If you are fan of college football, thrill rides and massive amounts of people-watching, then Ohio is likely the perfect destination for you. It's no secret that the Buckeye State isn't exactly the most touristy location in the United States, but for what it lacks in beaches and boardwalks, it makes up for with theme parks and coasters.
Cedar Point and Kings Island are two of the best theme parks in the country, and while each brings its own set of rides and attractions, it's the roller coasters that have people from across the globe flocking to the great state of Ohio.
Today, we look toward Sandusky and Mason to sift through the state's best coasters.
10. VORTEX • KINGS ISLAND • ★★★
Back in the 90's when everyone thought going upside down was the coolest thing about coasters, the Vortex was unquestionably one of the better rides around. I recall going to Kings Island for the first time and being absolutely terrified of this looping demon. Now, I look at it as more of a slightly better-than-average coaster.
The Vortex earns its spot on this list for a couple different reasons. First of all, it has become a bit of a classic for those of us who began riding coasters in the early or mid-90's. We've watched as it has remained relatively "cool" while so many newer, bigger rides have been constructed. It also has a good look to it. I'm big on roller coaster aesthetics and I feel like this one has a very nice appearance with the blue and orange steel. Riders also find themselves inverted six times. Even in this day and age that is a lot of upside-down time, and this coaster is almost 30 years old.
This fella gets some bonus points for lack of a wait time. Obviously if "lack of wait time" were the determining factor here then we would be listing a bunch of awful coasters, but it's nice to wait less than 10 minutes for a classic ride such as this.
9. MEAN STREAK • CEDAR POINT • ★★★
If there were an award for the most appropriately named coaster, Cedar Point's Mean Streak would probably take home that honor. Riding this thing is almost always an uncomfortable feeling that is likely comparable to what Vincent D'Onofrio felt like after being beaten with bars of soap while strapped to the top bunk in Full Metal Jacket.
While the newer steel coasters are known for having the smoothest rides, their wooden counterparts have often sacrificed comfort for more of a menacing appearance. Mean Streak is no exception to this and it looks especially mystical during the night-time hours. Twenty-five years after its inception and this bad boy's top speed – 65 mph – still makes it the 8th-fastest wooden coaster in the world.
8. TOP THRILL DRAGSTER • CEDAR POINT • ★★★★
This probably is not a popular opinion, but Top Thrill Dragster just isn't all it's cracked up to be. At 30 seconds long, the experience is even more short-lived than Tate Forcier's 2009 Heisman campaign. When walking near this 420-foot giant, you will surely see a bunch of 10-12-year-old kids biting their nails trying to decide if they can handle the world's second-tallest and third-fastest roller coaster. My then 9-year old niece did this for 45 minutes last summer until we finally decided to make our way to the Corkscrew which is basically a children's version of the Vortex.
Personally, I am a fan of rides that have some longevity to them, so perhaps that is why I'm a bit jaded when it comes to this thing. The lines are almost always long and don't move as fast as one would expect for such a short ride.
The launch feature is one thing I definitely am a fan of, though that may sound strange since it is the main thing that actually takes away from the ride time. The idea (and experience) of reaching 120 mph in less than four seconds is also quite impressive. Dragster also gets some points for having a pretty solid look to it, and the drag-racing theme was executed quite well.
Alas, this one just isn't really my cup of tea.
7. RAPTOR • CEDAR POINT • ★★★★
My first Cedar Point experience was marked by photos of birds and strange squawking noises that really confused me as a child. This was Cedar Point's way of previewing the upcoming coaster – Raptor – that would open in 1994. This was the first inverted coaster I ever rode, and to this day it is still one of my favorites.
The ride itself has a nice look to it and it runs very smoothly. For me, the best part of Raptor are the different elements incorporated into the ride. There are six inversions, a cobra roll (the first ever for an inverted coaster), and a couple of corkscrews. Riders get some especially nice airtime before the second corkscrew.
Pro Tip: The backseat is better than the front.
6. BANSHEE • KINGS ISLAND • ★★★★
Back in 2000, Kings Island spent over $20 million to build the Son of Beast. After nine years, the ride was demolished and was ultimately replaced by Banshee, which opened in 2014. At a price tag of $24 million, Banshee is the biggest investment the park has ever taken on.
The "clues" for this ride were a little bit strange as scarecrows, owls, and random screaming sounds were placed throughout the park. The theme works a lot better now that the ride has opened. Screams can be heard while climbing the initial incline, which offers a very nice view at the top (168 feet). The ride itself feels a bit like a souped-up version of the Raptor. It's 11 mph faster, lasts 25 seconds longer, and has more inversions.
Kings Island needed to do something right after Son of Beast gained notoriety for injuring a number of a riders. Banshee was a step in the right direction.
5. DIAMONDBACK • KINGS ISLAND • ★★★★
Diamondback is one of the smoothest coasters out there. It's just a really comfortable ride from start to finish. It's also a bit unique because the restraints are pretty minimal. 80 mph is some great speed and it has two nice drops (215 and 193 feet). Three minutes is a solid ride time as well. The ride has a good look to it and the snake heads on the front of the trains are a nice touch. This one also scores points for the splashdown effect toward the end. The water shooting up as the riders pass through the little pond is a good look.
