If your idea of a perfect summer day involves an adrenaline-infused rush from a truly frightening ride, skip the kiddie parks this year. The Matterhorn at Disneyland and Space Mountain at Disney World are both great when you’re 12, but they won’t make you weak at the knees. Instead, we recommend trying a different sort of ride—the kind with G force that will knock you silly and massive free-fall drops that will have you involuntarily laughing and praying for your life. In the world of thrill rides, the two big events this summer are: the introduction of Hersheypark’s 11th roller coaster, Fahrenheit, featuring the steepest drop in the U.S., and the much anticipated reopening of the original “fourth dimension” ride, X (now dubbed X2), at southern California’s Magic Mountain. “With the redesign, X2 will take even the most daring riders on a journey to a unique and unchartered dimension,” says Jay Thomas, Six Flags Magic Mountain president. But you don’t need to go to Pennsylvania or California to get your thrills; our other favorites and record-breakers—the tallest, fastest, most inversions—are spread out all over the globe. The list has plenty of variety, from an early wooden coaster whose design plan was modeled after a ride at the 1939 World Fair in New York City (and opened in 1941 at the Six Flags New England, making it the park’s oldest roller coaster), to an altogether different kind of mini-theme park hanging over the Las Vegas Strip atop the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. There’s the Colossus in the U.K., with the record number of inversions, and Tower of Terror on the Gold Coast of Australia—the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. And, of course, no list would be complete without the world record-holder in height and speed, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. And for those who know it’s not always about newness or the Guinness Book entries, some of the best rides, like the G-Force in Germany and Superman Ride of Steel in Massachusetts, are more than six years old, don’t hold any titles, and are still at the top of thrill-masters’ lists for their bells and spine-tingling whistles. “The Superman ride at Six Flags New England keeps getting our Golden Ticket award because it’s such a darn good ride, and no one has built one since that tops in the steel coaster category,” says Gary Slade, publisher of Amusement Today, the theme park industry’s magazine of record. And for those who get cold feet at the sight of a 400-foot drop, or a ride with a record 10 inversions, we have thoughtfully come up with the “chicken out” option for each ride. But fraidy-cat riders beware: some might also inspire nail-biting freak-outs, like the Millennium Force at Cedar Point, which Slade calls one of the best adrenaline rushes in the country. “If you’re not awake when you get on, you will be as soon as you hit the first drop…no coffee needed.” If you’re up for some real fun this summer, get ready to rack up some frequent-flier miles, and read on. You said you love a thrill, right? For the uninitiated, here’s a quick glossary of terms: Airtime: That floating feeling of weightlessness created by negative G forces. Camel Back: A series of hills—often at the end of a ride—designed to give more airtime. Cobra Roll or Boomerang: A double inversion where the car twists and goes up and back on the same track. Corkscrew or Barrel Roll: A twisted inversion that looks like…a corkscrew. 4D: When the cars—like those on X2—are designed to flip on a horizontal axis independently of the track. G Forces: Negative G’s give you that airtime floating sensation found on top of hills; positive G’s pull riders downward, like during inversions and high-speed turns. Shuttle Coasters: A coaster that goes forward and reverse on the same track.
Who would have guessed that this year’s U.S. presidential election would so prominently feature Hilton hotels and the Hilton family’s famous partier, Paris?In late July, Senator John McCain’s campaign released a TV commercial suggesting that Senator Barack Obama was all celebrity and no substance by comparing him to the hotel heiress (and Britney Spears). And last October, Obama told Tyra Banks that his daughter Malia doesn’t approve of Paris’s high jinks; whenever the family checks in to a hotel, Malia asks, “This isn’t a Hilton hotel, right?” With the 2008 presidential election in full swing, how will these statements affect where the candidates stay?Will McCain be banned from Hilton hotels?Will Obama sneak into a Garden Inn when not traveling with his family? No matter what happens, they’ll be exhausted from endless hours on the stump and have to stay somewhere. Some days the choice may come down to the nearest bed, but chances are they’ll be bunking everywhere from five-star resorts to local hotels with nary a mini-bar. So where will the candidates feel most comfortable?Perhaps you’ll see them gravitate toward hotels that incorporate their respective party’s colors, red and blue. (Get ready, Red Roof Inn.) Even when the color-coding is subtle—say, more of a baby blue or light pink—there are often indications of what hotel might be a better fit for a Barack and Michelle, versus spots that might suit John and Cindy. Sure, this is all speculative, but sometimes candidates do listen to suggestions. For starters, as the owners of a Ford Escape Hybrid, the Obamas have clearly demonstrated they are willing to shell out a little extra money for the greener option, so the fervently eco Fairmont hotel chain is a no-brainer; its San Francisco property even features a “Lexus Hybrid Living Suite.” Another possibility for the Obamas is one of the biggest hotel companies in the country, Starwood, which offers health care to domestic partners, supports local gay and lesbian charities, and even offers gay-friendly packages to guests—all details that should appeal to Barack Obama, who has said he would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. On the other hand, McCain, whose wife’s $100 million fortune flows from her family’s beer distributor company, the Four Points by Sheraton might appeal. Not only do the hotels advertise an extensive variety of beers, the company even employs a CBO, or Chief Beer Officer. The candidates may well be spending some serious time in Las Vegas, since Nevada is a swing state in the upcoming election. For John McCain, a self-proclaimed hiking enthusiast, the best option around Sin City might be the suitably named Red Rock Resort, just a few miles from the stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. And if either candidate is looking for a hotel chain with outlets nationwide (not to mention globally, for those all-important photo ops with foreign leaders), it may help them to follow the money. The Pritzker family–owned Hyatt hotel group has donated to the Democrats—and Obama’s national finance chair, billionaire Penny Pritzker, still runs part of the Hyatt Group. On the red side, the Marriott group has long been associated with Republicans. Marriott International, Inc. donated the maximum ($250,000) to George W. Bush’s second inauguration, and its chairman and CEO, Bill Marriott, was a supporter of Mitt Romney. With Romney dropping out, one assumes that McCain and his wife will be made to feel very much at home anywhere in the Marriott world—which, happily for millionaire Cindy, includes the deluxe Ritz-Carlton brand.