Did you know the first roller coaster was invented in 18th century Russia? Originally named Katalnaya Gorka, or “sliding mountain,” the ride was constructed almost entirely of wood, and was not securely fastened to the track. This rough engineering lead to frequent crashes and derailments. It wasn’t until nearly a century later that modern roller coasters and amusement parks began to take shape. With the establishment of parks like Disneyland and Six Flags, amusement parks and their roller coasters have continued to excite and inspire their fans.
Finding the perfect gift for a die-hard roller coaster fan can be challenging. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of items. You can rest easy knowing you’ve found a one-of-a-kind gift for your roller coaster enthusiast. From detailed historical accounts of some of the most famous parks and rides throughout history, to light-hearted t-shirts, there is something for every coaster aficionado.
1) Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park, by Jennifer Sopko
Fifty miles east of Pittsburgh lies the amusement park that sparked a long history of roller coasters in Pennsylvania. Around 1878, Idlewild was established by the Mellow family. Through the first half of the 20th century the park expanded rapidly, and all the while remained family-owned for over 100 years. It is the oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania history.
Over the years, the park has expanded to include several renowned roller coasters, as well a water park. Soak Zone was originally a bath house, but in 1985 slides were added. In more recent years, the park’s management has added a lazy river and heated wave pool. The park is home to one of the only Fred Rogers attractions based on his television show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Famous rides like Hootin’ Holler, modeled after a classic western town, and Confusion Hill, an optical illusion attraction, continue to draw visitors by the thousands every year. Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park takes readers into the detailed upbringing of Pennsylvania’s first ever amusement park.
2) Millenium Force Roller Coaster Poster
As one of the most iconic roller coasters to date, the Millenium Force holds a place on every coaster lover’s bucket list. To ride this logic defying coaster is to forever be marked by its twists and turns. And for the die-hard fan, there’s this Millenium Force Roller Coaster Poster to hang in their space and remember when they tested their stomach on this legendary ride. It’s the perfect holiday gift for any roller coaster enthusiast.
3) Six Flags Great America, by Steven W. Wilson
Six Flags Great America is the second of two Marriott Corporation themed parks. It was originally opened by Marriott as “Great America” in Gurnee, IL on May 29, 1976, but was acquired by Six Flags just a few years after opening.
The park is divided into six subsections, each designed to align with an era of America’s past: Hometown Square is based on early 20th century Midwestern small towns, County Fair plays off the early 20th century rural county fair, Yukon territory resembles a logging camp in the Canadian Yukon or Alaska, Yankee Harbor is a 19th-century inspired New England port based off Cape Cod, Orleans Place is modeled off the French Quarter in New Orleans, and Carousel Plaza at the front of the park is centered around the double-decker Columbia Carousel.
Today the park has over 16 roller coasters and a 20-acre waterpark named Hurricane Harbor. In 2017, the park saw over 3 million visitors, making it one of the top 20 amusement parks in North America for attendance. In Six Flags Great America by Steven W. Wilson, amusement park fans will take a deep dive into the history of one of the county’s most iconic amusement parks.
4) The Golden Age of Roller Coasters in Vintage Postcards, by David W. Francis and Diane Demali Francis
Any coaster lover will be familiar with the most terrifying roller coasters in American history: Blue Streak at Cedar Point, Kingda Ka at Six Flags, Intimidator 305 at King’s Dominion, among others. It wasn’t until 1919 (when the work of John Miller hit the market) that newer technologies of underfriction allowed for coasters to take sharper turns at greater speeds. Less than ten years later, the historic Cyclone opened at Coney Island, and it was one of the first to implement these new heart-pounding techniques. By the mid-to-late-20th century, inventors figured out how to invert riders and introduced an entirely new era of twisting and turning roller coasters across the nation.
While the Golden Age of roller coasters may have passed, the mark they left on the industry is everlasting. In The Golden Age of Roller Coasters in Vintage Postcards, coauthors David W. Francis and Diane Demali Francis examine the history of roller coasters through a collection of unique images, looking at their evolution and the public’s growing love for them. It’s a read no coaster lover will want to miss.
