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.