15 to 15: Our 15 Favorite Coasters of the Coaster101 Era
Today we continue our 15 to 15 lead-up to the Coaster101 15th birthday with a look at our 15 favorite roller coasters that opened after June 15, 2005 (our birthday). We polled eight Coaster101 writers for their favorites, averaging the votes to come up with the list. The way it ended up, we have some pretty good variety. There’s a nice mix of manufacturers, from parks across the US, and a healthy mix of wood and steel.
Just to be clear, these are our personal favorites. That means a few blind-spots we haven’t ridden don’t show up here. So, we apologize if your favorite isn’t on here, it probably just means we haven’t ridden it yet.
But, good news, we’re also doing another giveaway today! Read to the bottom to learn how to win a coaster101 prize pack, but basically tell us what your favorite coaster from the last 15 years is. We’d love to know what we’re missing out on, or what we got perfectly right!
I think safe to say our favorite flying coaster in the US. Tatsu is the only coaster where I can actually be convinced I’m flying. The huge, swooping turns feel like how an giant dragon would actually move. Plus, the setting is just great. The lift hill emerging out of the pine trees, and then swooping back down towards the woods. And, of course, it contains arguably the most intense element on a coaster anywhere — the giant pretzel loop. If I could knock it for one thing, that pretzel loop is intense enough I can’t ride it more than once (major problem with getting old).
14. Mystic Timbers
Writers Nick and Kyle were there to cover the opening of Mystic Timbers and couldn’t believe how much was packed into this little woodie.. From start to finish, Mystic Timbers has you in its clutches. Airtime hill after airtime hill, twist after twist, this ride never lets up. It uses the the park’s terrain to its full potential. Fast, smooth, low-flying coasters are my favorite, so needless to say we loved this ride. Mystic Timbers has something for everybody. It is intense enough for thrill seekers and enjoyable enough for the little ones. Great Coasters International was able to put all of their best elements into this one ride and it shows!
13. Lightning Run
The clear winner in the “looks can be deceiving” category. Lightning Run isn’t particularly tall, and it’s not particularly fast. It doesn’t have any crazy features like a super fast launch or a vertical drop. It doesn’t even go through exciting woods or terrain. It’s just really fun. As John wrote in his 2016 Kentucky Kingdom trip report, “from the moment the 20-seat train leaves the lift hill, I was subjected to 40+ seconds of hair-raising (literally) airtime.”
Our general consensus thought on Lightning Run has always been, “why aren’t there more of these?” That’s still the case.
12. Ravine Flyer II
There’s a lot to like about Ravine Flyer II. The view from the lift hill. The fact that its built over a road. The fact that Ravine Flyer 3 was built before Ravine Flyer II. Take all that, throw in the amazing forces that come with a Gravity Group wooden coaster, and you’ve absolutely got a winner. I feel like RFII isn’t mentioned in the same conversations as some of the “bigger” names in wooden coasters — El Toro, The Voyage, and The Beast among them, and it’s probably due to its remote location on the shores of Lake Erie. Ravine Flyer II is definitely worth the drive to ride it.
11. Storm Chaser
When Storm Chaser opened in 2016 it was the first in the USA to feature one of the wildest roller coaster elements out there: the RMC barrel roll drop. In our 2016 review of the ride, John described it saying,
“The barrel-roll drop is unlike any roller coaster element I’ve ever experienced, and it’s completely different depending on where in the train you’re sitting. If you’re in the front, get ready for a slow rollover. If you’re near the back, hang on. You’ll be pulled toward the ground head first — it’s an awesomely disorienting maneuver.”
Like most RMC coasters, the rest of the ride is packed with airtime, and a thrill from the start to finish. Plus, you get to watch airplanes fly over it regularly.
Really, what is there to say about Diamondback? It has all of the quintessential elements that make B&M hyper coasters great. Huge drops, huge airtime hills, great views, and lots of speed. It ends with a wonderful helix before going into the rides signature splashdown, arguably the best visual effect on any roller coaster. We could probably argue endlessly about what the best B&M hyper-coaster is, but I think it’d be hard to argue that Diamondback isn’t a great one.
9. Twisted Colossus
My first ever RMC, and still maybe my favorite. Twisted Colossus is about as good a conversion of the classic wooden coaster Colossus as I think anyone could hope for. It opened in 2015 and is still the only RMC racing coaster. I remember the first time I rode it, and just being left in awe at the airtime. I was lifted out of my seat pretty much through the entire turn around, including through the high five element. I’ve never felt that sensation of being completely lifted for that long before. Add on to it the double track and the great series of awesome RMC inversions, and I can’t really think of what would make it better. Of course, I wish it dueled a little more consistently, but it almost makes it sweeter when it does!
8. Lightning Rod
One of my favorite things to do is to ride Lightning Rod with someone who has never ridden it before. Because much of the world’s fastest and only launched wooden coaster’s layout is hidden from view, many first-time riders are blindsided by the blistering speed and unorthodox elements, such as the relentless quadruple down. Nearly every Lightning Rod newbie — and some veterans (me) — are left speechless. These words do the coaster no justice. It alone is worth the trip to Dollywood. Read more in my review of Lightning Rod from its opening season.
7. El Toro
I actually had El Toro at number 1 on my list. Part of this is probably nostalgia, I haven’t ridden it in a few years, but I will never forget my first trip to Great Adventure and my amazement at it. First, I can’t help but enjoy a good cable lift. I also love that you basically can’t see the first hill from anywhere in the line or the station. You start going up that cable lift, and then you notice the drop, and you notice how steep that drop is. My eyes got very wide the first time seeing that.
