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.
Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)
Seen everything? Try this 17-second flash. The concept seems simple enough: forward, up, down, forward. There are no helixes, no inversions, and no tunnels, but it's not a relaxing ride. Riders zoom from zero to 120 miles per hour before climbing a 420-foot hill. And that hill is steep — a 90-degree angle in both directions. The Dragster is perfect for anyone who is not faint of heart or long on judgment.
Credit: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio