Whether you’re looking for a thrill ride on a modern, steel coaster, or you appreciate the classic wooden variety, American theme parks are debuting some new, exciting options this summer. Find out where to ride the best of this summer’s new roller coasters. Busch Gardens is rolling out the wooden coaster, InvadR. Several Six Flags locations are cashing in on the comic-book movie buzz with a new Joker ride. And Sea World, San Antonio has created a new roller coaster that simulates an animal rescue.
This season’s crop of new roller coasters delivers heart-pumping thrills.
Two parks — Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia, and Kings Island, Ohio — add new wooden coasters with big drops and fast speeds. Three Six Flags parks launch the Joker, a free-fly, frighteningly fun ride. Scream-worthy experiences also debut at SeaWorld San Antonio; Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, New Jersey; and at OWA, a new theme park on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
1. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia: Wooden roller coasters rock — literally. The cars’ slight sway and clackety-clack add to the anticipation. InvadR, the park’s first wooden coaster, bundles nostalgia with the 21st-century plunges on nine hills, including one that plummets riders 74 feet at speeds up to 48 miles per hour. “With a 46-inch height requirement, InvadR is designed as a true family attraction,” says David Cromwell, Busch Gardens president. “It’s perfect for children ready to ride their first big coaster — a ‘Ride of Passage,’ if you will. But trust me, this is a big-time thrill.”
2. Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois; Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington; Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts: Gut-wrenching thrills await at three Six Flags parks that debut the Joker, a new coaster. Forget about planting feet firmly in the ride’s car. As a free-fly coaster, the Joker doesn’t have cars. Instead, passengers hang suspended — legs dangling — outside of the track as they scream through multiple flips and drops.
3. Kings Island, Mason, Ohio: Mystic Timbers, a wooden roller coaster, debuts in July at Kings Island. The ride zooms down 16 hills at speeds reaching 53 miles per hour, and whips riders through an S turn. For the most airtime, sit in the back of the train. At the end, the Shed immerses passengers in a mix of lights, music and videos of creepy critters. Mystic Timbers, notes coaster reviewer Jeff Putz, “gets us back to the idea that a ride doesn’t have to be the tallest in the world to be really excellent.”
4. SeaWorld San Antonio, Texas: SeaWorld’s new coaster, Wave Breaker, adds thrills to the park’s new image as a place for wildlife conservation and protection. Dubbed a rescue coaster, Wave Breaker simulates an animal rescue mission as riders straddle jet ski-style cars that race through 2,600 feet of track, much of which runs over water.
5. OWA, Foley, Alabama: OWA is a new theme park slated to debut this summer on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, some 7 miles from the beach. Steel coaster Rollin’ Thunder, the park’s star attraction, will drop riders 100-nearly vertical feet, then roll them through a 98-foot loop at almost 65 mph.
6. Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, New Jersey: Hydrus is slated to become iconic. The new coaster replaces the Jet Star, the roller coaster Hurricane Sandy dragged into the ocean in October 2012. The new ride features a 72 foot nearly vertical drop at speeds reaching 45 miles per hour.