Sup! Tad here. No matter your age, roller coasters can be intimidating — especially with so many boasting impressive superlatives such as "the fastest," "the tallest" and "the steepest." Three specific rides that come to mind are Mako at SeaWorld Orlando, which has the honor of being the tallest and fastest roller coaster in all of Orlando; Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando Resort, which is the fastest and tallest launch coaster in all of Florida; and Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which just recently became not only the tallest hybrid coaster in all of North America but the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. I love roller coasters and am always ready to tackle the biggest and the baddest ... but I certainly wasn't always that way. It took a lot for me to become as big of a coaster buff as I am now. If you're ready to graduate from the more tadpole-friendly options and feel the wind in your hair on any of these steel beasts, you've come to the right place! I'm here to tell you everything you need to know about prepping for your first big roller coaster.
Tips for Conquering Your First Big Roller Coaster
1. Check Height Requirements
This may seem obvious, but it's definitely the first thing you should do when looking at coasters to conquer. Make sure you can actually get on them. Check out our Height Requirements posts for complete lists of all the rides at some of the country's biggest and best theme parks. If you don't see the park that you're going to, just look for the specific ride on the park's official website. It should say how tall you need to be to board.
2. Do Some Research
If you really want to get on a coaster but it seems a little too scary, do as much research on it beforehand as you can. Watch an on-ride POV — many of which from both coasts you can find on our YouTube channel — to get a feel for a ride's twists, turns, dips and dives before actually strapping in on it. Check out its stats to get a feel for how fast, tall and steep it is (and if there are any launches, drops or inversions you should prepare for). Read some reviews to get a sense of how other frogs feel on it. Fear lies in the unknown so it's best to have a little knowledge up your sleeve beforehand.
3. Use Tools to Reduce Wait Times
The worst part of any roller coaster is the fear building up in your stomach prior to boarding. Do your best to eliminate the amount of time those butterflies have to form by cutting down your wait time — whether that's using Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane selections, Universal Express, Quick Queue, Fast Lane or just hopping in the single rider line! The quicker you get through the queue, the less time you have to worry about how scary a coaster might be. (And take it from me — it's never as bad as it looks from the outside!)
4. Embrace Inversions
Most big coasters flip you upside down. I know when I was a little tadpole, I was terrified of being rotated vertically 180 degrees. It only took me going on Montu in Busch Gardens to realize that inversions are significantly less scary than drops (which I was somehow less intimidated by). If you were to close your eyes, you wouldn't even notice that you're going bottoms up! (But we like keeping our eyes open ... more on this tip below!) The feeling of weightlessness caused by inversions is truly exhilarating. Plus, once you've conquered one, you can easily conquer any of them.
5. Sit Strategically
If you have a say in which row you're put into (which you do on most coasters by just asking an attraction attendant), ask for the middle row. The front row will undoubtedly give you the best view, but it can also visually be the scariest since you're the first one to go up and down any given hill. The back row is almost always the fastest since many coasters produce a slingshot-like effect and pull you down hills with great force. The middle rows are going to give you your most moderate ride.
6. Start Big
Hear me out. While starting small and working your way up to bigger and bigger coasters might sound appealing, it's not particularly a strategy I recommend. Starting on the biggest and "scariest" ride in any park is a huge step in conquering any fear — and knowing what your own personal limitations are! If you can do the ride with the tallest drop and most inversions, you can do any other ride. All other coasters will be a piece of cake comparatively! This strategy is my personal favorite because you really only need to be brave enough once.
It's also a great way to gauge what coaster elements you feel comfortable with. Many frogs don't particularly love the feeling of their stomach dropping and other frogs, such as Mommy Frog, tend to have issues with motion sickness. For those frogs, a spinning coaster (such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT) can easily put a damper on their day. The sooner you know what your particular level of comfort is with any coaster, the more fun you'll be able to have on future park visits!
7. Snack Lightly
Whether or not you suffer from motion sickness, the food you eat before getting on a coaster most definitely will play a factor in how much you enjoy the ride. Do not eat a full meal or drink a sugary beverage minutes before hopping on a ride! On the flip side, you don't want to get on a big roller coaster with an empty stomach as that may make you feel even worse. Snack on something fairly bland about 30 minutes to an hour before hopping in line.
8. Keep Your Eyes Open
No matter how scary a big roller coaster may seem, resist the temptation to close your eyes. Your peepers tell your body what's coming next and allow you to adjust accordingly. For me, whenever I reach the top of a lift hill, I start screaming to counteract the feeling of my stomach dropping. Additionally, whenever I see a launch, I know to lean the back of my head right up against the headrest to counteract those intense linear g-forces. Not to mention, keeping your eyes open allows you to experience some spectacular views of any given theme park and its surrounding area.
What's the first big roller coaster you want to tackle? If you're already a coaster addict, what are some of your best tips? Share with us in the comments below!
Related: Thrill Seeker's Guide to the Florida SeaWorld Parks