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Goliath, the newest roller coaster at Six Flags Great America.
Photograph: Martha WilliamsGoliath, the newest roller coaster at Six Flags Great America.

The most exciting roller coasters in the Midwest

Whether you prefer steel or wood, you'll be thrilled by our rundown of the best Midwest roller coasters

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

The Midwest still doesn't have a Disney World equivalent (RIP DisneyQuest), but it does boast a handful of amusement parks packed with amazing roller coasters. If you're not feeling like a day at a Chicago beach or a top museum, maybe it's time to go ride something a bit faster than the Red Line. This summer, new rides like Rougarou and Thunderbird will offer up fresh thrills while old standbys like Millennium Force and the Boss continue to entertain. We gathered a list of the best Midwest roller coasters within a five-hour drive from Chicago—perfect for a weekend getaway.

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Millennium Force
Photograph: Matthew Owen

1. Millennium Force

The first giga coaster (a ride that exceeds 300 feet in height) may not be the tallest in the world anymore, but Millennium Force still one of the most thrilling experiences you can have at an amusement park. Boasting top speeds of 93 miles per hour and a gut-wrenching 300-foot drop, this coaster is a force to be reckoned with. Cedar Point (1 Cedar Point Dr, Sandusky, OH).
The Boss
Photograph courtesy of Six Flags St. Louis

2. The Boss

Get in touch with nature by hopping onto this "terrain twister" style wooden coaster. Its 5,000 foot track was constructed in a way that incorporates the topography of the land, rising and falling with hills and valleys while riders let out primal screams. Six Flags St. Louis (4900 Six Flags St Louis Railroad, Eureka, MO).
Top Thrill Dragster
Photograph: Butterbean

3. Top Thrill Dragster

There aren't many roller coasters that shoot you 420 feet into the air at 120 miles per hour, but that's exactly what you'll experience on this Cedar Point attraction, which uses hydraulics to achieve its incredible speeds. It's all over in 17 seconds—unless your train doesn't make it over the top and you roll back to the starting line for a second try. Cedar Point (1 Cedar Point Dr, Sandusky, OH).
Photograph courtesy of King's Island

4. Banshee

It's worth the wait to take a spin on this new Kings Island coaster, which takes riders through 4,124 feet of track in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Banshee is the world's longest and fastest inverted roller coaster, so prepare to dangle your feet as you whip through zero-G rolls, loops and spirals at 68 miles per hour. Kings Island (6300 Kings Island Dr, Mason, OH).
The Beast
Photograph: MarcProudfoot

5. The Beast

Built in 1979, the Beast is the granddaddy of wooden roller coasters, a sprawling 7,359 foot-long behemoth that is still the world's longest wooden ride. Throughout the years it has spawned a "sequel" coaster (the ill-fated Son of Beast) and inspired an R.L. Stine novel—all while remaining one of the top attractions at Kings Island. Kings Island (6300 Kings Island Dr, Mason, OH).
Hades 360
Photograph courtesy of Mt. Olympus

6. Hades 360

This Greek-themed ride won't drag you to the depths of the underworld, but its underground turns and banked curves may make you feel like you're about to meet the God of the Dead. The wooden coaster's most exciting feature is a 360 degree inverted roll that sends riders head over heels. Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park (1881 Wisconsin Dells Pkwy, Wisconsin Dells, WI).
Photograph courtesy of Cedar Point

7. Rougarou

Named for a mythical French werewolf, Rougarou is Cedar Point's first floor-less coaster, situating riders feet just inches above the track. Reaching speeds of 60 miles per hour, the ride boasts 137 foot drops and a series of twisting loops and inversions—enough to make you lose your cassoulet. Cedar Point (1 Cedar Point Dr, Sandusky, OH).
Photograph: Martha Williams

8. Goliath

This fairly new Six Flags Great America attraction breaks three world records, securing its place as the world's tallest, fastest and steepest wooden roller coaster. It all starts with a 180 foot, 85 degree drop that leads riders onto a twisting track of inversions and banked turns at speeds of up to 72 miles per hour. You owe it to yourself to conquer this giant. Six Flags Great America (1 Great America Pkwy, Gurnee).
Shivering Timbers
Photograph courtesy of Michigan's Adventure

9. Shivering Timbers

The design of Shivering Timbers is fairly simple as far as wooden coasters go—it's just a series of hills that gradually decrease in size. For riders who like getting some airtime, this coaster offers plenty of out-of-your-seat thrills. Michigan's Adventure (4750 Whitehall Rd, Muskegon, MI).
Photograph courtesy of Holiday World

10. Thunderbird

Not only does this "wing coaster" leave you feet dangling as you speed through a 14 story loop, it also launches you from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. Prepare for nerve-racking barrel rolls, near-misses and a couple flyovers that pass across the Voyage. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (452 E Christmas Blvd, Santa Claus, IN).
The Voyage
Photograph courtesy of Holiday World

11. The Voyage

Leave it to a family owned and operated theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana to create one of the most exciting wooden coasters in the Midwest. The Voyage commemorates the Pilgrims' journey to America with a 154-foot drop and three insane, 90-degree banked turns. You'll be thankful for the chance to ride this coaster. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (452 E Christmas Blvd, Santa Claus, IN).
Photograph: Jeremy Thompson

12. X-Flight

The first "wing coaster" to be built in America incorporates a repurposed air traffic control tower from O'Hare which riders fly through near the end of the ride. Clouds of smoke, zero-G rolls, vertical banks and the coaster's unique seating arrangement make X-Flight a ride you'll want to lift off in. Six Flags Great America (1 Great America Pkwy, Gurnee).
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