5) Images of America: Maryland’s Amusement Parks, by Jason Rhodes
For 130 years, Maryland has claimed one of the richest histories of amusement parks and roller coasters in the country. There are only five remaining today, but nearly three dozen have come and gone, helping to shape Maryland’s definition of thrill and adrenaline. Parks like Glen Echo, Gwynn Oak, Pen Mar, and The Enchanted Forest are fan favorites. Cabin John Park was the first amusement park in Maryland, opening in Montgomery County in 1876. This park helped mold Maryland into a training ground for roller coaster legend L.A. Thompson and carousel connoisseur Gustav Dentzel. Trimper’s Rides and Amusements in Ocean City is the oldest of the parks still running. It first opened in 1902, and gives enthusiasts one of the most authentic amusement park experiences they could have.
While not all parks survived the 20th century, their memories live on through more than 200 images delicately preserved in this volume. Author Jason Rhodes invites readers to take a glimpse through a multitude of images that chronicle the history of amusement parks in the state in Images of America: Maryland’s Amusement Parks.
6) Springlake Amusement Park, by Douglas Loudenback
Springlake Amusement Park excited the public in Oklahoma City from 1924 to 1981. The park was opened by Roy Stanton with the intention of being a place for picnickers and swimmers to congregate and beat the summer heat. Springlake was an instant hit – so much so that just a few years after it’s opening, Stanton expanded the park to include rides. The legendary Big Dipper was built in 1929. This ride would become the pinnacle of the park for the next 50 years.
Springlake was most popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s, attracting several top performers of the time. Names like Johnny Cash, The Righteous Brothers, The Beach Boys, and Jerry Lee Lewis are just a few of the artists who rocked the park’s stage. Despite its growing popularity, admission remained free. Ride and pool access were pay as you go, making this the prime way for people in Oklahoma to spend their free time. The park closed for good in 1981, but the legacy still lives on thanks to the remnants of the park that can still be found on the property today, and well-researched books like Douglas Loudenback’s Springlake Amusement Park.
7) Early Amusement Parks of Orange County, by Richard Harris
California may be most known for the magical and iconic Disneyland, but what most visitors may not know is that California actually has a long history of amusement parks. Author Richard Harris focuses in on one of the most famed regions of The Golden State for its history in the amusement parks industry: Orange County. Early Amusement Parks of Orange County delves into the long-standing history of the parks to the east and south of Los Angeles and the lasting impact they left on the history of California as well as the evolution of amusement parks.
8) “This Is My Roller Coaster Shirt” T-shirt
The only way to read a genuine roller coaster shirt is upside down. That’s why this t-shirt has printed on it in blocky lettering “this is my roller coaster shirt” upside down. When a roller coaster junkie is gracefully in their element, taking a corkscrew loop with their feet pointed toward the sky, onlookers will be able read the message. It will undoubtedly bring a smile to the face of your roller coaster lover this holiday season, and give them the opportunity to show their love for amusement parks both on the rides and off.
9) Western New York Amusement Parks, by Rose Ann Hirsch
Coney Island is just one of many historical and thrilling amusement parks in New York. Local businessmen saw an opportunity with the rising popularity of amusement parks worldwide. They created Celoron Park, Crystal Beach Park, and others to try to compete with the demand for thrilling rides. Not only did they meet the demand, but proved New York to be grounds for some of the best amusement parks in history. Shortly after, Glen Park, Darien Lake, and Fantasy Island joined the rank as some of New York’s most beloved amusement parks. Roller coasters like Coney Island’s Cyclone, the Silver Comet, and the Ride of Steel prove New York isn’t just a hub for parks, but a thrill seeker’s paradise.
In Western New York Amusement Parks, author Rose Ann Hirsch examines the history of amusement parks in the western side of the state, noting how some grew to be the most iconic parks of the twentieth century.
Giving one of these amusement park and roller coaster gifts to your coaster lover this holiday season will make their heart race as much as their favorite coaster does. Give them a present they’re certain to cherish.