For the Love of an Upside-Down Coaster

Sometimes it's the kids who need coaxing onto the coasters. Here's how one mom got her son over his roller coaster fears.

As my son edged into his teen years, his fear of heights still very real, I started to worry that he would not acquire a critical teen skill: the ability to ride any roller coaster, no matter how high, no matter how fast.

Hoping to change that, I took him to the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, home to 17 coasters, each more incredible than the next. He would either learn to love the thrill of a coaster, or spend a long, boring weekend sitting on a bench with his feint-of-stomach dad while his (younger) sister and I lost our voices screaming as we raced along the tracks.

Overcoming Fear 

Overcoming his fear of coasters was never high on Evan’s list of things to do, but he would squirm uncomfortably as his friends argued over which ride at Six Flags Great America was best. I wanted him to love coasters as much as I do, so in this case, peer pressure gave me some hope.

He started the day a little leery… and ended it by dragging all of us onto the Top Thrill Dragster, a ride that takes you from zero to 120 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds, shoots you 42 stories into the air, then lets gravity pull you back to earth at 100 miles per hour. It was an experience even I hadn’t planned on having!

The key to his success: starting slow and giving him few alternatives.

We walked into Cedar Point and spent some time getting the feel of the place, checking out each coaster we passed. After rejecting several, we settled on the Iron Dragon, a relatively tame coaster with a macho name. Each car holds four people—securely, with shoulder harnesses—and is suspended beneath the track. It’s considered an intermediate ride, so the speed is a relatively tame 40 miles per hour and there are no loops, but it’s fast enough to be fun. I held my breath as we stepped off the ride, waiting to hear his reaction.

“That was kind of cool,” he said in his understated 13-year-old way.

My husband, who believes higher is better when it comes to coasters, gets queasy on the more twisted, serpentine rides. So he sat out when we hit the looped coasters.

I should have sat out too when Evan suggested the Mantis.

This coaster requires screaming passengers to stand as it propels them through bone-rattling, brain scrambling loops and turns at 60 miles per hour. I came off with a throbbing headache, bent eyeglasses and a vow never to try that again. Evan pronounced it his favorite coaster at Cedar Point.

If it wasn’t clear at that moment that I had succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, I knew I had created a coaster crazy kid as our three days at Cedar Point drew to a close. Our plan was to ride all 17 coasters during the trip. When we checked the list at the end of the third day, we realized we had missed one, the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. No big dips, no huge hills, no upside down moments. Just the sort of tame ride he might have chosen before his coaster weekend. Not anymore.

“That was really boring,” he said as we stepped off.

Planning Tip: Most coasters have size limits. You can’t be too small—52 inches for the more thrilling rides—or too big. If your waist is a little large or you’re really tall, test the fit in the seat at the front of the line before wasting an hour in line only to be ejected from the ride because the belt or shoulder harness won’t fasten securely.

Destinations: Sandusky

Themes: Amusement Parks, Family Travel

User Comments

Gotta love Cedar Point! I was the same way about roller coasters when I was that age. My mom talked me into going on one, and I complained about it the whole time we stood in line. After the ride I wanted to go again! and again!