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Celebrate National Roller Coaster Day on 1 of the 10 best coasters in the US

Aug. 16, 2022
7 min read
photo of people with their hands in the air while riding a class rollercoaster
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The anticipation building as you climb the track before the first drop, the delighted screams as your stomach dips with the fall, the wind whipping through your hair, the adrenaline pumping through your veins … for thrill-seekers, there’s something uniquely freeing about roller coasters.

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The U.S. is home to some of the best roller coasters in the world, and you can celebrate National Roller Coaster Day — Aug. 16 — this year by hopping on one of these coasters.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster

The VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando/Facebook)

One of the newest roller coasters in the U.S. is the Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando.

The ride will take you 155 feet high at up to 70 mph on 4,700 feet of track. There’s a barrel roll over water, two high-speed launches, a zero-gravity inverted stall and an 80-degree drop after the tallest peak of the ride.

This isn’t the tallest or fastest coaster on this list, but the VelociCoaster has also been heralded for its immersive queue experience that tells a story as you wait to board the ride. You’ll even see lifelike animatronic raptors.

Fury 325

Fury 325 at Carowinds in North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Carowinds)

If you’re near Charlotte, check out Fury 325 at Carowinds amusement park. This hornet-themed ride will send you down a 325-foot drop with twists and turns at speeds up to 95 mph — and that first drop is a doozy.

Fury 325 is also one of the longest coasters in the U.S., measuring 1.25 miles in total. Roller coasters tend to offer short-lived thrills, but you’ll get a good bit of ride time out of this coaster.

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the newest thrill ride at Disney World's Epcot and my new favorite theme park attraction. Thematically, this coaster is one of the best, with an intricate "Guardians of the Galaxy" backstory and a story that plays out from the moment you step into the queue until the moment you step off the ride.

Related: 13 new attractions and offerings coming to Disney World in 2022

This coaster strikes a balance between thrilling and family-friendly. There are no inversions or monstrous drops and the minimum height requirement is only 42 inches, but the ride does move pretty quickly (up to 60 mph) and once you hit the reverse launch at the start, there's really no slowing down.

Superman: Escape from Krypton

Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California has been around for a decade now (the first version of the ride actually debuted in 1997) and remains one of the best roller coasters in the U.S.

With top speeds of 100 mph and a maximum height of 413 feet, it’s still one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the country. Plus, this is a reverse freefall coaster, which means you’ll be hurtling at high speeds while going backward.

Ice Breaker

(Image courtesy of Sea World)

SeaWorld Orlando is breaking more than just the ice with its newest addition. Ice Breaker is the park's first launch coaster and breaks the record for the steepest vertical drop in the state of Florida.

The coaster moves through four forward and backward launches and 13 air-time twists and turns that will certainly wake up the butterflies in your stomach.

Kingda Ka

The top of Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. (Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is home to the tallest roller coaster in the world, Kingda Ka. It soars 456 feet in the air, sending passengers along the track at speeds up to 128 mph.

It’s a short ride, but you’ll be screaming the entire time. You go from zero to 128 in just 3.5 seconds up a 90-degree hill. Then, you’ll drop right back down in a 270-degree spiral. All in all, it takes less than a minute, but it’s still worth it.

Iron Gwazi

Iron Gwazi. (Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)

Iron Gwazi opened at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in March 2022, but it isn't entirely new. The hybrid steel and wooden coaster was inspired by and built using elements from its predecessor, a wooden roller coaster that opened in 1999 simply called Gwazi.

With a 206-foot-tall drop and a top speed of 76 mph, Iron Gwazi is the tallest hybrid coaster in the country and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world.

Outlaw Run

The Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City. (Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City/Facebook)

Most of the coasters on this list are made of steel, but Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, breaks the mold as a wooden roller coaster. The wooden track matches the general “old-timey” aesthetic of Silver Dollar City, but it doesn’t hinder the ride’s thrill factor.

It’s one of the shorter coasters on the list at only 107 feet tall, but you’ll reach speeds of up to 68 mph while looping through three inversions throughout the ride. The primary drop is 162 feet at an 81-degree angle.

Wonder Woman Flight of Courage

Wonder Woman Flight of Courage. (Photo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain)

It takes a special kind of coaster to be deserving of the "Wonder Woman" moniker, and this red-and-gold single-rail coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain is the longest single-rail coaster on the planet.

Wonder Woman Flight of Courage soars through the sky at speeds of up to 58 mph along more than 3,300 feet of track. You may not gain any super powers from riding this coaster, but you'll certainly feel like a superhero after conquering it.

The Voyage

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The Voyage at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, is one of the most merciless wooden roller coasters you can ride. The track is more than a mile long, making for a ride time of nearly three minutes — and there are very few breaks during that time.

Related: 11 regional theme parks that are closer to home but just as fun as the big names

The ride hits a top speed of 67 mph and has the most airtime of any wooden coaster as it takes you through multiple banked turns, stomach-dropping falls and underground tunnels.

Bottom line

For many, roller coasters are the highlight of any theme park experience.

But keep in mind that coasters aren’t for everyone. They aren’t suited for small kids — all have a height requirement (usually at least 41 inches). Additionally, roller coasters aren’t always the most size-inclusive attractions for plus-size travelers.

In my personal experience, rides at Six Flags and other smaller theme parks actually tend to be better about inclusivity than Universal Studios, but it is something to keep in mind before you plan your trip.

For those who can ride these top coasters, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more thrilling coasters in the U.S.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
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  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
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