On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," CBS News Travel Editor
No. 5: Wildebeest, Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, in Santa Claus, Ind.
What makes this ride stand out among the rest? Just opened in April of this year, it's the world's longest "water coaster" at 1,710 feet, powered by a combination of electric currents, water and magnets. The "hydromagnetic" technology takes this ride up seven hills, with an initial drop of 38 feet (or four stories) at a 45-degree angle. Linear Induction Motors, more commonly used in steel coasters, propel the four-person rafts up and down through two underground tunnels and around a helix. The ride covers two acres, and reaches top speeds of 36 feet per second.
No. 4: Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, in Jackson, N.J.
This ride opened in May of 2005. Yet it's still on our list - which should speak to how awesome this ride is. It is 456 feet high, has a drop of 418 feet and a speed of 128 mph (in fact it goes from 0 to 128 in 3.5 seconds). This strata coaster (meaning a complete-circuit roller coaster with a height between 400 feet and 499 feet) is both the fastest and the tallest in the United States.
This coaster has currently given more than 3 million rides since it opened in 2005. According to Six Flags, it's so fast that it's not run in even light rain or high wind. If you're not feeling up for the ride, don't worry: the dramatic drop and lightning-fast speeds makes it thrill to watch from the sidelines.
No 3: Diamondback, Kings Island, in Kings Mill, Ohio
When Diamondback opened last year, it became one of the most talked-about coasters in 2009. It is categorized as a "hypercoaster." According to Don Helbig, who not only handles public relations for Kings Island, but is also a Guinness World Record holder for roller coaster rides, the term "hypercoaster" can refer to either the style of a coaster or its height (between 200 and 299 feet). The Diamondback falls into the first category because it lacks inverts elements and uses a lift hill rather than a speedy launch.
It is a 5,280-foot adventure travels through twists and turns of wilderness, and ends with a splash in a pool of water. Its open-air, stadium-style seating allows for unobstructed views of all the drops, twists and turns.
The Diamondback stands 230 feet tall at its highest point with a first drop of 215 feet at a 74-degree angle. This ride snakes its way around 5,282 feet of steel track and speeds up to 80 miles an hour. The ride has 10 vertical drops overall.
Like the Kingda Ka, this ride has had over 3 million riders. One rider, 68 year old Gary Coleman, of Monfert Heights, Ohio has ridden the Diamondback more than 2,800 times and counting!
No. 2: Sky Rocket, Kennywood, in West Mifflin, Pa.
This roller coaster opened in June of 2010. The coaster's launch technology, called Linear Synchronous Motor, shoots riders from 0 to 50 in less than 3 seconds! The ride is launched up a 95-foot climb and hangs briefly before plummeting into a 90-degree drop. A second vertical free-fall, a corkscrew turn, and the feeling of flying off their seats while upside down, rounds out this 65-second thrill-ride.
No 1: Intimidator 305, Kings Dominion, in Doswell, Va.
Opened in April 2010, the aptly named Intimidator is one of only three "giga coasters" in the world. The term giga coaster means it's a complete circuit roller coaster with a height between 300 and 399 feet. (The first was 310-foot tall Millennium Force at Cedar Point and the third is the 318-foot Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land in Japan.)
It's the tallest of its type on the East Coast (launch coasters can be taller, but this is the tallest of the traditional gravity driven coaster using a cable to pull it to the top), and it's the fastest of its type in North America.
Intimidator's track is 5,100 square feet in length and reaches a maximum height of 305 feet. The first drop is 300 feet at 85 degrees, with top speeds of 90 mph.
PETER'S PERSONAL FAVORITE: Jack Rabbit, Seabreeze Amusement Park, in Rochester, N.Y.
This roller coaster was opened in 1920, and at the time, it was the fastest coaster in the world. Today it's best known as the oldest continuously operating coaster in America. (Though there are two older coasters in the country, neither have operated continuously since opening.)
The track layout is modified out and back, which means it goes straight out a good ways and then turns around and comes back. Just before it comes all the way back, it goes around another curve and through a tunnel with one last drop.
It's said that although the ride is 90 years old, the experience is actually more like it's 9 years old. The trans have been replaced several times, the complete wood structure gets pretty much rebuilt each decade, and the old lift hill mechanism has been replaced with a modern drive system, meeting all modern standards for safety and efficiency.
The max vertical drop is 75 feet, and the speed is 42 mph, with a track length of 2150 feet. Although it's not as thrilling as today's mega coaster, it is certainly considered a rite of passage for generations of families across Central N.Y. Even today, it's a milestone when kids are finally tall enough to enjoy the ride.