2012 Best Attraction Tournament: Best Traditional Wooden Roller Coaster?

January 18, 2012, 7:47 AM · Let's go old school for our thrill rides today, and vote on the Best Traditional Wooden Roller Coaster in the 2012 Theme Park Insider Tournament. One note before anyone goes nuts here: This is only one of two categories in the tournament for wooden coasters. The wooden "megas," if you will, the next-generation wood/steel hybrid coasters such as The Voyage and El Toro, have their own category, and we'll see them on Feb. 2.

Remember, these are the top five voted by Theme Park Insider readers over the past year. So if you don't see a particular coaster here, it's because it didn't make top five.

If you've got a favorite among these, just jump down to the vote. If not, click through to our ride description pages, where you'll find photos, reader reviews and even a few videos. Still not decided? Check out the comments, where other readers will be campaigning for your vote.

Apocalypse - at Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Formerly known as Terminator Salvation: The Ride.)


The Beast - at Kings Island

The Beast

Lightning Racer - at Hersheypark

Lightning Racer

Prowler - at World of Fun


Thunderhead - at Dollywood


Tomorrow: We'll vote on the Best Animatronic Show.

Replies (32)

January 18, 2012 at 8:01 AM · In today's vote, I have no choice but to go with my much maligned home park, Worlds of Fun, and its one entry in this year's tournament.

Prowler, which debuted in 2009, is an outstanding wooden coaster and a big deal for us folks stuck in the Midwest. The ride itself is as smooth as silk, and fast as lightning. The oh-so-cozy trains hug the terrain and turn on a dime, sweeping through the course effortlessly and relentlessly. The way the track embraces and utilizes the surrounding landscape makes the attraction a truly one-of-a-kind experience, and the "midnight ride" offered by Prowler (no lighting on the track after the lift hill) is second to none. This local favorite is not the tallest, longest, or fastest wooden coaster I have ever ridden, but it is a top notch contender and further evidence that Great Coasters International, Inc., just knows how to build a terrific coaster. Furthermore, in today's vote, only the Beast and Thunderhead offer serious competition, however most of that competition stems from a romanticized history of the excitement those two rides used to offer, and not from their current ride experience. So instead of voting for yesterday's stand-outs, support my local park and go with the new-kid-on-the-block: PROWLER! A vote for Prowler is a show of support for small, hometown parks everywhere!


January 18, 2012 at 8:34 AM · OK, now we're on MY turf :)

Not a single Disney or Universal attraction to be found. I almost feel like I'm on a different site.

Wood roller coasters are the biggest attraction for me at parks. Unfortunately, I have not been to Magic Mountain or Worlds of Fun, so Apocalypse and Prowler (a ride I've heard incredible things about from people I trust, including Mr. Rao's comments above) are non-contenders for me.

The remaining three are in my Top Ten Woodies, with only Thunderhead occupying the bottom half. I don't get into hybrids vs. "real" woodies. If it's made of wood, it's a woodie. But I am sort of glad El Toro and Voyage are in another category, otherwise these three remaining great coasters would be demolished in the vote.

I had 22 rides on Thunderhead on my one Dollywood visit, and it's a wonderful ride. Great views, decent airtime, smooth. It went into my Top Ten, but never cracked Top Five. Partly because I didn't get to ride at night, which is an important factor for me in a woodie if other things are equal. Beast will always be a favorite of mine, but the rides I've had on Lightning Racer the last several years have just been SO MUCH FUN! I like the racing, I like the camaraderie, I love the way it LOOKS at night, I like the MF trains, I like the way it feels 20mph FASTER after dark. I just realized in voting today, that I have more fun on LR than any other coaster I ride regularly..including El Toro. Is it a better ride? Maybe not, but for me it's a blast.

The only traditional (TPI classified) wood coaster I'd rank above LR and Beast is Waldameer's Ravine Flyer II, but of course, that's nowhere to be found here.

My vote in this category surprised me. I voted for Lightning Racer.

January 18, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Agree with Mike ..my vote is for Lightning Racer in th absence of EL TORO. I had a good fortune of riding all the contenders last year, but lightnin racer is way more fun than others
January 18, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Slow comments day. Maybe that relates to my Disney/Universal comment above. Yes, folks, there are other amusement parks out there. Surprise, surprise!
January 18, 2012 at 9:51 AM · I am on board with Mr. Rao. I rode Prowler several times over the last few years, including a few jaunts during my lunch break just to hop on the ride. Now that I have moved to the DFW area, I would say Prowler is one of the things I miss most about Kansas City...though I do have a pretty good non-traditional replacement in the New Texas Giant nearby. Kudos to the bracket makers for including this obviously hidden gem (I say obvious because the percentage of the vote is way too low for this masterpiece).
January 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM · Haven't. Been on any of these but the way thunderhead works and the speed and I do like that it has the (head chopper effect) or close calls if you will so that's what I voted
January 18, 2012 at 10:46 AM · The beast at night just steals the show that no other can put on
January 18, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Thunderhead for me! I have a sentimental fondness for The Beast, but it's gotten a bit rough over the years. I've only been to Dollywood a couple of times (hope to get back this summer!), but Thunderhead made a definite impression. Best airtime I've ever experienced!
January 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM · I voted for Beast although I have not riden it in years. I liked the fact that you could not see what was coming next and the double helix and the surprise tunnel. I still think this one is the best.

I have riden Thunderhead many times and each time i ride it I like it a little less. It must be my the pain in my ribcage that is accentuated after multiple rides.

I was glad to see this category- there are so many wood coasters out there and more often than not they are found at "amusement" parks. Many times the theme parks have copied these older gems.

