Friday, January 1, 2016

My Top 10 Roller Coasters of 2015

I'm in the midst of a "Best of 2015" series of posts, and today my focus is on roller coasters. We visited a lot of parks this year, including Busch Gardens, Hersheypark, Holiday World, Kings Island, Kennywood, and Six Flags America.  Daughter Melody and I rode a bunch of coasters, too, and many crept into my personal Top 10, and a few are in my Top 5.  While my personal Top 5 includes coasters I didn't ride in 2015, the following list is for coasters ridden only in 2015.  Here is my Top 10 for 2015:

Honorable Mention:  Two coasters just missed this list.  Considering I rode almost 40 different coasters in 2015 alone, it was tough narrowing this list down to just 10.  Storm Runner is a launch coaster at Hersheypark that really made an impression on me.  Melody and I made a last-minute day-trip to Hershey, PA, on Memorial Day weekend, and, while the park was really crowded, we had fun riding about 10 different coasters that day.  Storm Runner blasts off and hits a fairly high hill, then rampages through a series of turns before ending.  The ride isn't that long, but it is very intense.  Banshee is an inverted coaster at Kings Island, near Cincinnati, OH.  I don't normally like inverted coasters.  They have a different feel than traditional steel coasters, and my body just doesn't handle the twists and turns that inverted coasters wrack on me, which tend to be more intense and frequent.  But I seemed to handle Banshee much better, and I actually enjoyed it.  It holds the record for the longest inverted coaster in the world, at 4124 feet.  It's quite a ride.

Storm Runner at Hersheypark

Banshee at Kings Island

10.  The Wild One is a wooden roller coaster at Six Flags America, near Bowie, MD.  It was originally built in 1917 as "The Giant Coaster" at Paragon Park in Nantasket Beach, MA.  It was partially destroyed by fire in 1932 and redesigned, but was again partially destroyed by fire in 1963.  It was rebuilt, but without several of its unique features.  It closed in 1985, and Paragon Park sold it to Wild World, the precursor to Six Flags America.  It opened at this, it's current location, in 1986.  I rode it that Summer and enjoyed it immensely.  It was a wild, rickety old coaster then, and it hasn't changed at all.  Melody rode it for the first time a few years ago, and we returned to the park in September.  It still packs a wallop.

The Wild One at Six Flags America

9.  Griffon is a steel coaster that opened at Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, VA, in 2007.  It is currently the fastest "dive" coaster in existence at 75 mph.  It isn't a very long ride, and it is unique in that it has three rows of ten seats, making it much wider than it is long.  It also features a pause at the very top of its 205 foot drop, creating a bit of anticipation and/or anguish, depending on how much you like such things.  It's a great ride.  Melody and I went to Busch Gardens several times this year, including in April, August, October, and again this week for Christmas Town.

The Griffon at Busch Gardens

8.  We made our first visit to Holiday World, in Santa Claus, IN, during our Summer road trip, and this very small park has several world-class coasters.  Their newest coaster, Thunderbird, opened in the Spring, and it was a pretty cool ride.  It is a steel "wing" coaster, and it features a launch system that blasts it to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds.  It also features the largest vertical loop, at 125 feet, on any wing coaster in the world.  We rode it on a very hot day, but it provided nice thrills at this very under-estimated thrill park.

Thunderbird at Holiday World

7.  Melody and I returned to Hersheypark just after Thanksgiving for their Christmas celebration.  They feature over a dozen great coasters, but the Wildcat was one my daughter decided she didn't like when she first rode it with me last year.  When we returned over Memorial Day, she wouldn't ride it based on how she felt after that first ride.  However, with only a few coasters open for the Christmas season, she agreed to ride it with me since it was running, but it took some convincing.  Wildcat is a wooden coaster that opened in 1996.  It is named after the park's first coaster, the Wild Cat, which ran from 1923 to 1945.  The ride is pretty rough, which is why Melody didn't like it initially, but we both enjoyed it a lot this time around.

Wildcat at Hersheypark

6.  We returned to Kennywood, just outside of Pittsburgh, again this year, and while it doesn't have a lot of coasters, it does contain several older classic coasters.  One of our favorites is the Thunderbolt.  The ride's name was The Pippen when it was built in 1924, but after a track expansion in 1968, it became the Thunderbolt.  Because it is built on several ravines, the coaster follows the lay of the land, and it features a drop straight out of the loading platform.  Its longest drop is 95 feet, and it reaches speeds of 55 mph.  The Thunderbolt is a unique and enjoyable ride.

Thunderbolt at Kennywood

5.  The Loch Ness Monster is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a "beginners" coaster, but this Busch Gardens classic steel coaster is still one of the greatest ever built.  It is the only remaining double-interlocking looping coaster in the world, and it was a record holder for height and speed when it opened in 1978.  It was my first major steel coaster, and maybe that's why I still love it so much.  Melody loves it, too, and it is easily our most-ridden coaster.

The Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens

4.  The Voyage surprised me.  Actually, Holiday World surprised me, too.  I didn't expect it to have these world-class roller coaster, and each coaster made an impact on me.  The Voyage is a wooden coaster that feels like an old classic ride, but was actually built in 2006.  It's ranked #4 in height for a wooden coaster, and #2 in length.  The first drop is a doozy.

The Voyage at Holiday World

3.  The Beast is another coaster that surprised me, but not because of its reputation.  It surprised me because of how much I loved it.  I knew it was a great ride.  It has a lot of supporters, as does the coaster's park, Kings Island, just outside of Cincinnati, OH.  The park might be best known as the park that the Brady kids, from the Brady Bunch TV Show, visited in one of their episodes.  The Beast is like a runaway truck coming down a mountain.  That's really the best way I can describe it.  It's the longest wooden coaster in the world, and after the first drop, it feels like it's not going to stop as it rampages deep into the woods beyond.  Melody and I rode it about a half-dozen times, and it just got better and better.

The Beast at Kings Island

2.  Apollo's Chariot surpassed the Loch Ness Monster as my favorite coaster at Busch Gardens shortly after it opened in 1999.  It is a steel "hyper" coaster, with a 210 foot drop, and it reaches speeds of 73 mph.  It features eight air-time hills.  It's a fantastic ride!

Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens

1.  Diamondback is another hyper coaster, this one at Kings Island, opening in 2009, and features a 215 foot drop with speeds of 80 mph, and ten drops across its length.  This was our first visit to Kings Island, and the coasters there are some of the best I've ever ridden.  Diamondback is very similar to Busch Garden's Apollo's Chariot, but it is just a little more intense.  What a ride!

Diamondback at Kings Island
In case you can't tell, I'm a bit passionate about roller coasters...

There's more to come!  I'll do another Top 5/Top 10 of 2015 next time.  For now, have a wonderful evening, everyone!

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