Wooden roller coasters.

To roller coaster enthusiasts, nothing can be the thrill of riding a “woodie”.


Wooden roller coasters are unique in that they capture the true essence of a roller coaster ride. To roller coaster enthusiasts, they’re pure.

Wooden Roller Coasters – Why All the Hype?

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but wooden roller coasters seem to provide a complete sensory ride as they affect all of your senses.

You can smell the wood under that makes up the major component of the wooden roller coaster track. You can hear the rumble of the timer. And the ultimate sensory experience is that you can feel the roar as the roller coaster races around the tracks.

And because wood expands and contracts easily with weather changes, wooden roller coasters never feel the same. If anything, they can actually feel as if they are out of control, adding more terror to the already terrifyingly fast ride.

Quite frankly, steel roller coasters won’t give you as much of a sensory experience as wooden roller coasters do.

Sure, they are faster (way faster) and can do some cool tricks like inversions that woodies can’t, but there’s just something about wooden roller coasters that make them feel like the real deal.

So is all the hype over wooden roller coasters worth it?

In short, it definitely is. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying wooden roller coasters are better than steel roller coasters. All I’m saying is that they offer a unique experience that is worth the effort of seeking out a “woodie”.

But to save you the time and effort of looking for a wooden roller coaster among the many steel roller coasters that have proliferated the roller coaster world, I’ll point you to a few woodies you definitely need to try out. But first…

What is a Wooden Roller Coaster?

When the first roller coaster (the Gravity Switchback Railway) was introduced in 1884, it was clear what a wooden roller coaster was.

And when the Matterhorn was introduced at Disneyland in 1959 as the first ever steel roller coaster, it was clear what constituted a wooden roller coaster.

Today, the definition of a wooden roller coaster is a bit blurred. So what exactly is a wooden roller coaster?

A wooden roller coaster is defined as a roller coaster with running rails made of flattened steel strips that are mounted on a laminated wooden track. Sometimes, however, the support structure may feature a steel lattice or truss, but the ride will still be classified as a wooden roller coaster because of its track design.

Let’s take a look at 3 such coasters that will leave you in exhilaration as you disembark from a ride worth repeating.  

3 Wooden Roller Coasters You Have to Ride Before

Ready to board a wooden roller coaster? Here are 3 wooden roller coasters worth chasing down.

  1. The InvadR (Busch Gardens, Tampa, Florida)

If you’ve ever been to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, I’m sure you’re rearing to go back there again. If you haven’t been, you better.

Busch Gardens is an African themed amusement park that is famous for its exception attractions and rides, one of which was a wooden roller coaster called Gwazi – the most iconic wooden roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Sadly though, Gwazi was decommissioned in 2015, much to the dismay of the patrons of Busch Gardens.

Fortunately, there’s a new (and dare I say better) wooden roller coaster at Bush Gardens – and it’s called the InvadR.

InvadR could be said to be a reincarnation of Gwazi as most of the material used to build it came from the fallen hero. InvadR is a gravity propelled wooden roller coaster will take you on a 74-foot drop, over 9 hills, through 2 tunnels, and will also take you through many dizzying twists and turns. All that at a massive speed of 50 mph, and, for a woodie that’s pretty impressive.

Unlike Gwizi, its predecessor, InvadR won’t have the shakiness that has been a trademark of wooden roller coasters over the years since the wood tracks are now supported by steel frames for improved stability.

This is one ride you and the family will definitely enjoy, especially since it comes with a low 46-inch height requirement.

  1. Lightning Racer (Hershey Park, Pennsylvania)

Lighting Racer is a wooden dueling roller coaster you’ll find at Hersheypark, Pennsylvania. This is the first wooden and dueling coaster to be built by Great Coasters International, way back in 2000.

Being a dueling coaster (consisting of two tracks, with another coaster racing it on the other track), you will basically enjoy two coasters at the same. Whether you ride in Lightning or Thunder (the other coaster), you are bound to have the time of your life as these two trains race each other over the twists and turns and past the helix as they hurtle towards the finish line.

Nothing can compare to the thrill of interacting with the riders in the coaster next to you as you bank and turn at breakneck speeds. This is definitely a ride with a twist. And it warrants a visit from you.

  1. Thunderhead Roller Coaster (Pigeon Ford, Tennessee)

Another wooden roller coaster you just have to ride is Thunderhead. This amazing woodie that boasts of 22 turns and 32 crossovers is located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

The best part of Thunderhead is perhaps not the ride itself but the location. Dollywood has been critically acclaimed as one of the best amusement parks and it definitely doesn’t disappoint (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Dolly Parton fan).

But back to Thunderhead.

This underrated roller coaster will certainly knock your socks off, not just because of its Southern charm, but because it is an amazing ride that can go toe-to-toe with some of the best woodies.

So next time you are in Tennessee, be sure to get your adrenaline fix at Dollywood.

Wooden Roller Coasters – The Spirit Lives On

Although steel roller coasters seem to be dominating as far as roller coasters are concerned, the spirit of wooden roller coasters still lives on. But, it may not be for long. Better enjoy them while they are around.

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