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.
Millennium Force, Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)
This steel roller coaster offers a short two-minute ride with an 80-degree first drop. It's also got tunnels and overbanked turns. Riders travel at 93 miles per hour after reaching a maximum height of 310 feet. Then it's over. The whole experience can feel a bit like a mugging, but there is something to be said for efficiency.
Credit: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio