Favorite Roller Coasters of All Time


I’ve been thinking about roller coasters lately, so I decided to make a list of my all-time favorite roller coasters.  I’ll say this right off the bat that there are numerous famed roller coasters that make the “best of all-time” lists that I’ve never had the opportunity to ride, but nevertheless I think I’ve been on some good ones.  I’ve loved riding roller coasters since I was a kid when I thought that I would join the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) when I grew up, which I’ve never actually done.

I love the thrill of going up a big hill and then taking that big drop straight down, which of course leads to great speed (or at least the feeling of high velocity).  I love twists and turns and surprises along the way, as well as novel experiences that are unique to a particular coaster.  I particularly love a nice long ride with a lot of track and a combination of a number of features.  Loops and inversions are okay, but they don’t excite me as much as other features, and looping roller coasters tend to be shorter with few other thrills along the way.  For this reason I tend to favor old-fashioned wooden roller coasters, although you will see plenty of steel roller coasters in my list.  I also enjoy a roller coaster more with a bit of Disney-style theming and/or natural scenery, and feel a bit disappointed by roller coasters that run through a weed-filled lot surrounded by a chain-link fence.

NOTE: I used the names of the roller coasters and theme parks that were in use at the time I rode the roller coaster, and they may be different now.

1. Big Bad WolfBusch Gardens: The Old Country/Williamsburg

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA is the theme park I’ve spent the most time at, as my family vacationed in Williamsburg several times in the 1980s and then moved there in the 1990s.  For a few years I even had a season pass.  My favorite ride at Busch Gardens – and possibly of all-time – was the Big Bad Wolf, one of the earliest suspended coasters. The designers of this ride took advantage of its suspension by including lots of curves so that the cars would swing out and feel like they were going to crash into the buildings of a Bavarian village.  Towards the end of the ride, the train would be carried up a lift hill which we called “Oh Hell Hill,” because it hugged a hillside and only when you got to the top would you see an enormous drop down a ravine towards a river.  It was fun to sit near first-time riders and watch them at the top of the hill as their eyes bugged out and they screamed “Oh, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt!!!” (Oh Hell Hill was an inacurate, but polite nickname).  My mother, who generally hated roller coasters, absolutely loved The Big Bad Wolf.  Sadly, the ride closed in 2009, but I will always remember the joy of “Traveling at the Speed of Fright!”

2. Big Thunder Mountain RailroadWalt Disney World Magic Kingdom

This is not a fast nor particularly thrilling roller coaster, but oh is it fun!  It’s entirely possible that I rode the Disneyland version of this ride when I was six and went there with my father, but it was a visit to the Magic Kingdom two years later with my mother that remains one of the warmest memories of my childhood.  It was one of those evenings when the lines had dwindled to next to nothing so we were able to get off the ride and immediately ride again several times in a row.  This is the only other roller coaster my mother ever liked and I’ve seen it described elsewhere as The Roller Coaster for People Who Hate Roller Coasters.  It’s a simple thing really with lots of small drops, twists and turns, and theming of a mountainside and a mining town that make it a joy to ride again and again.  Two years I took my children to the Magic Kingdom for the first time, and they loved Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as well, and so we rode it again and again in the rain (and let me tell you that you get much wetter riding Big Thunder Mountain in the rain than Splash Mountain in the rain).  No matter what other big thrill rides I discover, I will always return to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the pure joy of it.

3. Coney Island Cyclone – Astroland Park/Luna Park

I felt like I spent a long part of my childhood craving to ride the famed Cyclone, but I didn’t get the opportunity to do so until I was in my 20s.  It was worth the wait, and absolutely classic wooden roller coaster with steep drops and sharp turns.  It’s all crammed into a city block so it’s hard to tell where you’re going to go next, and it’s also a long ride although it’s hard to figure where how they fit in all that track.  I rode the Cyclone last summer, and perhaps due to my growing age and size, the bumps and jolts felt significantly more violent than I recall from twent years ago.  But the Cyclone itself is approaching 100 years old in 2027, so I won’t let age be an excuse for keeping from riding it again in the future.

