Are Coaster Counts a Good Thing for Theme Park Fans?

October 31, 2021, 7:34 PM · Do you keep a coaster count? Many roller coaster fans keep a running count of the number of coasters they have ridden around the country or the world. But is keeping a coaster count a good thing for fans to do?

I thought of this question after reading a recent interview in The New York Times with Rick Steves. You might not think of roller coasters when you think of Steves, who built his business on introducing millions of Americans to travel through Europe. But Steves is my role model in travel journalism - someone who provides consistent, thoughtful insight about travel and its importance to individuals and society.

The interviewer asked Steves about keeping track of how many countries he has visited. Steves replied, "Why would you? Is it a contest? Anybody who brags about how many countries they’ve been to — that’s no basis for the value of the travel they’ve done. You could have been to 100 countries and learned nothing, or you can go to Mexico and be a citizen of the planet. I find that there’s no correlation between people who count their countries and people who open their heart and their soul to the cultures they’re in."

I feel much the same about coaster counts. Look, if you want to keep a coaster count because that number helps keep you excited about roller coasters and parks and travel, then go for it! But if you want to use that number as a flex to "prove" your superiority to other fans, please stop.

Fanbases grow toxic when they choose to create and enforce hierarchies over welcoming and encouraging new fans. I love seeing fans talk about coasters they have ridden, just as I like hearing Rick Steves talk about the all places he has visited in Europe. If fans want to share lists of coasters they have ridden as a way to help other people discover potential new adventures for themselves, that's a great way to welcome and encourage new roller coaster fans.

But too often I hear fans instead sharing a number in some misguided attempt to impress, or worse, intimidate other fans. That's not welcoming, and I don't want any part of it.

A coaster count does not motivate me, so I never have bothered with one. The only travel related count I keep is the number of U.S. states I've not yet visited, which had been holding at one now for the past five years. I have kept track of that number to inspire me to plan road trips to different parts of the country and see places I had not before. The much larger number of countries - and roller coasters - in the world deters me from using those numbers to inspire any future travel.

Please don't get me wrong. I am all for people riding more roller coasters, as well as visiting more theme parks and traveling to more countries. As Steves often does, I also want to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones and discover new adventures. Theme parks drew me to my first trips to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, where I discovered much more of what those destinations offered. I want to show fans how accessible much of the world can be, with proper planning.

So I make no judgments about the numbers you keep to describe and inspire your travel. Just remember that being a fan is not a competition. No number makes you more of, or better, a fan than anyone else who loves roller coasters, theme parks, or travel.

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Replies (14)

October 31, 2021 at 8:06 PM

I'm less interested in the counts being exactly correct, but more of a 'how many different roller coasters have I ridden.'

I don't know that I've ever really told anyone what that number is, but it's more like the maps showing which states/countries you've visited.

I haven't been to a park since the pandemic began and it's really weird to not have season tickets since I've been doing the theme park thing as a hobby for several decades now, but at the same time I don't miss it that much, either.

I'm looking forward to going back when I feel it's safe, but I'm paranoid enough that it'll be a bit before I do.

November 1, 2021 at 4:23 AM

For most people a coaster count is meaningless. For someone claiming to be an expert it is important.

November 1, 2021 at 5:58 AM

for me, it's a "personal best" kind of thing and i'm most appreciative of the defunct coasters i've ridden because they can't be ridden anymore. i actually don't know how many i've ridden but in 2014 when i did a trip through PA, OH and IN, i counted 43 new to me coasters in 8 days. i thought that was a cool stat and one i will share when talking to fellow coaster fans. incidentally, not 100% sure of this but i think i have crossed the century mark on hagrid's.

November 2, 2021 at 1:41 AM

Remember "Slow food" ? (Carlo Petrini)
Get into "Slow travel" as well.
And forget about "well planned travel", go for day-to-day adventure.
That includes theme park visits.
STOP the rat race !
It's about QUALITY, not quantity.

November 1, 2021 at 10:18 AM

As long as it is harmless fun then what is the issue. If it defines you and makes you feel superior you have some issues. Maybe another forum can help with that. Otherwise I think for most people it is an interesting statistic that comes out of something they love doing. Just like travel. I recently crossed a certain number of countries visited that means something only to me. This made me say wow I have traveled a lot and have been blessed. Roll on...

