The past year has been quite a ride, eh? You might even call it a roller coaster as we’ve scaled the emotional lows of a pandemic and are (finally) approaching what will hopefully be the end of it.
Now it’s time to get out and celebrate with a thrill ride (or two, or three.) It’s completely appropriate to cathartically scream like a ninny, even if your much-deserved howls might be partially muted by a face mask. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top not-to-miss coasters in the area.
Warning: Don’t stand up beyond this point.
New and Mighty
Jersey Devil Coaster
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, has one of the most compelling collections of crazy coasters in the region, and it’s about to welcome one more to the fold: the Jersey Devil Coaster.
Billed as the world’s tallest, fastest, and longest single-rail coaster, it will climb 130 feet, drop at a near-vertical 87-degrees, and hit 58 mph as its low-slung, single-passenger cars navigate 3,000 feet of monorail track.
The unusual single-rail configuration will allow the ride to deliver smooth and nimble acrobatic moves, including a “zero-G stall” that will leave passengers hanging upside down for an unnerving amount of time.
After being shuttered for over a year, the venerable Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island will rise from the ashes with the brand-new Phoenix.
Representing the biggest investment in the family-owned park’s history, the trains on the suspended family thrill coaster will hang from the track above and leave passengers’ legs dangling, ski-lift style.
Riders will ascend 68 feet and reach a top speed of about 34 mph as they soar alongside the legendary boardwalk.
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania gives Six Flags Great Adventure a run for its money in both the number and intensity of its thrill machines. Last year, the park opened its tallest, fastest, longest, and, it argues, sweetest coaster yet, Candymonium.
It rises 210 feet, hits a potent 76 mph, and delivers a remarkably smooth ride along its 4,636-foot, nearly two-and-a-half-minute journey.
The coaster’s candy-themed trains then take a final victory lap around a Hershey’s Kisses fountain. (To boot, you could celebrate your coaster conquest by indulging in something sweet at the park’s new Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor or the Sweeterie Confectionery Kitchen.)
It opened in late 2019, but since it was mostly closed since due to the pandemic, it’s likely you haven’t made it over to Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park inside the American Dream complex in East Rutherford, NJ, for a ride aboard TMNT Shellraiser.
Featuring a magnetic launch that sends its trains catapulting from 0 to 62 mph in two seconds flat, it also has a vertical lift hill that raises passengers 141 feet for a commanding view of the Manhattan skyline only to then plummet down at a severe 122-degree angle, making it one of the most extreme indoor coasters in the world. (While you’re there, check out the four other coasters at the park, including the spinning-car ride, Shredder.)
Coney Island Cyclone
Fancy, flashy, new coasters are great, but tried and true favorites, some of which have been giving rides on their rails for around 100 years, never go out of style. It doesn’t get more tried or true than the Coney Island Cyclone at Luna Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
It has graced the seaside amusement area since 1927 and is perhaps the most famous roller coaster in the world. Despite its age, the grand dame still delivers a surprisingly fearsome ride.
Playland Park in Rye, NY, is the home of the Dragon Coaster, which dates back to 1929. It climbs 80 feet, features plenty of twists and turns, and offers a disorienting, lights-out section inside a tunnel designed to look like a scaly, green dragon.
White Knuckle Rides
If the daredevil in you craves airtime — that butterflies-in-your-stomach sensation coaster passengers experience when lifted out of the seat — head back to Six Flags Great Adventure for a ride aboard El Toro.
It delivers perhaps the most sustained, delirious airtime moments of any coaster in the US. Helping to generate the wooden coaster’s powerful negative G-forces is its 181-foot height and 70-mph top speed.
Speaking of crazy heights and speeds, Kingda Ka, also at Six Flags Great Adventure, features a hydraulic launch that sends its trains rocketing up and over a 456-foot top hat tower — making it the world’s tallest coaster — at an alarming 128 mph. Not for the faint of heart.
Taking the prize for the region’s best wooden coaster, Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut, takes passengers up, down, and along the mountain that borders the park, narrowly averting trees and yes, boulders, along the way. It hits a heady 60 mph, and doesn’t lose any of its oomph until it returns to the station.
At a height of 32 feet and a top speed of 35 mph, Wooden Warrior at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, would never be mistaken for a behemoth ride, and its 40-inch height requirement makes it accessible to younger kids, but don’t be fooled.
This coaster punches way above its weight, delivering an unexpectedly thrilling ride that’s nonetheless extremely smooth, especially for a wooden coaster.
Arthur Levine is a theme park expert and writer, as well as a featured speaker for Walt Disney Imagineering.
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