4. Dragon CoasterPlayland Park

The Dragon Coaster is a classic wooden roller coaster from the 1920s that is similar to the Cyclone, albeit shorter in length and height, and not achieving the same top speeds.  Nevertheless, it is not short on thrills, and as an added bonus there’s a spectacular view of the Long Island Sound from the top, and a portion of the ride passes through the darkened interior of the Dragon itself.  I also like that other Playland attractions are built within the footings of the roller coaster supports. You may know the Dragon Coaster from it’s appearance in  Mariah Carey’s video for “Fantasy” and the movies Big and Fatal Attraction. I, however, remember it as the first “big kid” roller coaster I ever rode on.

5. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden MountainWalt Disney World Animal Kingdom

While bigger and faster than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, this is another ride that’s reliant on theming and tricks to provide the thrills, rather than high speeds or drops.  Expedition Everest carries its riders up a steep hill through a temple in the Himalayas and then winds its way through a cave in the mountains until coming to a stop.  We can’t forward anymore because the Yeti has torn up the track!  So the train rolls BACKWARDS through a darkened tunnel and it feels like you’re falling forever.  After another stop where we see the shadow of the Yeti tearing up more tracks we roll forward again through more twists and turns and then through a cave for our final encounter with the Yeti as it reaches out to grab at the train.  People make jokes that the Yeti audioanimatronic doesn’t actually work the way its supposed to, but I still find it impressive.  It’s a long ride with a lot going on along the way and thus an absolute delight.

6. Loch Ness MonsterBusch Gardens: The Old Country/Williamsburg

When the Loch Ness Monster opened in 1978 it was the first roller coaster with interlocking loops, and today it is the only one left.  Many looping roller coasters of that era would’ve said that two loops was quite enough thrill and leave it at that, but the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t rely on one trick and offers a lenghty ride of 3,240 feet with a 114 foot drop and speeds up to 60 mph.  If that’s not enough the scenery is gorgeous as the track criss-crosses a river and passes through beautiful forested areas as well as ducking into a cave.  Even the queue was charmingly-themed to look as if you’d gone to Scotland to join an expedition to find Nessie.  Busch Gardens has gained a lot more newer, faster roller coasters since I’ve left Williamsburg, but if I ever return I won’t pass up another ride on the Loch Ness Monster for old time’s sake.

7. Magnum XL-200Cedar Point

20 years ago I visited my friend and fellow amusement park enthusiast in Ohio and she took me to Cedar Point, the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”  Among the many rollers coasters we rode was Magnum XL-200, the world’s first hypercoaster (meaning more than 200 feet high) with 5,106 feet of track, a 195-foot drop, and speeds up to 72 mph, with the added bonus of scenic views of Lake Erie.  In short, it’s everything I love in a roller coaster!  In the intervening decades, I’m sure Magnum XL-200 has been usurped in all of its superlatives, but I expect it’s still a great thrill to ride.

8. Outer Limits: Flight of Fear – Paramount Kings Dominion

For a period of time in the 1990s, Paramount decided to compete with Disney and Universal and make their own movie-themed park.  At Kings Dominion in Virginia that basically meant slapping names of hit movies on existing rides, but the Flight of Fear was one of the first new rides introduced under Paramount’s ownership.  At the time it was themed to the Outer Limits, but mostly I think that was because they couldn’t get the rights to the much more trendy X-Files.  The queue wound around a UFO inside an Area 51 hangar as videos showed a team of investigators dealing with creepy alien things happening around them.  To get on the ride, you’d walk up a ramp into the flying saucer itself. This was one of the first roller coasters launched by linear induction motors, and it was stunning to feel the deathly silence of the crowd of people waiting in line as they saw the coaster accelerate from 0 to 54 mph in 4 seconds.  The ride is entirely indoors in the dark, like a devious Space Mountain, and it feels like you’re spinning around a ball of yarn, with even up and down difficult to distinguish.  This is another ride I’m sure has been surpassed, but it was a unique thrilling experience back in the 90s.

