You sit down in the seat, the harness clicks down and secures you, you grip tightly to the handlebars as the car jerks and begins to creep forward. You climb the uphill incline to the ominous soundtrack of the “Click, click click...” Then, as you reach the top, gazing down into the abyss, you're jolted forward to begin a fast-paced, whirlwind ride. Some scream, some sit with clenched jaws in stunned silence and some... well, some sit it out because it's just that terrifying.
The origins of the first roller coaster have been heavily debated. Some historians believe that roller coasters date back to 17th century France, while others believe the first roller coaster hails from the “Russian Mountains” supposedly built on hills of ice using wooden beams and reaching 50-80 feet in height descending downwards with 50 degree drops. Wherever it came from, the roller coaster made its way to the United States in 1827 when the 'Mauch Chunk Gravity Railroad' cropped up in Pennsylvania. Today, roller coasters remain one of the most popular parts of theme park entertainment.
In the United States alone, there are over 500 major roller coasters, and thousands worldwide with new and more extreme contraptions emerging yearly. For those who like their extreme sports with a side of health-and-safety, roller coasters are the ultimate in chained-in and (normally) totally secure adrenaline rushes. Engineers are continuously designing new roller coasters with new and unique selling points and with so many different ideas and designs it can be hard to predict which ones will be the most popular until the ride is constructed.
We've compiled a list of the 10 most popular roller coasters around the world that continue to draw in large crowds - some have the fear factor, some are purely entertaining and some have a cult following, but all these rides have earned their spots at the top.
10 Coney Island Cyclone – Coney Island, New York, USA
One of the oldest working roller coasters in the United States, the Coney Island Cyclone was built in 1927 and still remains one of the most popular wooden roller coasters in the world. It was recently restored, and has been declared a New York City landmark attracting innumerable swarms of tourists yearly. The ride has a height of 85 feet and reaches speeds of 60 miles per hour. Compared to modern day roller coasters thrill seekers may roll their eyes, but for those who enjoy history, nostalgia, and not-so-fast fun, it continues to remain a hit.
9 Dragon Khan – Salou, Spain
Located at the Port Aventura theme park in Spain, Dragon Khan set the world record upon its opening in 1995 for having 8 inversions, and held that record until 2002 when Colossus opened in the United Kingdom. When Port Aventura opened, Dragon Khan was one of two roller coasters in the park. The ride is based on the story of Prince Hu of Beijing who was reincarnated into a dragon, and would unleash his fury every time a human dared to ride on his back.
8 Silver Star – Rust, Germany
Located at Europa-Park in Rust, Germany, the Silver Star opened in 2002 and was built by Swiss manufacturer Bollinger and Mabillard. Europa-Park is the largest theme park in Germany, and the second most popular theme park after Disneyland Paris. Silver Star stands at 240 feet tall with speeds at 79 miles per hour, classing it as one of the most extreme 'hyper coasters' in the world. It's a gorgeous, sleek work of art too, and is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz.
7 Dodonpa – Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan
Set in the foreground of the famous Mount Fuji, Dodonpa is located at Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Japan. On its release this coaster was cutting edge, as only the second ever roller coaster in the world to use compressed air to launch the cars. Opening in 2001, it attained the title of fastest roller coaster of the year as well as the record for fastest acceleration. Today, it's still the fourth fastest roller coaster in the world. Dodonpa remains unbeatable when it comes to acceleration so if you're a thrill seeker, Dodonpa is the must-ride roller coaster for that classic adrenaline rush.
6 Leviathan – Vaughn, Ontario, Canada
The Leviathan currently rules as Canada’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with its home in Canada’s Wonderland. It opened in 2012 and was the fist roller coaster manufactured by the Swiss company Bollinger and Mabillard. The media buzz and anticipation surrounding this ride became so feverish that Canada’s Wonderland launched an auction to select the first 96 riders from the general public. The auction raised over $40,000 for the charity, with the highest bid for a single seat going for $1,000. The ride is 5,486 feet long with a height of 306 feet and accelerates up to 92 mph, making it one of the top 10 fastest roller coasters in the world as well.
5 Tower of Terror II – Queensland, Australia
Opening in 1997 at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia, The Tower of Terror II was the first roller coaster of its time to reach 100 miles per hour. The ride was originally known as Tower of Terror but was closed for modifications and re-launched in 2010. Tower of Terror II is a reverse free fall roller coaster using “escape pods” as the cars for the ride.
4 Millennium Force – Sandusky, Ohio, USA
Located at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Millennium Force is among one of the top ten roller coasters in the United States and has become one of the most popular in the world since its launch in 2000. The roller coaster clocks in at 93 miles per hour, which is no surprise since Cedar Point is known for their range of extra fast roller coasters. The Millenium Force is used as the backdrop for the theme park’s night show called, “Luminosity – Ignite the Night!” But what makes Millennium Force stand out above the rest is its innovative use of the magnetic braking system instead of using traditional friction, and its breaking of six world records including tallest complete-circuit roller coaster.
3 Steel Dragon 2000 – Mie Prefecture, Japan
Steel Dragon 2000 boasts one of the longest tracks in the world at over 8,000 feet long with speeds of 95 miles per hour. Located at Nagashima Spa Land in Japan, this roller coaster was named after the Chinese year of the dragon. The cost of building Steel Dragon ran to over $50 million due to the additional steel needed to make the ride earthquake-safe. The roller coaster utilizes a traditional lift hill, meaning the first climb takes a significant amount of time, but the rider will be in for a thrilling and top speed experience on the way down.
2 Kingda Ka – Jackson, New Jersey, USA
Kingda Kai is located at Six Flags Great Adventure park in Jackson, New Jersey, and holds the title of tallest steel roller coaster in the world, as well as having the longest steel drops in the world today. This roller coaster opened in May of 2005 and continues to draw in large crowds of thrill seekers willing to take on this multiple record holder. Kingda Ka is currently the world’s tallest and second fastest roller coaster, so it's unsurprising that this roller coaster is one of the most popular rides in the world.
1 Formula Rossa – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Opening in 2010 at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, Formula Rossa currently holds the record of the world’s fastest roller coaster with speeds of 150 miles per hour. With a record like this, it attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. Using a hydraulic launch, it only takes seconds for the car to reach its speed as it's launched onto the tracks - meaning, incredibly, riders shoot from zero to 150mph in 5 seconds. The Italian racetrack Autodromo Nazionale Monza inspired the roller coaster itself. Formula Rossa goes so fast that riders are given protective glasses to wear, like skydivers, as they descend at top speed in their red cars.
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