Before we look forward to the upcoming theme park season, we thought it’d be fun to take one more look back at our favorite ride experiences of 2017.
The Smiler at Alton Towers
Surprisingly, my favorite ride experience of 2017 was not on one of the awesome RMC (Rocky Mountain Construction) coasters – Wicked Cyclone and Lightning Rod – that I rode for the first time. It was on a coaster that I would rate lower than many I rode last year. So why was it my favorite ride experience? The Smiler, awesome in its own way, had long intrigued me. The most inversions I’d ever experienced on a coaster up to that point was seven (Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure and Hydra The Revenge at Dorney Park) so the idea of going through double that number was mind-blowing. Also, Alton Towers had been on my bucket list for quite some time so I was thrilled to be there at all and even more thrilled to actually be harnessed in on the notorious Smiler, ready for what promised to be an off the wall ride.
I especially liked the way the ride begins, with a heartline roll in the dark, and found that being turned upside down 14 times was not only hair-raising but sustainable, disorienting but not dizzying. The second half of the ride was more intense than the first although the entire ride was a blast. And yes, there are better coasters (Nemesis and Galactica f/k/a Air) at Alton Towers but I got more of a kick out of Smiler because of the novelty. It’s unlikely that I’ll ride anything quite like it anytime soon.
Valravn at Cedar Point
Deciding on my favorite ride experience of the 2017 Season was tough, but ultimately I have to go with my first front row ride on Valravn, Cedar Point’s new for 2016 B&M Dive Machine. Being dangled over the edge of a 214 ft. 90 degree drop, where you can’t even see the track below you, really got my heart pumping, and was only seconded by the actual drop. The thrill of the ride was helped along by the quick and steep trip to the top of the lift hill, but it also came with a beautiful serenity, taking in Lake Erie, the beach, and the rest of the park far below you. I think it was wise to name the ride after a mythical bird, it fits with its speedy and swooping nature.
Afterburn at Carowinds
While I’ve ridden Carowinds’ popular inverted coaster Afterburn dozens of times, I had a particularly memorable experience last October. For our final trip of the season, my oldest daughter and I were on a mission to tackle all of her favorite rides one last time. It was an overcast day for most of our trip, but towards the end, the skies opened up.
We were planning on one final ride on Afterburn before we left the park, so we decided to go ahead and brave the rain. We knew we’d get wet, but were surprised when the water collecting at the top of train cars was dumped on as we went up the lift hill. As usual, the rest of the ride was thrilling and fun, but with the added element of 50+ mph water droplets bouncing off us.
It was almost like driving a convertible through a car wash. By the end of the ride we were soaked, but thoroughly satisfied by the novel experience.
What’s Your Take?
What was your favorite roller coaster or ride experience of last year? Let us know by leaving a comment below.