Sunday, March 8, 2015

Most Unique Roller Coasters Ever Built

unique roller coastersTired of the same old, rickety wooden roller coasters? Crave more thrills than the typical vertical loops and camelback hills found at every local amusement park? Fortunately, roller coasters come in a mind-blowing profusion of styles, shapes, and sizes. From innovative track designs to unusual seating configurations, from ridiculous locations to bizarre theming, the experience never gets old.

In The 50 Most Unique Roller Coasters Ever Built you’ll explore a roller coaster… 

  • powered by people. 
  • inspired a popular computer game. 
  • uses a Ferris wheel as a lift. 
  • requires an on-board brakeman. 
  • where the louder you scream the faster you go. 
  • built on top of a skyscraper. 
  • known as the “dog fart” coaster (yes, you read that right!). 

The 50 Most Unique Roller Coasters Ever Built is a list comprised of unusual, rare, and hard to find scream machines. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wonder Mountain’s Guardian Review

Knott’s Berry Farm recently announced the addition of a new dark ride, Voyage to the Iron Reef, and I couldn’t be more excited because last month I got to experience its predecessor, Wonder Mountain’s Guardian at Canada's Wonderland. I got to ride Guardian twice, once with the standard version and once with the zombie overlay - pretty cool how they can instantly change the media. The roller coaster portion is pretty weak, the vehicles don’t track well at all, lots of side to side vibration, but that's not the reason for riding, the game is. The shooting part is much better than your average Sally shooter. It’s like a video game in that if you kill all the bad guys in a scene it automatically generates more of them for you to shoot at. You load the vehicles sitting forwards or backwards. The frontwards side is way better because once you enter the dark portion the seats rotate to face either side of the track but on one side the screens are continuous (though there’s no shooting during the curved screens). The cars are propelled by drive tires down the straighaways and gravity in the curves.

Overall, I am really impressed by Guardian but I hope they improve upon it in future iterations. In one of the articles about Knott’s ride they said “The ride vehicles will rotate, change speed and even briefly pause as they move between video screens separated by three-dimensional themed sets.” The 3 dimensional sets part has me intrigued because Guardian has none, it's all screens. Two other improvements:
the clarity of the images and the ride length (though I think the limiting factor on the ride time is battery capacity for the guns).

Anyone else rode Guardian? What did you think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

20 Terrifying Roller Coasters

The world’s coaster count is rapidly approaching three- thousand operating rides. Coaster enthusiasts strap themselves into these scream machines simply because they love being scared in a safe environment. What factors make a ride terrifying? Height, speed, inversions, backwards segments, unique track elements, darkness, and unexpected surprises all contribute to making your head spin and your knees tremble.

See 20 Terrifying Roller Coasters in my new presentations shared on Slideshare:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roller Coaster Video Game Comparison

It's a great time to be a fan of roller coaster video games. The RollerCoaster Tycoon series has been brought back to life with RCT4M and the upcoming RollerCoaster Tycoon World. But that's not all. ScreamRide is an upcoming new destruction type game for Xbox. Parkitect looks to be closely related to RCT1 and RCT2 with updated graphics. WaterPark Tycoon is now available. Oh yeah, and there's the awesome looking Theme Park Studio and NoLimits 2. How to keep all these games straight? And what is the best one for you?

Check out the Roller Coaster Game Guide, a page designed to show you the pros, cons, features, and costs of each game so you can decided which one fits your personality the best.

To learn more and see trailers and game play for each theme park simulator, go here:

Which coaster game are you most looking forward to?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Escape from Gringotts Layout and Ride Details

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride opened at Universal Studios Florida to massive praise, frequent breakdowns, and seven hour plus wait times. Not a lot of details have been released by Universal about this amazing attraction so I thought I would try to shed some light on a few things. So, ya know, spoiler alert.

Escape from Gringotts Ride Details

escape from gringotts cars

For Escape from Gringotts, Universal took their Men in Black/Cat in the Hat ride vehicle (RV) and stuck it on an Intamin manufactured roller coaster track. This means the vehicles are connected to a power source most of the way because the cars can spin 360 degrees (a controlled spin). It seems there is only one section of track towards the beginning of the ride where gravity is in control. The rest of the ride the RVs are pushed along by rubber kicker tires. Here's a clear picture taken during an evacuation of the coaster track with the pusher tires. Also notice how high up the people sit in comparison to the rails - tall enough to fit the hardware the spins the seats around.

There is a unique track element that takes you into the first drop: a teeter-totter like track that tilts down at a forty degree angle before releasing the trains into a dark tunnel. It works the same way as the Gravity Max tilt coaster only not as steep.

Escape from Gringotts uses a combination of physical sets plus projection screens. Edge blending and brighter projectors allows almost 360 degree screens where individual scenes can last as long as 40 seconds instead of just ten. 

Here's a CAD concept rendering followed by the real thing (notice the tires):

Pictured below is the Escape from Gringotts layout diagram:

escape from gringotts layout

You may want to watch this on mute but it's the best video I've seen that shows the motion of the RVs.