Then, once it gets going, it doesn’t let up. It combines the giant out-and-back hills in the first half of the ride with exciting twists, turns, and air-time bumps in the second half. It does pretty much everything I want in a wooden coaster, and does them all almost perfectly. No wonder it’s a regular top-3 Golden Ticket best wood coaster, and no wonder that I’m perfectly happy detouring to Six Flags Great Adventure just to ride El Toro over and over for a few hours.
Skyrush is the combination of everything I love about roller coasters. It has crazy speed, tight elements, and airtime unlike anything that can be found elsewhere. Skyrush’s layout is classic Intamin, but unlike its bigger brothers Superman: The Ride and Intimidator 305, Skyrush has a much smaller footprint and incorporates more low-to-the-ground action. The pull of the floater/ejector airtime over the lifthill is an insane sensation, and one of my all time favorite airtime moments. And while the wing style trains are controversial because of their restraints, the feeling of having nothing below your feet and only a lap bar is a very unique experience that Intamin perfected with Skyrush. The ride is the absolute epitome of speed and intensity, and I love every second of it.
It may be because I didn’t actually get to ride Steel Vengeance, but I think that Maverick is the best coaster on America’s Rockin’ Roller Coast. The launches, the beyond-vertical drop, the inversions, even the waterfront setting and water cannons create an amazing overall ride experience. I’m not the biggest fan of Intamin coasters —am I allowed to say that while writing for a roller coaster website? — but Maverick’s layout, trains, and snappiness make it probably my second favorite roller coaster anywhere.
4. Intimidator 305
I-305 is not a coaster that should be at the top of my list of favorite steel coasters. It’s snappy. It’s tunnel vision-inducing. It lacks the swooping, airtime-filled camelback hills that other hyper and giga coasters are known for. But its unconventionality latched onto me. The speed and abrupt transitions are addicting. I rode it over and over in my one visit to Kings Dominion. It was unlike any other coaster I’ve ever ridden. I can’t wait for the day I ride it again.
3. The Voyage
Our first ever Coaster101 meetup was at Holiday World, and going back to read our detailed thoughts on The Voyage, I noticed how many different things there are to love about this coaster. Airtime over the first drop, the hidden turn around deep into the woods, the sheer length, the triple down in the tunnel. All the elements, moments, and characteristic are there.
For me what stands out about it is just how much it keeps up its speed through the ride. The crazy twists and turns deep into the woods don’t slow down. It feels like you’re racing at full speed all the way through them, which is doubly impressive given the crazy length of the Voyage. Add on the gorgeous — and sometimes spooky — setting and the myriad of tunnels, and it’s clear why it’s one of the best roller coasters in the world (and Nick’s #1). I mean, who doesn’t love a good tunnel? And night rides? Just double everything we love about it.
2. Steel Vengeance
The tallest, longest, and fastest hybrid coaster at its opening, and the first ever hyper hybrid. We wrote a lot about Steel Vengeance at its opening, both from the media day, and when the whole Coaster101 team visited Cedar Point that year. Steel Vengeance is, in some ways, exactly what’d you’d expect it to be: an RMC coaster at an absurd scale. It’s filled with classic “RMC-like” elements — complete with fun names like “twisted snake dive” — that give it the crazy air-time and inversions we expect from them. But the shear length of it, the number of elements, and how much of it is buried within the structure of the ride is what makes it rank so special
The whole second half of the ride, especially at night, was maybe the most disoriented I’ve ever been on a roller coaster. I can’t think of any other coaster I’ve ridden where I legitimately got confused as to which way was up. For a solid second on our night ride, I thought the ground was to my left before realizing we were actually back upright. It’s almost indescribable, and that’s why it’s our second favorite coaster of the last 15 years.
1. Fury 325
There’s not much to be said that hasn’t already been written about Fury 325 on our website. It’s the tallest, fastest, and longest traditional roller coaster in North America. 325′ tall. 95 mph. Flies over the park entrance before diving underneath it following perhaps the best moment of airtime I’ve ever experienced in the “Treble Clef” turn around. I’m extremely fortunate to call Carowinds my home park, and I’m even more fortunate that Fury 325 is the crown jewel of the park’s coaster portfolio.
It was really hard to decide on this list. Many coasters that did not make our overall top-15 showed up on our individual lists, and are rides we each personally love. Coasters like Wicked Cyclone, Banshee, Thunderbird, Cheetah Hunt, and many others just missed out. I think what that goes to show is that we live in an amazing time for roller coaster fans, and we should all consider ourselves lucky that we get to ride so many of these awesome rides, no matter where we are in the country.
Coaster101 15 to 15 Giveaway #4
And once again, we’re giving away a prize pack! Tell us in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #Coaster15, what your favorite roller coasters from the last 15 years were, and let us know which ones you love that missed our list (or how spot on we are). We’ll pick one person at random to send a Coaster101 Prize Pack to!
You can enter now through 11:59 p.m. ET tonight.
- The entry period for this giveaway will run until 11:59 p.m. ET tonight. We’ll email the winner tomorrow.
- To remain eligible for your prize pack, you will need to respond with your name and mailing address within 24 hours of receiving the email notification.
- One entry per person.
- Unfortunately, we are unable to ship Prize Packs outside of the U.S.
Update: Congratulations to Tyler S. for winning the giveaway!
Finally, keep an eye out for the next 15 to 15 tomorrow as we continue celebrate Coaster101s 15th anniversary!