Travel Which state's roller coasters are world's best?

16:50  19 may  2017
16:50  19 may  2017 Source:   USA TODAY SPORTS

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El Toro – The fastest wooden roller coaster in the world . 2. American Eagle, Six Flags Great America, Illinois – A wooden roller coaster built in 1981. In 2006, American Eagle celebrated its Silver Anniversary. 10 Best Roller Coasters : American Eagle.

Today' s coasters are faster and higher with more twists and turns but still deliver the same basic thrills of feeling your stomach drop and the wind in your hair. Theme parks across the United States boast some of the best roller coasters in the world .

Amusement park visitors ride the Phantom's Revenge coaster at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pa., in 2001.© GENE J. PUSKAR, Copyright 2002 The Des Moines Register;No-desm Amusement park visitors ride the Phantom's Revenge coaster at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pa., in 2001.

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 — 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 only 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, a good one, anyway.

Pennsylvania has plenty of those. Eleven 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.

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A survey of 500 roller coaster enthusiasts from around the globe determines the annual "Golden Ticket" top 50 lists for steel and wooden roller coasters. The awards — which also assess other aspects of amusement parks — are basically the Emmys of the theme park industry, organized by trade publication Amusement Today.

Pennsylvania's top coasters aren't the fastest. They aren't the tallest. And for the most part, they certainly aren't the newest — one is nearly 100 years old, actually.

But there's something special about them, according to enthusiasts.

"Magic" is the word 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.

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Soon, roller coasters spread to amusement parks all around the United States and the rest of the world . Perhaps the most well known historical roller coaster , The Cyclone, was opened at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in 1927.

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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, Baldwin said.

The result: A number of Pennsylvania's roller coasters are a page out of history — thrilling in a way that's impossible to recreate.

“You 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 — built in 1968 and ranked the 21st best wooden roller coaster in the world. The West Mifflin park won't allow single riders on.

Why? It's designed to be ridden together — the curves smash you up against your riding partner, with no divider separating you.

Today, it's hard — and expensive — to get noticed for a state-of-the art thrill machine. PennLive reports that Hersheypark spent $25 million on the 200-foot-tall Skyrush in 2012. Now, it doesn't even show up in the awards.

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If there were to be a tie among the top-rated coasters at two parks, I was going to go with total coaster count as the third tie-breaker, but I didn't need to go that far. So here' s the list - Theme Park Insider' s best roller coaster parks in the world .

Superman Escape from Krypton – By Jeremy Thompson from United States of America (Six Flags Magic Mountain) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Also once dethroned as the world ’ s tallest roller coaster , Superman is one of the most well known names in roller coaster history

That's not unusual: As gimmicks go in and out of style, the list can look a lot like Billboard's constantly rotating top 40, Baldwin said.

But the thrills of many Pennsylvania coasters never get old.

Knoebels' Phoenix is renowned among enthusiasts for its "airtime" — negative g-forces that lift riders out of their seats. It's been ranked in the top 10 ever since the awards started in 1998.

Phantom's Revenge at Kennywood has a second drop longer than its first. It takes riders 232 feet down — and through another roller coaster. It's ranked the 10th best steel coaster in the world.

Hersheypark's Lightning Racer is a finely choreographed dance between two roller coasters weaving in and out of each other, racing to the finish line. Riders wave at their opponents and finish the ride side by side. It's ranked 10th best in the wooden list.

In Baldwin's words, Pennsylvania coasters sport “things that make you go ‘wow.'"

Follow Joel Shannon on Twitter: @JoelShannonYDR

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