Why Pennsylvania Is King of the Roller Coasters

Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Tomorrow is National Roller Coaster Day, so PennStakes.com decided to take a break from covering sports betting and PA online casinos to look at the states with the best roller coasters.

We utilized GoldenTicketAwards.com to gather the top 50 steel roller coasters and top 50 wooden roller coasters from their 2022 Golden Ticket Awards ceremony. We used the state of each roller coaster of those 100 winners and developed the states that have the best roller coasters in the U.S. (Note: The percentages aren’t out of 100 due to GTA awards being global. There were 23 roller coasters outside of U.S. in the 100).

States with Best Roller Coasters

While PA sportsbooks note that Penn State football is ranked No. 7 nationally in the Associated Press poll, the state of Pennsylvania is No. 1 on this list.

RankLocationNo. of Roller Coaster Winners% of Roller Coaster Winners


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Keystone State? More Like Roller Coaster State

Sure, Ohio has Cedar Point and Florida has Disney World and Universal, but the state with the nation’s best roller coasters is the Keystone State, which got 12 spots on the list of GoldenTicketAwards.com 100 best roller coasters in the world. Since Pennsylvania was once a hub of steel production, it’s ironic that the state is better known for its wooden roller coasters.

Leading the way for PA is Phoenix, at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg. Chosen the globe’s top wooden coaster four years in a row, Phoenix was built in 1947 and moved to Knoebels in 1985 from San Antonio, Texas. Its top speed is only 45 mph, but with the rattling and noise of a wood coaster it will seem faster.

At No. 7 in wood is Ravine Flyer 2, built in 2008 at Waldameer in Erie. It’s a hybrid coaster, with a wood track and a steel frame, and it crosses over PA 832 so no need to check your dashboard lights if you hear a rumbling while driving there. It’s just a roller coaster above you.

At No. 12 is Jack Rabbit, at Kennywood in West Mifflin. That coaster opened in 1920 and is the second oldest coaster in the Top 50 Wood, behind Rutschebanan (1914) in Denmark. It cost $50,000 to build and used designer John A Miller’s patented design featuring wheels over and under the track. Its drop is only 70 feet but in 1920, before most Americans had ever ridden in a car or been in an airplane, 70 feet seemed like 1,000 feet.

At No. 14 is Lightning Racer, which opened in 2000 at Hersheypark. It’s a dueling coaster with parallel tracks and cost only $12,450,000 more to build than Jack Rabbit. Rolling in at No. 20 is Kennywood’s Thunderbolt, a coaster renovated in 1968 after opening in 1924 named Pippin, then allowing riders to find their own corner of the sky.

2013’s Flying Turns at Knoebels, made the list at No. 28. It’s a toboggan coaster that’s supposed to give a sense of a bobsled course.

Tied at 31 was Twister, from 1999, also at Knoebels. Having had success moving and restoring Phoenix, Knoebels tried to do the same with the famed Mister Twister roller coaster. But the coaster was no longer in working order, so Knoebels got the original plans and built a new one from scratch.

Tied at 33 is Racer, from 1927, at Kennywood. It’s a dual-track coaster that runs in a Mobius Loop. This Racer is the second one at Kennywood. The first Racer was built in 1910 and taken down in 1926.

Looking at Steel Coasters

Pennsylvania’s top steel roller coaster is No. 13 on the heavy metal chart: Phantom’s Revenge, re-built at Kennywood in 2001 after debuting in 1991. The coaster’s top speed is 85 mph – fastest in the state – and although its height is only 160 feet it has a drop of 228 feet. How can that be? It’s your math teacher’s revenge. Hint: Think topography.

Candymonium, from 2020, is at Hersheypark and came in at No. 19. It’s the tallest coaster at Hershey (210 feet) and the longest at 4,636 feet. Ride it successfully, and you should get a kiss – a Hershey’s kiss. Also at Hersheypark is 2012’s Skyrush, at No. 23. Ten feet lower at its peak and 1,000 feet shorter than Candymonium, What Skyrush loses in distance it makes up for intensity. It’s a . . .  rush.

The aptly named Steel Curtain is No. 35, built in 2019 at Kennywood. While the original Steel Curtain made quarterbacks stagger, this one might leave riders dizzy. At 220 feet, it’s the tallest coaster in the state and has nine inversions, the most in America.

Although it didn’t make the list, the oldest roller coaster in Pennsylvania is Leap the Dips at Lakemont Park in Altoona. It’s been leaping and dipping since 1902 and was saved from the wrecking ball by roller coaster fans. Topping out at 41 feet and hitting a high speed of 18 mph, it is literally your great-grandparents’ roller coaster. And pretty good for 121 years old.

PennStakes.com occasionally runs stories of cultural interest like this for our readers when we are not giving you a steady diet of info for sports bettors and the best PA casino bonuses.


Howard Gensler

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist who’s worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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