In a potentially controversial edition of Top 3 Thursdays, I’m going to share my Top 3 States for Roller Coasters. Instead of a top three ranking, I’m going to list the the three states and explain why. Here’s the list in no particular order:
Pennsylvania – Quantity, Variety, & History Pennsylvania is the roller coaster mecca in my opinion. There’s a lot of history and also just a lot of GOOD amusement parks in the Keystone State. The state is home to Hersheypark, Kennywood, Dorney Park, Knoebels, Waldameer, Sesame Place, and Dutch Wonderland. Those parks offer a nice variety of rides and amusement park experiences. From free admission parks like Waldameer and Knoebels, to kid-focused parks like Sesame Place and Ducth Wonderland, to historic parks like Kennywood and Waldameer to modern theme parks like Hersheypark and Dorney. I’m not really ranking these states because they’re all great for different reasons, but Pennsylvania’s my personal favorite because even with Florida’s high quality coasters, the experiences are more varied in Pennsylvania. For example, you could do the smaller PA parks one summer and hit the larger parks the next summer.
Best Place to Live in PA: I had once identified Pottsville, PA (home to Yeungling beer) as my desired home base for my PA park travel as it was about equidistant from Dorney, Hersheypark, and Knoebels.
Florida – Unmatched Quality & Guest ExperienceI’m not a big Disney guy, so I initially overlooked Florida and Orlando in particular. Then, I realized that with Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens Tampa, and maybe Animal Kingdom the state boasts about 10 world-class roller coasters all within a few hours radius. In my opinion, that’s more than any other state in the U.S. It might seem kind of obvious, but Florida has an incredible concentration of great roller coasters.
Best Place to Live in FL: Winter Haven is about midway between Orlando and Tampa. Plus, you’ll have the new Legoland Florida Park in your backyard.
Ohio – The Best 1-2 Punch in All of Coasterdom To some Ohio may seem like an easy top pick as it boasts the ‘Coaster Capital’ in Cedar Point. Over the years the park on Lake Erie has had several former World record holders and now boasts 17 roller coasters. North of Cinncinnati, Kings Island has the legendary Beast, new favorite Diamondback, and a strong roster of supporting coasters. Kings Island and Cedar Point make an excellent, if not unbeatable 1-2 punch for one state to boast.
Best Place to Live in OH: Lima is about half way between Cedar Point and Kings Island.
Honorable Mentions Virginia – Quantity & Quality
I had to brag a bit about my home state Virginia. Richmond residents have two awesome parks just a short drive away. There’s the long-running winner of “America’s Most Beautiful Amusement Park” and Euro-themed excellence of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and top notch thrill park that is Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion boasts the numbers (14 coasters) and Busch Gardens boasts the quality and world-class park experience.
California – Um,… There’s a lot of coasters..
Ironically, California is home to the most roller coasters, but is seldom looked at as a roller coaster heaven. SoCal does boast Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and California’s Adventure. There’s also a few beach parks in Santa Monica and San Diego. I seldom hear much about the Bay area parks (California’s Great America and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom) and I wouldn’t say that they have more than one or two world-class signature coasters worth noting. For full disclosure, I haven’t actually been to the parks in this part of the state. I’m just going on percieved reputation. For those who have complained about an East Coast bias in top coaster polls, it’s probably largely justified. Hey, you’ve got 300-plus days of sunshine, you can’t have everything!