9. Ultra TwisterSix Flags Great Adventure

I remember the ad below vividly and the desire to check out this intense new kind of roller coaster on a high school field trip to Great Adventure.  Ultra Twister was unique in many ways.  First, you rode straight up the lift hill, basically laying on one’s back.  What goes up must go down, so once at the top you went straight down face forward.  The ride was designed with tracks supporting it on the sides of the car so it could spin in a spiral while still moving forward.  Then the car was dropped down to a lower track and went through some spirals in reverse.  I only got to ride it a couple of times, as on later visits is was down for maitenance and then it was moved to Astroworld in Texas (which no longer exists).  While I remember enjoying the ride, it does have several faults as it was a challenge to maintain all it’s moving parts and it was a very short roller coaster with low capacity. But I am a bit disappointed that this pipeline-style roller coaster was never adapted into newer, longer, and more thrilling roller coasters, because it was definitely a unique experience. Apparently, I would have to go to Asia to find one of these in operation today.

10. WildcatHershey Park

The Wildcat is a big, wooden roller coaster in the Pennsylvania countryside which features  3,183 feet of track, an 85 foot drop, and speeds up to 50 mph, plus lots of twists, turns, ups, downs, and other surprises along the way.  The thing that’s unexpected about the Wildcat is that it opened in 1996.  When I rode it a year later, it felt a lot like the roller coaster equivalent of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards retro-ballpark revival.  The Wildcat combines the great features of classic wooden roller coasters with more modern design features.  And in the past twenty years a lot more modern wooden roller coasters have opened and I must seek them out and ride them, because it is my destiny.

So those are my top ten favorite roller coasters. Have you taken a spin on any of these classic coasters? What favorite roller coasters would you add to the list.

Doing some research for this post also prompted me to put together a wish list of 15 roller coasters in the United States that I would like to ride. Would you recommend any of these to a coaster enthusiast? And is there anything missing from this list?

Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @othemts.

  1. Apollo’s Chariot – Busch Gardens Williamsburg
  2. The Beast – Kings Island
  3. Boulder Dash – Lake Compounce
  4. El Toro – Six Flags Great Adventure
  5. Goliath – Six Flags Great America
  6. Incredible Hulk Coaster – Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  7. Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure
  8. Kumba – Busch Gardens Tampa
  9. Lightning Rod – Dollywood
  10. Maverick – Cedar Point
  11. Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort
  12. Revenge of the Mummy – Universal Studios Florida
  13. Superman: The Ride – Six Flags New England
  14. Thunderbolt – Kennywood

 

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


This has been a challenging year in music as there have been few things that have jumped out at me as being all-time classics, much less favorites for 2017.  To add to the struggle a lot of artists that I’ve counted on to produce great music put out new albums this year including Beck, Björk, Blitzen Trapper, Flaming Lips, Gorrillaz, The New Pornographers, Shamir, St. Vincent, and The xx.  What should’ve been a bumper crop of music was dissapointing, and while I would not say that any of these artists’ albums were bad, I believe that could have done better.  I don’t know, maybe I’m missing the great music of 2017, and if that is the case please direct to me to those great tunes ASAP.

Nevertheless, her are six albums from 2017 that I loved, with links to the original reviews.  Check them out!

ArtistRun the Jewels 
AlbumRun the Jewels 3  

ArtistAustra
Album:  Future Politics

ArtistPeter Mulvey
AlbumAre You Listening 

Artists:  Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up 

ArtistAlgiers
AlbumThe Underside of Power 

ArtistDowntown Boys
AlbumCost of Living 

Previously:

2016 Year In Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year and not necessarily books published in 2016.  For previous years see 201520142013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In alphabetical order:

 

And, here is every book I read this year with rankings.  (A) is for audiobook.