Biggest downfall here is that that first half of the ride is just so much better than the second. You feel a bit cheated when the latter doesn't quite live up to the early excitement.
4. MAVERICK • CEDAR POINT • ★★★★
Wild West films like Unforgiven and Tombstone are great. This coaster has a Wild West theme, and it is also great. Maverick is just fun from start to finish. There's no slow, cranking up the initial lift. Riders are shot up the incline – albeit not as quickly as Dragster – and then dropped down at a 95-degree angle. That's a pretty steep drop; the steepest at the park in fact. However, it is important to note that the drop itself is only about 100 feet.
I'm a firm believer that a good tunnel can really add to the overall ride experience. Maverick features a tunnel with some solid lighting effects, so it scores some points for that alone. It's a bit odd because this one didn't shatter a bunch of records when it opened. Rather, it's just a really solid coaster.
Pro Tip: It's located at the back of the park. If you arrive when they first open, head back to it right away. Most people will immediately focus on the other coasters that are more toward the front entrance.
3. MAGNUM XL-200 • CEDAR POINT • ★★★★
Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200 opened in 1989 as the world's first hypercoaster, meaning it has a height of more than 200 feet. At the time, it was the tallest, steepest, and fastest coaster on earth. Magnum holds a special place in my heart as it was the first "big" coaster I ever really rode as a child. We waited in line for probably two hours circa 1994 and I nearly faked a stomach ache to get out of riding it with my friend and his mom. I was absolutely frightened, but it was an incredible experience.
The second drop might be my favorite part of the ride. The view of Lake Erie and the people walking alongside it is pretty fantastic. Magnum has three tunnels and overall the ride is in pretty good shape. It's not as smooth as most of the newer coasters but that is to be expected due to its age. You can hop on this ride in virtually no time these days, which is another nice perk.
Magnum also scores some points for kicking off the "Coaster Wars" craze that has benefited all of mankind. Thank you, Magnum.
2. THE BEAST • KINGS ISLAND • ★★★★★
The Beast is such a great ride that Columbus' very own R.L. Stine – "The Stephen King of Children's Literature" – wrote two books inspired by its heinous ways. One of the best parts of this ride is how well it is hidden from the rest of the park. When you go up on most lift hills, you're typically given the opportunity to see all over the park. That's not the case with The Beast because so much of it is hidden in the woods.
The Beast has been the longest wooden coaster in the world for nearly four decades now. The ride lasts over four minutes and features two chain lift hills. The terrain truly is what makes this ride so special. Videos are great to get an idea of what a ride is like, but this is one you really just have to experience. Riding through the woods at night is undoubtedly one of the best coaster experiences out there, especially when going through the numerous tunnels.
It's unfortunate that its offspring was such a bust, but we can't let that tarnish the good Beast name.
1. MILLENNIUM FORCE • CEDAR POINT • ★★★★★★★★★★
I have never been on a single roller coaster outside of the United States of America. I haven't even been on a roller coaster outside of Ohio. All of that being said, I still have no issue stating the following: Cedar Point's Millennium Force is the best roller coaster in the world and it has held that honor since the day it opened in May of 2000. There are rumors of coasters in other countries that are better than this elegant steel contraption. I can assure you those rumors are mere blasphemy.
We talked about Magnum being the world's first hypercoaster. Millennium Force was the world's first gigacoaster, featuring a height of over 300 feet. Its top speed of 93 mph is a lot, but this one is infinitely better than Dragster because it lasts a whole 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The ride is incredibly smooth and features plenty of air time. The top speed is great but perhaps more importantly is the fact that it maintains speed throughout the entire ride. There just doesn't seem to be any lull in intensity.
Even after 16 years you can still expect to wait in line. Last summer we waited roughly 90 minutes and that was in the evening hours when a lot of people had already left for the day. Don't worry though, it's well worth it.
"Everything about Millennium Force is perfect. There will never be A better ride in the United States, Asia, Antarctica, or anywhere else."
I did not provide a link to where that quote was obtained. I don't need to because it is a quote from me. Seriously, if you go to Cedar Point and do not ride this ride, then you are doing yourself a disservice. If your child is afraid to ride it, just tell them that they can be the cool kid at school when they go back in August. If your girlfriend is too scared to ride, then break up with her and find someone who actually likes awesome things.
According to their websites, Cedar Point currently has 17 roller coasters while Kings Island checks in with 14. So that is 31 coasters in the state of Ohio. Here is the one you do not ever want to ride:
31. ADVENTURE EXPRESS • KINGS ISLAND
This is just a really awkward and strange experience. The weird talking statue guys at the top of the tunnel/hill are not cool. Even as a bright-eyed youth I didn't enjoy this thing.
Our very own Birm is terrified of roller coasters. I have been encouraging him to give them a chance for several years now. However, if he were at Kings Island and considering this one, I would tell him to just stick to the Woodstock Express over at Planet Snoopy.
Please enjoy all of your summer thrills, but avoid Adventure Express at all costs.