Whether youâ€™re looking for a thrill ride on a modern, steel coaster, or you appreciate the classic wooden variety, American theme parks are debuting some new, exciting options this summer. Find out where to ride the best of this summerâ€™s new roller coasters. Busch Gardens is rolling out the wooden coaster, InvadR. Several Six Flags locations are cashing in on the comic-book movie buzz with a new Joker ride. And Sea World, San Antonio has created a new roller coaster that simulates an animal rescue.
Prepare yourself for a wild ride on this summer's six best roller coasters.
This season’s crop of new roller coasters delivers heart-pumping thrills. Two parks — Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, and Kings Island, Ohio — add new wooden coasters with big drops and fast speeds. Three Six Flags parks launch the Joker, a free-fly, frighteningly fun ride. Scream-worthy experiences also debut at SeaWorld San Antonio; Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, New Jersey; and at OWA, a new theme park on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
1. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia: Wooden roller coasters rock — literally. The cars’ slight sway and clackety-clack add to the anticipation. InvadR, the park’s first wooden coaster, bundles nostalgia with the 21st-century plunges on nine hills, including one that plummets riders 74 feet at speeds up to 48 miles per hour. “With a 46-inch height requirement, InvadR is designed as a true family attraction,” says David Cromwell, Busch Gardens president. “It’s perfect for children ready to ride their first big coaster — a ‘Ride of Passage,’ if you will. But trust me, this is a big-time thrill.”
2. Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois; Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington; Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts: Gut-wrenching thrills await at three Six Flags parks that debut the Joker, a new coaster. Forget about planting feet firmly in the ride’s car. As a free-fly coaster, the Joker doesn’t have cars. Instead, passengers hang suspended — legs dangling — outside of the track as they scream through multiple flips and drops.
3. Kings Island, Mason, Ohio: Mystic Timbers, a wooden roller coaster, debuts in July at Kings Island. The ride zooms down 16 hills at speeds reaching 53 miles per hour, and whips riders through an S turn. For the most airtime, sit in the back of the train. At the end, the Shed immerses passengers in a mix of lights, music and videos of creepy critters. Mystic Timbers, notes coaster reviewer Jeff Putz, “gets us back to the idea that a ride doesn’t have to be the tallest in the world to be really excellent.”
4. SeaWorld San Antonio, Texas: SeaWorld’s new coaster, Wave Breaker, adds thrills to the park’s new image as a place for wildlife conservation and protection. Dubbed a rescue coaster, Wave Breaker simulates an animal rescue mission as riders straddle jet ski-style cars that race through 2,600 feet of track, much of which runs over water.
5. OWA, Foley, Alabama: OWA is a new theme park slated to debut this summer on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, some 7 miles from the beach. Steel coaster Rollin’ Thunder, the park’s star attraction, will drop riders 100-nearly vertical feet, then roll them through a 98-foot loop at almost 65 mph.
6. Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, New Jersey: Hydrus is slated to become iconic. The new coaster replaces the Jet Star, the roller coaster Hurricane Sandy dragged into the ocean in October 2012. The new ride features a 72 foot nearly vertical drop at speeds reaching 45 miles per hour.
Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips