Along with 4th of July cookouts and beach vacations, no summer is truly complete without a trip to an amusement park. And as far as amusement-park attractions go, roller coasters are king. From rumbling wooden mazes of twists and turns to skyscraping steel hills to stomach-churning loops, different coasters offer very different thrills. Which ones are the best right now, though? Look no further, intrepid conqueror of coasters: here are our 10 best roller coasters to hit up during the 2017 season.
Alvy Singer's childhood home may be a thing of the past, but children are still developing nervous personalities in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. The latest culprit is Luna Park's Thunderbolt, the first custom-built roller coaster in Coney Island since 1927. Stretching 125 feet into the air, The Thunderbolt has it all: loops, drops, and a spiraling view of the New York skyline.
While its dizzying features—an about-facing initial drop, over a dozen hills, and countless train-contorting twists and turns—make the new-for-2017 Mystic Timbers a worthy entrant into our top 10, its accompanying storyline presents just as much of a draw. The ride is themed around a fictional logging company doomed by its tree-slashing greed and taken over by the haunted wilderness surrounding the ride. A spooky and mysterious finale awaits passengers in the vine-covered shed at the end of the track.
If you're taking a trip to Cedar Point, roller coasters should fill your list of things to do in the park. And near the top of that list should be Maverick, a bucking steel coaster nestled in the park's northwest corner. Instead of a traditional crawl up the initial hill, Maverick shoots riders upward via a magnetic propulsion system before tumbling them downward at a 95° angle—yep, the first hill is steeper than a perfectly vertical drop.
A fitting homage to its maniacal namesake, The Joker (which can be found at Six Flags' Great America, Great Adventure, New England, and Over Texas parks) turns the very idea of a roller coaster on its head. Riders sit directly beside the track in swiveling seats that spin and flip over the course of the track, giving thrill-seekers a weightless, out-of-control feeling that lives up to the coaster's "free-fly" label.
Aside from its massive frame, the first thing a would-be rider might notice about Six Flags' Goliath roller coaster is its odd construction: its wooden track sits atop a steel frame that helps give it a ride that's smoother than the typical wood-coaster experience. That's about as nice as Goliath gets, though: it sends riders through a 180-foot first drop, top speeds of 72 miles per hour, two breathtaking inversions, and a spiraling inverted zero-G stall.
It's been around a while, but Lake Compounce's Boulder Dash remains one of the best roller coasters in America. The classic out-and-back design bounds over what seems like countless hills and jumps, and the thickly wooded terrain through which it cuts makes the 60mph top speed feel much faster.
Millennium Force's record-breaking hill (when built, it was the first coaster to break the 300' barrier) is one of the first things guests see on their approach from the Ohio mainland, serving as a fitting monument to the park's focus on top-notch thrills. The ride lives up to the view: a near-straight-down first drop catapults riders along a course that combines blistering speed, weightless bunny hills, and heavily banked turns.
If you're looking for adrenaline-pumping thrills, Kingda Ka has no equals in the roller-coaster world. At 456', it's the tallest roller coaster on the planet. It reaches that summit after launching its cars up a vertical tower after an initial launch that tops 125mph. And after all that, Kingda Ka is only halfway finished with its riders, who are sent all the way back down the opposite tower and taken over a small (by this ride's standards) 129' hill before returning to the safety of the station.
Sometimes, the scariest part of an amusement-park ride is the surprise of not knowing what's next—what's lurking around the corner. In this respect, Superman the Ride more than delivers. It starts right off the bat, when its 208' main hill drops riders 221' thanks to a tunnel dug into the ground. After that, it's a frantic, high-speed chase among cutouts of Metropolis's buildings that hide the next hill or twist and keep the excitement at a maximum.
Since its opening two years ago, Fury 325 has topped the lists of best roller coasters by both amateur coaster fanatics and professional groups; it even received Amusement Today's vaunted Golden Ticket award for best steel coaster in 2016. It's easy to see why: a massive first drop and eye-watering top speed are but a couple of the highlights riders experience on Fury 325's track, which stretches to 1.25 miles, making it one of the longest coasters in the world.