Nerd alert: I'm kind of obsessed with roller coasters. The first time I went to Darien Lake, an amusement park near my hometown in upstate New York, and saw the Viper run it's looping course, I was hooked. I could tell you all sorts of details on the speeds, heights, and design aspects of various coasters (as roller coaster enthusiasts call them) across the country...but I'll spare you those boring statistics.
Instead, I've put together a list of the top attractions (there are a few non-coasters in the mix, too) slated to open next year. While most major parks close for the cold winter months, construction crews get to work building the next adrenaline-pumping thrill rides that keep millions of park patrons coming back for more. Here's what you have to look forward to in 2014:
1. Banshee, Kings Island (Ohio):
Come May, Kings Island, a sprawling amusement park near Cincinnati, will be home to the world's longest inverted coaster, Banshee (pictured above). Inverted coasters feature trains with seats hanging below the track, allowing riders' legs to dangle freely in the air. Riders will be flipped upside-down seven times on what the park calls it's first "female themed" ride.
2. Winged Coaster, Heide Park (Germany):
Germany's Heide Park, located in Lower Saxony, will open a new to-be-named winged coaster in March. The coaster designers compare the ride experience to sitting on the wing of an airplane, as the seats are situated on either side of the track.
3. Thunderbolt, Luna Park (New York):
Nostalgic for theme parks of the past? Well, Coney Island's Luna Park is reviving the Thunderbolt, a wooden coaster that was demolished in 1982. The new version, set to open in spring, will be a steel coaster with loops, and a 125-foot drop.
4. Zumanjaro Drop of Doom, Six Flags Great Adventure (New Jersey):
New Jersey's largest amusement park decided to make use of the world's tallest coaster, Kingda Ka, by attaching what will be the world's tallest drop tower to the side of it. Launch to the apex of the 415-foot tower, then free fall to the bottom at 90 miles-per-hour. Since this ride is jungle themed, they'll even have an exhibit with live baboons to keep you entertained while you wait in line. So, if you chicken out at the last-minute, at least you got to see some primates.
5. Demon, La Ronde (Québec):
La Ronde, a picturesque amusement park just across the Saint Lawrence River from downtown Montreal, plans to open Demon next spring. Riders will board a boat-like structure with two rows of seats; the boat is attached to two arms that move independently of each other. Come with a strong, empty stomach – this ride spins and flips in so many ways.
6. Falcon's Fury, Busch Gardens Tampa (Florida):
Busch Gardens' new 335-foot drop tower will boast a unique element: riders sit upright as they ascend the tower, but when they reach the top, their seats flip forward. It'll feel like you're skydiving...without a parachute. Luckily, the magnetic brakes at the bottom will prevent a wipeout.
7. Fire Chaser Express, Dollywood (Tennessee):
Thrilling enough for adults, yet tame enough for kids, this new "family" coaster in Dolly Parton's charming theme park will launch riders twice – once forwards, once backwards. The ride's course is set to include special flame and fog effects.
8. Helix, Liseberg (Sweden):
Apparently, Swedes love thrills, too! Liseberg, an amusement park near Gothenburg, attracts 3 million visitors annually, and they'll have a new coaster to ride next year. The park touts Helix as Europe's "first ever multi-launch coaster," which features speeds of up to 60 miles-per-hour and seven flips.
9. Hurricane Harbor, Six Flags Over (Georgia):
Next May, beat the intense Georgia heat at Six Flags's new water park, Hurricane Harbor. Expect plenty of water slides, an 800,000-gallon wave pool, and a children's water play area.
10. Alpina Blitz, Nigoland (France):
Halfway between Strasbourg and Paris lies France's Nigoland park, which will debut Alpina Blitz, a 200-foot-tall steel coaster. You won't flip upside-down on this one, instead you'll speed over plenty of hills designed to lift you out of your seat.