GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ABC 4)- You’ve been going to Michigan’s Adventure since you were 5 and you’ve long since conquered everything that Cedar Point has to offer. What’s next? We suggest you read this Big 4 guide of Weekend Coaster Destinations and then hit the road!
Santa Claus, IN
Coaster Count: 5
Yes, there is a place called Santa Claus, Indiana. Yes, it has an amusement park. Yes, we think you should go. Boasting three wooden coasters that consistently top “Best Of…” lists, the only launched “wing coaster” in the country, and a top-tier water park included in the admission price, there is very little not to like about Holiday World. Throw in the fact that you also get free soft drinks all day, every day, as well as free sunscreen throughout the water park, and this hidden gem in southern Indiana quickly becomes a must visit park. When it comes to coasters, The Voyage is the standout here.
When it opened, it set the record for most “air time” on a coaster – you know, that wonderful feeling of “floating” as you hit the top of a hill at high speed. The Voyage features more than 20 total seconds of air time, three 90-degree banked turns and lasts more than 3 minutes. It’s long, it’s fast, and it’s #1 on many coaster fans’ lists. The water park is also worth your time, highlighted by the trio of water coaster offerings – Wildebeest, Mammoth, and Cheetah Chase. All 3 quickly propel your raft UP hill before dropping you back down again, over and over. Out of the 4 parks on this list, the independently owned and operated Holiday World will make you feel like you’ve really discovered something special – mostly because you have.
Rides We Recommend: The Voyage, Raven, Thunderbird, Wildebeest
Six Flags Great America
Coaster Count: 15
Situated on the other side of Lake Michigan, Six Flags Great America delivers a solid selection of (mostly) thrilling roller coasters. From family-friendly to ultra-fast, there are plenty of rides to explore here. Many of the coaster styles found at Cedar Point exist in slightly smaller versions at Great America. Like Raptor? Try Batman: The Ride. Steel Vengeance? Goliath. Magnum XL-200? Raging Bull offers a twistier ride with a steeper 200-foot first drop. There are some old(er)-time classics here as well.
American Eagle offers a racing wooden coaster experience on a pair of nearly identical tracks. And newer coaster riders will want to climb aboard the Whizzer, a nearly one-of-a-kind ride as similar coasters from this manufacturer have all but disappeared. For many kids who grow up around the Chicago area, the Whizzer is their first roller coaster experience (and probably was their parents’ first, too). If you’re looking for a big park with lots to offer, Six Flags Great America is a good stop.
Rides We Recommend: Goliath, X-Flight, Raging Bull, Maxx Force
Mason, OH (outside Cincinnati)
Coaster Count: 14
Cedar Point is not the only coaster destination in Ohio, so this trip takes you to the southwest corner of the state for some excellent rides. Another park that is filled with options both big and small, steel and wooden, King’s Island has plenty to explore as it celebrates it’s 50th season! Their most recent addition, Orion, tops out at 300 ft., reaches a top of speed of 91 mph, and flies over a mile of track. Diamondback delivers similar thrills in a (slightly) smaller package, with a 215 ft. first drop, plenty of airtime hills, and even a unique splashdown moment at the end of the ride, as the train sends up a rooster tail of water while skimming over a small pond.
But not everything great at King’s Island is made of steel – the park has plenty of wooden choices as well, including the recently opened Mystic Timbers and the record-breaking legend The Beast. Both of these coasters wind through the lush forests of the park, zipping past trees to increase the feeling of speed. Mystic Timbers spends it’s time twisting and turning through the trees and is a great ride for all ages, owing to it’s first drop of just under 100 ft. Then there is The Beast – an out-of-control rickety rocket that plunges into the forest and doesn’t let up. With over a mile of track, it has held the record of longest wooden coaster since it opened in 1979. Our tip? This one is best in the darkness of a hot summer night.
Rides We Recommend: The Beast, Banshee, Orion, Diamondback
West Mifflin, PA
Coaster Count: 8
If you’ve ever wondered what happens if you keep driving past the Ohio Turnpike exit for Cedar Point, the answer is waiting for you at this beautiful classic park near Pittsburgh. Kennywood has three absolute classic wooden coasters, all of which opened BEFORE 1930. The Thunderbolt is a particularly exciting ride – while most coasters start by going up, this one drops immediately out of the station, using it’s cliffside location to great effect. Continuing to set itself apart, the largest drop on The Thunderbolt can be found towards the end, rather than the beginning of this nearly-100-year-old ride.
Not to let that cliffside location of the park go to waste, The Phantom’s Revenge uses it to extend it’s second drop an impressive 225 feet, as it speeds through the wooden structure of The Thunderbolt. If any city knows steel it’s Pittsburgh, and it’s no surprise that the park’s most recent addition, Steel Curtain, is a steel showstopper. Standing 220 feet above the park’s midway, this coaster inverts it’s riders 8 times, in plenty of unique ways – a banana roll, sea serpent roll, a zero-g stall. Don’t know what those are? That’s OK – just know that Steel Curtain will be an exciting teacher.
Rides We Recommend: Thunderbolt, Phantom’s Revenge, Steel Curtain, Jack Rabbit