Top 10 Most Underrated Roller Coasters in North America

  • 01 of 10

    Number 10 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Swamp Fox

    ••• Swamp Fox at Family Kingdom. Family Kingdom, 2008. Used with permission.

    The top 10 most underrated roller coasters are the Rodney Dangerfields of parkdom: They just don't get no respect. No respect at all. Maybe they are overshadowed by bigger, flashier coasters on the midway. Or perhaps they are located at smaller parks that are generally under the radar of most ride fans. Whatever the reason, the following coasters offer wonderful ride experiences; but I'll wager there's a good chance you'd never know it, because you've never heard of them. I aim to change that by giving these underrated coasters some of the love they deserve.

    Number 10 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Swamp Fox
    Family Kingdom in Myrtle Beach, SC

    At one time, roller coasters and other amusements dotted the shorelines; now, seaside amusement parks are an endangered species. One of the few remaining beach havens is Family Kingdom, and its white-latticed Swamp Fox is a sight to behold along Myrtle Beach's Grand Strand. Reaching a height of 75 feet and a top speed of 50 mph, the circa-1966...MORE figure-eight woodie provides just enough out-of-control moments and airtime to deliver decent thrills, but doesn't scare away guests who might skip the behemoth extreme coasters that tower over many park midways.

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  • 02 of 10

    Number 9 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Excalibur

    ••• Excalibur at Funtown Splashtown U.S.A. Theme Park Review. Used with permission.
    Funtown Splashtown U.S.A. in Saco (near Old Orchard Beach), ME

    Nearby Old Orchard Beach once had some great coasters, but as with most seaside parks, the old woodies are long gone. A few miles inland, Funtown Splashtown U.S.A. has been keeping Maine's amusements torch burning. In 1998, the smallish park opened Excalibur, a wooden coaster from the gone-but-not-forgotten ride masters at Custom Coasters International (designers of hallowed thrill machines such as Raven and Boulder Dash). With an 82-foot drop and a top speed of 55 mph, Excalibur provides a king's ransom of thrills--and plenty of airtime to boot. Its figure-eight element adds a dose of fun.

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  • 03 of 10

    Number 8 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Comet

    ••• Comet at Hersheypark. Theme Park Review. Used with permission.
    Hersheypark in Hershey, PA

    Hersheypark has an impressive roster of coasters, but the venerable Comet typically gets lost in the shuffle. And that's a shame. The 1940s-era ride more than holds its own against modern-day behemoths--even as it evokes the park's long, grand history. With a first drop of 78 feet and a top speed of 50 mph, Comet has just enough oomph to deliver some great thrills and airtime.

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  • 04 of 10

    Number 7 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Wooden Warrior

    Wooden-Warrior-Quassy.jpg
    ••• © Arthur Levine.

    Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, CT

    Most of the underrated coasters on my list are wooden, and Wooden Warrior is no exception. But it is a modern breed of woodeie. Incorporating an innovative train design that includes navigable wheels, the ride is remarkably smooth. Even though the coaster is comparatively small, it packs a mighty punch. Read my review of Wooden Warrior.

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  • 05 of 10

    Number 6 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Powder Keg

    ••• Powder Keg at Silver Dollar City. Silver Dollar City. Used with permission.
    Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO

    Officially known as Powder Keg: A Blast in the Wilderness, the ride uses an explosives factory theme to capitalize on its kaboom of a compressed air launch. Accelerating from 0 to 53 mph in 2.8 seconds, the coaster provides a wild start--but not so wild that it would appeal only to diehard thrill seekers. To keep its family-friendly status, Powder Keg also foregoes any inversions, although it does feature some highly banked turns. In short, this is one blast of a ride.

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  • 06 of 10

    Number 5 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Racer

    ••• Racer at Kings Island. © Arthur Levine, 2009. Licensed to About.com.
    Kings Island in OH.

