Coaster101’s 2018 Year in Review

Where did the time go? It’s that time of year again — 2018 is coming to a close and the calendar is turning to 2019. Every year we take a look back and reflect on the past year. Each member of the Coaster101 team will share a few of our favorite moments from our year, then we want to hear from you!


Andrew

Parks Visited in 2018: Carowinds, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Go Karts Plus, Cedar Point, Kennywood, Fun Land of Fredericksburg

New Coaster Credits in 2018:  Just 19 this year.  Currently sitting at 198, and I had plans to get to #200 this year, but called an audible. Plans for #199 and #200 are in the works, though!

Favorite New Ride of 2018: Twisted Timbers. I’m filling this in before everyone else answers, and betting there will be a lot of mentions of Steel Vengeance below if you’re looking for that, though. It was relentless from start to finish, which I really enjoyed!

Favorite “New To You” Ride of 2018: Jack Rabbit at Kennywood. That double down in the back row with no real restraint except a seatbelt is ABSURD.

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: We had nearly 200 posts on the site in 2018, so picking one for me is impossible, and I’ll have to divide it up. My favorite posts that the rest of the guys did were Eric’s interview with Brian Miller, Entertainment Production Coordinator for California’s Great America, Kyle and Larry’s Steel Vengeance Media Day Report, John’s Lights-On Tour of Blazing Fury, and Nick’s Review of Merlin Mayhem at Dutch Wonderland.  My top Four (okay, more than four) favorite posts of mine this year were: Interviewing Rick O’Connell of JRA about Steelers Country,  My Four-Part Interview with TouringPlans’ Len Testa, covering Carowinds’ Copperhead Strike from Teases, to Announcement, to Construction (and hopefully opening next year!), and covering Kings Dominion’s three new-for-2018 Debuts: Twisted Timbers, WinterFest, and an interview with the park’s new GM (and fellow UNC Tar Heel!), Tony Johnson. 

Top 3 Highlights of 2018: 

  1. The CoasterMania Weekend was an all-timer for me. Being at Cedar Point from 6am to well past midnight was an amazing, incredible experience, and that’s factoring in that I didn’t meet rider size requirements for Cedar Point’s “Big 3” of Millennium Force, Top Thrill Dragster and Steel Vengeance (not to mention a few of the kiddie coasters…) on that trip. Ending that trip with a day at Kennywood, was just a cherry on top for the entire weekend. The only thing that would have made this weekend better was if we could have had all seven of us there. Something to improve on for 2019’s meet-up!
  2. My favorite park visit this year was taking my younger brother to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for Summer Nights in July. That trip had a bit of everything — amazing rides, delicious food (Seriously, eat at Marco Polo’s Market Place at BGW!), fantastic shows, and the opportunity to see Light Balance, one of my favorite theme park experiences ever. On that trip, Kevin Lembke, new GM of Busch Gardens Williamsburg reached out to us on twitter to meet up, and it was great to meet with him for a few minutes face-to-face after our email interview earlier in the season.
  3. Watching Coaster101 continue to grow, both in site traffic and with our reputation with the parks and industry we cover. This will sound sappy, but I know the seven of us put a ton of work into the site and have a lot of pride in what we do. To see the site traffic numbers, and social media following continue to grow with a fifth straight year of growth is really cool to see. It’s also an amazing feeling when we have parks and companies reach out to us to help tell their stories and get the word out. (A quick shout out to Worlds of FunDynamic Attractions and KCL Engineering!) Hoping these relationships continue to grow in 2019, and we continue to grow in 2019 as well!

John

Parks Visited in 2018: In 2018, I visited Cedar Point — for the first time in my life — along with Six Flags Great America, Six Flags Over Georgia and Dollywood. My role as a Dollywood Insiders blogger “requires” me to make frequent visits to the park, so I spent several of my theme parking days there gathering content for the blog. It’s tough work, but somebody’s gotta do it.

