The more that goes on during a ride, the more we feel and the more willing we are to wait in line. Here are some roller coasters in Florida that offer thrills you won’t soon forget.

By Carrie McLaren

These days, thrill rides get your adrenaline pumping and tricking you into believing the impossible.

Thanks to advancing technologies, one can play Quidditch with Harry Potter or meet angry dinosaurs. You can also test the limits of physical experience without putting yourself in real danger.  A battle against Decepticons? Why not? A rock-n-roll blast-off with Aerosmith? Done. 

Here are some examples of the thrills you can find at Florida’s theme parks.


For this thrill, check out the 150-foot Doctor Doom’s Fearfall at Universal’s Islands of Adventure or The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. The Tower, which opened in 1994, drops riders 13 stories, brings us back up and drops straight down again, all in the dark.

Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa takes guests up 300 feet, pivots so they are looking face-down at the ground and then drops at 60 miles per hour. Yikes!

Lights Out

When a drop or twist comes without warning, the resulting rush is even sweeter.  From Space Mountain at Disney’s Magic Kingdom to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, dark rides rely on the element of surprise to intensify thrills. Many also feature lit scenes and visual effects.

At the top of the list for dark roller coasters in Florida: Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida. As if fire-breathing mummies weren’t enough to get the blood pumping, the attraction combines special effects with coaster speeds.

Another great dark ride is the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which uses robotic arm technology to make it feel as though you are flying in and out of harrowing scenes from the movies. Also, don’t miss Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley where riders navigate underground vaults and battle villains Voldemort and Bellatrix.

roller coasters in Florida - Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

- Kevin Kolczynski for Universal Orlando Resort


Shot out of a Cannon

No matter how you prepare for the sudden jolt associated with launch coasters, when it hits, it hits hard. One moment you are sitting still then, electromagnets propel the ride car from zero to rocket speed. Glued to your seat and rendered breathless.

Cheetah Hunt, Florida’s newest launch coaster, is open at Busch Gardens Tampa. Others include Rock ’N’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and The Incredible Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. 

A Little Loopy

Many of the premier roller coasters in Florida feature signature loops.

Get loopy on Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa or Kraken at SeaWorld Orlando. For more flipping fun, don’t miss The Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and another thrilling favorite, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida where you can even choose your own musical playlist to listen to during the ride.

Super Soakers

Water rides remind me of driving through a hilly town. There are usually a lot of small drops throughout but no real belly flips until the big dive at the end. 

Among the super soakers are Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park, the Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld Orlando. Little ones will enjoy a good soaking at LEGOLAND Florida’s Quest for CHI battling with water gun soakers.

For an old school feel, check out TanganyikaTidal Wave and Stanley Falls at Busch Gardens Tampa, featuring smaller drops but a classic splash.

Flying High

Manta at SeaWorld Orlando is Florida’s only flying coaster. Riders glide in the prone position through inversions at 56 miles per hour. The ride is designed to mimic the movements of a manta ray gliding through the sea.

A New Dimension

Transformers the Ride 3D at Universal Studios Orlando is one of the latest attractions to combine 3D effects with motion thrills.

Three-dimensional robots tower above riders, battling it out for the fate of the world. Incorporated seamlessly with the story, simulated lifts, drops and jerks make the experience feel deceptively real.

The body moves around a lot on this one, but for all that, the motion thrills are pretty tame. The height limit is just 40 inches to ride. It’s similar to Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, but more immersive. 

roller coasters in Florida - the Simpsons

The Simpsons ride at Universal Orlando

- Carrie McLaren para VISIT FLORIDA


More Free-Falling

Some Florida theme park goers may recall the old Back to the Future simulator ride at Universal Orlando Resort. Well, that ride is long gone. Universal replaced it with the Simpsons Ride, which is the same type of attraction. These rides are great for mild thrills. The ride car moves around without ever really going anywhere.

The body gets moved from side to side quite a bit, so heed that heart, neck and back problems disclaimer. Classic simulators include Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Soarin' at Disney’s Epcot. Another new simulator at Universal Studios Florida features the Minions in Despicable Me! Minion Mayhem, where you shrink down to minion size.

For a more intense experience, check out Mission Space at Epcot. The ride simulates the feeling of a space shuttle launch. It’s intense and a lot of fun. Car lovers, don’t miss going for a ride on Epcot’s Test Track where you’ll build a virtual car and then have the opportunity to be a ‘test track dummy’ and see how your car performs on the track. Life-like, exhilarating and quite a learning experience too.