The twists, the turns, the awkward group photos during the drop: Roller coasters are predictable and predictably thrilling. But they aren't all created equal. Where your run-of-the-mill loop-the-loop merely weakens knees, a great coaster – one of Ohio's aging wooden monsters or a Dale Earnhardt–inspired speedster in Virginia – makes riders question their decision to climb aboard then decide it was the right move after all.
Since the Mauch Chunk gravity railroad, a mining company track in Pennsylvania, opened in 1827, American engineers have been building bigger and badder thrill rides. Here are the best in the country.
Apollo's Chariot, Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia)
Apollo's Chariot reaches 73 miles per hour and plunges down a 210-foot drop. It's got one helix and lots of hills. And there is plenty of air time so riders feel godlike and intensely mortal at the same time. It's enough to make anyone want to go hang out at Colonial Williamsburg for the rest of the day.