MASON, Ohio -- With 14 roller coasters, Kings Island ranks just behind North America's coaster capitals: California's Six Flags Magic Mountain (17), Ontario's Canada's Wonderland (16) and Ohio's Cedar Point (15).
Photos: Top 10 Kings Island roller coasters
Kings Island, just outside Cincinnati, traces its history to Ohio's Coney Island park, which dates to 1867 as one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States. Many of Coney Island's rides -- including Scrambler, Dodgem and Monster -- were relocated to Kings Island when the 364-acre theme park opened in 1972.
Kings Island's collection of record-setting rides ranges from classic wooden coasters to first-of-a-kind steel behemoths to state-of-the-art thrill machines.
Of course, no discussion of Kings Island coasters would be complete without mention of Son of Beast, the first wooden coaster with a vertical loop, which has been nothing but trouble for the park.
The problematic wooden terrain coaster, which had its loop removed after the summer of 2006, will be demolished at the end of the summer but for the moment remains standing but not operating for the past several seasons.
A closer look at Kings Island's top 10 roller coasters:
1) The Beast: With a running time of more than four minutes, the 7,359-foot-long terrain-hugging ride is the longest wooden coaster in the world. The 1979 coaster built by Philadelphia Toboggan Co., features two lift hills and three tunnels. The 540-degree helix tunnel after the second lift was the highlight of an exciting ride through the forest.
2) Diamondback: The $22-million terrain-hugging Bolliger & Mabillard megacoaster stretches to a mile and covers more than 10 acres. The 215-foot-tall coaster, opened in 2009, reaches 80 mph before executing a signature splashdown element. This hyper viper offers a little bit of everything: speed, height, twists and plenty of airtime in a silky smooth ride worthy of the praise heaped on it by coaster fanatics.
3) Racer: Designed by renowned ride builder John Allen, the 1972 Philadelphia Toboggan Co. racing wooden coaster featured a train that ran backward on one of its two tracks from 1982 to 2007. Coaster enthusiast and Kings Island spokesman Don Helbig has ridden Racer a record-setting 11,999 non-consecutive times. All that's missing from this American Coaster Enthusiast landmark is a head-to-head finish and the chance to taunt the competing train (assuming you win the race).
4) Firehawk: The 50 mph Vekoma flying coaster features five inversions, including an inline twist, horseshoe and lie to fly. The former X-Flight coaster was relocated from Geauga Lake in 2007. I'd have to say I feared this ride more than I loved it based on the death grip I had on the hand holds. The unusual "blind" departure and return while lying on your back feels alien and disorienting. I imagine I'd have to ride Firehawk a dozen times before I ever felt comfortable enough to enjoy the experience.
5) Woodstock Express: Another John Allen-designed ride, the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. junior wooden coaster was originally known as Scooby-Doo when it debuted in 1972. A classic example of a great old wooden coaster that has served as the "first coaster" for generations of kids.
6) Flight Deck: Opened in 1993, the terrain-hugging Arrow suspended coaster still features a jet fighter motif based on the ride's former "Top Gun" theme. Although a little short on ride time, the side-to-side swinging coaster still delivers a full payload of thrills after nearly two decades in service.
7) Backlot Stunt Coaster: Originally themed to the 2003 "Italian Job" movie, the 2005 Premier triple-launch coaster dodges police cars and comes under attack by helicopter. The second half of the ride with the special effects mini-show and the plunge into darkness was better than the fairly ordinary opening act.
8) Flight of Fear: The indoor-launch coaster through the dark features four inversions, including a cobra roll, sidewinder and corkscrew. The 1996 Premier ride was the world's first linear induction motor launch roller coaster. The alien-themed coaster starts off rough during the initial inversions but becomes a blast during the tight turns toward the end of the ride.
9) Vortex: The Arrow looping coaster features six inversions, including two loops, a double corkscrew and a batwing. Vortex briefly featured the most inversions of any coaster in the world when it opened in 1987. The old-fashioned over-the-shoulder restraints slap you around pretty good -- delivering jolting blows to the chin and neck.
10) Flying Ace Aerial Chase: The 49-foot-tall Vekoma ride was the world's first junior inverted roller coaster when it opened in 2001. A great introductory coaster for future thrill seekers.
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