Amanda Hamilton became a roller coaster fiend thanks to her childhood friend, Alex Bransford. And even when they weren't at a park riding coasters, they were obsessed with the fast-and-furious thrill rides. "We would play Roller Coaster Tycoon all day," Hamilton says. They would even watch videos about coasters. "We would get really close to the TV and pretend we were riding the roller coaster," Hamilton says. "I was terrified." Growing up, she often went to Six Flags over Georgia. "Batman was my favorite when I was younger because your feet dangled free."
Zach Bjur is another Six Flags fan and Batman: The Ride devotee. "I remember learning that the big [loop] produced a feeling of weightlessness," he says. "I still get that nervous excitement before I get on roller coasters. The pit in the bottom of your stomach. I think that's why I like it."
Bjur was the only enthusiast we found that likes the rickety wooden coasters. "The steel ones are cool, but the risk of losing your head is gone, which makes it less exciting," he says. He says wooden coasters can't go as fast as the steel or upside-down coasters, but he likes the ups and downs and the sharp turns. His favorite wooden coaster is the Georgia Cyclone at Six Flags.
Hamilton prefers steel coasters because they offer a smoother ride. Her current favorite at Six Flags is Superman: Ultimate Flight. On the coaster, riders initially climb into the cart and sit upright, but then the cart tilts forward so that their bodies are nearly parallel to the ground. "The only thing keeping you from the ground is the harness," Hamilton says. "And you can't see what's coming ahead, which makes it extra scary."
Of course, Six Flags isn't the only big-time amusement park that's just a day-trip drive away. There's Carowinds on the South Carolina-North Carolina border. Caitlin Allen swears by the Nighthawk at Carowinds. "You are flying Superman style," she says. "The first time I rode it was at night, so I couldn't tell if I was upside down or right side up."
A regular visitor to Carowinds, Allen also recommends two other rides, the Intimidator and the Xtreme Skyflier. Named after the late great Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator is one heckuva long ride in the roller coaster world. This three-and-a-half minute ride sports a 232-foot drop that falls at a 74-degree angle. And to top it all off, it's one of the fastest in the Southeast.
As for the Xtreme Skyflier, Allen says this bungee jump-inspired ride is "only for thrill seekers," she says. More importantly, it's not included in the regular park admission. In fact, it'll set you back $15. "It's definitely worth it," she adds. "Just don't go after lunch."
$44.99, Online purchase
$54.99, General admission
$36.99, Single-day (senior, junior)
$59.99, Two-day pass
$24.99, Twilight pass, online
$29.99, Twilight pass, gate
Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Pay per ride or $24.50 all-day pass
Six Flags Over Georgia
$34.99, Three-day advance purchase
$39.99, Online purchase
$54.99, General admission
$39.99, Child under 48" $39.99
Free, 2 and under