Kingda Ka, in Jackson, New Jersey, is the world's tallest roller coaster. The U-shaped structure in the background here is the ride's drop tower—a dizzying 127 meters (418 feet).
Photograph by Dusso Janladde, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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    On May 21, 2005, Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest roller coaster at 139 meters (456 feet) opened at Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey. Kingda Ka also has the world’s longest drop—cars plummet 127 meters (418 feet) from the top of the ride’s U-shaped drop tower.
     
    The world’s earliest roller coasters were probably “Russian Mountains,” wooden sled tracks built on ice mounds around St. Petersburg, Russia, in the 17th century. The first modern roller coasters developed along with railroads. In fact, the second railroad ever built in the U.S. became the first roller coaster when the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in Pennsylvania charged people 50 cents to take a ride on its coal-delivery cars. The first roller coaster engineered as an amusement park ride was the “Switchback Railway” in Coney Island, New York, in 1884.
     
    Kingda Ka, as of April 2014, is the world’s tallest roller coaster, but roller coaster enthusiasts take their fun seriously and have many other rankings. Formula Rossa, a roller coaster in the United Arab Emirates, is the fastest: It zips around a track at 240 kilometers per hour (149 miles per hour). The world’s steepest roller coaster is Takabisha, in Fujiyoshida, Japan, whose drop angle is 121 degrees. The roller coaster with the most inversions (twists or loops) is The Smiler, in Staffordshire, England, where riders twist and turn 14 times in a single ride.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    amusement park Noun

    recreational facility with games, food, and mechanical rides.

    coal Noun

    dark, solid fossil fuel mined from the earth.

    enthusiast Noun

    a fan or supporter.

    inversion Noun

    act or circumstance of being upside-down.

    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    mine Verb

    to extract minerals from the Earth.

    plummet Verb

    to fall sharply.

    railroad Noun

    road constructed with metal tracks on which trains travel.

    roller coaster Noun

    small track with open, quickly moving train cars, found at many amusement parks.

    sled Noun

    vehicle used to travel across ice or snow, consisting of a flat platform mounted on blades called runners.

    steep Adjective

    extreme incline or decline.