Editor’s Note: Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that spotlights some of the most fascinating topics in the travel world. In April, we’re taking a thrilling ride into the world of theme parks.
For the hard-core amusement park crowd, nothing satisfies like a good roller coaster. Long drops, high speed, lots of airtime and adrenaline rushes are what they crave. The only thing that can top a great roller coaster is a bunch of them in one place.
Impressive collections can be found in many parts of the world, but which park currently holds more roller coasters than any other?
You might think with good reason it would be in an burgeoning Asian market. But the distinction belongs to a park about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles that has been around for decades.
With a whopping 20 roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain even rates a mention with Guinness World Records – helping the park justify its “Thrill Capital of the World” slogan. But park rivals at home and abroad are close behind on the coaster count.
Martin Lewison, an associate professor of business management at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, New York, is big on Magic Mountain’s collection. Known as “Professor Roller Coaster,” he’s ridden around 2,260 of them worldwide. So he knows his stuff.
“I think there are a lot of great rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain.” he told CNN Travel recently. The park “has definitely tried to be a cutting-edge leader and pushing the envelope in terms of what kinds of coasters it builds. And it has a really good eclectic mix of rides. … I would say that it ticks both boxes, doing well in quantity and quality.”
There are currently 27 parks under the Six Flags umbrella. How did Magic Mountain beat out the others in the chain, much less other parks all over the world?
“For a number of years, there definitely was a tit-for-tat where each theme park tried to build one more coaster to get ahead of the other,” Lewison said. “But there are some other more fundamental reasons for why Six Flags Magic Mountain has so many roller coasters.”
Location, prosperity and weather all played roles, he said.
“A large theme park is more likely to thrive in an area that’s highly economically developed. Right? And if you’re talking about Southern California, you’re talking about probably one of the most prosperous regional economies in the world.”
Then there’s Southern California’s weather – warm and sunny most of the year. A longer season means more revenue, Lewison said. A park in more wintry climes simply can’t stay open as many days and finds it harder to compete.
Finally, rivalry with Disneyland, Knot’s Berry Farm and others have kept Magic Mountain and all the Southern California parks on their competitive toes for decades, he said.
The quantity competition is fierce. Cedar Point in Ohio sports 18 coasters, for instance. And a relative newcomer to the amusement park world is breathing on both their necks.
Enerylandia in Poland has 17 operational coasters with two more set to open in 2023 and another scheduled to open in 2024, according to the Roller Coaster DataBase (RCDB) in late April. And the park has only been open since 2014.
Ready to ride? Strap in for quick looks all 20 coasters at Magic Mountain. The statistics on height, length, speed and year opened come from the RCDB. The thrill levels and descriptions come from Magic Mountain.
Height: 95 feet. Length: 2,877 feet. Top speed: 50 mph. Opened: 2009. Thrill level: Moderate.
This sit-down, wooden coaster has a sci-fi wasteland theme and runs for three minutes.
Height: 105 feet. Length: 2,700 feet. Top speed: 50 mph. Opened: 1994. Thrill level: Maximum.
This steel coaster with the Caped Crusader theme has five inversions, including a full 360-degree loop right off the first drop.
Height: 16 feet. Length: Not given. Top speed: 10 mph. Opened: 1999. Thrill level: Mild.
This sit-down, steel coaster for families, which features some sharp turns, is currently closed for refurbishment.
Height: 164 feet. Length: 2,200 feet. Top speed: 70 mph. Opened: 2013. Thrill level: Maximum.
This sit-down, steel coaster is a 90-second ride and accelerates straight out the station into a loop. It can handle around 800 riders in an hour.
Height: 70 feet. Length: 2,590 feet. Top speed: 35 mph. Opened: 1971. Thrill level: Moderate.
This runaway mine train coaster pays homage to California’s gold frenzy has been with the amusement park since opening day. (The park opened as Magic Mountain 1971 and was owned by Newhall Land and Farming Company; Six Flags took over in 1979.)
Lewison likes the classic mine-train rides and says this is a great one for the whole family. It’s a great coaster for kids making their first steps toward more daring coasters, he said.
“Over the years, they’ve gotten a bit rough, but they’re just so much fun. They’re fast, they’re twisty.”
Height: 235 feet. Length: 4,500 feet. Top speed: 85 mph. Opened: 2000. Thrill level: Maximum.
Even though the height of this hypercoaster is 235 feet, it actually features a 255-foot drop thanks to an underground tunnel. This steel monster features moments of weightlessness and forces of 4.5 G’s. Lewison said it’s one of favorites.
“This kind of roller coaster has no inversions, so you don’t go upside down. But it has really big drops, lots of air time. A ride like Goliath is really exciting.”
Height: 10 feet. Length: 350 feet. Top speed: 10 mph. Opened: 1971. Thrill level: Mild.
This gentle coaster for the kids, which has seen various names and themes over the decades, has been with the park since the beginning.
