There is no shortage of theme parks in Florida, and they offer plenty of roller coasters. But which ones are the very best? It’s subjective, of course. But after logging plenty of miles riding Florida’s rails, we consider these to be the top 10 coasters.
Before we get to the rankings, a few notes. After perusing the list, you may think that a couple of classic rides are conspicuous by their absence. Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, both at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, are certainly two of the most popular and beloved coasters on the planet, let alone Florida. While they are nicely themed, neither offers ride experiences or thrills that compare to the attractions that made the list.
We were considering giving an honorable mention nod to Space Mountain because it is such a classic and iconic attraction. But the ride experience has become so rough, we vetoed that idea. (The version of Space Mountain at Disneyland in California got a major makeover in 2005 and is much smoother than its Disney World counterpart.)
Also missing is Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida. The highly unique ride offers plenty of thrills and is quite a sight, but it can be fairly brutal, with lots of head banging, shimmying, and generally uncomfortable moments. It therefore does not make the list. Despite an overhaul that included new trains and the replacement of most of its track, the Incredible Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, remains relatively rough and also does not make the cut.
2018 brought Slinky Dog Dash, a coaster that is the centerpiece of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a wonderful and charming ride that is accessible to young children, yet still offers decent thrills. While it is a great addition to Walt Disney World, it does not displace any of the other coasters on Florida’s top-10 list.
Coasters We Are Highly Anticipating
The following Florida rides are under construction and are generating a lot of buzz. All five have the potential to displace any of the coasters on the list. Note that some of the rides were supposed to open in 2020, but were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the five upcoming coasters, this one is the most buzzworthy among thrill ride fanatics. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if it took the top spot on the best Florida coasters list. Iron Gwazi was scheduled to debut at Busch Gardens Tampa just as the park closed in March 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as a wooden-steel hybrid coaster, it will feature a new steel track affixed to the modified wooden structure of the park’s former Gwazi coaster. All of the wooden-steel hybrid makeovers have produced great coasters. At 206 feet tall and 76 mph, Iron Gwazi will be Florida’s tallest and fastest coaster. And if it is anything like other hybrid coasters (and it should be), the Busch Gardens ride will be remarkably smooth. It will likely be among the world's best wooden-steel hybrid coasters.
Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Scheduled to open in 2021, VelociCoaster should be, like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (see below), both thrilling and compelling for its storytelling features. In fact, with a top speed of 70 mph, a 155-foot-tall “top hat” tower, an 80-degree plummet, and two inversions, the attraction coming to Islands of Adventure will be the most intense coaster at Universal Orlando (and that’s saying a lot).
TRON Lightcycle / Run
Scheduled to open at the Magic Kingdom (next to Space Mountain) in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021, TRON will be similar to the TRON coaster at Shanghai Disneyland. That highly themed attraction cleverly uses magnetic launch technology to blast passengers into the “Grid” of Disney’s classic sci-fi film. At nearly 60 mph, the kick-ass ride is the fastest coaster at any Disney park.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Another heavily themed indoor coaster, Epcot’s Cosmic Rewind is also scheduled to open before Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration kicks off in 2021. Its vehicles will rotate 360 degrees, and the coaster will feature a reverse launch. Disney is characterizing the attraction as a family-friendly “storytelling coaster.”
Delayed to 2021, Ice Breaker will be SeaWorld Orlando's sixth coaster, and it will be a doozy. The launched coaster will navigate a 93-foot spike at 100 degrees (that's beyond vertical, folks), hit 52 mph, and climb up, over, and down an 80-foot top hat tower. SeaWorld promises the ride will deliver plenty of airtime, including while the train is going backwards during the launch sequence.
Mako at SeaWorld Orlando
The state’s only hypercoaster, Mako really delivers the thrills. At 200 feet and a top speed of 73 mph, it features a flurry of airtime that is sheer bliss for coaster fans. The themed ride casts passengers as sharks on the prowl.
While it does not deliver the thrills of Mako and other more extreme coasters on our list, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike coaster nonetheless offers an exhilarating, wonderful ride experience. With its multiple launches, backwards-racing moments, vertical drop, and other wacky elements, it is at the outer reaches of what is typically considered a “family” coaster. Toss in its immersive, captivating themeing (including an encounter with the jolly half giant himself), and the Universal ride vaults to the number two position on our rundown.
Four out of ten of Florida’s top roller coasters are at the Tampa Bay park, and its floorless diving coaster, SheiKra, is the best of the bunch. It doesn’t just dive 200 feet and reach a top speed of 70 mph. Before it releases its torrent of thrills, the coaster teases its passengers by dangling them over the edge for a protracted moment of terror. And it includes a second dive for good measure.
Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa
The non-traditional coaster incorporates three launches and reaches a fairly robust 60 mph. Despite its speed, it remains accessible as a "family" coaster. Cheetah Hunt is wonderfully themed, delightfully smooth, and eminently re-rideable. It's not even close to the biggest, but it's surely one of Florida's best coasters.
Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa
An incredibly smooth, yet potent thrill machine, Montu is one of the best examples of an inverted coaster (in which the trains are suspended below the track, and passengers’ legs dangle). Among its wonderful elements, the ride navigates into underground trenches for some dizzying fly-by moments. And speaking of dizzying, it offers plenty of inversions.
One of the best flying coasters, Manta is also nicely themed with lush landscaping. The inversions and "flying" position may prove to be too intimidating for some thrill-challenged guests.
Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa
The park has a stunning array of coasters, including this aggressive monster that drops 135 feet, reaches a top speed of 60 mph, and includes some intense G-forces. At nearly 3 minutes long, Kumba keeps its passengers screaming for awhile. Read what Joel Bullock, the Coaster Critic has to say about Kumba, one of his favorite rides.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Aerosmith-themed ride offers a launch that propels passengers from 0 to 57 mph in 2.8 seconds. It also includes three inversions. All while rocking out to amped-up songs such as "Dude Looks Like a Lady." The thrills don't compare to coasters higher on the list, but they are nonetheless intense.
White Lightning at Fun Spot America, Orlando
One of only three wooden coasters in the state, White Lightning’s stats (67-foot drop, 44 mph top speed) would appear to put it in the “family” category. Stats can be deceiving, however. This little ride packs a wonderful punch, yet remains rock-solid smooth. Although it is a wooden coaster, its structure is actually made of steel. The ride (and the park) fly under the radar amid the area's mega theme parks, but should be on your radar.
Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando
The floorless coaster leaves riders exposed as they navigate its 4000 feet of twisted track. Dropping a hearty 144 feet, Kraken reaches 65 mph and includes diabolical inversions such as a dive loop and a cobra roll. This (sea) monster of a ride is not for the faint of heart. Opened in 2000, Kraken has not aged gracefully, and can be a bit rough as it navigates its elements and transitions.