Top 10 Best Wooden Roller Coasters in America

Six Flags' El Toro roller coaster
••• Martin Lewison/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • 01 of 10

    Number 10: The Cyclone at Coney Island

    New York Cityscapes And City Views
    ••• Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

    Steel coasters far outnumber wooden ones, but purists as well as more casual park fans still love wooden coasters. Dating back to the late 1800s, even modern-day "woodies" have a retro feel. (Although ride designers are outfitting some of them with some nifty new technology.) Here are what we consider to be the best of the bunch.

    Let's start the list with a genuine antique, the Cyclone at Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Sure, there may be "better" coasters. To say it's not the smoothest ride is an understatement. (One fan likened the first drop to riding down the rungs of an 85-foot ladder.) But this classic is one of the originals and holds a special place in the hearts of fans. The Cyclone is nostalgic, yet surprisingly vital, after all these years

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  • 02 of 10

    Number 9: Raven at Holiday World

    The Raven roller coaster at Holiday World
    ••• Courtesy of Holiday World

    Raven may be relatively small, but it packs plenty of punch into its small package. Part of a trio of fabulous wooden coasters at the Indiana park, its sister coaster, the much-larger Voyage, also has a prominent place on the best coaster list.

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  • 03 of 10

    Number 8: Goliath at Six Flags Great America

    Goliath rollercoaster at Six Flags Great America
    ••• Arthur Levine

    Goliath is a new-age wooden coaster, featuring an innovative "Topper" track that enables it to include inversions. At the time it debuted, it was the world's tallest and steepest wooden coaster. It was also among the top 10 fastest wooden roller coasters.

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  • 04 of 10

    Number 7: Lightning Racer at Hersheypark

    Lightning Racer coaster at Hersheypark
    ••• Courtesy of Hersheypark

    With their bursts of airtime and wild lateral G-forces, each side of Lightning Racer would probably be a top-ranked coaster on its own. But as a racing/dueling coaster (the first of its kind in the U.S.), with each track offering a unique ride experience, the ride adds a sense of competition. It also offers the thrill of near-misses, as the Millennium Flyer trains seem hellbent on demolishing each other.

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  • 05 of 10

    Number 6: Phoenix at Knoebels

    Knoebels Phoenix rollercoaster
    ••• Jeremy Thompson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Originally known as Rocket, the classic, circa-1948 coaster could have ended up in a Texas landfill when the small amusement park that owned it closed in 1980. Instead, Dick Knoebel purchased it, moved it to Pennsylvania, restored it to its original glory (and then some), and maintains it with the fervor of a true coaster lover.

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  • 06 of 10

    Number 5: The Comet at The Great Escape

    Another coaster that survived a move from its original location, this great old woodie found a new home and a new lease on life. It now delivers its still-potent thrills to new generations of riders.

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  • 07 of 10

    Number 4: Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce

    Boulder dash coaster at Lake Compounce
    ••• Courtesy of Lake Compounce

    Located anywhere else, this wonderful roller coaster would still be a top favorite. Great airtime, smooth ride, relentless speed from start to finish: You name it, the out-and-back Boulder Dash has it. The fact that it is built into the side of a mountain at Lake Compounce and careens around trees and boulders, however, pushes it near top of the list.

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  • 08 of 10

    Number 3: The Voyage at Holiday World

    The Voyage coaster at Holiday World
    ••• Courtesy of Holiday World

    The second ride at the Indiana park to make the list, The Voyage regularly gets the nod from coaster fans as being among the best (if not the best) thrill machines. It has all the makings of a great ride with plenty of height, speed, acceleration, and loads of airtime. Plus it features a number of underground dives.

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  • 09 of 10

    Number 2: Lightning Rod at Dollywood

    Lightning Rod coaster at Dollywood.
    ••• Courtesy of Dollywood

    The world's first launched wooden coaster, Lightning Rod grabs passengers' attention right away. But the ride that follows is glorious. It includes scads of airtime and wild elements such as a quadruple down and seriously over-banked turns. A nighttime ride in the park's forested Smoky Mountain foothills is especially wonderful..

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  • 10 of 10

    Number 1: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure

    Six Flags' El Toro roller coaster
    ••• Martin Lewison/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    How wonderful is El Toro? It just may be the finest ride, period, among all wooden and steel thrill machines. The first time we rode it, we were flabbergasted by its relentless and powerful airtime. Our guess is that you would be also.