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Roller-Coaster Fanatic

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What is more than 100 years old and more fun than ever? Roller-coasters!

Wooden sleds running down long ice slides were popular winter attractions in Russia as long ago as the 1600s. But the first real roller-coaster, the Switchback Gravity Pleasure Railway, was built at Coney Island in 1884.

The oldest roller-coaster still in use in North America is the Leap-the-Dips. It was built in 1902 and runs at the Lakemont Park in Pennsylvania.

Coney Island is still a very popular place to play and ride. But the amusement park with the most roller-coasters is Cedar Point in Ohio -- it has 12.

Cedar Point has been in operation since 1870. Originally a family business, Cedar Point expanded and went corporate in the 1970s to compete with the other big parks.

According to Amusement Business magazine, the number one amusement park is the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Roller-coasters can be constructed out of wood or steel. They can be friction- or chain-driven or have a non-friction design. The features to look for? Speed, degree and length of drops, and G-factors (gravity pressure factors).

Roller-coasters have to be maintained to avoid accidents. The chance of being hurt while riding a roller-coaster is one in seven million. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 80 percent of all accidents involve rider misconduct.

The most recent statistics from the CPSC show 30 fatalities from all rides in the mobile amusement industry as a whole, not just roller-coasters.

Ride workers are more likely to be injured or killed than passengers. Riders are more likely to be caught stranded on a coaster because of mechanical problems or environmental factors, such as high winds.

The Mean Streak at Cedar Point is the roller-coaster that scores the highest overall.

It may not be the tallest (it's second at 160 feet), or the fastest (it's highest speed is only 65 miles per hour), or the longest circuit (a little bit better than a mile at 5,427 feet, but it has the longest drop -- 155 feet to be exact. It is these numbers that make it a blast to ride.

Getting Started

Riding roller-coasters and other amusement park rides can be an affordable way to spend a day or two. The prices in all parks are competitive. They range from $30 to $45 for a one-day pass, to $100 and up for a season pass.

If you decide to become a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, the rates are even better. You are also able to attend special events and meet other roller-coaster lovers. People of all ages belong to these groups.

Remember basic safety principles. Keep your arms and body in the positions recommended by the individual rides.

Don't wear overly loose clothing. Hats, bags and even glasses tend to fly over loops. Wear a fanny pack and hold your hat, if necessary. Dangling earrings, long chains and necklaces can become weapons against the wearer.

If you truly love to ride, check out the job listings at your favorite park, or one near home. The pay may not be great, but the perks can be. The jobs are seasonal in most areas. They can fit well around school and summer vacations.

Roller-coaster enthusiasts have done a lot of wild things for their love of the ride. They have entered radio contests, sitting continuously on a ride for a chance to win cash and prizes. There are couples who have been married on the first, or their favorite, coaster.

If you would like to talk to other lovers of the ultimate thrill rides, there are a number of options. You can check out the Internet and look for message boards or chat rooms. The people there are all roller-coaster enthusiasts.

Joining a newsgroup is another route. The American Coaster Enthusiasts site has great links for the best groups.


American Coaster Enthusiasts

National Amusement Park Historical Association


The ultimate guide to roller-coasters

Ultimate Roller-Coaster
News, FAQs and links related to roller-coasters

How Roller-Coasters Work
Learn about the physics behind roller-coasters from the folks at

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.