New Coaster Credits in 2018: Of course, all 18 of Cedar Point’s roller coasters were new to me. Two more new-to-me coasters were Twisted Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia and the Spinning Parrot at the Island in Pigeon Forge (no judging, please).

Favorite New Ride of 2018: Steel Vengeance. I don’t see how any other new-for-2018 coaster could beat everything that Steel Vengeance has to offer. It’s a stunning, thrilling-beyond-belief work of roller coaster art.

Favorite “New To You” Ride of 2018: Is “every ride at Cedar Point” an answer? Okay, maybe not every ride. To give Steel Vengeance a break, I’ll choose Millennium Force with Maverick as a close second. Both are iconic — for good reason. The views from Millennium Force alone are worth the price of admission to Cedar Point. But the ride itself is just as amazing. It’s relentless and exhilarating. But the ride’s speed, elements and transitions all maintain this subtle level of grace and elegance that I didn’t expect from such a powerhouse of a roller coaster. Maverick, on the other hand, isn’t as “graceful,” but it’s just as fun from start to finish. The beyond-vertical drop, launch, speed and snappy elements combine for a cocktail of coaster fun.

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: The entire Coaster101 team wrote in overdrive this year, delivering a steady stream of content — a good chunk of which you can’t find anywhere else online. Below I’ve listed just a few of my favorites in no particular order:

Top 3 Highlights of 2018: 

  1. Visiting Cedar Point for the first time was my top highlight of 2018 (and possibly the decade). Finally visiting a park that is so integral to the amusement industry and roller coaster culture at times left me literally speechless. Spending 18 hours at the park with my fellow Coaster101 writers was one of the best days of my life. And there are so many unforgettable moments embedded in that trip: Steel Vengeance, Millennium Force at night, Top Thrill Dragster, the list goes on and on.
  2. My second pick is undoubtedly my behind-the-scenes Blazing Fury tour. It was something I’ve dreamed of doing since I first rode the indoor coaster in the early 2000s. It was an incredibly surreal experience that I will cherish for many years to come.
  3. Twisted Cyclone media day was a whirlwind of fun. Twisted Cyclone’s short-but-sweet layout, incredible pacing and bizarre elements combined to make a stellar addition to the park’s lineup.

John and Eric on Maverick during Coastermania 2018

 

 

 

Eric

 

Parks Visited in 2018: Oh boy, this is going to be a long list, I think. California’s Great America, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland and California Adventure, Cedar Point, Kennywood, Dollywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, King’s Dominion, Knoebels, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Six Flags America, Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure, and the WDW parks. I think that was it?

New Coaster Credits in 2018: Err, this is too many to list. On my coaster road trip last summer I added 50 new to me credits. Then had some of the new in 2018 coasters (RailBlazer, HangTime, Steel Vengeance), Kennywood in Spring, and some Orlando coasters just recently. So yeah, a lot.

Andrew, Kyle, and Eric at Kennywood – we’ll be back in 2019 for sure!

 

 

Favorite New Ride of 2018: Steel Vengeance is amazing, don’t get me wrong. It is probably the “best” new ride of 2018. But, honestly, I really liked that RailBlazer is different. Would I want Steel Vengeance in my backyard instead? Yeah, probably, but I love that I have a new first (or second) of its kind roller coaster at one of my home parks. It’s really fun.

Favorite “New To You” Ride of 2018: This is too hard to choose. Can I just point you to an upcoming post about 10 of the new to me coasters this year that stood out to me? Like Andrew, I did really like Jack Rabbit. Phoenix at Knoebel’s for similar reasons, what a wild experience. Verbolten was one of the coolest, most unique coasters I’ve ever been on (and I loved all the BGW coasters). A whole bunch of Hershey coasters were also awesome. Sooo…yeah, I’m just going to not answer this.

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: I think the interview series Andrew did with Len Testa from TouringPlans about the sites history and how it works is probably tops. As a big nerd I love learning how they gather and use all this data, and how it all got started (plus hearing his thoughts on how the industry is moving). Really fascinating stuff.

