Nothing gets your blood pumping faster than a roller coaster. If you’ve never ridden one, getting over the nerves and strapping yourself in can be intimidating, but learning a bit about the different kinds of roller coasters and what to expect out of your ride can make the whole thing a lot less scary. It should be fun! If you want to ride a roller coaster, you can learn how to pick the right one, stay safe, and have a great time. See Step 1 for more information.
Picking a Roller Coaster
- 1Learn about the different styles of roller coasters. There are loads of different varieties, intensities, and styles of roller coasters, and deciding what kind of experience you want out of riding a roller coaster is an important first step. Some riders prefer old-school wooden coasters for a vintage feel, while others will prefer newer, super-fast, upside-down behemoths to test their mettle. The choice is completely up to you, but it’s good to get some sense of what to expect from different kinds of coasters.
- Wooden roller coasters are the oldest and most classic types of coasters, and usually the kind you’ll want to start on. They’re operated with a traditional chain-lift mechanism, in which the cars are lifted to a peak and dropped to allow gravity to force the cars through the rest of the turns and valleys at high speed. It’s also a fun and bumpy ride. These usually won’t go upside down. The Texas Giant, the American Eagle at Six Flags Great America, and the Beast at King’s Island are all examples of classic wooden coasters. Also, Thunderbolt is a common name for wooden coasters.
- Steel roller coasters feature complex steel tracks, offering somewhat smoother rides and more maneuverability, as well as the ability to invert the riders, incorporating loops, corkscrews, and all kinds of other exciting motions. Most modern roller coasters, including the classic Kingda Ka, the Millennium Force, Steel Dragon 2000 and the Storm Coaster are steel coasters.
- 2Check out the different kinds of seats on coasters. Not all roller coasters are designed the same way, and some are a bit more comfortable for first-time riders than others. Knowing a bit about the different types will help you pick the right one. For the beginner, traditional seated car roller coasters are typically the best way to get an introduction to the ride. They’re comfortable, safe, and relatively simple.
- Floorless coasters, for example, allow the riders’ legs to hang free, simulating an intense falling experience, while standing coasters lock the riders in place in an upright position.
- Wing coasters feature two cars that extend on either side of the track, giving your individual car the impression of floating, while suspended coasters are able to swing back and forth freely as the coaster goes around bends.
- 3Start with a smaller coaster. If you’re inexperienced at riding roller coasters, the best way to get your sea legs is to ride a smaller version of a coaster. Most parks have a variety of different types of roller coasters, and they’re all fun. Smaller coasters will usually have less-intense drops, no loops, and will still give you a good thrill, going at high speeds. Often, they’ll have shorter lines, too, which gives you less time to get nervous while you wait.
- Alternatively, depending on your temperament, it might be better to jump in the deep end and ride an intense roller coaster to get it over with. That way, you’ll know you’ve been through the wildest of the wild and you don’t need to be scared anymore.
- 4Make sure that you meet the height and weight requirements. At the beginning of most roller coasters should be a measuring stick with a minimum height requirement for all riders. This isn’t to punish enthusiastic kids who want to ride the big rides, but to ensure the safety of all the riders. The seats and safety harnesses need to be big enough to fit everyone, so kids and especially short people run the risk of slipping through the harness.
- Don’t sneak past the height requirement and then wait in line. Typically, before you jump in the car, the park employees will measure you with a height stick and send off anyone who doesn’t meet the mark. It would be too bad to have waited around for two hours just to get rejected at the last second.
- Most roller coasters feature warnings that pregnant rides, riders with heart conditions, and other physical ailments should not ride certain roller coasters. Most of these warnings will be featured at the beginning of the line, next to the height requirement. Don’t ride if you have any concerns about your physical health.
- 5Pick a roller coaster with a manageable line. One great way to pick a roller coaster is to pick one that doesn’t have an insanely long line. Very popular roller coasters will often have waits for up to two or three hours, depending on the ride and the park, so it’s important to manage your time if you want to ride some roller coasters. It might be worth it to wait several hours for one big one, or you might rather spend your time riding other rides.
- Bring something to do in line, or some friends to talk with. Waiting that long can be awfully boring, and might be a lot more fun with a book or some buddies to goof off with. Be respectful and polite to everyone else in line who’s waiting with you.