November 1, 2021 at 10:40 AM

Personally no, not enough parks to ride but I can understand some keeping tallies and such. It just varies person to person.

November 1, 2021 at 11:31 AM

I used to be very into lists (I think in part because I have big-time Completist Brain) but have drifted away from it in recent years. I still keep a running coaster count because otherwise, frankly, I'd forget what coasters I've been on (drugs and alcohol are bad, folks!)

I hear ya, though. Beyond how it affects the community, I think it can make it less fun to think about experiences in such a cold, calculated way. I love researching trips and getting excited about new places but when I'm at a new place I try to turn that part of my brain off and just enjoy it. Frankly, that's part of why I'm turned off by the uber-in-park-cell-phone-driven moves Disney has unleashed in the past 5 years. When I'm in a new place, or a place I'm trying to relax, I need all the help I can get.

November 1, 2021 at 11:42 AM

Most of my coaster and amusement park life occurred before smart phones, before social media, before consumer internet, before digital photos. I know I visited parks and rode coasters that no longer exist. Keeping track is fun and harmless and if someone wants to, I say enjoy yourself.

November 1, 2021 at 12:48 PM

I collect shot glasses for the parks I have visited, but I don't know exactly how many I've been to. I think I need to revist seven parks to get shot glasses for the ones I went to before I started collecting them. For me, it's a nice memory to have to look at while I'm at home, but not something I would necessarily tout.

November 1, 2021 at 1:05 PM

Cool to see that you value Rick Steves the way I do too!

I used to keep track of things like coasters conquered, countries, states and provinces visited, rapid transit systems ridden on, movies viewed, operas watched, concerts attended, flights logged… it started with a desire when I was younger to not forget what I'd accomplished, then later became a source of pride if and when I rattled off the numbers, but I think like most of us growing up you stop being caught up in all that so much, rather than becoming just grateful that you've had all these experiences, and what what you've learned along the way should make you a kinder and more understanding person, not a more boastful one. Sometimes though, it's tough not slagging off some uppity kid who thinks they know everything, and then if I can't help myself, I'll pull out the numbers if I have to!

November 2, 2021 at 2:27 AM

I went looking at what this (here completely unknown) 'Rick Steves' could haven in mind when telling Americans first hand about ... Belgium !?
Well, it's ridiculous.
This guy is learning you nothing out of the lines of the classic (unbrained) touroperator pack. It's always exactly the same 2.5 day rush where tourists are dropped 4 times in the core-downtown center of the same 4 historical cities, and they THINK they have seen the country ??? ...
without any other glimpse of "Belgium", let alone road-trip in depth experience of everything the country has to offer the tourist.
Through this test-case checkup on this guy, who is called an expert in Europe travel (??) he tumbles down at once as blunt copy-paste artist, not an exporer.
Marketing is everything ? (Empty box)

November 2, 2021 at 6:14 AM

I agree Herwig - I’ve watched Steve’s travels and have learned very little vs what I actually learned while traveling to those places myself. He’s a friendly face and good natured guy, but I tend to feel the edited programs are too focused on food and tour guides and not enough on how to best enjoy the destination and it’s unique places to visit and explore. If I was traveling to those countries I would recommend other documentaries to learn the history, so that when you visit it becomes much more meaningful and engaging with local experts or guides.

November 2, 2021 at 10:27 AM

I really never understood the point of keeping coaster counts, and once you get over 100 different ones, you kind of lose count unless that number is more important to you than enjoying the ride (and the experience of getting to the ride). What has always irked me are the coaster fanboys that go out of their way to ride kiddie coasters or borrow kids to get on coasters that cannot be ridden by childless adults. What good is it to tout having ridden hundreds of roller coasters if dozens of them were designed for children?

Sure, I'll admit to have been excited to ride Pteranadon Fliers for the first time when my son was tall enough to allow us to ride together, but I was more excited for him than I was for my first time on the IOA coaster. On most kiddie coasters, I was far happier to see him ride by himself than to squeeze my body into tiny and tight restraints to ride with him for a silly coaster credit.

November 6, 2021 at 3:02 PM

I think so. It keeps everything in order and gives the goers a timely perspective on when they should go next.

Craig. Bath Remodeling

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