Stay on Track for a Great Roller Coaster Experience

Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia all are fine states, scenic and inviting. All are rich in vacation experiences.

Just not if you want to ride roller coasters.

In early 2014, the census section of the Roller Coaster DataBase listed over 650 active roller coasters in the United States. There were 10 in those states combined.  No, if you’re looking for speed, loops and inversions, you might want research California, the runaway leader. But if you’re looking for destinations where excellent roller coasters are just part of an overall great vacation experience,  consider these:

Check Out These Places – Top Destinations for Roller Coasters

Las Vegas/Primm, Nevada

If  you’ve read about the resort famous for awarding lifetime passes for the house roller coaster to anyone who can finish the resort-signature six-pound burrito and think you’re up to it, sorry. Too late.

The legendary Sahara closed in 2011 and razed, including the NASCAR Cafe and  SPEED-The Ride. In its place at the north end of the strip, a new SLS Hotel & Casino is scheduled to open in 2014 and word is the iconic six-pound burrito could make a comeback. But in what can be construed only as a setback for the antacid industry, there will be no coaster there to hop on after devouring the monstrosity. That does nothing to diminish the reputation Las Vegas has grown among roller coaster aficionados as a destination for great thrills beyond the blackjack table and nickel slots.Manhattan Express

The Big Apple Coaster, which some may know as The Roller Coaster,  is the biggest of the coasters on the Las Vegas Strip. Circling New York-New York on a 4,777-foot track, trains reach a height is 203 feet and traverse two loops, including a heartline twist, at a staggering 67 mph. It’s definitely not for the timid, but thanks to comfort upgrades in recent years, it’s not as hard on your neck and shoulders as it might have been years ago. In all, it’s a must-ride Las Vegas roller coaster!

Beneath the Circus Circus Adventuredome, there is a serious loop coaster called the Canyon Blaster. Don’t let the pink paint or 41 mph top speed fool you. The thrills on this indoor track include two loops and a double corkscrew. It’s well worth the visit.

Here’s something also worth a visit, albeit after a 40-mile drive: the Desperado, at Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino in Primm, Nevada, just this side of the California state line. The Desperado doesn’t have any loops but doesn’t need them to thrill you. Not only does it reach 80 mph at peak speed, it’s also a hypercoaster. That means it features a drop in excess of 200 feet—in this case 225 feet, at 4G. In the mid-1990s, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Desparado as the world’s tallest roller coaster.

Tampa, Florida

Now let’s move to Florida. At Busch Gardens® Tampa, there is Montu, with seven inversions and almost 4,000 feet of track. The biggest, baddest inverted Florida roller coaster, the ride reaches speeds of more than 60 mph and thrills with 104- and 60-foot vertical loops. The three-minute ride is a winner with G-force of 3.85.

At the same park SheiKra captures the power and speed of an African hawk. The ride features floorless cars, a genuine 90-degree dive and an Immelmann loop (one that turns you out at the apex of the loop and then allows you to drop dramatically). The second vertical dive plunges riders into an underground tunnel, assuming your eyes are open and you notice such things. It’s another  the tallest coaster out of any of the Florida amusement parks.

Orlando/Lake Buena Vista, FloridaRock n Roller Coaster

In Orlando, you can’t miss with any of the big coasters at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. The Incredible Hulk Coaster™ is wicked and fast and incorporates a 150-foot tunnel along with rolls, corkscrews and other surprises. Dragon Challenge® sends riders on two separate Harry Potter-inspired tracks—the Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail—on course for three near-collisions high off the ground, each time with one scant foot of clearance.

If you like a little more theme with your thrills, you can’t go wrong with Universal Studios’ Revenge of the Mummy, Disney’s Animal Kingdom®‘s Expedition Everest, or the celebrated darkness of Space Mountain® at Magic Kingdom. If you can handle high volume along with high speed, you’ll probably like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios™. Universally accepted as one of the best Orlando thrill rides is SeaWorld’s massive Kraken. The soul of the sea monster is unleashed in this looping thrill ride.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hershey ParkThe best coaster town in the Northeast is arguably Hershey, Pa. And it only takes one theme park to put this small town on the big map, coaster-wise.

The park is Hershey Park™ and the coasters are fast, furious and famous. The experiences of  HersheyPark™—there will be 12, once  Cocoa Cruiser opens in 2014—that the park grades them from 1 to 5. There are some respectable 3s and some attention-getting 4s, but for fanatics, coasters with a rating of 5 are the rides of note. There are six HersheyPark™ roller coasters with a 5-rating, which are dubbed “aggressive thrill rides.” They aren’t kidding.

There’s the classic wooden  Wildcat, with 3,100 feet of clackety track. There’s the Sooperdooperlooper for those who love their loops. There’s the Great Bear—a looping, inverted steel coaster that dangles riders below the track and includes an Immelmann loop. And there’s the boomerang-style Sidewinder—a wicked combination of loops that keeps you guessing. To many aficionados, the roller coaster experience reached apex with the debut in 2004 of Storm Runner, a hydraulic-launch coaster that takes you to 72 mph in a mere 2 seconds.

That’s just the beginning.Kid Roller Coaster

There also is an 18-story ascent and a straight-down dive, plus a 135-foot cobra loop, barrel rolls and an experience called a flying snake dive that may be the most intense thrill in the entire 58-second experience. Don’t bother trying to breathe. And if that wasn’t enough, 2008 introduced Fahrenheit—a vertical lift, inverted loop coaster that combines a 90-degree, 121-foot ascent followed abruptly by a 97-degree (yes, beyond straight down) drop. To finish off the experience, Fahrenheit gives you a cobra roll, an inverted corkscrew and an airborne, inverted S-roll. While not the fastest coaster at only 58 mph, it is utterly unique—a real coaster to separate the weak from the strong, if not you from every loose coin in your pocket.

Ready to vacation on the very edge? Try these destinations. You’re in for a very wild ride at some of the top roller coasters in the country.