- Some theme parks also have fast passes, which allow you to show up to a ride at a designated time, skip the line, and hop right on the ride. This allows you to more efficiently use your time at the park, though these passes are more expensive than a regular ticket.
- 6Pick your seat. On lots of roller coasters, the line will split once you get toward the end of it, to line up for different seats along the car. Once in the loading zone, pick the row you wish to ride in, and get in that line. Any of the cars are great choices for your first rides.
- Some people love the front for the view, while others love the back for what is called the “goat effect,” a phenomenon named after the Thunder Mountain roller coaster at Disneyland. Toward the back of the cars, the g-forces exerted on the riders are stronger, making the experience more intense, making up for the lack of view.
- If you don’t have much of an opinion or preference, head to the shortest line to get on the ride the quickest. Less waiting, less nerves, more fun.
Staying Safe and Calm
- 1Ride on an empty stomach. It should be common sense, but all the excitement of the park and the availability of giant elephant ears and turkey legs can cause some riders to forget: roller coasters can make some people puke. The g-forces on certain coasters are strong, and the feeling of weightlessness can cause stomach butterflies and sometimes nausea in certain riders. For most of us, that feeling will subside and will actually be part of the fun, but if you’ve got a belly full of Dippin’ Dots, it might end up all over the car behind you. Don’t eat right before going on a coaster. Treat yourself to something after you ride, to reward yourself for your bravery.
- It’s also a good idea to make sure you go to the bathroom before getting in line. You don’t want to wait around for 2 hours to ride the Vortex and then find out you’ve got to go right before getting on and strapping in. That could get ugly.
- 2Step inside the roller coaster train and sit down. On most roller coasters, a metal harness should be raised above your seat, which you can pull down and lock into place. If you can’t figure it out, don’t worry too much, because a ride employee walk down the cars and check every rider by tugging on your harness before the ride takes off. Listen carefully to any instructions given over PA speakers or by the employees. There’s no way they’ll let you leave without checking your safety buckle, so relax and remain calm.
- All seats and safety locks are different, so if you have trouble figuring yours out, just wait until the employee comes along and ask for assistance. More elaborate safety harnesses will usually be locked in by the park employees. If you suspect something might be wrong with your safety harness, tell a park employee immediately.
- Make sure you feel comfortable. Roller coasters are bumpy and you’ll likely be jostled around in your seat, which is part of the fun. If you don’t feel comfortable in the seat, though, that can make the bumps pretty irritating. It might be a rough ride. If something about your seat is uncomfortable, communicate with a ride employee, or restate yourself before the harness is locked in.
- 3Stow any loose items of clothing. Before the ride takes off, it’s important to stow anything you might lose while going very fast in an open-top roller coaster. Sandals, hats, glasses, and necklaces in particular are often sacrificed to the roller coaster, and it can be very difficult to retrieve these items if you lose them somewhere along the way.
- Always remove your glasses and keep them in your pocket. It’s a good idea to give this some thought before you get all the way into the seat and are about to blast off.
- If you’re wearing a baseball cap, it’s sometimes enough to turn it backwards if it fits snugly enough, but sometimes it’s a safer idea to remove it and hold it, stuff it in a cargo pocket, or leave it with someone on the ground.
- 4Relax. As you’re sitting and waiting for things to get moving, the nerves will probably start to kick in. If you’ve never ridden before, it’s common to start suspecting that something is wrong, getting paranoid about every noise you hear and every little jostle. Everything you’re experiencing is perfectly normal. Try your best to remain calm and enjoy the fun of the adrenaline. Roller coasters are very safe and reliable structures.
- Hold on tight and don’t let go unless you feel comfortable. Most roller coasters provide little hand-grips that can help to relieve some of the stress and allow you to feel like you’re in more control of the situation. Grab on and have fun!
- Don’t wiggle around or struggle with the harness after the ride starts. In a given year, several people will be injured on roller coasters, it’s true. But roughly 300 million people ride roller coasters safely each year without incident. The overwhelming majority of injuries are the result of rider error and rule breaking, messing with the harnesses, or sneaking onto the ride against the rules. If you follow the rules and sit calmly, you’ll be fine.
- 1Always ride with friends. Roller coasters are a great communal experience. Going alone on an empty car would be a dull ride. One of the most fun things about the roller coaster is listening to everyone laugh, scream, shout funny comments, and go through the whole ride together. If you’re with close friends on a beautiful day at the park, riding a roller coasters can be extremely fun.