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values

 

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2016 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


Once again, it’s time to look back on the music of 2016 with my favorite songs of the year.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song, or other time I wrote about that band.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 2015,  201420132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

In alphabetical order, here are my ten favorite songs of the year:

Atomic Number” by case/lang/veirs

Brother, What Happened” by Muddy Magnolias

Big Bad Good” by My Bubba

“Freedom” by Beyoncé

“Mighty (feat. JFTH)” by Caravan Palace

“Quiet” by Erik Blood

To Have You Back” by Tourist

Wave of History” by Downtown Boys

Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

You Want it Darker” by Leonard Cohen

 

And here are five honorable mentions:

Augustine” by Blood Orange

Frankie Sinatra” by The Avalanches

Stranger Things” by Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein

“This Girl” by Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners

Yeah, I’m Okay With My Shit Life” by Bethlehem Steel

What were your favorite songs of 2016?

 

2015 Year In Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2015.  For previous years see 20142013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In alphabetical order (although the first book listed is also the very best book I read all year and the one I think everyone should read):

And the complete list of books read in 2015 (books published in 2015 are in bold).

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2015 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


Once again, it’s time to look back on the music of 2015 with my favorite songs of the year.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 201420132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

In alphabetical order, here are my ten favorite songs of the year:

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America Says Hello” by The Chills – It has the jangle and political passion of mid-80s R.E.M. but this is actually the return of a New Zealand post-punk band of the same period.

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Chinatown” by Girlpool – Simple emotion with folk roots and punk expression.

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“Lifted Up (1985)” by Passion Pit – Michael Angelakos song of how love saved him from depression.  This was my song I played whenever I needed cheering.

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Loud Places” by Jamie xx(featuring Romy) – A quiet song full of hidden sounds and textures.

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“Lonely Daze” by Kate Tempest – Street poetry of real people with real stories.

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Malukayi” by Mbongwana Star (featuring Konono No. 1) – A new sound is born, African tradition with electronic innovation.

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Pedestrian at Best” by Courtney Barnett – Punk rock rage with words that mean something.

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“Right Hand Man” by Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr. & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton -This is kind of cheating, because if I was doing an album list this year I’d recommend listening to the entire Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording.  But this is a good introduction to the musical that has brought my people out, making it cool to geek out over American Revolutionary and Federal period history.

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The Scene Between” by The Go! Team – A cosmic gospel tune.

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Violet Clementine” by Lady Lamb – Kind of sounds like 6 or 7 songs covering multiple genres, and yet it’s just one part of a brilliant album.

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Honorable mentions:

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) – Technically a 2014 release, but it was inescapable for much of 2015.  Despite its ubiquity and that it sounds almost exactly like it could be a song by The Time from 30 years, I love it.  Because if something is going to receive this much airplay, sounding like a 30-year-old song by The Time is not a bad thing.

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“Downtown” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Caz) – Almost a response to “Uptown Funk,” celebrating a different part of the city and a pastiche of old genres ranging from Old School hip-hop (with old school rappers) to Queen.

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More Music Lists:

2015 Beer in Review


This will be sweet and simple (and sometimes hoppy and complex).  A list of the ten best beers I tried for the first time in 2015.  See my full list of beer reviews for more.

8.2 – Ballast Point Wahoo White 

8.1 – Jacks Abby Sunny Ridge

8.1 – Von Trapp Golden Helles

8.1 – Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ Ale

8.0 – Allagash Saison Ale

7.6 – Ithaca Dark Vine

7.6 – Cambridge Breweing Bo-Steam-Ian Lager

7.6 – B. Nektar Black Fang

7.5 – Samuel Adams Boston 375 Colonial Ale

7.5 – Harpoon EHOP Collaboration

7.5 – Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Some other beer highlights of 2015

  • I toured the Samuel Adams brewery for the first time!
  • I took up homebrewing, but not in my home.  My friend Mike got a Mr. Beer kit and we and other fathers have been experimenting with different varieties at what is now called the Daddy Brew Club.
  • I visited the most excellent Whetstone Station brew pub in Brattleboro, Vermont.

