Top 3 Thursdays! 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, Amusement Parks in PennslyvaniaDorney 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 Experience Amusement Parks in Central FloridaI’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.

Amusements Parks in OhioOhio – 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!

See a list of your state’s roller coasters and theme parks here at the Roller Coaster Database.

What’s Your Take?
Which states do you think boast the best theme parks? Leave a comment below.

30 Responses

  1. tgadams MidwestThril

    I agree that PA is by far the best. I would also mention Indiana & Missouri. IN has Cornball Express and the 3 woodies at HW). Indiana Beach & Holiday World is also a strong 1,2 punch. MO is also strong with Silver Dollar City, SF St. Louis, and WOF. All different Experiences. Can't argue with most of your choices though.

    • Piedude81

      I've been to SF St. Louis, and it is awesome! The customer service isn't the best, but Mr. Freeze(0-70 LIM Launch Reverse Coaster), to the three wooden coasters, (The Boss, Evil Kenivel, and Screamin Eagle) it can't be beat. (They just need Kingda Ka……) I've also been to Holiday World, (go Voyage!!!!) but I need to get to SDC and WOF.

      • Frog

        Six Flags St.Louis is amazing! Although Batman is the best ride (Mr.Freeze is pretty boring), the park contains many great rides! Evel Knieval is an amazing GCI coaster, but Boss just breaks every bone in my body. The best part is that there are no lines in the park most of the days, yet it is never empty.

  2. Quil

    Oddly, New York has the third largest amount of Amusement parks in the country, although I don't think kiddie park chains should realy count.

  3. Merle

    I think thats a pretty acccurat list i have yet to get down to florida but pennselvania is great and also has great adventure pretty close even if that dosnt officialy count and hershey will become even better presumably with the new coaster. ohio is undisputed number one but i think thoose two parks will be the only wordclass ones for a while to come but six flags could potentially give another shot near clevland as for living there i wouldnt really want to live inbetween the two science theres not much there but i would definently live in cininati. calafornia at first for me was suprising that it didnt make onto the list but as i thought about it it may have alot but not necciserily the most world class

    • Quil

      Ohio is good, but i wouldn't say undesputed, I've only been to Florida, but i think PA may e a bit higher, sorry A. Davis. 🙂

  4. Hoss

    When you say best place to live your referring to if you only go to the parks in that given state. For example with your Pennsylvania choice it would be better if you leaved either further east towards SFGADV or further west towards Ohio so you are only a few hours from those parks as well.

    Coastercritic there is no law that states that people can't go across state borders to go to parks 🙂

    • The Coaster Critic

      Very good point Hoss. I'd thought of that originally. If I was really going to pick where I was going to live based on what parks were within driving distance regardless of state I'd pick somewhere in the Mid Atlantic like Maryland. You'd be within striking distance of the Virginia parks, Great Adventure & Morey's in Jersey, the Eastern PA parks, and Six Flags America as your home park.

      But as this was Top 3 States, I had to stick to the theme of just what parks are in certain states.

      • Judy P in Pgh

        Trust me, the suburbs of Pittsburgh are a perfecdt location that allow me to go to anything from Great Adventure to King's Dominion to King's Island to Cedar Point to Darien Lake (and everywhere inside of that circle)in 6 hours or less. When I do a weekend trip during the school year, I can drive 4-5 hours Friday night, then an hour or two Sat. morning before hitting the park. If I then stay locally, I can squeeze in a few more hours on Sunday before heading home. It's also a prime location for kayakers and skiers. Never a dull moment up here!

  5. Frog

    I have to admit I like California just a bit more than Pennsylvania, but both are very good states for coasters. And I am so glad Florida made the list, because that is my favorite roller coaster state (sorry Ohio).

  6. Prof.BAM

    Up here in Minnesota, We don't have anything. The only currently open park in Orlando I haven't been to, but Otherwise, I've been to all the Florida parks you mentioned, other than BGT. And I would have preferred BGT to Seaworld. But I won't count Minnesota out yet. After Cedar Fair trademarked Stratosaur and didn't use it has been making me think about the possibility of Cedar Fair B&M flyers. Far-fetched this may be, but who has anything else?

  7. Austin

    I think NJ could get an honorable mention – I mean, tallest and fastest coaster? Two top ten coasters? First floorless coaster – a now a stand-up coaster? Sounds pretty cool!

    • Quil

      KK isn't the fastest anymore, that was broken by RingoRacer, wich was broken by the new F1 coaster.

      • Frog

        That would be true, but the F1 coaster never opened, and Ring Racer still hasn't reached over 128mph yet. KK is still the record holder.