- Friends can also help keep the experience light and distracting. If you’re too busy goofing off with your friends, you won’t have to spend time being worried about what’s to come while you’re waiting in line. Just focus on having fun.
- Don’t get goaded into riding roller coasters you’re not ready for by ambitious friends. If all your friends want to ride on the super-scary looking seven-looper and you’re not into it, go on other rides in the meantime and meet up later.
- 2Get over the first hill. Most roller coasters have one thing in common, a long, slow build up to the first massive hill and the first big drop. Classic roller coasters all have the opening drop, and once you get that out of the way, the rest of the ride is just fast and fun. If you’re feeling nervous, just get that out of the way and you’ll be in for a treat.
- The long, slow pull up to the first drop is one of the scariest parts of the ride, because nothing is actually happening and it’s painfully slow. Try to enjoy it for the anticipation it builds. It’ll all be over soon.
- Some riders who get really scared like to close their eyes, but that actually make it a little more nauseating if you can’t see what’s coming up. If you can, Try to keep your eyes open to stay aware of your surroundings. It’ll be more fun that way.
- 3Yell. When you coast over that first big hill, a lot of people will probably start shouting with glee. Join them! There are few times in life you get the chance to really let loose with a howl of total delight like when you ride a roller coaster. Your adrenaline will be pumping and it’s a great time to let out a primal scream.
- It’s also true that screaming in a group can trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that soothes and calms the body, in certain conditions. This means that screaming can actually help calm you down and produce feelings of euphoria.
- 4Find out if some coasters run forward and backward. If you’ve gotten over your first coaster, congratulations! Now the real fun begins. More often than not, most people who start to ride coasters want to get right back in line immediately. The rush from a good roller coaster is like nothing else in the world. And what’s better? Riding the same roller coaster you just rode, but backwards. If you find one you really like, you can experience it for the first time all over again, going backwards.
- Many roller coasters will be run forward for most of the day and run backward at a certain hour. Find out at the park near the front of the line what the schedule for running is, or just look at the track closely to see if they’re running it backward.
- Some roller coasters always run forward and backward, using two tracks that run simultaneously. The Racer at King’s Island is a classic example of a backward-running roller coaster classic.
- 5Try a launched roller coasters. Launched coasters start off with a bang, using hydraulic/ pneumatic pressure or LIM or LMS to immediately launch the cars from a standing position into a fast speed, sometimes as high as 60 or 80 mph (97 or 129 km/h), giving you little time to brace yourself, but it also helps to get it over with quickly. These will often go upside down, corkscrew, and do other fun twists and turns. Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure is possibly the most famous example of a launched coaster.
- 6Try a coaster that goes upside down. Next challenge? Doing a loop. The first time you go upside down on a roller coaster is a big moment for a lot of people, but it seems way more intimidating than it turns out to be, and twice as fun. You’ll be weightless for a quick second and it’ll be over with. Roller coasters that feature loops are often long and elaborate, or fast and intense, with lots of crazy maneuvers. If you’ve braved a traditional roller coaster, start upping the ante.
- What rattles most people during their initial rides isn’t actually the drops or the nausea, but being jostled around. Doing loops is one of the smoother parts of riding a roller coaster, most times, so it’s not something that should scare you off of taking a ride on one.
- 7Try to ride every roller coaster in the park. The Olympics of the theme park? Riding every coaster in one day. It’s possible, if you break up your time effectively and are willing to wait in long lines. Going about your mission with some planning will also likely help. By the end, you might be a full-blown coaster addict.
- To make it, Try to hit the longer lines earlier in the day, when they’ll likely be shorter, and to make sure you’ll have enough time. Then, the less popular rides will be open to you in the afternoon.
- 8Check out the most intense coasters. If you’re on your way to becoming a full-blown adrenaline junkie and roller coaster addict, it’s time to start checking out the biggest and the baddest coasters in the world and seeking them out. Some of the most intense, fastest, highest, and longest roller coasters include:
- Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi
- Takabisha at the Fuji-Q Highland
- Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure
- El Toro and Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure
- The Colossus at Heide Park
- Full Throttle and X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain
- Superman (Formerly Bizarro) and Goliath at Six Flags New England
- Boulder Dash and Phobia at Lake Compounce
- Smiler at Alton Towers
Question: What if I have a stomachache?