 

2014 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year not books published in 2013.  For previous years see 2013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In no particular order:

And the complete list of books read in 2014 (books published in 2014 are in bold).

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2014 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


I found it difficult to select just 10 songs I love from 2014.  So, I didn’t and instead I’ve compiled a list of 20 fantastic tracks of the past year.  And I could add more.  The songs are listed below, alphabetically by title.

For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 20132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

I’ve featured many of this songs in my Song of the Week posts this year.  If you see a link from a song title it will take you back to the Song of the Week post for that song.

Archie, Marry Me” – Alvvays

Beneath the Brine” – The Family Crest

“Chaghaybou” – Tinariwen


“Coffee” – Sylvan Esso


Discourse My New Romance” – Shinedoe


“Disco // very” – Warpaint


“Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” – Ages and Ages


Don’t Wait” – Mapei


“Don’t Wanna Lose” – Ex Hex


Elon Matana” – Clap! Clap!


FUNKNROLL” – Prince


“Go Away” – Weezer


“Good Mistake” – Mr. Little Jeans


“Grotto Beat” – Don Flemons


The Liar” – Fennesz


Low” – Young Fathers


“92nd Street” – Kris Delmhorst


“Ohun Aiye” – Seun Kuti & Egypt 80


“Quartz” – TV on the Radio


“True Trans Soul Rebel” – Against Me!

2014 Year in Review: Favorite albums


I’ve never attempted to make a list of favorite albums, primarily due to economic reasons I’ve never been able to listen to enough albums to make a fair judgment.  But now we live in the age of the cloud and I subscribe to Rdio and have the opportunity to listen to a lot more albums than ever before.  So, I’m going to give this a go, but I’m still not going to make a top ten, just eight favorites.

If you’re interested in more of the best albums of 2014, check out the lists compiled by my friends Erik and Jon.

The albums are arranged alphabetically by artist. I’ve included a sample song from each album, but check out SoundCloud, YouTube, or the artists’ websites for more.  I’ve also included an Rdio playlist of all eight albums below.

Aphex TwinSyro 

The first album by Richard James released under the Aphex Twin moniker is a sonic wave of electronic noise and melody.

Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba

A project of Italian alian producer C. Crisci, Clap! Clap! creates dance music by combining electronic sounds with samples of traditional African music.  While not the first  effort to make this combination of sounds, Tayi Bebba is remarkably unique.

Ex HexRips

Following up on the great supergroup project of Wild Flag, Mary Timony is back with another band that plays just straight-up great rock & roll.  I haven’t fallen in love with an album this quickly in a long time.

FM BelfastBrighter Days

An electronic-pop band from Iceland plays on all of my weakness.  This music reminds me of the 1980s, but done right.

Moon HoochThis is Cave Music

Moon Hooch is an all-sax band.  Cave music is apparently saxophones playing swinging dancetunes that feel like acoustic EDM.

St. Vincent

Annie Clark’s eponymous album is on all the best-of lists of this year, so I don’t need to say more than if you haven’t listened to it, check it out now.

 3rdEyeGirlPLECTRUMELECTRUM

Prince released two albums this fall, and this is the better of the two, a collaboration with a new all-woman band of guitar player Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford and  bassist Ida Kristine Nielsen.  Prince responds well when challenged by working with other great artists, and this album has more of a rock vibe than I’ve heard from Prince in some time.

Ana Tijoux – Vengo

French-Chilean hip-hop MC blends Latin beats, R&B, and consciousness-raising lyrics.

 

http://www.rdio.com/people/Othemts/playlists/12376150/Favorite_Albums_of_2014/