 

 

Picking my own posts? I loved getting to interview Brian Miller from California’s Great America about being a live actor on a 4D ride. One of those very specific jobs in the theme park industry that isn’t really like anything else.

Top 3 Highlights of 2018: 

  1. This is also going to be tricky, but I’ll start with one I bet a bunch of us will have: Going to Cedar Point for the CoasterMania weekend. Basically just copy everything Andrew said for me. Great long day at CP, followed by my first visit to Kennywood, it was a great time!
  2. This is also pretty obvious. I took a couple of weeks off to go on an almost two week road trip and visit 7 “new to me” amusement parks on the East Coast. Also got to meet up with a few fellow C101 writers along the way. Definitely the greatest coaster trip I’ve ever taken, and got to experience a ton of awesome rides (Busch Gardens Williamsburg shot up my list of favorite theme parks).
  3. Attending the HangTime preview at Knott’s Berry Farm earlier this year. Aside from getting to ride a fun new coaster, it was great getting to see the first light show with its KCL lighting package while also getting to meet and chat with Andy Versluys from KCL. I also got a chance to talk with multiple people from the Knott’s Berry Farm team, as well as Cedar Point VP Rob Decker. I love it any chance I get to meet people from the industry who help create these places we love.

No shame

Nick

 

Parks Visited in 2018: IX Indoor Amusement Park, Dutch Wonderland, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom

New Coaster Credits in 2018: In 2018, I rode 21 different roller coasters, 7 of them being new to me: Orient Express (kiddie coaster), Merlin’s Mayhem, Joust, Kingdom Coaster, Steel Vengeance, Primeval Whirl, and Slinky Dog Dash. I have two kids if you haven’t guessed already, so yeah, lot’s of kiddie coaster credits in my near future.

Favorite New Coaster of 2018: This is probably getting repetitive by now so I’ll just say Steel Vengeance and move on.

Favorite “New To You” Ride of 2018: If we’re going rides, I’m gonna have to go with Avatar: Flight of Passage. I was totally blown away by this ride and loved it so much.

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: This is a tough one, such a good year of great posts and most of my favorites have already been mentioned. I had fun speculating on why Steel Vengeance might be the last hyper hybrid ever built. Our Cedar Fair pass option post is highly informative.

Top 3 Highlights of 2018: 

  1. Coastermania at Cedar Point for everything everyone else already said (going last in this discussion is easy!). What also made it a highlight for me was meeting people in real life who I had done interviews with for the site: Kate Kujawa, Taylor Bybee, and Matt Schmotzer.
  2. Maybe one of my all time favorite roller coaster memories will be riding Merlin’s Mayhem in the front seat with my son two times before the park opened to the public. Huge shout out to the park for letting us in early, talking with the maintenance guys, then going for a ride on my son’s first “real” roller coaster. Unforgettable.
  3. My wife and I took our five year old and one and a half year old to Disney World the week after Thanksgiving (one of the most exhausting weeks ever by the way). Two memories really stand out: 1) participating in the drum show in Pandora at Animal Kingdom and trying to get the banshee’s to hear us and call back. 2) Watching my kids watch the Slinky Dog Coaster and being mesmerized by it for a solid fifteen minutes. Future coaster nerd for sure.

 

Mike

Parks Visited in 2018: SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, Disney Magic Kingdom, LEGOLAND Florida, Fun Spot America, Six Flags New England, Cedar Point, Disney Hollywood Studios, Six Flags Over Georgia

New Coaster Credits in 2018: This April was my first trip ever to Six Flags New England, so all of the coasters I rode there were new credits. I rode nearly every coaster there! There were also a few coasters that were firsts during my trip to Cedar Point for Coastermania (Cedar Creek Mine Ride, GateKeeper, Iron Dragon, Rougarou, Valravn, Wilderness Run, Woodstock Express, and, of course, Steel Vengeance. I also had a first riding Coastersaurus at LEGOLAND Florida this year.

