Best roller coasters in the U.S.

May 26, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. ET

When planning your family vacation, consider visiting some of the top theme parks in the country with the fastest, tallest and most thrilling roller coasters. Check out some of the best roller coasters in the United States.

1Kingda Ka

If you're looking for thrills, head to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, where you'll find Kingda Ka. Kingda Ka is the world's tallest roller coaster and was the world's fastest until recently, when Formula Rossa opened in United Arab Emirates in November 2010. This steel coaster reaches a height of 456 feet and can accelerate up to 128 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. It consists of four trains with five cars -- riders sit two across in nine rows. Most patrons admit that the first seat is the most thrilling but there's not a bad seat to be had on Kingda Ka. If you are wondering what "Kingda Ka" means, it's named after a 500-pound golden tabby Bengal tiger that lives next to the ride. Jungle music plays while you wait in line to get on this mythical tiger-themed coaster.

2Top Thrill Dragster

If you're vacationing anywhere near Ohio, head to Cedar Point in Sandusky and take a ride on the Top Thrill Dragster. This $25 million-plus hydraulically launched steel roller coaster launched in 2003 and features a height of 420 feet and maximum speeds up to 120 miles per hour. This drag-racing-themed coaster is known all over the world for its drops, inclines and twists. The Top Thrill Dragster is the second-tallest roller coaster in the world and it was the fourth roller coaster to break the 100 miles per hour speed barrier.

3Superman: Escape from Krypton

Visitors from around the globe flock to Six Flags Magic Mountain in the summertime. Located just north of Los Angeles in Valencia, California, Magic Mountain launched Superman: The Escape back in 1997 and it's been a favorite ever since. The ride was redeveloped in 2010 and re-opened as Superman: Escape from Krypton in March 2011. This steel shuttle roller coaster features a 328-foot drop and two parallel tracks. In the updated ride, visitors are accelerated in reverse to 104 miles per hour in about six seconds before pitching up 90 degrees to the vertical section of the track. Superman: Escape from Krypton is the fourth-fastest and third-tallest (415 feet) roller coaster in the world. It also holds the record for the tallest vertical loop at 145 feet.

4El Toro

Though the steel roller coasters dominate most of the records, some riders love a good old-fashioned wooden coaster. For a traditional wooden coaster experience with lots of thrills, El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure is your best bet. El Toro held the record for steepest drop of any wooden coaster, at 76 degrees, until it was overtaken by T Express in 2008. This wooden roller coaster is 188 feet tall and reaches speeds of nearly 70 miles per hour. El Toro is located in Plaza Del Carnaval, the Mexican-themed portion of the park, and is very popular among visitors. A note of caution: The lap-bar restraints are very tight and not suited for large riders. There's a "test seat" available that you can check out before getting in line for El Toro.

See our list of best theme parks >>

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