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137 And Counting: A Coaster Junkie’s Take on Universal Orlando’s Thrill Rides

August 16, 2015

Today, my friends, is National Roller Coaster Day. Where coaster enthusiasts across the country will be making pilgrimages to their favorite theme parks to ride these machines we find so thrilling and frightening at the same time.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure
The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

What is it that makes roller coasters so enjoyable? For me, each one has something unique to offer. For some rides, it’s all about “big air” and zero-G’s, that feeling of losing your stomach when you take that first nosedive or crest rolling hills. On others, it’s all about loops, corkscrews, twists and turns that may be as close as most of us will ever come to piloting our own fighter jet.

But in the end, I think it’s about having a death defying experience—knowing you’ll safely be returned to plant your feet firmly on the ground when your ride is complete.

Personally, I wasn’t always the thrill-seeking type. Up until I was around 14, you couldn’t get me near one of these contraptions. But after a family trip to a local amusement park, fueled by a dare from my two younger brothers, I built up the courage to challenge my first one—and forever sealed my fate as a roller coaster geek.

The author (far right) visits Islands of Adventure in 1999.
The author (far right) visits Islands of Adventure in 1999.

Now with 137 roller coasters under my belt, I’d say I know a thing or two about thrill rides. I was fortunate to have very understanding parents who welcomed their three boys dragging them around the country to chase their next big thrill.

But first: 1997. That’s when I learned that Universal Studios Florida was growing into Universal Orlando Resort by adding a fresh, new theme park—complete with a collection of roller coasters. I was beyond ecstatic.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster
The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Two years later, I was blasting out of The Incredible Hulk Coaster at the opening of Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The thing is, at Universal Orlando Resort, you don’t just hop on a roller coaster—you’re part of an experiment gone wrong, transforming you into a raging, green Hulk. You hold on for dear life beneath a fire-breathing dragon. And you narrowly escape a mummy’s curse.

Universal’s coasters are consistently rated some of the top coasters around the world. And with good reason: they are designed by some of the most creative minds in the business.

Revenge of the Mummy
Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios

When Universal dreamed up Revenge of the Mummy, there wasn’t a roller coaster out there that matched its mix of technology and special effects. It had a unique launching system, movie quality sets and animatronics, fire and water effects, a course that takes you both forwards and backwards—all while blasting you through utter darkness.

Its ingenuity was rewarded with Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award for Best Indoor Thrill Ride in 2011 and 2013.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios

Universal Studios also added an element that every coster junkie agreed a ride should have: your own soundtrack.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit presented numerous never-before-experienced ride elements, but it also has the unique feature of choosing your favorite song to scream along to. I personally enjoy Beastie Boys “Sabotage” as I’m plummeting down the 165ft drop.

Looking back, I’m happy I found the courage for that first ride, and how lucky I am to be steps away from some of the greatest roller coasters in the world.

So this National Roller Coaster Day, I hope you get to pull your lapbar down, buckle your seat belt, and keep your hands safely inside the vehicle as you strap in to one of your favorites.

If you need me, I’ll be on the back of a Hungarian Horntail.

Do you have a favorite coaster at Universal Orlando Resort? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Jane August 17, 2015 at 7:49 am

    Dragon challenge!!?

  • Reply Loretta August 19, 2015 at 3:02 am

    I have a special love for Hulk because it renewed my love for coasters (after a bad ride on Great American Scream Machine Atlanta I quit riding many years).
    For the best night ride its Rip Ride Rocket, which is also one of the best for front row, along with Dragons Challenge. And who can resist doing a shot at Finnegans and then going straight on The Mummy?!?
    If Universal ever builds another coaster I’d LOVE to see it FLOORLESS!!!

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