Pennsylvania is home to some of the country's best amusement parks and insane thrill rides. From Phoenix at Knoebel's to Skyrush at Hersheypark, and Kennywood's Thunderbolt, there are traditional wooden roller coasters and gravity-defying steel coasters certain to please even the most discerning roller coaster enthusiast.
As the second-longest steel coaster on the East Coast, Dorney Park's Steel Force is not for the faint of heart. It's over a mile long and features plenty of dips and steep drops along the way. Oh, and with a top speed of 75 mph, you'll experience 2.5 G’s of force by the time you hit the bottom of the first hill. If that's not enough to get your adrenaline pumping, I don't know what will!
Coaster fans will definitely want to make a stop at Knoebel's Amusement Resort in Elysburg, since there are several rides worth checking out here. One, Phoenix, is a historic wooden coaster that's stood the test of time. Originally built as Rocket in 1947, it was once the largest coaster in the world. It's now pretty small by today's standards, but people keep coming back to the wooden coaster for its negative-gravity upwards acceleration, which creates a sensation known as "airtime.” You'll feel like you're floating along as the track twists and turns-- pretty wild! Another coaster that's popular with parkgoers is Twister. It's a little more intense than Phoenix, with taller hills and signature curves and helixes, but it's a perennial favorite at Knoebel's.
There are so many great rides at Hersheypark... where to begin? There's Storm Runner, which features "cobra loops" and "flying snake dives" and a start that launches riders onto the track from 0-75 mph in two seconds flat; there's Skyrush, which lets rides experience 5 and -2 G's of force in one ride with seats that hang off the edge of the track; and there's Fahrenheit, a vertical-lift inverted loop coaster which was, until recently, the roller coaster with the steepest drop in the world, at 97 degrees.
Hersheypark is also home to Great Bear, an intense inverted coaster with Immelmann loops, helixes, and zero-G rolls, and Lightning Racer, which is a little less scary, but no less fun. It's a wooden coaster that has two dueling tracks with cars that race one another!
Leap-The-Dips is the signature ride at Altoona's Lakemont Park. It was built in 1902 and is the last remaining side friction roller coaster in the country-- an old-school type coaster that doesn't have the second set of wheels to further anchor the train to the track. It's a National Historic Landmark and is a must for coaster fans and history buffs alike. It's pretty tame, with a max height of 41 feet and a top speed of 10 mph, but since it was restored in the ’90s, it's still in good shape for riders today!
If you're traveling with kids, add Idlewild in Ligonier to your Pennsylvania road trip! It's the oldest amusement park in PA, and it's the perfect place to take future roller coaster enthusiasts. Whip and Rollo Coaster are both historic wooden coasters from the early 20th century that are easy ways to introduce kids to the thrills and excitement of rollercoasters. Plus, there are loads of other rides and attractions for kids to enjoy here, from bumper cars to tilt-a-whirls and tons more... it should come as no surprise that it's considered one of the best amusement parks for kids!
Kennywood is another theme park that offers a lot of bang for your buck. Phantom's Revenge is a Frankenstein-like coaster that was once known as Steel Phantom, until it underwent a few updates after nine years of thrilling riders. Today, a ride on the coaster lasts under two minutes, but it's pure adrenaline the whole way. Corkscrews, vertical loops, and massive hills keep things interesting. There's also Jack Rabbit, which classic coaster fans will love. It was built in 1921, and like other old wooden rides, has undergone some renovations to keep it running smoothly, but it still provides crazy airtime to riders.
The Racer is another dueling coaster, but it's unique in that, instead of two different tracks, there's only one track, and trains return to a different station than the one they left from. It was built in 1927 to replace an older racing coaster, and have been popular, especially with families, ever since. For more vintage fun, check out Thunderbolt, another old-school wooden coaster with loads of hills and turns. It's a little faster and the drops are a little bigger than those of Jack Rabbit or Racer, but it's still tamer than Phantom's Revenge, which cuts across Thunderbolt!
Conneaut Lake Park is home to the 17th oldest roller coaster in the US, Blue Streak. It's been opened, closed and updated multiple times since its grand unveiling in 1937, and as the only wooden coaster left at Conneaut Lake, it's a must-ride. Plus, with a max speed of 50 mph and a ride time topping out over 2 minutes, it's a nice, long ride that's well worth any wait.
If you're looking for a thrill near Erie, PA, head to Waldameer Park and catch a ride on Ravine Flyer II. Its name is a tribute to an older roller coaster, Ravine Flyer, which was torn down in the 1930s. Ravine Flyer II was opened in 2008, and features the tallest drop on a wooden coaster in all of Pennsylvania. Air time hills, 90-degree banked turns, ascending curves, and more make it a gut-droppingly fun ride!
These are just a few of the totally awesome coasters you'll find across Pennsylvania! If you prefer tamer thrills, these parks all offer tons of other attractions and fun. But, as the state with the most roller coasters per capita, if you're after hills, twists, turns, and loops at high speeds, road trip through Pennsylvania and see all the coasters they have to offer.
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