Answer: Then it’s probably best if you don’t ride the roller coaster. Riding something like that while experiencing an upset stomach could lead to nausea or vomiting.
Question: What if the roller coaster breaks?
Answer: That rarely happen, but all amusement parks have safety protocol in place that they follow in the event a ride breaks. Try not to worry about that too much.
Question: If I vomit while on the roller coaster, should I throw up on my friend or myself?
Answer: Try to throw up away from both of you, over the edge of the ride. If you throw up on yourself you will most like smell very bad, and if you throw up on your friend, they may not want to be friends with you after that. These rides are at your own risk, so be careful!
Question: Would a small vertical or corkscrew loop be as scary as a 300 ft. drop?
Answer: They would be way less scary! If you can manage a 300 ft. drop where you can’t see where you are falling, a small loop where you can see the track ahead will be a piece of cake!
Question: If I have a lot of stuff with me, where should I stash it so I don’t lose it?
Answer: Sometimes there are bins or boxes that you can place loose articles in, but other times there are not, so you might have to rent a locker for the day or leave your belongings with a non-rider.
Question: I am going to Kings Island with a choir that I recently joined, however I don’t know the members very well. How do I tell them that I’ve never been on a roller coaster before? (I’d like to try.)
Answer: Unless you’re scared or worried about it, there’s really no need to tell them unless you want to. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, just say, “I’ve actually never been on a roller coaster before, but I’m excited to ride this one!” If you’re nervous, maybe talk to the person you know the best out of the group and just be honest, “I’ve never been on a roller coaster before and I’m a little scared.”
Question: I have a brain injury that’s been there since birth. Is it safe to ride a roller coaster with that condition? I’ve ridden less intense ones, but never super fast ones.
Answer: Do not try riding an intense roller coaster with a brain problem. It is dangerous and some people have died or have been seriously injured while riding a roller coaster. Depending on the severity of you brain problem, stick to the smaller and less intense activities and rides.
Question: What if I’m afraid of coasters, and hate the idea of them, and don’t even want to try them, but am treated like a coward if I don’t step out of my comfort zone, and do something that terrifies me?
Answer: You can try a large roller coaster and even if it scares you, it might help you realize that they aren’t that bad. I used to be terrified of roller coasters, until I was forced onto a pretty intense one, and once I had done that, I loved roller coasters. Try working your way up, and remember that roller coasters are extremely safe.
Question:I have supraventricular techicardia. Should I ride a rollercoaster?
Answer: You can. But for your health, choose only the smaller and calmer roller coasters. It may depend on the severity level of supraventricular techicardia but the short answer is yes, and do the smaller rides.
- Don’t eat anything until you know how you will react to the roller coaster. Otherwise, you might vomit and cause an embarrassing delay for others waiting in line because the ride employees have to clean the train and dry it off. Don’t be that person.
- On some roller coasters, there’s a place that you can get off if you decide not to ride.
- Don’t close your eyes during the ride if it has a twisty layout. That way you know where the roller coaster’s going next, and it’s more fun that way!
- Wear something suitable for that roller coaster so something doesn’t come off or something to get wet that wasn’t supposed to.
- Start out small if you’re new to roller coasters. Something like a kiddie coaster if you can fit, or even a wooden roller coaster. Although woodies can also be scary and sometimes extremely rough.
- Wear a hoodie if the roller coaster is tall because it can get cold and windy at a higher altitude, unless you like that.
- If you decide to eat, wait at least 5 minutes for your food to settle in, but every person is different. Wait as long as you need to.
- Get yourself a drink of water in between rides. It will settle you down a bit before going on the next ride and help your throat after all that screaming!
- If the ride was crazy, or if you feel a bit dizzy, take a break. There’s no need to rush. The ride won’t go anywhere!
- Don’t let anyone pressure you to go on a ride that you don’t want to go on. But it’s always good to try something you’ve never been on, but if it looks too intimidating, you don’t have to do it. There’s always next time.
- You should not ride a roller coaster if you have certain heart conditions, back and neck problems, or pregnancy due to G-forces issues.
- Do not record POV videos while on rollercoasters. It is against the policies of most theme parks, and you will risk being kicked out of the park or even having your camera taken away. You may also drop it or break it on the ride.
- Don’t eat or drink before riding if you are motion sick. You’ll probably throw up all over yourself.
- Stay in the safety harness at all times. Wait until the ride operator tells you it is time to get off.