January 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Time for KC to be heard. The power of social networking is about to be tested. Go Prowler!!
January 18, 2012 at 3:04 PM · Just like its masterful track layout, Prowler is racing to a ferocious finish!
January 18, 2012 at 4:06 PM · (Cue dramatic music) TH delivered for Jungle Cruise and Men in Black. Can his archrival, James, do the same for Prowler? Find out tomorrow (whoosh!) on Theme Park Insider! (Roll credits)
January 18, 2012 at 4:19 PM · Hey, I defeated Everest's broken Yeti already, and squeaked out a narrow (hee hee) PotC victory, but it is tough for a small Midwest park to topple Goliath! (I should not have deactivated my Facebook account! Arrrrgh!!)

In all honestly, though, Prowler is the best of this fine collection of coasters.

January 18, 2012 at 4:17 PM · The beast has that final section where you slowly spiral down a hill gradually picking up speed until you are flat out flying towards a wooden tunnel and feeling like you only have seconds to live. It is hands down the most thrilling and awesome element of a wooden coaster I have ever experienced. Add that to the fact that before you even get to that point the ride has already been 3+ minutes of pure speed and thrills flying through a forest and you can see why, in my opinion, it wont ever be topped. This monster is one of a kind and if you still don't believe me, try rideing it at night.
January 18, 2012 at 8:12 PM · I fear the King's Island social network has been alerted. Not much I can do now but make one final plea: The Beast is like that venerable NFL star who continues to make the Pro Bowl even though his best years are in the distant past. Sometimes the brash, young superstars don't get the respect they deserve until they too are past their prime.

Come on, folks, vote for Prowler now, while it is still young, smooth, and has that new wood smell!!!

January 18, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Beast is a classic. The double helix is one of the best elements of any coaster. And the dark ride at night makes a great coaster even better. None of the other coasters here compare to it. Especially not Prowler.
January 18, 2012 at 8:03 PM · Blah, blah, blah, WHAT-ever! Jerry Rice is a classic, too, but you don't see him winning Super Bowls anymore, do you?

Prowler will do what it does best, FINISH STRONG!!! Come on, Worlds of Fun fans, let's bring this race home!!!

January 18, 2012 at 8:16 PM · What a battle!!! The Beast and Prowler are clawing and scratching to the bitter end!!! Come on, Prowler!!
January 18, 2012 at 8:59 PM · We still have about ten hours to go, but I get to drift off to sleep with Prowler up by 6%. Win or lose, the local fan base has made me proud. Nice work, KC! My Official TPI hat is off to you (and to our friends in the DFW area!).
January 18, 2012 at 9:37 PM · Looks like there is a Prowler rally going on! I guess this is somewhat of a best GCI contest, and I've heard Prowler is the best (haven't been on it, so I voted Thunderhead instead). I'm just surprised the Beast is doing so well, as I've heard it has been trimmed to death and grown rough in recent years. I haven't been on it, so I could be wrong, but everything I've read recently seems to say that it is losing its touch somewhat.

It's too bad Boulder Dash isn't featured on this site because that would probably defeat everything in this poll. Night rides on that are outstanding, even better than El Toro.

January 18, 2012 at 9:36 PM · The Prowler is AWESOME!! I definitely think it is the best of the group, all though they are all wonderful coasters. I loved Worlds of Fun's previous wooden coaster, the Timberwolf, but am now so glad they put in the Prowler instead. I didn't think it could get better than the Timberwolf, but it got so old and rough after so many years. Good call Worlds of Fun!!
January 18, 2012 at 10:33 PM · Wow! Prowler has pulled off the greatest turnaround since the 1969 New York Mets.
January 18, 2012 at 11:08 PM · None of these rides are "traditional" wooden coasters. That designation belongs to rides such as Kennywood's Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit, and Racer; Knoebel's Phoenix, Conneaut Lake Blue Streak, Coney Island Cyclone, Lakeside Cyclone, the remaining 1960's era John Allen rides etc

Of these modern rides in the list, the Prowler is my favorite.

January 18, 2012 at 11:16 PM · This may be the hardest catagory I have had to make a choice in!!
January 18, 2012 at 11:18 PM · The length and two lift hills are two big reasons that the beast still gets my vote!
January 19, 2012 at 4:04 AM · Well, good morning, Kansas City!!! Nice rally indeed, but there's still a few hours to go, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. Stay frosty, Prowler fans, we're not out of the woods just yet...
January 19, 2012 at 5:18 AM · AJ, you're preaching to the choir. Boulder Dash is a fun ride in daylight, but is totally transformed at night.

And although El Toro is my favorite coaster, there's a handful I enjoy waaayyyy more at night.

January 19, 2012 at 7:15 AM · Alright already, close the vote. Prowler dominated. Score one for the little guys with the monstrous roller coaster!
January 19, 2012 at 7:23 AM · James - thanks for carrying the torch for Missouri yesterday. Work pulled me away from my desk and down to our capital until late yesterday. What a pleasant surprise to see one of two Great Coasters International woodies we have here in Missouri in the lead. (The other is American Thunder [formerly Evel Knievel] at Six Flags St. Louis, which is also an awesome little gem but would definitely come in second to Prowler.) Go Prowler!
January 19, 2012 at 7:28 AM · No problem, Todd, but the real thanks go to the Prowler fans who showed up to support their favorite local ride.

Also, you are right about American Thunder/EK - great ride. Very compact and aggressive.

On a side note, if the rumored 2013 addition to Silver Dollar City turns out to be a GCI woodie as well, Missouri could score a major trifecta!

January 19, 2012 at 8:13 AM · Wow. The fourth-best coaster in this list wins?!
January 19, 2012 at 8:44 AM · It's official!!!!

(Cue dramatic music)
James and legions of other Prowler fans delivered!
(Roll credits)

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