Tigris, Busch Gardens, Florida, USA
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay combines zoo attractions with thrill rides, and the latter are often inspired by the animals visitors can see at the park. Take Tigris, opened in 2019 as Florida’s tallest launch coaster. It’s a wild mix of twists, tilts and drops at more than 60mph, designed to mimic the speed and agility of the tiger. A percentage of gift shop proceeds goes to tiger conservation projects. There are no walk-up tickets due to COVID-19 and measures including mandatory masks and spaced lining systems are in place around the park. See the website for details.
Hair Raiser, Ocean Park, Hong Kong
With a curly-whirly track of loops, sharp turns, slow climbs and fast drops – not to mention a rather terrifying clown face at the entrance – the Hair Raiser ride is enough to get your heart racing. Its setting, on a cliff overlooking Deep Water Bay in the South China Sea and with views of Hong Kong Island, further adds to the drama. Limited tickets are currently being released each fortnight and reservations are required to enable social distancing. See the park website for details.
Fujiyama, Fuji-Q Highland, Japan
Stomach-flipping thrills collide with spectacular views on Fujiyama, the longest and tallest coaster at Fuji-Q Highland, Japan. As it reaches its 259-foot (79m) summit, riders are treated to clear views of Mount Fuji, barely having time to catch breath before it’s snatched away again with a rapid descent. The park website has details of COVID-19 measures including contactless payment, regularly disinfecting surfaces, spaced lines and antibacterial filtering systems.
Wicker Man, Alton Towers, UK
The Staffordshire theme park is famous for its innovative white-knuckle rides and Wicker Man tends to leave faces a little pale. It combines the rickety charms of wooden roller coasters with bone-chilling special effects that engulf the labyrinthine track with burning embers and effigies that burst into flames on impact. The park is going ahead with seasonal events including Oktoberfest and the Halloween Scarefest, with advance booking essential. See the website for details of COVID-19 safety measures such as temperature checks and mandatory masks.
Mako, SeaWorld, Florida, USA
Being the longest, tallest and fastest ride in theme park capital Orlando is a big boast. Mako, named after one of the ocean’s fastest sharks, takes riders through a virtual shipwreck teeming with marine life and reaches 73mph as it weaves along 4,760 feet (1.4km) of track. SeaWorld is open and still running its themed Halloween events. Strict COVID-19 measures include temperature checks, mandatory face coverings and a reservation-only policy.
Fahrenheit, Hersheypark, Pennsylvania, USA
You might need a Hershey’s chocolate bar to recover after a spin on this crazy coaster. The steepest in the world when it launched in 2008, Farenheit throws pretty much everything at its willing participants: high climbs, inverted loops, corkscrew turns, cobra rolls and moments of weightlessness where it feels like your stomach’s floating. Masks are required on the ride and throughout the park, while other safety measures include temperature screening, physical distancing and advance tickets only. See the website for details.
Stealth, Thorpe Park, UK
Find the excitement of Formula One in the heart of Surrey, England with a ride on Stealth, which catapults riders from zero to 80mph in less than two seconds. It’s the fastest coaster in the UK and the whole ride lasts a hot 26 seconds. Thorpe Park is also running seasonal specials, including Halloween Fright Nights, for 2020. See the website for details of this and COVID-19 safety measures, among them mandatory masks and advance tickets only.
Hyperion, Energylandia, Poland
Hyperion in Poland’s Energylandia is Europe’s tallest and fastest mega coaster. Designed as an abandoned space station, the ride has a mile-long (1.6km) track and speeds of more than 87mph. Tunnels, twists, sudden drops, weightlessness and over-banked turns – where the carriages teeter on the edge – keep the thrills coming thick and very, very fast. The park’s website outlines COVID-19 safety measures such as enhanced cleaning using disinfecting drones and mandatory masks on rides and in lines.
Formula Rossa, Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi
Always fancy yourself as a speedster? Formula Rossa makes the bold (and quite terrifying) claim to be the world’s fastest roller coaster, launching riders to intense speeds of nearly 150mph in under five seconds. The G-force is so strong, riders have to wear protective goggles. Gulp. Riders must wear fabric face masks, while other safety measures – outlined on the park’s website – include thermal screening on entry, enhanced sanitation and physical distancing markers.
Vortex, Siam Amazing Park, Thailand
Formerly called Siam Park City, this theme park in Bangkok’s Khan Na Yao district is as thrilling as one might expect from Thailand’s exciting capital. Siam Amazing Park’s most heart-pumping ride is Vortex, one of the world’s largest suspended roller coasters (where the car hangs from the bottom of the track). Throw in more than a few whirls and twirls and you’ve pretty much ticked all the terror boxes. Just save the partying for afterwards, maybe. Wearing a mask is mandatory throughout Thailand – see the park website for details of specific rules and regulations.
Read more: The world’s most jaw-dropping roller coasters you won’t dare to ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point, Ohio, USA
With a Wild West theme and cars like old-fashioned train carriages, Steel Vengeance looks quite charming and cute. Yet, as the name implies, it isn’t. This hyper-hybrid roller coaster, whose steel track is set atop a wooden structure, rises 205 feet (62m) above the park and has more airtime – when you rise out of your seat – than any other ride, at 30 seconds. Cedar Point is open on weekends only with advanced reservations required, mandatory masks and health screenings. See the website for details and also information on the mobile app, which at least one member of each group must have.
Wildfire, Kolmården Wildlife Park, Sweden
Wildfire takes the traditional wooden roller coast to new levels with speeds of around 70mph, three uphill climbs and drops so steep your stomach seems to stay behind. It lasts for a satisfying two minutes and, at the top, riders can take a moment to soak in views of mountain-backed Bråviken Bay – before another heart-stopping plummet. It’s one of the limited attractions currently open at Kolmården Wildlife Park. See the website for details of restrictions and measures such as limited numbers, strict social distancing and essential pre-booking.