      • Quil

        Good to know, I thought RingoRacer had gotten past it, but had an accident and had to close momentarily. I think it's a good thing it never realy did, because that thing was a rip-off inthe first place. KK deserved the title more than it.

  8. Michael Coutermarsh

    New England:

    I know it's a region not a state, but the area that New England's 6 states take up is around that of many states. New England is home 5 of the 6 states have parks(1 in VT, 1 in MA, 2 in CT, 3 in VT, and 6 in NH). 4 of 6 contain coasters. by 2011 New England will have 28 coasters(3 new in 2011 and one new form 2010). Coasters Range form Kiddie to award winners like Bizarro and Boulder Dash. In all New England is home to coasters form PTC, Zierer, Miler (Fred & Carl), B&M, Intamin, Vekoma, Maurer Söhne, Arrow, Hopkins/Morgan, Gerstlauer, William Cobb, CCI, Gravity Group, Wisdom, SDC, Fajume, Allan Herschell, and more.

    Best Place to Live; Southern NH (Nashua, Brookline, Hudson, etc). Every New England park is withing 2.5 hours of this area.

    New Hampshire:

    To narrow in on one state to match with the topic lets talk about NH. The State holds more parks then any other State in New England. it's also home to New England's largest water park, Water Country. NH is home to 5 parks 2 major FEC's and 3 water parks. Major FEc's are Fun world with 3 rides including a coaster and Fun Spot which is the Worlds Largest FEC. 3 water parks are Water Country, Liquid Planet, and Whales Tale. NH's only park without a coaster is Clark's Trading post, a road side attraction that has been operating for more then 80 years. Other parks include; Six Gun City, Story land, Santa's Village, and Canobie Lake Park. Canobie is NH's Largest park with 4 coasters and 44 rides(more then SFNE's Dry park)

  9. Austin55

    Gotta give props to Missourri, Worlds of Fun, Silver Dollar City and Six Flags St.Louis, ad a great central location in America. Maybe a honorable mention to my State, Texas, for the original Six Flags, Six Flags St. Louis, Kemah Boardwalk and a barrage of waterparks everywhere.

  10. Torrawrs

    I live in Easton, PA and I have to admit, it really is pretty sweet. I’m within 2 hours of Dorney, Hershey, Knoebels, Dutch Wonderland, and Six Flags Great Adventure, and within 6 hours of a a lot more. I take mini, one day road trips just about every weekend in April and May every year. 🙂

  11. James

    What about New Jersey? You've got Six Flags Great Adventure, with the world's tallest and fastest rollercoaster as well as 2 other notable world class rollecoasters. You've also got the famous Coney Island Cyclone, and you've got Morey's Piers and Playland's Castaway Cove, and Steel Pier.

  12. Prof.BAM

    screamscape reports that the new Snow White Coaster at Magic Kingdom will have cars that sway side-to-side with the turns. at 1st, I thought, oh great more suspended, than I saw new technology. Suspended above the tracks. B&M did this with their Inverted coasters to create floorless.

  13. Matt

    Good list, I live in PA and ive been to hershey, dorney, and knoebels. By the way, does anyone ever notice how new york, the huge and crowded city, has no good amusement parks? Coney Island has only one coaster worth riding- the cyclone and thats just for historical value. Darien Lake looks ok, but only has ride of steel that looks good. Great escape looks pathetic, and that is a six flags park. Overall, NY needs another theme park. The city has so many people and so many skyscrapers and works of engineering, it needs a good coaster and a good theme park. Cedar Fair should take over Darien or something and make a good amusement park.

  14. Billy

    Pennsylvania hands down! Then I would say Indiana (quality over quantity!) and finally, Texas.

  15. Jeff

    I definitely agree with PA and OH. They were the first ones I thought of. The #3 spot is a wild card. But I thought FL, CA, and VA.

    The problem with FL is it's great for steel but not wood. Same could be said for CA.

    I've always thought Columbus, OH or Harrisbug, PA would be strategic locations– don't know about other quality of life issues.

    I live in Kansas City– I am surprised at all of the positive strokes to Missouri but thank you– it's nice to be recognized.

  16. Ryan

    Don’t forget the fact that at one time there were over 100 amusement parks in ohio and that euclid beach started the coaster craze.

  17. Ryan

    And the suburbs of southern cleveland is a good place because you are 30 minutes from wwk, 1 hour from Cedar Point, 3.5 hours from Kings Island, 2.5 hours from Kennywood and 5 hours away from almost all the Pennsylvania parks and Kentucky kingdom.

  18. Aaron J Wilt

    My son thinks your list sucks because Kings Island sucks.


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