Life is full of ups and downs, and nowhere is that more true than on a roller coaster! Millions of people flock to amusement parks around the world each year to experience the thrilling and sometimes terrifying feelings that only roller coasters can provide.

If you’ve ever ridden a roller coaster, you’ve probably felt a “sinking feeling” in the pit of your stomach when the coaster plummeted down a steep hill. That feeling is caused by the sudden lack of forces pushing on your body.

The acceleration forces of the roller coaster counteract the normal sensations of gravity, and just like that, you — and all of the stuff inside you, such as your stomach — feel weightless.

So where should you go if you want to experience the wildest roller coasters in the world? If you’re looking for speed, head to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. The Ferrari World Abu Dhabi amusement park is home to the Formula Rossa, which is the world’s fastest roller coaster at 149.1 miles per hour!

If you’re looking for a tall roller coaster with a massive drop, visit Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The Kingda Ka is the No. 1 roller coaster in the world for both height (456 feet) and drop (418 feet).

The world’s longest coaster is the Steel Dragon 2000 in Nagashima Spa Land in Japan. Its total length is just over 8,133 feet — that’s more than a mile and a half long!

Today, the two major types of roller coasters are wooden and steel. Wooden roller coasters are similar to traditional railroad tracks. Cars travel on tracks mounted to wooden beams.

Massive support structures are needed, so wooden coasters tend to be less flexible. Most of a wooden coaster’s exciting motion is up and down.

Steel roller coasters, on the other hand, have a much greater range of motion. Steel coasters run on tracks made of long steel tubes that can be made in many shapes, including twists and corkscrews.

Steel coasters can easily tilt riders in all sorts of wild and exciting directions. Because steel coasters can be seamlessly welded together, they also tend to have a smoother ride.

Today, there are about 2,000 roller coasters operating around the world. More than 90 percent of them are steel coasters. Some of them feature new and daring designs, such as coasters that you ride lying flat so that you feel like you’re flying!

 

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    • Bravo to YOU, Brianna, for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend! Did you like the video of the roller coaster? We LOVED pretending we were in the front seat! :-)

  1. Wonderopolis should come to Cedar Point in OH they have the BEST roller coasters. Perhaps a team building event? I agree with Bri you did out do yourself on this one.

  2. Six flags really does have the tallest roller coasters and guess what I am going to six flags in July 2011. I just love this website and all the wonders it has, especially this wonder.

    • How fun, Jenny! Thanks for commenting today! We wish we could ride a roller coaster right now…we love the ups, downs, and round-and-rounds! :-)

    • Hi, Max! Thanks for exploring this Wonder of the Day® about roller coasters! The fastest roller coaster in the world (149.1 miles per hour) is the Formula Rossa roller coaster found at the The Ferrari World Abu Dhabi amusement park in the Middle East. We bet it would be SO MUCH fun to ride! :-)

    • Hi again, Max! We think the people who made the video might have used a special type of camera that’s used to take super fast action video. Thanks for checking out this Wonder and for asking some great questions about it! :-)

    • We’re glad you liked the video for this Wonder, Zak, and we hope you learned some cool new things about roller coasters today, too! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

    • WOW, great Wonder question, Isaac! We bet you can do some scientific research to answer that question! Perhaps you can ask your science teacher or librarian to help you with your findings! Keep up the great work! :)

  3. I was also wondering if there are any wooden roller coasters with a loop? In the article, it said that wooden roller coasters are less flexible. Does this mean they can’t have loops?

    • That’s a WONDERful question, Isaac! We love roller coasters, but we’re not experts! We bet you can continue to research on your own to find out if any wooden roller coasters have loops! If so, how are they different from metal roller coasters? :)

    • That’s a tough question to answer, Wonder Friend Isaac! Some of us here at Wonderopolis have visited Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point, and Kings Island! We really like roller coasters of all kinds– the more loops the better! What is your favorite roller coaster, Isaac? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where is the fastest roller coaster?
  • What causes that “sinking feeling” in your stomach on a roller coaster?
  • How are wooden roller coasters different from steel roller coasters?

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Try It Out

Ready to throw your hands in the air, let out a loud scream and ride the rails on a super-fast roller coaster? Let’s go!

Even if you can’t make it to a local amusement park, you can take an exhilarating virtual ride on these exciting roller coasters:

 

Still Wondering

Take a ride on Illuminations’ Competing Coasters lesson to learn more about roller coasters, including how to predict which coaster is faster, which is higher, which goes farther and which takes longer.

 

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