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5 Best Roller Coasters

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1 There are two schools of coaster aficionado: those who think there are plenty of great roller coasters and those who know there's just one: THE CYCLONE, at Coney Island's ASTROLAND. "All the other roller coasters in the world are just carbon copies," insists Colleen Whyte of the American Coaster Enthusiasts. The 1927 landmark, once described by Charles Lindbergh as "scarier than flying solo across the Atlantic," evokes a combination of nostalgia and fierce territorial pride from most New Yorkers. "I'm always amazed by these people who leave New York City to go to Six Flags," says Bill Galvin, a member of Coaster Zombies. "They've got the best thing just a subway ride away."

2-3 SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE, in Jackson, N.J., does manage to draw hundreds of thousands of Cyclone defectors with two fairly spectacular offerings. The NITRO offers a stomach-churning 215-foot drop (the Cyclone's biggest drop is 85 feet) and speeds approaching 60 miles per hour. The MEDUSA is a "floorless coaster," meaning there'll be nothing but air beneath your feet as you plunge thirteen stories and go around ten turns -- some of them upside-down. Six Flags has another eight roller coasters in case you get bored, but according to Danny Biggerstaff (a.k.a. "Coaster Dan") of the Mid-Atlantic Coaster Club, the Nitro and Medusa are "the only two worth taking note of."

4 THE DRAGON COASTER at RYE PLAYLAND is another antique gem -- a 70-year-old wooden coaster that features a 128-foot drop into the mouth of a dragon. Connoisseurs describe it as relatively tame, but love the scenic views of the Long Island Sound. The park itself, opened in 1928, wins praise for its lovely Art Deco design immortalized in Big.

5 If you think you've seen it all, you'll want to drive the two hours to LAKE COMPOUNCE THEME PARK in Bristol, Connecticut, to test out the year-old BOULDER DASH. This $6 million coaster is built onto the side of a mountain overlooking a lake. It was voted Best Wooden Coaster in the World this year by the National Amusement Park Historical Association, but most riders prefer to describe it simply as "awesome."

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