(Lake Compounce, Bristol, CT)
Located anywhere else, this wonderful roller coaster would still be a top favorite. Great airtime, smooth ride, relentless speed from start to finish. The fact that it is built into the side of a mountain and careens around trees and boulders, however, pushes it to the top of the list.
(Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ)
Opened in 2006, the adrenaline-pumping, smooth-as-silk El Toro is among the best wooden coasters on the planet -- except I'm not sure it's correct to characterize it as a wooden coaster. (Its track is made from laser-cut, prefabricated, bonded, and laminated wood sections.) Whatever El Toro is (or is not), there's no denying that it is an incredible achievement and a joyful rush to ride.
(Holiday World, Santa Claus, IN)
The roller coaster that proves the adage, "size isn't everything," Raven packs delerious airtime and out-of-control speed into its 90-second ride.
(Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA)
Another creation from Custom Coasters, Inc., the folks that built Boulder Dash. These people really knew how to deliver new-age wood coasters (CCI went belly-up in 2002). Most of their monsters seem to defy the laws of physics and somehow override the effects of friction to keep the roller coaster trains screaming until the brake run before the station. GhostRider is no exception.
(Astroland, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY)
Sure, there may be "better" roller coasters. It's not the smoothest ride (one fan I know likened the first drop to riding down the rungs of an 85-foot ladder). But this classic is one of the originals and holds a special place in the hearts of fans. The Cyclone is nostalgic, yet surprisingly vital, after all these years.
Speed, airtime, G-forces: This hypercoaster gives riders the perfect combination of everything a great roller coaster should have and never stops giving it from the moment of the first terrifying drop until it returns to the station. An instant classic.
There's only one word to describe the steel hypercoaster, Apollo's Chariot: smooth. And exhilarating. And one of the best coasters anywhere. (OK, that's way more than one word. So sue me.) But the operative word is smooth.
The Incredible Hulk
(Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL)
A launched roller coaster unlike any other. It must be ridden to be believed.
(Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH)
The coaster-lovers' park that first gave us a hypercoaster (Magnum XL-200) topped itself with this 310-foot "giga-coaster." It's such a long way up, it uses an elevator cable to speed the trains to the top of the lift hill instead of a traditional chain lift.
(Buffalo Bill's Casino, Primm, NV)
One of the early hypercoasters, its enormous, yellow track is an ominous sight as you travel the interstate between L.A. and Vegas. Of all the roller coasters I've ridden, this one produced the most sustained free-floating airtime. What a rush! It's simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying -- and that pretty much defines a great roller coaster experience.