The 10 Oldest Roller Coasters in America

Coasterology

For all of the modern thrill rides we’re spoiled with this days, there’s still something really enjoyable about riding the few classic, nearly century old roller coasters. They paved the way for our favorite rides today and give you a glimpse of what the biggest and baddest coasters were many, many years ago. Some still have traditional lap bars and are stopped with huge a game-show like braking lever.

Here is the list of the 10 oldest roller coasters in America that are currently in operation:

RankNameAgeTheme ParkLocationYear Opened
1stJack Rabbit97 YearsKennywoodWest Mifflin, PA1920
2ndJack Rabbit97 YearsSeabreezeRochester, NY1920
2ndRoller Coaster96 YearsLagoonFarmington, UT1920
3rdThunderbolt96 YearsKennywoodWest Mifflin, PA1921
4thGiant Dipper93 YearsSanta Cruz Beach BoardwalkSanta Cruz, CA1924
5thThunderhawk93 YearsDorney ParkAllentown, PA1924
6thGiant Dipper93 YearsBelmont ParkSan Diego, CA1924
7thRacer90 YearsKennywoodWest Mifflin, PA1927
8thWildcat90 YearsLake CompounceBristol, CT1927
10thCyclone90 YearsLuna ParkBrooklyn, NY1927

Honorable Mentions

There a few roller coasters that need to be mentioned in a discussion about the older roller coasters in America.

First there’s The Wild One which has operated at Six Flags America (Maryland) since 1986. Before then, it was located at Paragon Park (MA) where it opened all the way back in 1917 as Giant Coaster. Since it has been relocated, I’m considering it an honorable mention, but it’s definitely a noteworthy classic roller coaster.

Then, there’s Leap the Dips at Lakemont Park in Altoona, PA. This early side friction roller coaster has been operating on and off since 1902. It’s currently not in operation, so it doesn’t make the list. Hopefully, this landmark roller coaster will be running again someday soon. I’ve never ridden it and always thought it’d be neat to ride a piece of history like Leap the Dips. More on Leap the Dips.

Have You Ridden One of the Oldest Roller Coasters in the America?

I’ve ridden 6 of these 10 classic roller coasters. My favorite is Thunderbolt (originally Pippin) at Kennywood. It’s quite a unique coaster that meets one of my requirements of great coaster; use of a park’s terrain. The largest drop on the ride is not the first like on most coasters and the ride dives down a natural ravine a number of times.

Check out this high-tech, 4K 360-degree POV video of a old-fashioned classic roller coaster, Thunderbolt at Kennywood:

What’s Your Take?
How many of these roller coasters have you ridden? Find anything incorrect? Let us know.

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

3 Comments

  1. I have ridden six out of 10, plus both honorable mentions.

    Reply
    • Nice. And I’m well overdue for a return visit to your home park, Kennywood. I bet the kids would like Jack Rabbit and Racer especially.

      Reply
  2. Nice post, Joel. Roller coasters of such vintage merit a special mention. I’ve ridden only 4 of these. You know what I think of the Cyclone. Thunderhawk was the 1st or 2nd coaster I rode and has some sentimental value for me b/c I rode it with my Aunt Agnes, who was crippled with polio and wore a brace on one leg but loved coasters. Guy on the same train as me last year told his kids “This is why they built steel coasters.” There’s something to be said for that but Thunderhawk rides pretty well. As to Wildcat, I didn’t have a problem with it although some people have complained that it’s much too rough. In any case I understand that it’s being refurbished. Finally, Roller Coaster at Lagoon is exceptionally well maintained. I couldn’t believe how smoothly this rode when I visited Lagoon 2 years ago. I’ve come across woodies a lot younger than this one that are absolutely brutal.

    Reply

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