Sure, life has its ups and downs. But there's nothing like a ride on a roller coaster to make life a little less ordinary. Whether you're riding a rickety wooden ride or screaming along on modern steel cut rails, roller coasters aren't just a thundering good time: they're a lasting symbol of summer that kids and parents alike can enjoy.
Are you up for the thrill, but don't know where to start? Here's a roundup of the nation's best coasters, from coast to coast. Note: These rides are not recommended for young children, or faint-hearted adults.
The Voyage, Holiday Land, Santa Claus, IN
Do you like airtime? The Voyage will have you scraping the sky with a combined 24.2 seconds of weightlessness, as well as eight tunnel plunges to keep you grounded. Winner of the 2007 Golden Ticket Award for Best Wooden Coaster, The Voyage boasts one of the longest and fastest rides in the world.
Thunderhead, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN
Made of Southern Yellow Pine, this woodie rivals steel coasters for its smoothness. Featuring 32 crossovers and 22 turns, Thunderhead combines state of the art thrills with the park's Southern charm, and it's at the top of the list of wooden coasters across the nation.
Tatsu, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA
The longest, tallest, and fastest “flying” coaster in the world, Tatsu is meant to give riders a feeling of flight from start to finish (“Tatsu” is the Japanese word for “dragon”). Riders are strapped into place, then rotated 90 degrees so that, for the duration of the ride, they are face-down and “flying”! Nobody said being a dragon for a day would be a breeze.
El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ
Spanish for “the bull,” El Toro features a 76 degree drop, the steepest of any wooden coaster in the world. Made of laser-cut, bonded, and laminated wood sections, the structure makes for a remarkably smooth ride, even while the train is tearing along like a raging bull.
Millennium Force, Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
Located in the thrill-rich park of Cedar Point, Millennium Force's 310 ft. peak overlooks Lake Erie, but don't get too comfortable. You're about to drop 300 ft. and accelerate to 93 mph – and that's just the beginning. Arguably the best steel coaster in the country, Millennium Force delivers what thrill-seekers expect, and then some.
Superman: Ride of Steel, Six Flags New England, Agawam, MA
Dueling with Millennium Force for supremacy of the steel coaster category, Ride of Steel has taken the Golden Ticket Award for Best Steel Coaster for two years running. A timeless classic, like the superhero it was named for, Ride of Steel won't be mistaken for a bird or a plane. It's just a straightforward screamer that will have you flying over 200+ ft. peaks and plunging into gut-wrenching valleys over the mile long track. Superman managed to keep his lunch down: are you up to the challenge?
GhostRider, Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
The longest wooden coaster in the west, GhostRider makes its case by providing untempered exhilaration with Gold Rush charm. Climb aboard the gold, silver, or copper train and take a deep breath – you're going to need it. With 14 hills and 10 crossovers, this ride is an airtime machine.
Boulder Dash, Lake Compounce, Bristol, CT
Looking for a little something different? Boulder Dash has all the fun of a typical ride, with one little difference: it's built onto a real mountain. The dips, curves and climbs through scenic forest foliage will have everyone, even the parent who'd rather be hiking, happy. Plus, with an average speed of 52 mph throughout, Boulder Dash is a lot faster than taking the scenic route!