Another year, another batch of roller coasters.
The more things change at amusement parks, the more they stay the same. The popularity of one of the oldest amusement rides shows no sign of waning. That’s not to say that the humble thrill machine hasn’t evolved. Today’s roller coasters go faster, higher and steeper — in one case, insanely steeper — than their predecessors. Instead of relying solely on gravity, many of the rides incorporate sophisticated launch systems that allow them to deliver breathtaking (literally) acceleration, physics-defying elements, and wild, if wacky, fun.
Let’s run down some of the most-anticipated coasters opening in 2019:
West Coast Racers at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California
Using electro-magnetic propulsion, two trainloads of passengers on opposing tracks will rev up to 55 mph on a straightaway and chase each other around a course filled with inversions, pops of airtime and overbanked turns. After an indoor “pit stop,” during which the famed car builders from West Coast Customs will cheer the riders on, the trains will take a second lap, but on the opposite tracks. The three-minute experience will include 14 “near-miss” crossings.
Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America near Chicago
Instead of electro-magnetic propulsion, Maxx Force will use a compressed-air launch system to catapult its trains from 0 to 78 mph in two seconds flat. That’ll be the quickest acceleration of any coaster in North America. It will then soar an attention-grabbing 175 feet and deliver two high-flying inversions. The third time Maxx Force sends its passengers tumbling heels-over-head, they’ll be hightailing it at 60 mph, which Six Flags contends will be the world’s fastest coaster inversion.
Unnamed Harry Potter-themed coaster at Islands of Adventure, part of Universal Orlando in Florida
Universal has been mostly mum on the new coaster that is taking the place of its Dragon Challenge dueling coaster that used to be part of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The theme park resort is promising that it will become its most highly themed coaster. That’s saying a lot, considering that Universal already offers Revenge of the Mummy and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, two of the most sophisticated and richly themed coasters on the planet. The construction site for the project includes a large building, so it is virtually certain that the ride will weave both indoors and outdoors. There is strong speculation among Potter-philes that the coaster will feature Hagrid the half-giant and that the attraction will take muggles on a journey through the Forbidden Forest.
Steel Curtain at Kennywood near Pittsburgh
A mighty coaster based on the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers will punt passengers 220 feet into the air and rush them 75 mph before sending them topsy-turvy with nine separate inversions (which will be a North American record). One of the flip-overs, a corkscrew at a height of 197 feet, will lay claim to the world’s tallest inversion. The coaster will be the highlight of Steelers Country, an entire Kennywood land devoted to the beloved hometown team.
Yukon Striker at Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto
The world’s tallest, longest and fastest dive coaster, Yukon Striker will bring passengers to the precipice of a 245-foot, 90-degree drop, let them mull it over for a few agonizing moments, and then dive down at 80 mph before bottoming out in an underwater tunnel. Inversions and other mayhem will follow. The new ride will mark the 17th coaster at Canada’s largest theme park.
Unnamed ‘Eurofighter’ coaster and record-breaking spinning coaster at Nickelodeon Universe, part of American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey
One of the world’s biggest indoor theme parks, Nickelodeon Universe, is coming to one of the world’s largest malls, American Dream, and it will feature two record-breaking roller coasters (plus three more thrill machines). A “Eurofighter”-type coaster will climb up a vertical lift, bust through the top of the mall into a see-through tower, and give passengers a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline from its 141-foot perch, before plummeting down at a severely overbanked drop of 121.5 degrees – the steepest coaster drop in the world – and hitting over 62 mph. It will then zoom up into the rafters of the mall and deliver seven inversions. A second coaster will intertwine with the “Eurofighter” and include cars that will freely spin. At a height of 85 feet and a length of 2,247 feet, it will be the world’s tallest and longest spinning coaster.
Copperhead Strike at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina
Another coaster that will forgo a traditional chain-driven lift hill, Copperhead Strike will feature two magnetic launches. The first one will get things cooking from 0 to 42 mph in 2.5 seconds, while a mid-course booster launch will goose the speed from 35 mph to 50 mph. After the trains leave the station, but before they launch, they will slowly roll passengers upside down in the first of Copperhead Strike’s five inversions.
Tigris at Busch Gardens Tampa in Florida
Florida’s tallest launched coaster will impel its train forwards and partway up its track where it will stall and roll backwards. A second launch will keep it moving backwards partway up the opposite side of its giant loop. Tigris’ third launch will give its train enough oomph to climb to the top of a 150-foot loop, slowly invert at the apex, and then descend down the other side. Tigris will be similar to Tempesto at sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia.
Tidal Twister at SeaWorld San Diego
It will appear that two trains will be barreling toward and narrowly averting each other. In reality, the first-of-its-kind Tidal Twister will feature two sets of cars mounted on one long train with that will span the entire length of a 320-foot, horizontal, figure-eight track. Passengers will face both forward and backward, and the train will travel both directions as it revs up to 30 mph.
Batman: The Ride at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California
Similar to other “4D Free Fly” coasters, Batman will climb 120 feet and crisscross three undulating ribbons of track that will include inversions and beyond-90-degree drops. As if that wouldn’t be crazy enough, the trains’ seats will be on the outside wings of the track and will spin willy-nilly in both directions – or, as the ride‘s designer characterizes it, free fly in the fourth dimension.
Kentucky Flyer at Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville
A relatively mild wooden, “family” coaster, Kentucky Flyer will drop 45 feet and reach a top speed of 35 mph. With a height requirement of 40 inches, the ride will be accessible to fairly young (and presumably, fairly brave) children.
Dragon Flier at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
A suspended coaster (in which the trains hang under the track), Dragon Flier will be the featured attraction at Wildwood Grove. Like the rest of the new land that will open at Dolly Parton’s park, the ride will be geared to families with pre-teens and will keep its thrills in check.
Phoenix at Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa
The dizzying, new spinning coaster will climb 50 feet and hit 40 mph.
Arthur Levine, Special to USA Today/Gannett
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