Finding the world's tallest roller coaster can be a challenge for detail-oriented roller coaster fans: different coaster designs have different height restrictions, and with new scream machines being built around the globe at a frantic pace, height records are continually shattered.
Why Height Matters
Adding height to a roller coaster does more than just make it taller. Increasing a coaster's height increases its potential energy, giving it a greater ability to reach faster speeds, soar through a longer, more twisted track, and conquer more inversions, curves, hills, and other adrenaline-inducing elements. For riders, riding a taller roller coaster is a mark of prestige as they share the distinction of having braved one of the world's tallest rides, while for parks, having record breaking roller coasters inevitably boosts visitation, popularity, and profitability.
Cedar Point's History of Height Records
No single amusement park knows more about the value of having the world's tallest roller coaster than Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. During the park's more than 130 year history, it has been home to numerous record-breaking coasters, and its current collection of coasters includes four former champions for steel coaster height.
- Gemini: When this twin coaster opened in 1978, its 125 foot tall initial hill was the tallest in the world.
- Magnum XL-200: In 1989, this Cedar Point coaster was the first to break the 200-foot height barrier with its 205 foot tall primary hill.
- Millennium Force: The new millennium ushered in a new era of coaster thrills with this 310 foot tall coaster, which was not only the world's tallest coaster when it debuted but was also the first to cross 300 feet tall.
- Top Thrill Dragster: This launched coaster reaches heights of 420 feet and speeds of 125 miles per hour in a matter of seconds and was both the world's tallest and the world's fastest when it opened in 2003.
In addition to these impressive height-breakers, Cedar Point is home to many other unique and thrilling roller coasters, with more record breakers certain to come in the future.
Contenders for the World's Tallest Roller Coaster
There is such a variety of roller coasters today that no one machine can lay claim to the world's tallest unilaterally. Different coaster designs have different structural constraints that limit height, but each category has its tall thrills for riders to conquer.
The undisputed winner for world's tallest steel roller coaster without consideration to coaster design is Kingda Ka, at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. This coaster tops out at 456 feet above the ground, offering spectacular views and thrills to every rider who attempts its numbing speed and height. While no other coaster in the world currently challenges this height, examining more specialized coasters also reveals other towering thrills around the globe.
- Bobsled Coaster: The Schweizer Bobbahn coaster in Germany is the world's tallest bobsled design at just 88 feet tall. The free-wheeling nature of this type of steel track dramatically limits heights to preserve safety and structural integrity.
- Inverted Coaster: Two coasters share the honor of being the world's tallest inverted design with cars suspended beneath the track and riders' legs dangling in open air. Wicked Twister, at Cedar Point, reaches a 215 foot total height, but as a shuttle coaster it has a special designation in this category. The tallest complete circuit inverted coaster is Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Europe, which soars up to 195 feet tall.
- Stand Up: Stand up roller coasters are more physically intense for riders, but Riddler's Revenge at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California still has an impressive 156 foot tall initial hill.
- Suspended: Swooping through broad curves and tight corners is a thrill on suspended coasters, and none is more thrilling than the 180 foot tall Vertigo at Walibi Belgium in Europe.
These are just a few of the world's tallest steel coasters, and as more coasters open at parks around the globe, even these impressive records will undoubtedly be broken.
Wooden coasters have stricter constraints on their height than their steel cousins for several reasons. The dynamics of a wooden coaster are more volatile, and how the coaster is attached to the track prohibits the mind-boggling heights that steel coasters can achieve. Furthermore, wooden coasters have a much bulkier footprint and architecture than steel coasters, making taller designs far more expensive and impractical for parks to construct. Nevertheless, the tallest wooden coaster in the world is Son of Beast at King's Island near Cincinnati, Ohio, which tops out at a mind-boggling 218 feet.
Riding the world's tallest roller coaster can be a thrill for coaster fanatics, whether they are impressed by sheer numbers or the unique thrills that taller coasters can provide. As long as there are riders willing to challenge new heights, there will be coasters breaking old records and reaching for the sky.
Note: The coasters named in this article were the world's tallest at the time of publication (January 2008).