The Top 10 Roller Coasters at Orlando’s Theme Parks

Orlando’s extensive line-up of theme parks is perhaps most famous for its impressive selection of dark rides, such as the classic Peter Pan’s Flight at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and the high-tech Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. However, while the area’s roller coasters are perhaps less-renowned, they are still some of the very best on offer anywhere in the world. Here’s a run-down of 10 amazing coaster experiences in Orlando.

10. Kraken (SeaWorld Orlando)

While it features weaker theming than SeaWorld Orlando’s other thrill rides, the towering Kraken is still not-to-be-missed. The lengthy floorless coaster includes a 119-feet-tall vertical loop, a diving loop, a cobra roll, a zero gravity roll and some G-force-inducing turns, which more than make up for its dull setting. Don’t forget to check out the eels that live in tanks underneath the ride, which represent the Kraken’s offspring.

9. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit (Universal Studios Florida)

Opened in August 2009 after months of delays, Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit was plagued by technical problems for a long period but is now running slightly more smoothly. Towering over Universal Studios Florida, the Rockit features a long vertical lift-hill followed by a steep drop into a non-inverting loop. A series of twists and turns follow, and the entire ride is accompanied by a music track that you can select personally using an iPod-like device. You’ll be hard-pushed to concentrate on the tune, though, as you race around the 3800-foot circuit.

8. Dragon Challenge (Islands of Adventure)

Opened alongside the rest of Islands of Adventure in 1999, Dragon Challenge was originally known as Dueling Dragons. The name was a nod to its design, which features two separate inverted coasters with circuits that are intertwined. Absorbed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010, the two coasters are now known as the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail. Both feature five inversions in their intense, high-velocity circuits, but sadly they are no longer synchronized after a series of incidents in which guests were hit by falling objects.

7. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)

The oldest operating coaster in Florida is still one of its best, despite its relatively tame design. What Space Mountain lacks in big drops and fast speeds, it makes up through its pitch-black indoor setting. The “wild mouse”-style ride is packed with tight turns and small drops, which are enhanced significantly by the fact that riders cannot see them coming. An extensive refurbishment in 2009 resulted in an overhaul of the coaster’s dull queue line, which is now packed with interactive experiences.

6. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

A roller coaster that features rock stars Aerosmith in its storyline may sound like a strange fit for Disney, but in typical fashion its Imagineers succeeded in creating a musical tour-de-force. The plot is cleverly tied to the ride’s design, with guests racing across town in a limousine to catch the band’s next concert. After a start which sees the trains launched from 0 to 57 miles per hour in just 2.8 seconds, the ride then soars past illuminated road signs in an otherwise pitch-black setting. The on-board audio adds to the experience, and even non-rock fans will find it hard to resist head-banging along.

5. The Incredible Hulk (Islands of Adventure)

Towering over the central lake in Islands of Adventure, The Incredible Hulk is the only launched roller coaster produced to date by leading manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard. While the uphill launch itself is great fun, the enormous inversions (including a cobra roll that stands at 110-feet-tall) offer the biggest thrills. If ever a ride perfectly fitted the character that it inspired it, this beast is it.

4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom)

Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has entertained guests for years, but has lost none of its appeal. Though much slower-paced than most of the other coasters on this list, the ride more than makes up for it with its incredible mountainous setting, humorous theming and lengthy circuit. After boarding the mine train-themed vehicles, guests are taken on a course that includes no fewer than three lift hills, passing through the fictional abandoned mining town of Tumbleweed. Kids and adults alike will be left with broad grins on their faces when they finally return to the station.

3. Manta (SeaWorld Orlando)

Sitting at the heart of SeaWorld Orlando, Manta is the first and only Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster to have opened in Florida. It is a near-perfect blend of SeaWorld’s aquatic exhibits with a world-class thrill ride, and is almost as fun to watch as it is to ride. Lying face-down in its ray-themed trains, guests are taken on a well-designed circuit that includes numerous close encounters with water features, and can then learn more about the creatures that inspired the ride in an excellent aquarium.

2. Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios Florida)

Part-roller coaster, part-dark ride, Revenge of the Mummy is one of the best-themed rides in Orlando. With guests placed at the heart of the fictional production of another movie in The Mummy series, it soon transpires that some of the movie’s action sequences are getting a little too real. After a stunning queue line and initial, slow-paced section that sets the scene, guests are plunged into darkness as they are pursued by the Mummy and his minions. An impressive launch sequence, an attack by scarab beetles, forwards and backwards sections and a surprise ending make this one of the top coasters in the world.

1. Expedition Everest (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)

Opened in 2006, Expedition Everest was a badly-needed addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s limited line-up of rides. After a very detailed queue that tells the story of a planned Everest expedition, guests board a train to the base of the world’s tallest mountain. Unfortunately, it gets diverted when it reaches the “Forbidden Mountain”, on which the ferocious Yeti resides. The highlight for most riders is an incredible twisting, turning backwards drop, but others will have fun trying to spot the animatronic Yeti (which is frequently out of action).

Whether you’re a hardened thrill-seeker or a fan of slow-paced attractions, you’ll find something to suit you among Orlando’s extensive line-up of roller coasters. Take a deep breath and strap yourself in!

Image Credits

  • Kraken.jpg – Jon Roost
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.jpg – Katie Harbarth
  • Expedition Everest.jpg – Dave Walters
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.jpg, Rock n Rollercoaster.jpg, Manta.jpg – Natalie Sim

Nick Sim is a lifelong coaster fan based in Ipswich, England. He can be found covering all the latest theme park news over at Theme Park Tourist.

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  1. vacationingjim Says:

    I sell these vacations for a living and I know any roller coaster can get your heart pumping and be alot of fun. Heck the fact that Sea World was smart enough to get in the game shows right there that this is what people crave from a good theme park experience. But, Paashaw! The Hulk is #1 and don’t get it twisted. Day or even better night time rides on the hulk are amazing. Sorry Everest your yeti is cool, but… THE HULK SMASH YOU!

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall Says:

    Thanks for weighing in, Jim. Everyone has their favorites. :)