    The Beast, despite its legendary status, is a declawed, disappointing ride. And Son of Beast is notoriously brutal. But that doesn't mean Kings Island is devoid of wooden coaster goodness. Tucked into the back of the park, Racer delivers the kind of airtime- and joy-filled ride that fans associate with wooden coasters. And, it's two, two, two coasters in one. The twin tracks offer the added fun of racing trains. With its elegant, white-framed, out-and-back profile, Racer is as much fun to see as it is to ride.

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  • 07 of 10

    Number 4 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Gemini

    ••• Gemini at Cedar Point. ©Arthur Levine, 2007. Licensed to About.com.
    Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH

    Figuratively, as well as literally standing in the shadows of Cedar Point's world-renowned lineup of coasters such as Millennium Force and Magnum, Gemini appears positively quaint. (It's even got a retro name and space theme, fer cryin' out loud.) But looks can be deceiving. Gemini is one rush of an airtime launch pad, and its 60-mph top speed would have any NASA space cadet hanging on for dear life. Like Racer, Gemini is a twin-tracked racing coaster. And speaking of deceiving looks, the ride's wood structure actually has a tubular steel track; Gemini combines a classic, wood coaster appearance with a smooth, steel-coaster ride.

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  • 08 of 10

    Number 3 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: Scream!

    ••• Scream! at Six Flags Magic Mountain. © Arthur Levine, 2004. Licensed to About.com.

    Scream! Coaster Review

    Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA

    X2, Tatsu, Goliath, and the list goes on: With one of the largest coaster arsenals in the world, there are plenty of notable thrill machines at Magic Mountain. But Scream! is often taken for granted and rarely mentioned when coaster fans tick off their favorite Magic Mountain rides. I don't get it. It is among the best of its breed--a floorless coaster with some serious attitude. Scream! is remarkably smooth, loaded with airtime, and has plenty of surprises to warrant its name.

    Scream! has an East Coast clone: Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. Formerly known as Medusa, the coaster got a snazzy makeover in 2009 with onboard audio, fire effects, and other enhancements. The coaster ride is essentially the same as Scream!, but with the enhancements, the Great Adventure ride is no longer overlooked and therefore no long underrated.

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  • 09 of 10

    Number 2 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: The Wild One

    ••• The Wild One at Six Flags America. © Arthur Levine, 2002. Licensed to About.com.

    Six Flags America in Mitchellville, MD

    One of Six Flags' less popular parks, Six Flags America is a bit under the radar to begin with. Ride fans may be familiar with the park's hypercoaster, Superman: Ride of Steel and perhaps Batwing, one of the earliest flying coasters. Most would be hard pressed to identify The Wild One, however. And few of those diehards who are familiar with the classic wooden coaster know about its storied past.

    Dating back to 1917, the ride originally circled along one side of Paragon Park in Hull, MA, south of Boston, where it was known simply as the Giant Coaster. When the seaside park closed in 1985, the Maryland park saved it from the wrecking ball. Despite its vintage, the woodie remains surprisingly potent, even by modern thrill machine standards.

    Read my review of The Wild One.

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  • 10 of 10

    Number 1 Most Underrated Roller Coaster: The Comet

    ••• The Comet at The Great Escape. © Arthur Levine, 2006. Licensed to About.com.

    The Great Escape (a Six Flags park) in Queensbury (near Lake George), NY

    Another transplanted coaster, The Comet dates back to 1927 when it was known as the Cyclone. In 1946, Crystal Beach in Ontario, Canada dismantled the ride and used some of its steel (both the Cyclone and The Comet feature a wood track on a steel superstructure) to construct the larger and wilder The Comet. In 1994, The Great Escape saved the ride from the bulldozer after Crystal Beach closed.

    Like The Wild One, The Comet may hark back to an earlier era, but there is absolutely nothing antiquated about its incredible ride. Six Flags has done a remarkable job preserving the classic coaster, and the double out-and-back ride still delivers a non-stop, thrill- scream- and laugh-filled ride.

    Read my review of The Comet.