Whether you've always been a fan of the latest and greatest roller coasters or appreciate new spins on the familiar (like the chance to ride an old-fashioned wooden coaster backwards), we've rounded up this year's newest thrill rides, and there's something for everybody! Plus, we've included links to videos of the rides and important information about ticket prices and parking fees so you know exactly what you're getting into.
For Thrill-Seeking Adrenaline Junkies
GATEKEEPER: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
Talk about a record-breaking roller coaster. Debuting at Cedar Point in May of this year, Gatekeeper has become the longest wing-style roller coaster at 4,164 feet with the longest vertical drop of any wing-style roller coaster--a whopping 164 feet! Reaching speeds of more than 65 miles per hour, this attraction takes riders through several spirals, twists, and rolling flyover maneuvers, including two that give the effect of a near-collision with new structures built just above the park's front gate. Cedar Point; adult tickets start at $44.99 when ordered online. Junior and Senior prices start at $29.99. Expect to pay $15 for parking.
TEXAS SKY SCREAMER: Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, Texas
Imagine your typical swing ride. Now take that same idea and lift it 400-feet above the ground. The Texas Skyscreamer at Six Flags Over Texas does just that, making it the world's tallest swing ride, sending riders on a whirlwind 35 mph flight in a 124-foot-wide circle above the park. Visit the Skyscreamer at night for unparalleled views of the downtown Dallas and Fort Worth area, and see if you can spot nearby Cowboys Stadium or the Texas Rangers Ballpark--if you can keep your eyes open that is. Six Flags Over Texas; purchase park tickets at least three days in advance and pay only $44.99 per person--regular online prices start at $47.99 per person. Ages two and under get in free. Parking is $20 per vehicle
FULL THROTTLE: Six Flags Magic Mountain, L.A. area, Calif.
If you like loops, this is the coaster of your dreams! Full Throttle debuted at Six Flags Magic Mountain in June, making it the world's tallest and fastest looping roller coaster. Those brave enough to try it can ride along the inside and outside of the record-breaking 160-foot loop and experience three zero-to-70 mph launches--two that propel you forward and one that shoots you backwards through an underground tunnel and halfway up the track before you fly forward into the final stretch. Six Flags Magic Mountain; ticket prices start at $41.99 per person when purchased online at least three days in advance. Regular online prices start at $46.99 per person. Ages two and under get in free. Parking is $18 per vehicle.
For Fans of Classic Wooden Roller Coasters
OUTLAW RUN: Silver Dollar City, Branson, Mo.
Get ready to soar through the trees on Outlaw Run, Silver Dollar City's latest addition. This wooden coaster currently holds records for being the world's steepest, and for being the only wooden roller coaster in the world to actually twist upside down, with not one, but two barrel rolls, giving visitors a total of nine spots throughout the ride where they'll feel absolutely weightless. Silver Dollar City; adult ticket prices start at $58, tickets for children ages 4-11 are from $48, and tickets for seniors over the age of 62 are from $56. Preferred parking closest to the front gate costs $12 per vehicle, but all other parking for this theme park is free.
GOLD STRIKER:California's Great America, Santa Clara, Calif.
At 108.2 feet high, Goldstriker at California's Great Adventure whisks riders along 3,197 feet of track at a whopping 53.7 mph, making it the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California. California's Great America; single day adult tickets start at $45.99 when ordered online, with junior and senior tickets starting from $39.99. Look for a special deal this summer that gives you tickets for $39.99 each when two or more are ordered, saving you $23 per person compared to gate prices. Expect to pay $15 for parking.
VIPER--BACKWARDS!: Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Ill.
Now through August 26th, visitors to Six Flags Great America will have a rare chance to experience the beloved hills, twists, and turns of its best-known wooden roller coaster, Viper--backwards. That's right, the park actually had its popular Batman: The Ride running in reverse until July 7th, and has moved on to the gut-wrenching, gravity-defying thrills of this 3,500-foot wooden coaster, guaranteed to give visitors a stomach-dropping ride they'll never forget. Six Flags Great America; daily tickets start from $41.99 per person when purchased online at least three days in advance. Regular online ticket prices start at $46.99 per person. Parking is $22.
For Water Ride Lovers
UNDERTOW: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, Calif.
If you're in the San Francisco Bay area, keep an eye out for Undertow, a new thrill ride opening in August at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of Budget Travel's favorite American Boardwalks. Riders board four-person cars with two people facing forward and two facing backward. The cars continue to rotate throughout the entire ride, guaranteeing that no two trips will be exactly the same, and making this the only spinning roller coaster in Northern California. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; several ticketing options are available, including an unlimited all-day rides wristband for from $31.95, and tickets that throw in boardwalk attractions like laser tag and mini-golf for from $38.95. Check the website for more options and discounts. Parking is $12.
RIVER RUSH: Dollywood's Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Debuting in May of this year, River Rush officially became Tennessee's first-ever water roller coaster, bringing visitors four stories into the trees for a series of twists and turns through dark, watery tunnels. You'll climb like a roller coaster and experience four drops, the largest being a 25-foot fall at a 45-degree angle. Dollywood's Splash Country; tickets for visitors ages 12-59 start at $47, with seniors over age 60 and children ages 4-11 paying from $42. Expect to pay $10 for parking.
For Family-Friendly Fun
THE NEW FANTASYLAND: Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The New Fantasyland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is now home to new attractions like The Enchanted Forest, an area inspired by Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. New Fantasyland restaurants include Gaston's Tavern (it's hard not to burst into Gaston's theme song in here!), and the Be Our Guest Restaurant, the first in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol. Plans for next year include a Princess Fairytale Hall for special princess meet-and-greets, and a new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. Classic Disney rides like Dumbo The Flying Elephant and The Barnstormer are now a part of the new section's Storybook Circus. Walt Disney World; one day tickets to the Magic Kingdom start at $95 for adults and $89 for children ages 3-9. Parking is $15 per day.
DESPICABLE ME MINION MAYHEM: Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, Fla.
In honor of the new film, Despicable Me 2, which opened earlier this month, Universal Studios invites you to get in on the action and join Steve Carell's infamous super-villian, Gru, and other characters from the films on an epic Minion-filled adventure--in 3-D. Universal Studios Florida; single-day single-park admission tickets start at $92 for adults and $86 for children ages 3-9. Expect to pay $16 for parking.
TRANSFORMERS 3D: Universal Studios Hollywood, Calif. and Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Fla.
Available at both Universal Studios theme parks in Florida and California, Transformers 3D is being billed as "an immersive, next generation thrill ride blurring the line between fiction and reality." You'll fight along Optimus Prime and friends as the evil Decepticons try to wreak havoc on humanity in one of the park's latest 3-D attractions. Universal Studios Florida: single-day single-park admission tickets start at $92 for adults and $86 for children ages 3-9; parking is $16. Universal Hollywood: admission is from $84 for adults and from $76 for children under 48"; parking is $15.