drop, this is just the beginning. The surprises don’t stop there as you enter the very unique Norwegian Loop element followed by a Cobra Roll, two intense Corkscrews and a wicked ejector-seat airtime hill before your done.

8) Top Thrill Dragster (Cedar Point) -
A face warping 120 mph launch followed by a climb straight up and straight down a 420 foot tower. With stats like that, Dragster is destined to be in the record books for years to come. Though the short ride is over in just 15 seconds, I was surprised to notice that I didn’t feel the slightest bit cheated by it. As simple as the ride’s layout is... Dragster does satisfy.


9) Steel Force (Dorney Park) -
Designed by Morgan, Steel Force may not be the biggest Hypercoaster but it really is one of the best examples of an out & back Hyper out there today. Smooth, fast and in a great location. Plus who really can find fault in the great series of Airtime camelbacks that run all the way back to the station.

SilverBullet_mini10) Silver Bullet (Knott’s Berry Farm) -
I’ve never been quite sure why, but for some reason Silver Bullet never seems to come up in the lists of best inverted coasters, but I have to disagree. The layout is new, different, refreshing and has some unique elements not found anywhere else. This has got to be one of the most underrated coasters out there today.

11) Magnum XL200 (Cedar Point)

12) Fire Dragon (Islands of Adventure)

13) Griffon (Busch Gardens Europe)

14) SheiKra (Busch Gardens Africa)

15) X (Six Flags Magic Mountain)

16) Goliath (Six Flags Magic Mountain)

17) Storm Runner (Hersheypark)

18) Ride Of Steel (Darien Lake)

19) Afterburn (Carowinds)

20) Millennium Force (Cedar Point)


Copyright © 1996 - 2010 by Lance Hart &  All rights reserved.