Roller coasters are my thing. To me, nothing beats an ominous trip hundreds of feet in the air before a plummet back down to earth — and a ride that I’ve never been on makes the experience that much better.
For coaster enthusiasts such as myself, May marks the unofficial start of roller coaster season in the Midwest, and these six amusement parks in and around the area are gearing up for it by unveiling new roller coasters for this summer.
Some parks in the list only need a day trip while others require a full weekend, or a short vacation, to enjoy, but all are worth the drive if you’re seeking a little extra adrenaline this summer.
Wild Mouse at Cedar Point
Location: Sandusky, Ohio
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 2 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $45 online
Wild Mouse is a part of Cedar Point’s new development, The Boardwalk, which includes revitalized family attractions, a new dining venue, roaming entertainment, and the park’s 18th coaster.
Wild Mouse is a small but mighty nod to the park’s original Wild Mouse roller coaster, which operated from 1959 to 1963. It will take riders on a “game of cat and mouse” as they climb 52 feet in a four-passenger car that spins 360 degrees as it travels along the twisty-turny track at speeds of up to 35 mph.
“The new Wild Mouse spinning family coaster will be a ride experience different from all others in the park,” says Tony Clark, the director of communications for the park. “Each Wild Mouse car will spin independently as it travels along 1,312 feet of track, providing not only a great traditional roller coaster ride but another dimension of thrills with its random movements — no two rides will be the same.”
Guests must be at least 48 inches tall to ride alone or 42 inches with supervision.
Visit cedarpoint.com for more.
While you’re there: Sure, metro Detroiters can do Cedar Point in a day, but there’s enough to do around Sandusky that you can make it a weekend trip.
In addition to Cedar Point’s water park, Cedar Point Shores, the city is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, which features eight slides inside a 30,000-square-foot water park, and Kalahari Resorts — Ohio’s largest indoor water park, with 173,000 feet of wet and wild fun. Not into water parks? Get your thrills at Ghostly Manor. This fun center has everything from an escape room and an indoor haunted house to indoor skating and mini golf.
Sandusky also offers several museums, including the Merry- Go-Round Museum, a maritime museum, and a children’s museum, so there’s a bit of something for everyone.
American Dreier Looping at Indiana Beach
Location: Monticello, Indiana
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 4.5 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $40 online
Indiana Beach squeezes five coasters into a boardwalk on Lake Shafer. Its sixth coaster, American Dreier Looping, was to open in 2022 but is now expected to open this year.
Manufactured in 1984 by the classic coaster manufacturing company Schwarzkopf Industries, this ride has dished out screams since its first appearance at a fair in Hannover, Germany. It had been in three other parks before being relocated to Indiana Beach.
American Dreier Looping climbs just over 100 feet, reaches speeds of nearly 55 mph, and features three inversions that deliver 6.1 g-forces.
Visit indianabeach.com for more.
While you’re there: Trade the thrills of the park for the tranquility of nature at Altherr Nature Park. Located approximately 10 minutes from Indiana Beach, this park encompasses just over 16 acres filled with walking paths to see native plants and animals.
Grab a drink just up the road from the nature park at the family-owned Whyte Horse Winery or take about a 40-minute drive farther to Lafayette for an even wider breadth of places to explore, such as the Columbian Park Zoo, the Haan Museum of Indiana Art, and Tropicanoe Cove water park.
Zambezi Zinger at Worlds of Fun
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 11.5 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $35 online
The original Zambezi Zinger was a steel-extended Jumbo Jet-style coaster that operated as one of Worlds of Fun’s most popular roller coasters from the park’s opening in 1973 until the coaster was defunct in 1997.
The new Zambezi Zinger is a hybrid coaster that pays homage to the original with a similar spiral lift, a surprise midcourse tunnel, and low-to-the-ground track. It’s also built in the same spot in the heart of the park’s African-themed area.
New elements include side-by-side seating rather than the original toboggan-style, safari theming, and modern Infinity Flyer trains. The 2023 version is also a smidge faster than the 1973 ride, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph to the original 41.2, and a bit taller at 74 feet compared with the original’s 57 feet.
Visit worldsoffun.com for more.
While you’re there: Museums are a huge draw if you’re taking a vacation in the Kansas City area. Options to explore include The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the National WWI Museum and Memorial, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Airline History Museum, the Museum of Illusions, and more.
Kansas City is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, which includes 38,000 square feet of water fun, including the first-of- its-kind Triple Twist waterslide that launches rides down three successive funnels. Penguin Park and its animal statues are a can’t-miss for visitors with kids, as is Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and Legoland Discovery Center.
