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Bringing new meaning to the phrase "off the rails," Six Flags Great America's new roller coaster, X Flight, opened to the public on May 16 with one very unusual feature: There is no track above or below you. Thrill seekers sit in pairs, suspended on either side of the track with feet dangling, soaring at speeds of 55 mph through 3,000 feet of drops and various inversions, including a barrel roll and 360-degree twists. Intrigued, we asked Dave Altman, the president of American Coaster Enthusiasts, to compile the ultimate roller-coaster bucket list, which loops and rolls all the way from Sweden to Brooklyn. Don't forget to pack your Dramamine.
Here's the X Flight simulation video, which will either persuade you to visit Chicago or swear off thrill rides forever:
1. Leap-the-Dips: Lakemont Park, Altoona, Pennsylvania
Built in 1902, this is the oldest roller coaster in the world. The single-car "trains" resemble sleighs and attain a top speed of just 18 mph as they traverse the three levels of track featuring larger and larger dips. The coaster was closed in 1985 and survived only because the park did not have the funds to demolish it. Due to fund-raising efforts by the local Leap-the-Dips Preservation Foundation and American Coaster Enthusiasts, it was restored and reopened on Memorial Day in 1999. The coaster was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.
2. Rutschebanen: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
Located in the world-famous Rutschebanen amusement park, this scenic railway, built in the mid-1910s, meanders in and out of a man-made mountain. The brakes are mounted on each train rather than being attached to the tracks as they are in more modern coasters. A brakeman, who rides on a seat between the two cars of each train, applies the brakes as they approach curves. The cars ride on trucks similar to railroad cars, allowing them to lean precariously into curves at seemingly impossible speeds.
3. Lisebergbanen: Liseberg, Gothenberg, Sweden
This terrain-hugging steel coaster was built in 1987 by the famous German coaster designer Anton Schwarzkopf and replaced the park's wooden scenic railway. Themed like railroad trains, the vehicles leave the station at the bottom of the hill and make a sharp left turn to climb the hillside to the top. The coaster utilizes the topography of the hill to incorporate a number of high-speed turns, including three highly banked "loops" that are basically lying on the steep slope of the hillside. The track is quite close to the ground, which makes it seem like it's going even faster than it is.
4. Beast: Kings Island, Cincinnati
When it first opened in 1979, the Beast was the world's longest wooden coaster, at 7,539 feet. And it still is. Only the first lift hill can be seen from the queue line, since the majority of the expansive ride, covering 35 acres, is situated in the woods surrounding the park. The four-minute, ten-second ride features two lift hills, three tunnels, and a 540-degree helix finale along its disorienting course. Even though the coaster celebrated its 32nd anniversary in 2011, it is still a perennial favorite on most coaster enthusiasts' top 10 lists.
5. Millennium Force: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
It is said that on a clear day, Canada, on the opposite shore of Lake Erie, can be seen from the top of this 12-year-old, 310-foot-high lift hill. It starts with a bang: a 300-foot drop off the 6,595-foot-long, high-speed (93 mph) runs. Although there are no inversions, the ride features several overbanked (up to 122 degrees) curves. Cedar Point is also home to 16 other coasters, including the first ones to break the 200- and 400-foot height barriers, Magnum XL-200 and Top Thrill Dragster, respectively.
6. Euro Mir: Europa Park, Rust, Germany
Located in the Black Forest region, Europa Park was originally conceived as a showplace for prototype rides manufactured by Mack Rides, but it has grown into the most popular amusement park in Germany. Among its eclectic collection of coasters is Euro Mir, which is a coaster with cars that spin as the train goes through an indoor and outdoor course. One highlight: The spiral lift "hill" takes place in complete darkness to the accompaniment of European techno music. The elevated track runs between several mirrored towers before encountering a couple of swoop turns near ground level—all while cars spin. Not for the queasy.
7. The Cyclone: Astroland Amusement Park, Brooklyn, New York
Easily the most famous roller coaster on the planet, the Cyclone (built in 1927) was originally one of three major wooden coasters in Coney Island. Known for its intense drops and strong force in the turns, this rickety, neck-snapping coaster is a mecca for coaster enthusiasts. Although there have been several attempts to replicate the Cyclone's track layout, or build even larger "Texas-sized" copies, the experience of the original has never been duplicated.