Top Roller Coasters in Southern California

With some of the best theme parks in the country, the region offers thrill-seekers a lot of options. Here’s a guide to top scream-worthy rides.
With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to ride a roller coaster or two or three. To get ready for National Roller Coaster Day on August 16, we took a spin on our favorite coasters at popular Southern California theme parks. Here’s a taste of what you'll experience—if you dare.

Knott's Berry Farm | Buena Park, California

The park has nine roller coasters, from the gentle rides to adrenaline-pumping speedsters, three of which we review here. To cut wait times, buy a Fast Lane wristband, which are available when purchased with admission. Adult park admission: $84; lower prices may be available online.

GhostRider

Average wait: 60 minutes

Thrill factor: This wild ride is one of the longest, fastest, and tallest wooden roller coasters on the West Coast. Although the rickety feeling of the coaster and its two big drops might make some riders uneasy, it has no inversions or loops. 

 

Photo courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

HangTime

Average wait: 60 minutes

Thrill factor: Knott’s Berry Farm’s newest coaster (it was unveiled in May 2018), HangTime is a must for thrill-seekers, with five inversions and a 96-degree vertical drop. Best (or worst) of all, the coaster keeps you suspended for a few seconds right before the big drop to heighten the anxiety. 

 

Photo courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

Montezooma's Revenge

Average wait: 30 minutes.

Thrill factor: Want to try one of Knott’s most-thrilling rides? Go for Montezooma’s Revenge. It propels riders through a 360-degree loop twice—once backward and once forward. 

 

Photo courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

Six Flags Magic Mountain | Valencia, California

With 19 roller coasters spread throughout the park—many on hills you may need to climb to get to the ride—you’ll want to wear your comfiest walking shoes. To cut wait times, purchase a Flash Pass. Adult park admission: $89; lower prices may be available online.

Twisted Colossus

Average wait: 30 minutes. 

Thrill factor: Wood and steel combine to create this hybrid coaster, one of the longest in the world. You’ll experience unrelenting rolls and spirals, and high speeds up to 58 mph.

 

Photo courtesy Six Flags Magic Mountain

Tatsu

Average wait: 30 minutes. 

Thrill factor: Ready to feel like you’re flying? You’ll hang facing toward the ground, occasionally going upside down at speeds up to 62 mph. This coaster has 3,602 feet of twisted steel track with dips, corkscrews, and a 124-foot-tall pretzel loop. 

 

Photo courtesy Six Flags Magic Mountain

X2

Average wait: 30 minutes. 

Thrill factor: At 200 feet in the air, this 76-mph coaster has 360-degree rotating seats, making face-down drops terrifying. Music and sound effects heighten your experience, along with dives, flips, twists, and half loops that suddenly stop midway and become drops.

 

Photo courtesy Six Flags Magic Mountain

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure | Anaheim, California

Disneyland has more than a half-dozen thrill rides that get your heart pounding. To cut wait times, get a free Fastpass. Adult park admission varies by season. Rates for Disneyland and a park hopper ticket can run $104–$199; lower prices may be available online.

Space Mountain

Average wait: 60 minutes.

Thrill factor: This Disneyland coaster zooms through a dark, enclosed room at 28 mph and sends riders hurtling through a star field in outer space, generating strong g-forces on tight turns.

 

Photo courtesy Disney Parks

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Average wait: 30 minutes. 

Thrill factor: At this Disneyland attraction, riders careen on a cursed train ride, peel under a waterfall, dodge a falling boulder, and drop into desert canyons at 35 mph.

 

Photo courtesy Disney Parks

Incredicoaster

Average wait: 50 minutes.

Thrill factor: This steel-frame coaster (formerly California Screamin') built to resemble a wood one has more than a mile of track, making it one of the longest steel coasters in the world. Riders launch from 0 to 55 mph in 4 seconds, with loops and tight turns. The Disney California Adventure ride is themed to the Incredibles movies, with enclosed tunnels and special effects.

 

Photo courtesy Disney Parks

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