FlipsidePA reporter Abbey Zelko takes on the tallest, fastest and oldest roller coasters at Hersheypark for National Roller Coaster Day.
Jeremy Long, FlipSidePA
You look up. Way up.
Gulp. “What did I get myself into?”
There’s no sympathy to be had from the person next to you âÂ they’ve done it before.
As you’re climbing that hill, being serenaded by the clacking of the car you’re strapped into, there’s onlyÂ the track in front of you.
Grades, money, love, heartbreak … There’s no room in your head for any of that while you’re on a roller coaster.
Well, aÂ good one, anyway.
Pennsylvania has plenty of those. ElevenÂ roller coasters in Pennsylvania were ranked among the top 100 in the world in 2016. That’s more than any other state. Or any foreign nation.
A survey of 500 roller coaster enthusiasts from around the globeÂ determines the annual “Golden Ticket” top 50 listsÂ for steelÂ andÂ wooden roller coasters. The awardsÂ âÂ which also assess other aspects of amusement parks âÂ are basically the Emmys of the theme park industry, organized by trade publication Amusement Today.
Pennsylvania’s topÂ coasters aren’t the fastest. They aren’t the tallest. And for the most part, they certainly aren’t the newest âÂ one is nearly 100 yearsÂ old,Â actually.
But there’s something special about them, according to enthusiasts.
“Magic” is the wordÂ Tim Baldwin, Golden Ticket awards communications coordinator, used when talking about the kind of roller coaster Pennsylvania specializes in: timeless attractions worth taking your kids (or grandkids) back to experience.
While many amusement parks closed or tore down their older wooden roller coasters after the 1970s theme park craze, many of Pennsylvania’s parks bucked the trend,Â Baldwin said.
The result: A number ofÂ Pennsylvania’s roller coasters are a page out of history âÂ thrilling in a way that’s impossible to recreate.
âYou laugh together. You remember it. You hold on to it,” Baldwin said.
That idea of a shared experience is baked right into the design of some of the classic wooden coasters.
Baldwin cited Kennywood’s Thunderbolt âÂ built in 1968 and ranked the 21stÂ best wooden roller coaster in the world. The West Mifflin park won’tÂ allow single riders on.
Why? It’s designed to be ridden together âÂ the curves smash you up against your riding…