Fave Five Wooden Coasters

Production Manager Matthew Sullivan lists his “Fave Five” wooden roller coasters

By: By Matthew Sullivan

As an admitted roller coaster enthusiast I've spent the last 20 years travelling the world visiting amusement parks. Along the way I've developed a special affinity for wooden coasters. I love their classic look, sound and feel. When it comes to delivering "airtime" -- the moment when it feels like you’re being thrown from the seat -- wooden coasters trump their steel counterparts. Out of the 450 coasters I've ridden these are my five favorite "woodies":

The Voyage at Holiday World // (c) 2008 Holiday World
The Voyage, Holiday World 
The Voyage
Holiday World and Splashin' Safari
Santa Claus, IN
www.holidayworld.com

This massive coaster has topped Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Awards "Best Wooden Coaster" category, voted on by coaster enthusiasts around the world, since the ride's debut in 2006. At more than one and a half miles long it has everything: big drops, tunnels, 90-degree banked turns, surprise changes of direction and the most air-time moments on any coaster in the world. If you have a client who loves coasters book them a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana next summer. For a virtual ride visit the park's website.

 

Phoenix Rollercoaster // (c) 2008 Mike Miller
Phoenix
Knoebels Grove Amusement Park
(c) Mike Miller
Phoenix
Knoebels Grove Amusement Park
Elysburg, PA
www.knoebels.com

Phoenix doesn't hold any world records. It doesn't have a gimmick. Even the wood structure's green stain causes it to blend in with the Pennsylvania foliage. But when it comes to thrills and airtime Phoenix is a true standout. Originally built for San Antonio's Playland in 1948 it was rescued after Playland’s closing and moved to Central Pennsylvania, reopening in 1984. For clients travelling to New York City, Pittsburg, or Philadelphia the park is just a few hours by car.

 

Boulder Dash // (c) Chris Belson 2008
Boulder Dash
Lake Compounce Amusement Park
(c) Chris Belson
Boulder Dash
Lake Compounce Amusement Park
Bristol, CT
www.lakecompounce.com

Built along a mountainside, riders find themselves dashing through the woods, dodging trees and boulders along the rides' nearly one-mile-long, ground-hugging track. Lake Compounce, the oldest continually-operated amusement park in the U.S., is also famous for their Haunted Graveyard event at Halloween. The park is just a stone's throw from Bristol and Hartford and just a few hours from many of New England's major cities.

 

The Giant Dipper // (c) Stefan Merkl 2008
Giant Dipper
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
(c) Stefan Merkl
Giant Dipper
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz, CA
www.beachboardwalk.com

The sole surviving boardwalk amusement park on the West Coast is also home to California's oldest wooden coaster. Starting with a dip into a dark and disorienting tunnel, Giant Dipper has been thrilling riders since 1924 and shows no sign of stopping. For me, there's nothing better than a ride in the late afternoon as the sun sets over the bay and the boardwalk lights begin to twinkle.

 

The Raven // (c) 2008 Jim Westland
The Raven
Holiday World
(c) Jim Westland
The Raven
Holiday World and Splashin' Safari
Santa Claus, IN
www.holidayworld.com

Across the park from The Voyage you’ll find Holiday World's first wooden coaster and a former Golden Ticket Award winner. Raven's speedy trip through the woods includes a tunnel and a turn skimming over Lake Rudolph. Using the natural terrain, the coaster saves one of its biggest surprises for near the end: a big drop that leaves riders breathless as they return to the station.

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