Escape from Gringotts FAQ

I'm seeing a lot of the same questions asked over and over on YouTube and other articles so here are the answers to those frequently asked questions:

Q: Does Escape from Gringotts go upside down?
A: No

Q: Is there a singles rider line?
A: Yes

Q: Is there an Express Pass line?
A: Not at this time (maybe in the future)

Q: How many drops are there? How big are the drops?
A: There is really only one major drop on the ride where gravity is in full control and it's only about 3 stories in height. Basically, the height you climb the stairs to get to the loading platform is the height of the biggest drop.

Q: Is Escape from Gringotts in 2D or 3D?
A: Riders wear 3D glasses.

Q: Are there any audio-anamtronics (AAs) during the ride?
A: During the ride, no, there are no AAs but there are several throughout the detailed queue.

Q: Is Harry Potter seen in the attraction?
A: Yes, but he is a CGI character.

Q: What is the height requirement?
A: 42 inches

Q: How many trains are there?
A: There are 9 trains (two cars per train, 12 passengers per car).

Q: How fast does Escape from Gringotts go?
A: Universal has not released any official ride details. My guess is between 20-30mph max. The forward motion combined with the spinning motion in tight quarters makes the ride feel faster than it actually is.

Final Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a new type of high-tech thrill ride combining roller coaster type elements with simulator and dark rides. If you have any questions to had to the FAQ please comment below!

Want to know the story behind the "other" Harry Potter ride? Check out Secrets of the Forbidden Journey to learn how robotic arms on track make you feel like you're flying with Harry Potter!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dollywood Cabins Review and Tips 2014

beary special dollywood cabin pigeon forgeA fun alternative to staying in a motel or hotel in Pigeon Forge is to stay in a luxury cabin or chalet. If you’re planning on spending a day or more at Dollywood I highly recommend staying in the Dollywood Cabins. They’re a bit pricey and you need to book well in advance but it is totally worth it. Very good value and one of the best places I’ve ever stayed. Perks include being able to go to Dollywood everyday you have the cabin reserved for the price of a single day ticket. Dollywood cabin guests also get free parking in one of the closest lots to the park entrance as well as other discounts.
Staying in a cabin could really take your vacation to the next level and make it a truly memorable experience. They’re especially great for honeymoons or when traveling with friends or family.  The mountain views are incredible, especially at sunset while soaking in the private hot tubs on the cabin’s decks. Don't try to cram in too much each day. The whole point of renting a cabin is being able to lounge in your pajamas on the deck, watch a spectacular sunset, and cozy up by the fire. You may not want to leave the cabin at all - and that's perfectly fine

The cost per night might be prohibitively expensive for some families on their own but a group of four or more can rent a nicer cabin with more amenities for a lower price per couple. Save money by brining your own food instead of eating out every night. If you’re staying with friends it could be fun to have each couple plan and cook one nightly meal.

If you’re thinking about staying in a cabin and are looking at prices, be aware of the potential “hidden” fees. If the cabin has a hot tub (and most do) there could be an additional hot tub fee that is not considered as part of the nightly rate. During the busy summer season nearly every cabin will require your stay duration to be at least two nights and may charge a reservation fee. Then there are state and Sevier County taxes to potentially pay as well. So just be warned when you see that totally awesome Groupon deal that looks too good to be true, be sure to read all the fine print so you aren’t caught by any unexpected fees.
dollywood cabins review
Tip: Sometimes you can take advantage of the fact the cabins require guests to stay more than one night. For example, let’s say you’ve booked Thursday through Saturday night, checking out Sunday morning and another couple booked the same cabin beginning Monday evening. This means Sunday night is unfilled but another guest can’t book it because it’s only available one night. The cabin company would rather have the cabin filled than sitting empty a night so you now have the opportunity to extend your stay by a night or two for a steep discount, at least 50% off if not more!

Learn more tips like these by reading Things to Do in the Smokies with Kids.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Top 50 Most Terrifying Roller Coasters - 45. Furius Baco

Known for: World's only launched wingrider
Park: Port Adventura
Location: Spain
Type: Steel
Opened: 2007
Designer/Manufacturer: Intamin AG
Height (ft.): 46
Speed (mph): 83.9
Inversions: 1

Furius Baco was the world’s first wing coaster where the seats are cantilevered off the side of the train instead of being on top of or below the rails allowing passenger’s feet to dangle freely. What makes Furius Baco even more unique is it’s the world’s only launched wing coaster, and while many other launched rides typically launch immediately into a giant hill, Furius Baco races off of the launch track and dips down into a trench. Because the wingspan of the vehicles is so wide the outside seats are far away from the center of gravity of the trains and often result in a rough and bumpy ride. This could be one of the reasons why Furius Baco has been the only wing-rider with stationary seats sold and manufactured by Intamin. The wing-rider market is dominated now by B&M who appears to have solved the roughness problem.