Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is the world’s first “hyper-hybrid” roller coaster

Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is the world’s first “hyper-hybrid” roller coaster

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency


Are you ready to drop more than 90 feet in seconds, twist, turn, flip upside down and back again at more than 50 mph? Or maybe you just want to take a selfie on one of the new, highly anticipated roller coasters and thrill rides debuting at theme parks this summer. Happy Memorial Day!

There are also plenty of new attractions aimed at younger families and water rides, too.

Boy, have thrill rides come a long way since they first appeared in 17th-century Russia. According to, these early coasters were built out of lumber and topped with a sheet of ice or snow and riders climbed the stairs and sped down the more than 50 degree drop on sleds. Catherine the Great was said to be a big fan and built some at her palaces for winter festivals.

The Alpine Coaster at Snowmass in Colorado

The Alpine Coaster at Snowmass in Colorado

Today, Alpine coasters are increasingly popular at ski resorts winter and summer and you can often control the speed — from the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster at Snowmass in Colorado to the Park City, Utah Alpine Coaster, to Killington, Vermont’s Beast Alpine coaster, just to name a few.

But summer is when millions of us dare each other to ride the fastest, tallest, scariest coasters, and have since the 1920s — the famous Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz, California, boardwalk opened in 1925; the Coney Island Cyclone two years later, and they are among the historic wooden coasters you can still enjoy today.

When was your first thrill ride? For my kids, it seemed as much a rite of passage as riding a two-wheeler. Just don’t fudge the height requirements (no standing on tiptoes!) Those rules are there for a reason.

And certainly don’t force a child to ride. You might swear them off thrill rides — or even trying something out of their comfort zone — forever. Besides, these days there are many new family attractions from the Slinky Dog Dash opening the end of June in the new Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios to the Great LEGO Race at LEGOLAND Florida Resort complete with virtual reality headsets and Oscar’s Wacky Taxi ride at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, among them. For a preschooler, one of these rides can also be a rite of passage — to being a “big kid.”

(Check out more summer theme park attractions in our Taking the Kids Guide to 2018 Summer Fun.) Here are eight of the thrill rides that are already creating a lot of buzz this season, giving you the chance to feel like a superhero, a time traveler, a fierce Irish fairy warrior or just plain terrified. And for real coaster aficionados, many of these rides require more expensive tickets, which allow you to bypass what are likely to be very long lines.

HANG TIME at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Vista, California, is a new 150-foot-high steel coaster. Get ready for inversions, midair suspensions and twisting dives — and a 15-story, 96-degree drop.

MARDI GRAS HANGOVER at Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Illinois, halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, is the world’s largest loop coaster that takes riders forward and backward on a gigantic loop before suspending them completely upside down.

TIME TRAVELER at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is touted as the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coaster with a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop and three inversions — the most ever on a spinning coaster. The ride’s story encourages readers to “dream without boundaries.” You can nominate a teacher in Missouri, Arkansas or Oklahoma who has inspired others to “Dream Big and Do Good.”

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio is the first single-rail coaster to take riders down a 90-degree first drop with three inversions all on an in-line roller coaster train designed to make riders feel as if they are riding on a burst of air at the tip of WONDER WOMAN’s Golden Lasso of Truth!

INFINITY FALLS at SeaWorld Orlando is the world’s tallest river rapid ride with each raft twisting and turning through a jungle environment as you experience up to Class IV rapids as you are launched 40 feet into the river.

STEEL VENGEANCE at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is the world’s first “hyper-hybrid” roller coaster, combining a massive wooden structure with steel track, creating an unprecedented experience that includes a massive 200-foot drop, four inversions, a top speed of 74 mph and the most airtime on any roller coaster. Steel Vengeance breaks 10 roller coaster records.

BATTLE FOR EIRE at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, is a marriage of a motion-based theater simulator with state-of-the-art, 360-degree virtual reality headsets, creating a unique experience as riders join the fairy warrior Addie on an adventure through Ireland to rescue the Heart of Eire, which symbolizes the heart of Ireland. Riders should have a different experience each time they ride, being completely immersed in the story.

RAJA-THE WORLD’s LARGEST KING COBRA at Noah’s Ark Waterpark in the Wisconsin Dells enables riders to race side-by-side on tubes from six stories up, along more than 335 feet of twists and turns at speeds up to 32 mph. The finale includes a sudden 37-foot plunge into the mouth of a massive king cobra. Raja™ is the largest of its kind and only the second to be installed in the United States.