Top 10 1990s Coasters You Can Ride Today!
Over the past few years we’ve been looking at the best coasters from decades past. We did our top coasters from before 1970 in 2019, our top coasters of the 1970s in 2020, and last year our top 10 1980s coasters. Now it’s time for our ’90s coasters, and we admit this was a lot harder than the ’80s coasters.
Luckily, we limit ourselves in a few ways. First, these are only coasters currently operating (in one form or another). We make separate lists for defunct rides we miss the most. Second, we focused only on coasters in the US, because that’s where we all live and what we all ride the most. Have a Europe list? Share it in the comments with us.
We also try to include a variety of coaster types. That means sometimes things are left off the list not because we don’t like them, but because we want some coaster style diversity.
All that said, here are our top 10 coasters from the 1990s still running today!
10. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The first of our top 90s roller coasters is the one that I would describe as the silliest. Yes, in 1999 Disney decided to open a coaster themed to Aerosmith: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Why did they theme a ride to a band that debuted in 1970 for the turn of the century? I have no idea, but somehow the concept works. Yep, riders see a pre-show featuring the band, and then get into a “super stretch” limo and take a geographically questionable route to the upcoming concert.
Once you get over the mild cringe factor of the pre-show and the theme, you get on what turns out to be a pretty awesome indoor coaster. Built by Vekoma, the ride launches into three inversions. And an indoor launch coaster with multiple inversions is almost always good. Add in the light theming, like neon signs along the track, and rotating Aerosmith soundtrack, and its an extra fun ride. Like a lot of Disney coasters, it holds up, and we’ll happily keep riding it even 20+ years later. If you want a much deeper look at the history and theme of the Rock N Rollercoaster, check out Andrews 2019 article.
9. The Raven at Holiday World
The Raven opened at Holiday World in 1995, the first major roller coaster at a park now known for its great coasters. Built by the now defunct Custom Coasters International, from the start The Raven was regularly voted as one of the best wooden roller coasters in its early years.
It’s the smallest of the Holiday World wooden coasters, and while its not as well known as Voyage or the recently refurbished Legend, it also does a great job using the wooded terrain. That’s especially true in the last little run of the coaster where it stays close to the ground. And Holiday World maybe does a better job than maybe any other park at maintaining its trio of fantastic wooden coasters, which means Raven is still running great today! That’s something that can’t be said for a lot of 90s wooden coasters.
8. Batman: The Ride(s) at Six Flags
We’re cheating a little bit here by collectively putting the Six Flags B&M Inverted Coaster Batman: The Rides on the list. The original at Six Flags Great America was the world’s first inverted coaster, opening in 1992. It received ACE landmark status in 2005.
Of all coaster models, B&M inverts might stand the test of the time better than any. All of these, including the original one at Great America, are still great rides, and the sensation in the front row of a first drop on an inverted coaster is still one of the best.
7. Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood
We know that not everyone out there loves Arrow Looping coasters, but Tennessee Tornado, the last one Arrow ever built, is definitely the best, so we couldn’t leave it off. Deep in the woods with a 128 foot drop and 110 foot tall “spiro loop”, the largest inversion Arrow ever made, it’s a pretty intense experience. Plus it has a tunnel cut into the side of the mountain, and who doesn’t love tunnels.
Unlike most Arrow coasters, Tennessee Tornado has held up pretty well as it aged. It’s by no means a smooth coaster, but it doesn’t have the rough ride of most other old Arrows. The combo of its history, location, and being relatively smooth ride makes it a must-ride 90s coaster for us.
For a much deeper look at Tennessee Tornado, see our feature from a few years ago. Also check out this awesome behind the scenes look at the construction.
6. Steel Phantom(‘s Revenge)* at Kennywood
Ok, ok, the Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood of today isn’t exactly the experience of Steel Phantom, but we love it so we wanted to include it on the list. Originally a four inversion Arrow Coaster opened in 1991 as Steel Phantom, DH Morgan Manufacturing modified the coaster. The original four inversions were removed and the track and drop made slightly longer.
But, the heart, and best features, of the coaster remains the same. The lift hill and that first curved drop are as they were originally. And the highlight feature of the dive into the structure of Thunderbolt is still there. The trains are the original chassis, although Morgan removed the over-the-shoulder restraints in place of lap bars (hooray!). So, yeah, maybe what we ride today isn’t exactly the same as the original, but Phantom’s Revenge is an amazing coaster and has enough Steel Phantom bones we’re counting it!
5. Incredible Hulk at Universal Islands of Adventure
Our #5 ’90s coaster still running today is Incredible Hulk at Universal Islands of Adventure! Yes, this pick is also a little bit of a cheat. Incredible Hulk opened at Islands of Adventure in 1999, but got a major major overhaul in 2015 (including new trains and a complete retrack). Still, we’re counting it, because what makes it great was there from the beginning.
Hulk was years in the making, and it was the first ever launched coaster from Bolliger & Mabillard. They show up a lot on this list with models that are pretty common today, but their launched coasters are rare. Hulk is particularly unusual because unlike the typical magnetic launches of today, it uses a tire driven launch. Only a handful of coasters in the US use these, and generally are on the “family” end of the spectrum. Instead Hulk shoots from 0-40mph in 2 seconds up a tunnel and into a massive 7 inversion ride.
Incredible Hulk was the visually stunning centerpiece ride of Islands of Adventure when the park opened in 1999, and it remains one of the most iconic attractions at the park today. We still love it, and the updates made in 2015 to the ride made it even better. Check out our long dive into the idea behind the project from a few years ago for even more Hulk action.
4. GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm
Our top 1990s wooden coaster still running today comes in at #4 on the top-10 list, GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm. Another Custom Coasters International Ride, GhostRider opened in December 1998. Shockingly, it opened six months ahead of schedule! The massive, 4500 foot coaster was by far the biggest attraction at the park. It was also the last ride that was planned and conceptualized before the Knott family sold the park to Cedar Fair in late 1997.
When it opened GhostRider was a hit, regularly being voted as a top-10 wooden coaster. I remember riding it in the early 2000s and having my mind blown by how good, and big, it was. Over the years the ride suffered from wear and tear, getting much rougher in the mid-2010s. But, in 2015 the ride closed for a major overhaul before the parks 75 year anniversary in 2016.
Great Coasters International came in and did a major retracking, along with some reprofiling. They also introduced new GCI Millenium Flyer trains on it. After the refurbishment GhostRider is running better than ever, and immediately shot back up the list of my favorite wooden coasters. The ride is filled with thrilling crossovers and drops within the track structure as it follows a double out-and-back layout. The Millenium Flyer trains zoom through the layout, feeling like they never lose speed even on the turn-arounds. And the massive 450 degree helix at the end of the ride is one of my favorite elements on any wooden coaster. Between the Knott’s history and the current quality of the coaster after the refurbishment, GhostRider is a ’90s coaster you shouldn’t miss (even if the lines tend to be excruciatingly long).
3. Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Alpengeist is maybe our favorite B&M Inverted Coaster, period, so it easily made a spot on this list. It opened at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1997, which makes it the second oldest coaster in the park today! Back when we gave arguments for why each coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg could be the best, I went on at length about all the elements that make Alpengeist a great ride. Mostly it boils down to two things.
First, it’s full of elements that differentiate it from other B&M inverts, like the giant 195 foot high drop that spirals back under the lift hill. Second, it uses the terrain of the park amazingly well. It’s hard to even see the whole track from any one spot because of how it uses the valley it lies in. It goes out over the Rhine River and crosses over itself who knows how many times. And then the final stretch where it heads under the bridge before heading through multiple inversions and the eternally snowy trenches is easily my favorite ending to any B&M inverted coaster. I’m always amazed by how well all B&M coasters hold up over time, and Alpengeist is one of the best.
2. Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Either of our top two coasters could have been #1 on the list, and it makes sense why: They’re both fantastic early Bolliger & Mabillard Hyper Coasters. Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened in March of 1999 — just two years after Alpengeist — making it the OLDEST B&M Hyper Coaster. When the concept for Apollo’s Chariot first came about the idea was to make it all airtime.
“We didn’t want any curves as they put positive Gs in the seat of the rider, and we wanted the most airtime of any coaster ever. We talked to several companies to work with on this but really wanted B&M to do (it),” said Larry Giles, Senior Director of Design and Engineering for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. And airtime it provides. It features a 210 foot first drop into the ravine below, followed by EIGHT more hills and drops. Across nearly 4,900 feet of track there are 825 feet of drops!
Apollo’s Chariot remains many people’s favorite ride at the park. It also consistently gets voted into the top-10 (or top-11) steel roller coasters in the world. And, like all good BGW coasters, it makes great use of running alongside the river. We love it, and our only complaint is how hard it is to take photos of the surprisingly hidden hyper coaster. For a much longer read about Apollo’s Chariot, check out Andrew’s feature on it from its 20th anniversary in 1999!
1. Raging Bull at Six Flags Great America
So we basically had to flip a coin when picking our #1, but decided to go with the other ’90s B&M Hyper Coaster: Raging Bull at Six Flags Great America is our top coaster from the 1990s still running today. It opened on May 1, 1999, just barely a month after Apollo’s Chariot did. We all like B&M hypers, they’re all great rides, but a lot of them are pretty similar in their layout and experience. Raging Bull stands out from the rest.
When the whole C101 team visited Six Flags Great America in 2019 we almost all put Raging Bull as our #1 at the park. What we all agreed on was how much it surprised us. As Nick wrote back then, “I’m convinced if they had built that ride now rather than in ’99…(it) would be hailed as unique and superior to many of the other B&M hypers.”
Unlike the typical out-and-back layout of B&M hypers, Raging Bull is a much tighter layout, sometimes even called a “Hyper-twister” coaster. After the 208 foot drop into a tunnel the train immediately climbs into a 155 foot tall, 180 degree, banked turn, heading back in the direction it came. It crosses both under and over the track for the first of many times. The track continues to rise, drop, turn around, and cross over until the finale. An amazing, low to the ground twisted Figure-8 element ends the ride.
We love the twisted layout that still retains the B&M smoothness and the awesome ride of their hypercoasters, and that’s why it’s our favorite coaster from the 1990s still running today!
It turns out there are a lot of good ’90s coasters still going today, so we wanted to acknowledge a few 1990s coasters that we considered but didn’t quite make the list.
- Other B&M Inverts: Look, I’ve never ridden a B&M invert that I didn’t like. So whether it’s Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa, or Raptor at Cedar Point, or Afterburn at Carowinds, all probably could have made it on this list. We like them all, and we’re sorry if your favorite didn’t make it. We promise we like it too.
- Joker’s Jinx/Flight of Fear: The 90s Premier launch coasters are all still pretty great coasters. We especially like Joker’s Jinx, the outdoor version at Six Flags America.
- Riddler’s Revenge: Our favorite stand-up coaster for sure, Riddler’s Revenge is still one of our favorite coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain. It’s pretty amazing how much better it is than all of the other stand-up coaster that opened in the ’90s.
Those are our favorite roller coasters from the 1990s still dropping and looping in 2022!
But, while we’ve ridden a lot of coasters, there’s always a chance we missed one. So, if we left off your favorite, let us know in the comments, or tell us on Facebook and Twitter. And if we nailed it and your favorite coaster is on the list, tell us that too!