It’s December time again, we’ve had more than our fair share of theme park fireworks and burgers, and the 2013 season is at its end. This month I’ve been bringing you a series of Top 10 articles on the tallest, fastest and longest roller coasters on the planet, and now we'll take a look at the longest. Unlike the fastest and tallest coasters, the Top 10 longest coasters is a bit of mash-up of styles: launched, chain lift, wood and steel and even some in between.
10. Gao - Mitsui Greenland
Japan's theme parks have a habit of building insane roller coasters, and Mitsui Greenland grabs a place in the top 10 with Gao. While the 5,692-feet-long circuit is actually fairly unremarkable, the dinosaur theming is certainly fairly unique!
9. Desperado – Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino
At 5843 feet, this steel hyper coaster is Arrow Dynamic’s longest ever contraption. The ride is the same model as Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Big One, but is just a little faster, and resides in Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino, just outside of Las Vegas in Nevada. It opened in 1994 and held the record as the fastest coaster for a few years. The positives stop there however; it is renowned for its roughness, and despite a very impressive first drop the layout is diabolical, just one look and you’d mistake it for a Roller Coaster Tycoon death trap. Despite its near laughable appearance, it is a great idea, and it would be good to see more hotel-based roller coasters in the future.
8. California Screamin’ – Disney’s California Adventure
This is almost certainly the most ridden and best known member of the list; the 6072ft ride resides in Disney’s California Adventure. The ride is a bit bizarre: it’s an Intamin LIM coaster,with an initial 55 mph launch, featuring one solitary loop and is disguised to look like a wooden roller coaster. All of this - in a Disney Park - really seems to go against the flow. Despite its length and launch, it’s not too intense and really a family coaster; because of its low height restriction can be enjoyed by the kids too.
7. The Voyage – Holiday World
The Voyage is a monster of a wooden coaster; it boasts a top speed of 67 mph after the 160 feet lift hill. It starts off life a steel hyper coaster, with three large hills, before diving round itself, underground and all over the place in an intense finale over its 6442 feet of track. Having opened in 2006 it has consistently ranked in the top 5 "woodies" worldwide, and many regard it as the most intense roller coaster in the world (testament to this is the fact that it has already been re-tracked numerous times, so great is the strain on the track.) The Voyage is one of those rides that, despite its length, never lets up from start to finish.
6. Formula Rossa – Ferrari World
If there’s anything you know about Formula Rossa, it’s definitely not related to its length. This ride is the fastest roller coaster on Earth, coming in at an unbelievable 149 mph. It is an Intamin rocket coaster, the most recent in a long line of similar rides, including former record holder Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. Located at Abu Dhabi’s new Ferrari World, the park has pretty much unlimited money and space to work with, and unsurprisingly it delivered a colossal creation. The ride looks neither tall nor long; however it stands at 171 feet and 6562 feet in length, which shows just how quickly the train travels around it. Due to its location and youth, not many have yet had a chance to ride, however most reviews report that the launch is phenomenal, with the remainder of the circuit being less interesting.
5. Millennium Force – Cedar Point
A true legend amongst roller coasters, at 6595 feet this titan was the world’s first giga-coaster, and at one point the tallest and fastest full-circuit coaster. Manufactured by Intamin, it stands at 310 feet tall and reaches 93 mph at the bottom of the first gut-wrenching drop. Although it does not produce the level of airtime that many other Intamins do, it usually ranks in the top 10 on any enthusiast's list. Unfortunately, this breed of roller coaster hasn’t caught on as might have been expected, and there is very little worldwide to rival Millennium Force’s all round speed, height and length. There is one, however, a little later on in the list...
4. Fujiyama – Fuji Q Highlands
Think of Fujiyama as a predecessor to Millennium Force; it opened 4 years earlier and was the tallest coaster on Earth when it opened too. It stands at 259 feet tall and bottoms out at 81mph. Fujiyama (Literally meaning ‘King of Coasters’) however is much more of a twisted affair, unlike Millennium’s out-and-back style. Constructed by Togo, it is unsurprisingly absolutely brutal. Similar to Desperado, the track appears to be slightly under-engineered and the ride ends with a series of punishing side-to-side banked turns. On top of being one the most intense roller coasters ever, it also boasts by far the coolest trains in the world.
3. The Beast – Kings Island
The daddy of the aforementioned ride, this golden oldie was built in 1979, and like so many on this list was once the fastest roller coaster in the world. A few of its genes were shared with its son, particularly the length (this is 7359 feet), and the relentlessness intensity. However, unlike Son of Beast, Beast has always been fantastically well received. Its layout covers a massive 35 acres and winds through dense woods, almost invisible from outside. The double helix finale is covered by a 300 feet long tunnel and is one of the greatest finales in the roller coaster world.
2. Ultimate – Lightwater Valley
A long roller coaster in the UK you say? We’re pretty used to being disappointed with the lengths of coasters here, but there’s no doubt the Ultimate, located at Lightwater Valley in Yorkshire, makes up for all the letdowns. At 7442 feet the ride held the title of the world’s longest roller coaster for over a decade, and also holds the title of being the longest in duration at 7 minutes 24 seconds, although this is in part because of the fact that it has two lift hills. The ride is a hybrid; it has a wooden structure with a steel track. It is a terrain out and back coaster; the first 102 feet lift hill is followed by numerous low to the ground bunny hills, whereas the second 107 feet lift is followed by a mad dash through the forest, which is much more twisted. The ride is a hidden gem and a must-ride, and it provides decent airtime on top of the ridiculous positive forces. Although it is fairly rough it is comfortably one the UK’s top coasters.
1. Steel Dragon 2000 - Nagashima Spa Land
The "beast from the east", Steel Dragon comes in first on the list at 8133 feet long. There is no doubt that it is the most physically impressive coaster in the world: it stands 318 feet tall and reaches 95 mph. It is the tallest and fastest roller coaster with a lift hill, and it is so large that the lift is broken into two chains so two trains can be on it at one time. It starts with three huge hills, all of them over 210 feet tall, before diving into a banked helix section. It exits this and enters the final stretch, which is comprised of 8 consecutive bunny hops before hitting the final brakes. This final section is filled with airtime and a result Steel Dragon is rated highly, despite being a little rough. Because of its sheer size the ride cost over $50 million to construct, making it the most expensive roller coaster ever built (excluding theming). This unfortunately means that it is unlikely anything will ever be built again on such a scale, but as long as this monster is around, we have nothing to worry about.