Favorite New Ride of 2018: Definitely Steel Vengeance. It’s hard to describe how awesome of an experience it is to ride it. RMC has truly set a new standard in coaster thrills. The second half of the ride at night has to be one of my favorite roller coaster moments ever.

Favorite “New To You” Ride of 2018: Superman The Ride at Six Flags New England. For years, I have seen Superman The Ride (formerly Superman Ride of Steel, and Bizarro) at or near the top of the Golden Ticket Awards top steel coasters list and have always wondered what the hype was about. New England was a part of the country that I had never gotten the opportunity to visit until this year. And I have to say, the ride is definitely worth ALL of the hype and accolades. It has absolutely everything I could look for in a coaster: speed, LOTS of airtime, ridiculous forces, and great themeing. I also have to give a runner-up mention to Wicked Cyclone, also at SFNE. It’s one of the smaller and shorter RMC coasters, but there’s an element in the back that literally made me curse out loud, in a good way. Not too many coasters can do that.

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: My favorite has to be Eric’s quest to visit seven new-to-him parks in nine days.  I love seeing someone’s first visit to a theme park through their eyes. My wife and I have taken similar coaster trips (although not nearly as long) and I have to say they were some of the most fun times of my life so far.

Top 3 Highlights of 2018: 

  1. Attending Coastermania! at Cedar Point with my fellow Coaster101 contributors. I have to say that was a coaster enthusiasts dream. Spending over 12 hours at the Roller Coaster Capital of the World with exclusive ride times and being able to experience one of the best coasters I’ve ever ridden on, Steel Vengeance, both during the day and at night. I couldn’t ask for anything more!
  2. My visit to Six Flags New England in April. I definitely have to say that it was one of my favorite Six Flags parks to visit. The park is small, but packs a punch with two of the best coasters I’ve ridden on in Superman The Ride and Wicked Cyclone. I definitely will have to make my way up to the New England area more.
  3. In October, I got to experience the new SkySled harness on the world’s tallest Skycoaster at Fun Spot America in Kissimmee. The guys at Ride Entertainment were awesome hosts. The 300 ft drop is definitely something that needs to be experienced by theme park enthusiasts. Experiencing that makes me want to take my thrill seeking to the next level (skydiving and base jumping)!

Larry

Parks Visited in 2018: Just Cedar Point and Kalahari Sandusky this year. I had a busy summer and fall so any plans I had fell through to go visit other parks this year. But I did go to Cedar Point twice at least!

New Coaster Credits in 2018: Steel Vengeance (the obvious answer!)

Favorite New Ride of 2018: Well, this hands down goes to Steel Vengeance, since it was my only new credit for 2018, but it was well worth it! More reason why down below!

Favorite Coaster101 Post of 2018: Well definitely would have to be Andrew’s comprehensive track of Copperhead Strike’s teasers Carowinds made before the announcement. He managed to get a good idea of what Carowinds was teasing with the help of us and the readers.

Top Highlights of 2018: Since I didn’t really have any eventful park trips this year, the absolute biggest opportunity I had was to go down with Kyle to Cedar Point’s media day for Steel Vengeance. It was an awesome experience to not only witness a full-on Cedar Point media day (thank you Tony!) but also be part of one for the biggest and most hyped coasters for all of 2018. Not to mention, be some of the first riders to ever ride the rails!

The big highlight from that day was having our reverse POV recorded while Alan Schilke, the designer and mastermind behind Steel Vengeance and all of the other RMC creations, was riding in the same train a few rows behind us!


Finally, we want to give a huge thank you to our readers and supporters. 2018 was the best year ever for our site and brand and we can’t thank you enough. We’ve got big plans for 2019!

The Coaster101 Team – Andrew, Kyle, Eric, John, Mike, Nick (left to right and missing Larry)

How was your 2018 coaster season? Feel free to share your highlights below using the same format we did! Next, we’ll be discussing some of our 2019 plans.

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