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