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.
Intimidator 305, Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia)
NASCAR fans should feel right at home on this steel roller coaster named for Dale "The Intimidator" Earnhardt. Cars reach 90 miles per hour on the three-minute ride. The first drop is 300 feet at an 85-degree angle. At its peak, the coaster is 305 feet tall, making it only slightly smaller than the racer's legend.