Wildcat’s Revenge at Hersheypark
Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 7.5 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $50 online
This new hybrid coaster — a roller coaster with a steel track and wood supports — was built on the bones of the park’s old Wildcat, which operated from 1996 to 2022, by Rocky Mountain Construction, which is the same company that turned Cedar Point’s Mean Streak into Steel Vengeance.
This wild ride will flip riders upside down four times, including through the world’s largest underflip, at speeds of up to 62 mph. The ride’s largest hill is 140 feet tall, and its first drop measures in at 82 degrees.
Riders must fall in at least the park’s “Hershey’s” height category — that’s 48 to 54 inches tall — to ride.
For tickets, lodging, and more, go to hersheypark.com.
While you’re there: After you have your fill of rides, but before you leave the park, visit Hershey’s Chocolate World for a free chocolate tour, an opportunity to create your own candy bars, a 4D chocolate movie, and more.
Keep the fun going outside of the park with a visit to ZooAmerica, which is home to more than 200 animals, including vampire bats, American alligators, gray wolves, mountain lions, black bears, bald eagles, rattlesnakes, ferrets, elk, and many others.
Hershey Gardens, which is just a few minutes from Hersheypark, features 28 acres of botanical gardens, including 3,000 roses, and one of 25 indoor tropical butterfly atriums in the world, housing dozens of rare butterflies from South and Central America, Africa, and Asia.
Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood
Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 8.5 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $90 online
With 3,990 feet of track and a ride time of nearly two minutes, Big Bear Mountain will be the longest roller coaster at Dollywood when it opens in the Wildwood Grove area of the park this year.
It features three separate launches that reach top speeds of 48 mph and hurdles riders through airtime hills and high-speed turns against the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. It also offers onboard audio, which is a first for the park.
Big Bear Mountain reaches 66 feet at its tallest point. Guests must be at least 39 inches tall to ride.
For tickets, lodging, and more, go to dollywood.com.
While you’re there: As the No. 1 theme park in the United States, there’s no shortage of things to do inside Dollywood, but there are even more fun activities to do in Pigeon Forge proper and in nearby Gatlinburg.
If you and your brood want the thrills to continue, take on one of the mountain coasters or fun parks in the area — there are plenty to choose from. You can also learn a little history at the Titanic Museum or the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.
Need a break from all the attractions? Escape into nature at Great Smoky National Park or do some shopping — and moonshine tasting — along the strip in Gatlinburg.
Darkoaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Drive from Detroit: Approximately 11.5 hours
Cost: Regular single-day ticket prices start at $52 online
“Escape the storm” on North America’s first all- indoor straddle coaster. Riders will climb into trains that look like snowmobiles for a journey along 2,454 feet of track, which includes four launches, in total darkness.
Built by Intamin Amusement Rides, Darkoaster reaches speeds of up to 36 mph and is located in the park’s Oktoberfest area. Guests must be at least 48 inches to ride.
For tickets, lodging, and more, go to buschgardens.com.
While you’re there: Take a step back into 18th-century America at Colonial Williamsburg. This living history museum features 300 acres of historic taverns and sites, including the Capitol, Governor’s Palace, and courthouse, along with working tradespeople. Take an interpreter-guided tour to see it all during the day or try one of the Haunted Williamsburg ghost tours at night.
Virginia’s largest water park, Water Country USA, is also in Williamsburg. For water in the outdoors, York River State Park is another must-see destination simply for the York River’s rare balance of fresh water and salt water.
And, of course, U.S. history buffs could spend the whole summer exploring the Jamestown Settlement, and the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown.
Visiting Michigan’s Adventure
Michigan’s Adventure, the state’s largest water and amusement park, is just
over a three-hour drive from Detroit to Muskegon and features more than 60 rides, slides, and attractions for the entire family to enjoy.
On the amusement park side of things, there are seven roller coasters, including the 125-foot-long Shivering Timbers, which takes riders a half-mile out and back at speeds of up to 65 mph, and Michigan’s first suspended looping roller coaster, Thunderhawk.
WildWater Adventure boasts the title of the state’s largest outdoor water park, featuring more than 15 water attractions. Among them is the state’s only tornado slide, Funnel of Fear, which stands at a whopping 63 feet, and Snake Pit — a slide that features three different slides that are totally enclosed.
Both parks offer plenty of family-friendly rides and slides, too. In fact, the park just welcomed a new kids area called Camp Snoopy in 2021, which features five rides aimed at families, and this fall, they’re unveiling spooky, not scary, Halloween fun at the all-new Tricks and Treats Fall Fest.
Michigan’s Adventure is located in Muskegon and will open for the 2023 season on May 26. WildWater Adventure will open on June 10. For more information, visit miadventure.com.
This story is part of the May 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.