Each year, they get taller, faster, twistier—and more ludicrously treacherous. There's the inverted zero-g stall, which takes riders up an upside-down hill, then rolls them over for the descent, as well as record-breaking inventions like the tallest waterslide ever built. Below are the seven most awesome cheap (legal) thrills of this season.
|The World's Tallest Ferris Wheel|
At 550 feet, this big wheel—which opened in late-March—edges out the Singapore Flyer by nine feet and towers over the London Eye by over 100 feet. Its 28 glass-enclosed cabins hold a total of 1,120 passengers at a time, and its 2,000 LED lights mean the view of the wheel is nearly as awesome as the views of the Vegas skyline from the top of the 30-minute rotation (yes, the ride is that long).
|The Waterslide Taller Than Niagara Falls|
Kansas City, Kansas
This 17-story-high monster, whose name is German for insane, is the trifecta of water rides: As of May 21 when it was unveiled, it could claim to be the tallest, the steepest, and it had the highest uphill segment (an invention first introduced at Schlitterbahn water park in Texas). After a 264-step climb, a four-person raft races downward at speeds in excess of 60 mph (comparable to Brazil's record-holding Insano), then swoops upward for 50 feet before one final adrenaline waterslide rush.
|The Record-Breaking Wooden Coaster|
Recent innovations in engineering help old-school coasters make the same maneuvers as steel structures—but with a decidedly rougher ride. Goliath, which opens May 31, starts with a 165-foot ascent, followed by a stomach-lurching 85-degree, 180-foot drop, setting records for the world's tallest and steepest drop. As you whip through near zero-g twists and overbanked turns, plus two inversions, you'll reach speeds of 72 mph (that's 4 mph faster than the current record-holder).
|Seven Back-to-Back Inversions|
The new Kings Island Coaster (the park's 15th such ride) made its debut April 18 and measures 4,124 feet, making it the world's longest inverted coaster. The succession of mind-and-belly-altering inversions includes a 150-foot curved drop, a dive loop, an in-line roll, a spiral, and a pair of batwings (heart-shaped elements that flip you upside down—twice). The 167-foot lift hill is shorter by 28 feet than the world's tallest (Busch Gardens' Alpengeist), but we're pretty sure you won't notice.
|How to Fall Face First at 60 MPH|
Later this summer, when it opens, this drop may become the tallest freestanding tower ride in North America (see also the Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, next ride). But what really makes it awesome is the first-of-its-kind seating configuration. At the top of the 335-foot climb, the seats pivot, so that riders are in prone position for the five-second drop.
|The World's Tallest Drop Ride|
Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom
Jackson, New Jersey
Built into the Kingda Ka roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, this 415-foot drop-tower ride is slated to debut mid-June. The velocity is mind-boggling, as it catapults thrill-seekers downward at 90 mph while Kingda Ka zips around it, but at least you'll have seven other terrified passengers to share this gondola-ride-on-speed with.
|The World's Tallest Swing Ride|
New England SkyScreamer
This weeks-old swing ride—another May 2014 unveiling—gives 23 fliers, strapped into open-air seats, spectacular park views from a height of more than 40 stories up before it starts whizzing you around. Words to the wise: Refrain from pulling out your phone to take pics of the view (expansive as it may be), and definitely do not consume chili fries before getting on this one.