Silver Star, Europa-Park, Germany
Silver Star at Europa-Park in Germany hits its riders with about as much G-force as humans can physically stand. Those prepared to face the centrifugal forces head-on are rewarded with adrenalin-pumping, skin-tingling speeds of 80mph as the steel coaster soars up to around 240 feet (73m). Visitors are required to book date-specific tickets and observe social distancing measures. See the park website for the latest guidelines.
T Express, Everland, South Korea
The T Express at Everland theme park in Yongin, South Korea is the world’s steepest roller coaster, so probably not one for nervous riders. Even standing below the intricate wooden structure, against a backdrop of thick forest, is enough to make the strongest stomach flip. Thankfully it isn’t as rickety as it looks, as it sends riders down a 77-degree angled track at speeds of up to 65mph. The park website outlines COVID-19 safety measures including physical distancing and providing pre-entry information.
The Demon, Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
It isn’t only the shiny new theme parks that can deliver top-notch thrills. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen brings a modern spin – and lots of loops – to the historic park, founded in 1843. The Demon ride has a virtual reality twist – riders can choose to wear VR glasses to transform the car into a fire-breathing dragon. Masks must be worn on the ride (they’re also provided at the entrance) while some other rides require riders to join a virtual line via an app – see the website for more details and updates.
Read more: America’s most jaw-dropping roller coasters (only for the brave)
Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey, USA
Special hydraulics launch riders a head-spinning 456 feet (139m) upwards, making it the world’s tallest roller coaster. Kingda Ka is also one of the fastest, reaching 128mph in just 3.5 seconds, before rapidly descending on a spiraling track. The theme park plans to go ahead with its annual Hallowfest and Holiday in the Park events in 2020. Guests are required to wear masks, undergo health screening and reserve tickets in advance – see the website for details.
Read more: Beyond Disney: the best theme parks in America
Tail Spin, Dreamworld, Australia
Tail Spin is (hopefully) the closest you’ll get to riding on the actual propellors of a helicopter. The ride, in Dreamworld on Australia’s gorgeous Gold Coast, is made up of a dozen mini airplanes, with riders strapped in for a head-spinning ascent that goes faster and faster. Each plane has controls so people can choose to go slow or perform tricks and spins. Dreamworld requires visitors to complete a contact-tracing check-in before arriving, while some activities and attractions are suspended due to COVID-19. See the website for more details of safety measures.
Texas Stingray, SeaWorld, Texas, USA
This ride opened in SeaWorld, San Antonio, in February 2020 and deserves to be on white-knuckle bucket lists. Texas Stingray is the state’s tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster, racing along tracks at up to 55mph and plummeting with a stomach-twisting 100-foot (30m) drop. See the park’s website for COVID-19 measures, including mask requirements and more stringent sanitation procedures.
Space Mountain, Walt Disney World, Florida, USA
An oldie really is a goodie in the case of this indoor classic. Space Mountain might not lay claim to being the world’s fastest, tallest, longest or scariest ride, but it’s been thrilling riders since it opened in 1975. It reaches 28mph but feels faster thanks to crazy spins, hairpin bends and flashing lights. All four parks at Walt Disney World are open with face coverings and advance reservations required. See the website for details of measures including temperature checks.
bigFM Expedition GeForce, Holiday Park, Germany
This roller coaster soars, dips and twists at speeds up to 75mph. But it’s the size, and the fact the ride lasts for a satisfying minute and 15 seconds, that sees it regularly top best ride lists and keeps coaster fans coming back. Riders can expect to feel that weightless, what-happened-to-my-belly feeling several times over. The park is currently open for reserved tickets throughout October. Check the website for more details.
Drop Line, Dollywood, Tennessee, USA
Dollywood’s fastest ride, Lightning Rod, is temporarily closed but the park actually packs in a surprising number of white-knuckle experiences. Drop Line isn’t as twisty and topsy-turvy as some coasters, but the thrills here are in the anticipation and the speed of the descent. Breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains quickly become a blur as riders are dramatically ‘dropped’ from atop a 230-feet (70m) high tower. All visitors are required to book in advance and face coverings are required. Read the park’s full COVID-19 measures, including temperature screening on entry, here.
The Big One, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, UK
The Big One, in England’s seaside resort of Blackpool, is aptly named. It’s the UK’s tallest coaster, in fact, at 235 feet (72m), and riders zoom at up to 85mph and twist down a corkscrew, near-vertical drop. It’s one of the longest rides, too, at more than a mile long – so there’s little let up when it comes to the thrills. The park’s website has details of COVID-19 measures including the mandatory wearing of face coverings, one-way systems, online food ordering and a new e-ticketing system, with visitors required to book in advance.
Red Force, Ferrari Land in PortAventura World, Spain
Red Force is part of Ferrari Land and is as sleek and speedy as you’d expect. Perhaps even more so. The ride boasts the tallest and fastest vertical accelerator in Europe, shooting riders up to 367 feet (112m) above ground and reaching 112mph in five seconds. The park’s Halloween nights, with spooky characters, themed food and horror mazes, are running until mid-November. COVID-19 safety measures include mandatory masks, temperature screening, online check-in and one-way systems around the park – check the website for more details.
Insanity, Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas, USA
For those times when the flashing lights and fancy clubs of Las Vegas aren’t quite thrilling enough, aptly-named Insanity takes brave riders to a whole new level of excitement. It spins and tilts at 866 feet (270m) above downtown Vegas, courtesy of a giant mechanical arm – with those on board often tilted so they’re facing downwards. Masks are required on board. The STRAT complex has a series of COVID-19 measures in place, including health screening and enhanced sanitation, outlined here.
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