2012 Golden Ticket Awards: Wooden Coasters – Did They Get It Right?

Roller Coaster News

Every year Amusement Today celebrates the best of the amusement industry with the Golden Ticket Awards. And, every year hordes of enthusiasts bash the results. I’m going to take a different angle this year. I’m going to present them as always, but try to view the top wooden and top steel roller coasters through a different lens.

Do GTA Winners Represent Some of the Best Coasters in the World?

No one’s ever going to agree completely with something that’s based on opinion; especially when there are so many possible winners. But, if you were going to introduce roller coasters to a friend, would you feel that the results of the Golden Ticket Awards’ Top 10 Roller Coasters are representative of the some of the best coasters around?
El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure

Looking at it this way, I mostly do. Again, I think it’s a bit ridiculous to argue whether I agree with each coaster or get too riled up that my personal favorite isn’t ranked very highly. But, from the standpoint of whether these coasters represent the best, there are only a few I may dissagree with.

Here are the best wooden roller coasters in the World according to Amusement Today’s 2012 Golden Ticket Awards:

El Toro* at Six Flags Great Adventure (New Jersey) 3rd in 2011

2 The Voyage* at Holiday World (Indiana) 1st in 2011

Phoenix* at Knoebels (Pennsylvania) 2nd in 2011

4 Thunderhead* at Dollywood (Tennessee) 5th in 2011

5 Boulder Dash* at Lake Compounce (Connecticut) 4th in 2011

6 Ravine Flyer II* at Waldameer (Pennsylvania) 6th in 2011

7 The Beast* at Kings Island (Ohio) 7th in 2011

The Raven* at Holiday World (Indiana) Not in Top 10 in 2011

9 Shivering Timbers at Michigan’s Adventure (Michigan) 9th in 2011

10 Balder at Liseberg (Sweden) Not in Top 10 in 2011

*=Coasters that I’ve ridden.

Changes in This Year’s List & The Ride I Don’t Agree With

Mt. Olympus’ subterranean adventure ride, Hades, left the top 10 this year. I had an awesome ride on it, but that was some 6 years ago and it’s been recieving pretty negative comments on my review post. So, it’s likely gotten really rough and probably deserves to be bumped. Worlds of Fun’s Prowler also got bumped. I’ve heard mostly good things about Prowler so it may have just left the list for a more organic reason, rather than something being wrong with the ride.

Fan favorites Raven at Holiday World and Balder at Liseberg entered the list this year. On the other hand, Liseberg’s Balder is an Intamin pre-fabricated woodie (like El Toro). I’ve been reading about it for years and it’s like a really fun airtime machine like El Toro. So, I can’t argue with that ride either. Raven’s been in the top in the past and that’s the only ride out of these ten that I’d argue with. As I said in my post about it, I just don’t get the hype around this ride. To me, it was a nice coaster; not necessarily world class. Read more here: Raven: The Coaster with a Cult Following.

Wasn’t That Easy? Now, What’s Your Take?

Instead of arguing the ranks, which coasters aren’t in the list, and how it’s always the same roller coasters, I just asked myself if, “Is this coaster world-class?” What’s your take? Which of these roller coasters would not consider among the best in the World?

We’ll look at the steel coaster results next. Read my take on last year’s results: 2011 Golden Ticket Awards – My Take on the Top Wooden Coasters. And for more results from year’s past, see this list of all of my Golden Ticket Awards posts. Image courtesy of CoasterImage.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.


  1. Shivering Timbers I might have issue with, but maybe it has been running better this year. I did have a friend ride it recently who said it was running incredible. The only true ride that irritates me every year is The Beast. This is a ride that gets on these lists on popularity and reputation alone; that thing hasn't been anywhere near a top tier coaster for decades probably. I did find it interesting that the top 6 are the same as my personal favorite 6, just in a different order (for me: Voyage, Boulder Dash, Phoenix, El Toro, Ravine Flyer II, Thunderhead).

  2. Yes – I’ve ridden 5 of the 10. El Toro, the Beast, The Voyage, Raven, and Thunderhead. All this past summer and 4 of them in one Labor Day Trip. They all deserve to be on the list AND I can tell you that Labor Day trip was the coaster trek of a life time!!!

    • Sounds like a trek of a life time indeed. I've done a couple of multi-park trips, but they don't usually include more than one top-notch park.

  3. To focus on the question as asked, I think the list is a good representation of the different types of wooden coaster experiences that are out there. If I wanted to tell someone to get a good sample of what is out there, the list makes sense. You have the modern pre-fab jobs, you have an old classic, in the Phoenix, you have a 70's classic in The Beast, you have a GCI, you have a couple from Gravity Group, three from Custom Coasters. It's interesting that many of them are terrain coasters, but you also have other styles represented.

    • Good point on the variety and different types of woodies. This is not the case for the steel list as we'll discuss soon.

  4. I've ridden only 4 of the top 10, El Toro, The Voyage, The Raven, and The Beast. I was also supposed to get to Lake Compounce this summer but sadly those plans fell through. As for the rankings I would definitely agree with the top 2, as they are both easily the two best wooden coasters I've been on. I found the Raven to be a very short and uninteresting ride, so I'm not sure I'd agree with its placement (I find Lightning Racer at Hershey and even Blue Streak at Cedar Point to be better rides), and I'm torn with how to rank The Beast. Amazing ride at night but very dull during the day.

  5. Hey CC, regarding the GTAs, I haven't ridden nearly enough coasters to look at it and disagree with any bit of it. I agree it's pointless to argue over specific 1-10 spots, but for that matter as you intimate, individuals will always have different reasons they like particular coasters better than others (let alone when viewed in the context of one's ride).

  6. Are the hybrids from Rocky Mountain classified as steel or wood? Because if they are considered wood, than I would think the New Texas Giant would be in the top ten.

    • New Texas Giant is on the steel coasters list. Check back for a post on that list tomorrow.

  7. I was really surprised that Wild Eagle was the only Winged Coaster in the Top 50 this year. And rides like Leviathan, X-Flight, and SkyRush were behind the Radiator Springs ride and Wild Eagle for best new ride. Overall I don’t like the Golden Ticket Awards. They never get it right.

  8. My hometown woodie, Georgia Cyclone, is so underrated 🙁

  9. The only one of these I've ridden is Boulder Dash. I have no complaints about its inclusion on this list; it's certainly the greatest woodie I've ever ridden by a considerable margin.

  10. My opinion is limited because I have only ridden 3 of them, all this summer… El Toro, Phoenix, Ravine Flyer 2. They are all among my favorites. I'm planning on hitting Boulderdash, the Beast and hopefully Holiday world and Dollywood next season. They all seem worthy of the list.

  11. Wodan! Come on! Its 115 kph, it's not that tall, okay, but it's a great ride! Come on!

  12. While I can say that I've only ridden two of the coasters listed (El Toro & The Beast), I think The Beast should be higher on the list. I'm also sad to see Lightning Racer isn't on the list.

    • Also why is Hades not on the list?!!?!?


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