Vote of the Week: Is Florida the New Coaster Capital?

February 19, 2022, 1:36 PM · Central Florida is indisputably the theme park capital of the world. With six of the world's top 12 most-visited theme parks, including the leader - Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, more people visit the Orlando area for theme parks than any other destination on the planet.

But roller coaster fans long have sought to apply an asterisk to Central Florida's title. Yes, Orlando is the leader for theme parks, but that means dark rides, shows, and other family attractions. If you want to fill your days riding world-class roller coasters, head elsewhere.

Is that really still a valid argument, though? For the past two years, a Central Florida coaster has won the top spot in our annual world's best roller coasters reader survey, with Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure winning in 2020 and Jurassic World VelociCoaster this past year. Three of our top five and four of our top 10 roller coasters now are in Central Florida. With Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay looking like a certain addition to the top of our list this year, Central Florida could have four of the top five and half of the top 10.

Clearly, you can find and ride world-class roller coasters in Central Florida now. Is that enough to make the area the world's roller coaster capital as well as its theme park capital?

If not, what is the alternative? Cedar Point has made a claim with its slogan "America's Roller Coast," but without another park in the same market to help carry the load, it's a tough assignment for one park to take on the four Central Florida parks currently with top 25 coasters.

Southern California likely would be the next-best candidate, with Six Flags Magic Mountain's record-holding line-up of 19-soon-to-be-20 roller coasters leading the way. Help from Knott's Berry Farm gives Southern California six of our top 25, but they sit toward the bottom of that list, with only Magic Mountain's Twisted Colossus cracking the top 10.

Looking abroad, only Phantasialand placed multiple coasters on our list last year, but as international borders open up and our international readership continues to expand, I hope that coasters from other parks outside the United States will get more love from Theme Park Insider readers. You can find solid coaster line-ups in the Tokyo area and the United Arab Emirates as well as many markets in Europe, with China continuing to grow as a coaster destination.

But should having a few great coasters in your market be the only criteria for assigning the coaster crown? Depth ought to matter, too. Sure, a coaster capital must have top-quality, world-class coasters, but it also ought to offer a solid line-up of mid-tier coasters to fill out your days, as well as a welcoming line-up of entry-level coasters for young or emerging fans.

And do fans really want to have to pay to visit four or five different parks from three different companies to enjoy a world-class coaster trip? Or is it preferable to look for a destination where you can find a wide range of coasters within one or two close-by parks, giving you more thrills for the money? Those questions might undermine Central Florida's case to be considered the world's coaster capital.

So I leave it up to you to decide.

And now for the commercial plug, to buy discounted tickets to many of the parks with coasters on our list, please visit our travel partner's Top Attraction Discounts page. And to keep up with theme park news and analysis throughout the year, please sign up for our free, three-times-a-week email newsletter. Thank you, as always, for supporting Theme Park Insider.

Replies (16)

February 19, 2022 at 4:25 PM

Even as a Central Florida native, I have to admit this is still Ohio. Cedar Point and Kings Island is an impossible pair of parks to top for roller coasters, with places like Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom, and Kennywood nearby. But we’re super happy to have Iron Gwazi and Velocicoaster join our ranks, with Guardians, Tron, the Epic Universe dueling launch coaster, and hopefully more to come!

February 19, 2022 at 6:44 PM

Until we get that giga, then no, no and again no.

As Dan from MM said when we spoke at the Ice Breaker previews …. 350 minimum.
I’m all for that :)

February 19, 2022 at 7:22 PM

Sadly it looks like Knott's is going to steal our thunder!

February 19, 2022 at 8:43 PM

At first glance I thought Ohio, but with IG, VC and the B&M line up at SW and BGT, I have to admit that Florida is indeed the coaster capital for me.

February 19, 2022 at 9:17 PM

I'm a big fan of magic mountain's coaster collection, but knott's isn't doing a ton to bolster southern california's place in this fight. that (to me) makes this a two-horse race between ohio (kings island / cedar point) and florida (universal/seaworld and busch gardens). given how darn good the coasters are at seaworld these days... it's really tough to go against florida.

i think it's at least close enough to say it's a matter of personal preference. i'd lean towards florida -- but wouldn't begrudge anyone who still went with ohio.

February 19, 2022 at 9:53 PM

I have to say that it is an exciting time to be a Busch Gardens Williamsburg platinum pass member. A great ride is opening at my home park, and free winter visits to sister parks in Florida have allowed me to try new rides before their grand openings. That said, not sure the minimum height change from 48 to 54 on IceBreaker at SWO is going to go over well with families.