No coaster is too small to pique Lewison’s interest – but the Magic Flyer remains evasive. “I’m still waiting to meet the person that I have to bribe to ride the children’s roller coaster known as Magic Flyer.”
Height: 113 feet. Length: 3,457 feet. Top speed: 55 mph. Opened: 1976. Thrill level: Maximum.
The New Revolution has some age on it now, but it still thrills with a 360˚ loop in the middle of the ride that was quite revolutionary for the time. The steel coaster got a big makeover in 2016.
“I also wouldn’t miss Revolution. It is the first steel looping roller coaster ever built in the world. And it was featured in the 1970s movie ‘Roller Coaster.’ … it’s still a lot of fun to ride.”
Height: 60 feet. Length: 2,700 feet. Top speed: 55 mph. Opened: 1988. Thrill level: Moderate.
This suspended, swinging-seat steel coaster flies riders through trees and over parts of its Jet Stream water coaster.
Lewison said this coaster was made by the now-defunct Arrow Development and is “a piece of history” as about half of Arrow’s suspended coasters are gone now.
“It was the first coaster to hang from the track. … It’s such a great experience … and happens to be one of the more thrilling ones that are left.”
Height: 156 feet. Length: 4,370 feet. Top speed: 65 mph. Opened: 1998. Thrill level: Maximum.
Another creation inspired by the menagerie of Gotham City, this steel coaster hold several superlatives for stand-up coasters: tallest, fastest and longest in the world.
Height: 28 feet. Length: 679 feet. Top speed: 22 mph. Opened: 2011. Thrill level: Mild.
This kid-friendly starter coaster has its riders outrunning Wile E. Coyote. The ride last less than a minute.
Height: 150 feet. Length: 3,985 feet. Top speed: 63 mph. Opened: 2003. Thrill level: Moderate.
This steel coaster features a floorless train design meant to mimic flying and sends riders upside down seven times.
Height: 13.1 feet. Length: 262.5 feet. Top speed: NA. Opened: 2014. Thrill level: Moderate.
Six Flags promotes this steel coaster as great for parents and kids and “the perfect training ground for future thrill seekers.”
Height: 415 feet. Length: 1,235 feet. Top speed: 100 mph. Opened: 1997. Thrill level: Maximum.
The coaster accelerates from 0 to 100 mph in just seconds and features 6.5 seconds of weightlessness. While the height of the structure is 415 feet, the drop is 328 feet.
“It’s really unique,” Lewison said. “And there are two sides. So it does like a racing thing or, you know, they shoot together. It sounds like a jet engine taking off when that thing launches. And that’s just a fun ride to watch and even better to experience.”
Height: 170 feet. Length: 3,602 feet. Top speed: 62 mph. Opened: 2006. Thrill level: Maximum.
This flying coaster puts riders face down and features a corkscrew first drop, a 124-foot pretzel loop and a total of four inversions.
Tatsu “is just big and extreme and fast, and I’ve definitely grayed out on one of the bigger loops. So that’s a fun one and definitely worth trying,” Lewison said.
Height: 121 feet. Length: 4,990 feet. Top speed: 57 mph. Opened: 2015. Thrill level: Maximum.
You have your wood coasters. You have your steel coasters. And then your have hybrids like Twisted Colossus, which has both. The is the favorite SFMM coaster of the YouTube channel World of Immersion.
Height: 188 feet. Length: 3,830 feet. Top speed: 70 mph. Opened: 1990. Thrill level: Maximum.
The first drop on this steel coaster is 171 feet, and then riders head into a series of loops. It cost $8 million to build.
Height: 67 feet. Length: 4,000 feet. Top speed: 55 mph. Opened: 2020. Thrill level: Maximum.
This racing coaster features two side-by-side tracks with four individual, high-speed, magnetic launches and 14 track crossovers.
This newcomer is another Lewison favorite: “You’re racing another car, but you’re in fact on the same track. And those tracks are definitely playing with each other, like racing each other. And that’s a really exciting thing. Any kind of racing coaster is a lot of fun.”
While shaving off points for lackluster theming and general upkeep at Magic Mountain, YouTube channel World of Immersion said West Coast Racers and other top coasters still make it a must for coaster junkies.
Height: 131 feet. Length: 3,300 feet. Top speed: 58 mph. Opened: 2022. Thrill level: Maximum.
Face your fears alone. This is the tallest and longest single-rail coaster in the world as riders zip around the track single file. It’s the park’s newest coaster.
Height: 175 feet. Length: 3,610 feet. Top speed: 76 mph. Opened: 2002. Thrill level: Maximum.
X2’s defining features are its 360-degree rotating seats and head-first, face down drops.
The YouTube channel Airtime Thrills said in a December 2021 video that Magic Mountain is its No. 1 Six Flags park, with X2 taking it over the top. “There’s nothing else like this in the country,” the video says.
“X2 was a huge leap forward in the roller coaster world,” Lewison said. “It’s one of my favorite rides at the park. It’s really a work of art.”
Some coasters might be closed for repairs or refurbishment on the day you visit SFMM –or any park for that matter.