February 28, 2021

Worth the Ride

Your roller-coaster ride-trip hit list
By Kristi Kates | June 10, 2017

Hold on tight to your lap bar, your bag of amusement park souvenirs, and your lunch — we’re rating the best roller coasters in Michigan and our neighboring road-trip-able states.

Shivering Timbers
Michigan’s Adventure – Muskegon
The fifth longest wooden roller coaster in the world, Timbers opened in May 1998 with 5,383 feet of track. This towering construction cranks out a rattling good time from the word go, pulling itself up its first run on a thrillingly loud, ratcheting chain, then taking off at speeds of up to 65 mph on a series of three camelback hills, several smaller hills, a short hit of air time, and a spin on its grand finale, a 630-degree helix during which riders experience a lateral G-force. 6.5/10

Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
If you lived in Michigan for any part of your childhood, chances are you probably spent at least one summer weekend in the car, heading downstate with juice boxes in hand to drive across the border to Cedar Point, every Michiganian’s favorite “nearby” major amusement park. The Point these days is the only amusement park in the world with five coasters taller than 200 feet, and the Valravn is perhaps the most impressive of them all; it’s said to be the tallest and longest dive coaster in the world, with wide trains, over-the-shoulder vest restraints for riders, and 223 feet total height. It also holds the record as the fastest dive coaster, at 75 mph, and the longest drop, 214 feet. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles — just sheer power and energy. 8.5/10

The Joker
Six Flags Great America – Gurnee, Illinois
Much like its name, this trickster of a coaster is the newest addition to the Chicago-area’s Six Flags theme park, and you can tell it’s got something up its sleeve from the moment you arrive at the entrance, which mirrors the look of an old state fair carny ride. The park itself calls the ride “maniacal,” and with good reason — the train itself, classified as a four-dimensional free-spin coaster, launches quickly with a pop, sends you on the outer edges of the track in a floating formation, then tailors a unique series of dives, dips, and spins for each car, based on the number and weight of its riders. There are great views of the park, too, but you’ll be too scared to notice most of the time. 8.5/10

The Serpent
Kokomo’s Family Fun Center – Saginaw
It may be smaller than some of its major amusement park cousins, but The Serpent (pictured above) has the benefit of being right in our home state. The coaster, which stretches up five stories, is actually a repurposed Galaxi coaster that was moved to Michigan from Paducah, Kentucky. Operating in a modified figure-eight shape, it’s a swirling coaster that makes riders feel a little like they’re being pulled down into a bathtub drain — not terribly scary but with enough of a fear factor on those outer curves to make it a decent ride and worth the price of admission: a steal at $6.50 per adult. 5.5/10

At Michigan’s Adventure – Muskegon
Thunderhawk is an inverted coaster, which means that the train of cars runs beneath the track rather than on top of it, so your legs are left dangling free and your terror escalating tenfold. You’ll start the Thunderhawk with a slow pull up its first 109-foot lift hill, after which you’ll suddenly drop 85 feet and zip up to 50 mph through several loops, a barrel roll, and two inversions. Also included: various “footchopper” effects designed to look as though you’re about to lose your lower quadrant to close calls with various pieces of coaster machinery. 8/10




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