Where are the world's best roller coasters?

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Would you rather see a list of the world's 50 best roller coasters, or an interactive map? (... how about both!)

Before we get started on this ride, here's a picture of my friend Jennifer's daughter, getting an early/young start on riding roller coasters (she's in the back, with her hands up)...

roller_coaster_small

Now, on to the 'analytics' part!  My buddy Reggie is a big fan of roller coasters. We grew up in the same hometown, and it was close enough to the Carowinds amusement park that the groups we were in (Boy Scouts, 4-H, school, etc) frequently took day trips there. Back then, their big rides were Thunder Road and White Lightnin' and that's probably where his appetite for coasters formed. And speaking of Carowinds, they just unveiled the Fury 325, the tallest/fastest giga coaster in the world (325-ft tall, 95mph)!

This got me thinking that it might be useful for Reggie to have a list of the best roller coasters, so he could visit as many as possible when he's traveling. I found a list of the world's 50 best roller coasters, but it was cumbersome to try to determine which coasters were geographically close to where Reggie might be traveling. (The 2011/2012 page with their list is gone now - here's a link to the archived version on the wayback machine.)

Of course what some people might see as a data problem, I see as an analytics opportunity!

I got all the data from the list and entered it into a SAS dataset, and then used Proc Geocode to estimate the latitude/longitude of each amusement park and plotted them as markers on a map. The markers have hover-text to show the coaster names, and if the park has multiple roller coasters, then I include all of them in the html hover-text (using somewhat clever code to build up the html tags and text). If you click on the map markers, they launch a Google image search for pictures of that roller coaster. Click the snapshot of the map below to see the interactive version:

roller_coasters

Below the map, there's an interactive text list of all 50 roller coasters, with html links on each coaster name to launch a Google image search for pictures of that specific coaster (these links provide a bit more granularity than the 1-link-per-park links in the map). Here is a screen-capture of part of the list -- click the list to see the actual page with the interactive map & list:

coaster_table

Have you been on any of the roller coasters on the Top 50 list? How did you like it?

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over 20 years, and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book (SAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics).

9 Comments

  1. Alison Bolen
    Alison Bolen on

    I'm a Cedar Point devotee. My fav on this list is the Wicked Twister, but the Millenium is fun too!

  2. Mystery Mine in Dollywood is the only one on this list I've been on and it was pretty fabulous! Looking at the list, I think a trip to Kings Dominion is in order to ride #5. :)

  3. I've been on Phantom's Revenge at Kennywood, outside Pittsburgh. Thunderbolt and Jack Rabbit are not on this list, but they are my favorite coasters of all time. They are old-school wood-frame coasters and what makes them stand out for ACE members and other coaster lovers is the way they were integrated into Pittsburgh's natural terrain. Both feature two drops before the first lift-chain, with Thunderbolt's right out of the boarding station. Jack Rabbit is the only (existing) coaster with a double-drop. The other classic woodie at Kennywood is the Racer. Unlike other side-by-side racing coasters, the Racer features a continuous track, so the train that leaves the boarding station on one side re-enters on the other.

    Oh, and by the way, the track of Phantom's Revenge passes through the Thunderbolt track!
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/bellzatk/110652705/

  4. Elizabeth Claassen

    The Mamba in Kansas City is a blast. They also have a great classic wooden coaster called the Timberwolf. I haven't ridden their newer wooden coaster, sadly.

    I need to get to Carowinds again to ride the new ones there. I think the last time I was there was when I was 15 visiting cousins here when I still lived in the Midwest.

  5. I've been on several. But I don't understand how Hades in Wisconsin Dells didn't make the list. Or X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Make sure Reggie checks those out as well!

  6. Pam Katchuk

    No list is complete without Busch Gardens Williamsburg! Just went there and rode The Griffin, and it was amazing! A real heart stopper.

  7. Beverly Brown
    Beverly Brown on

    As a former roller coaster operator at Carowinds (including White Lightnin'), I love this post! Neat how it combines two of my favorite things -- coasters and SAS capabilities. Can't wait to try Fury 325.

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