February 19, 2022 at 11:38 PM

My opinion may change once Disney's new coasters have opened and once I've ridden them all, but for right now I would say the coaster capital of the US remains Cedar Point. I've ridden nearly 600 coasters (including virtually all the major pre-2022 ones in the US), and Cedar Point contains four of my top twenty (Maverick, Millennium Force, Steel Vengeance, and Top Thrill Dragster). All the parks together in Florida only have two on that list at present (Mako and good as Hagrid's is, I don't consider it a top coaster from a coaster perspective). The other thing, as Robert mentioned, is that no park in Florida has more than one top tier coaster, and other than Busch Gardens Tampa, no park offers enough in the coaster department to fill a day for those seeking primarily gravity-driven thrills.

Now, if you expand it to a full region rather than a single park or state, I would say the South Atlantic region as a whole may have dethroned the Midwest by this point. While there are many great coasters in the region and several very large parks, outside of Cedar Point few are what I would consider among the best of the best (with the biggest exception being Voyage) and many are fairly common models. On the other hand, the states north of Florida host Fury 325, Intimidator 305, Lightning Rod, Twisted Cyclone, and Twisted Timbers, all of which I'd consider among the country's best, as well as a number of other solid and somewhat unique rides. They will also be opening counterparts to Iron Gwazi and VelociCoaster this year with ArieForce One and Pantheon, respectively. It is a little bit of trek from Central Florida to these regions, but for someone wanting to get the best collection on a reasonable road trip, I think the South is now the dominant portion of the country for modern thrill rides.

February 20, 2022 at 3:02 AM

I'm afraid WDW doesn't bring it's A-game regarding coasters as it are mostly coasters in a box and kiddy coasters and non of them are excellent.
Universal Studios, Sea World and Bush Gardens are doing an great job filling that hole.

February 20, 2022 at 3:50 AM

The only thing better about California's parks is the climate, other than that everything about Florida's parks (including the coasters) are better IMO. Coming from someone that's spent many years living in both states.

It is a shame though that things transpired the way they did with the industry that led to Florida becoming the theme park capital instead of California. As much as I like living in Orlando, there's no question California's climate is perfect for parks and Florida's is absolutely atrocious. TBH you could close our parks from May-September for the "off season" and get no complaints from me (of course that would never would happen but its just so miserable being outside).

February 20, 2022 at 7:48 AM

Yes! Because they also have by-far the best theming and immersion which enhances the whole experience.

February 20, 2022 at 8:08 AM

Even if some don't consider Central Florida the capital, what has been built along the I-4 corridor since around 2015 is an embarrassment of riches. What a great time to be a coaster enthusiast and local.

February 20, 2022 at 8:48 AM

@I64 …. The change in height requirement has caught everyone by surprise. And, so far, no official statement from SeaWorld as to why it happened. There had been a few posts about kiddos bumping their head/face on the comfort collar latches ??, but when I rode it during the previews, it was kids in the 48-54” range that were on it the most, and having an absolute blast. Hopefully they’ll compromise and bring it down to 52”, but for now, the family coaster that SWO so desperately needed, is a thing of the past.

And Gwazi is 48” …. go figure.

Construction walls are going up along the front to bayside stadium walkway, so is ‘project penguin’ back up and running.

February 20, 2022 at 9:48 AM

@Makorider - SEAS is probably hustling to get the penguin surf coaster built so they can have a family ride, now that IceBreaker doesn't fit that bill.

February 20, 2022 at 11:08 AM

what I would give to have sea world orlando’s park in sea world san diego’s location,,,,,

February 20, 2022 at 6:10 PM

I’m surprised to see no mentions of Pennsylvania here yet. Hersheypark, Knoebels, Kennywood, Waldameer, Dorney, and a host of smaller parks contribute to a deep lineup that can make a claim for the best wooden coaster collection anywhere

February 21, 2022 at 10:57 AM

I'm admittedly biased as CP is my home park, but if we are talking regions, an area stretching from Knoebels west to Gurnee and south to Louisville encompasses a whole realm of coaster royalty, from Millennium Force to The Voyage to Steel Curtain and everything else in between, and that's without adding in Toronto just a little north of NY state.

Perhaps we can agree that the USA itself is at the top of the Swanson pyramid of coaster greatness?

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