12 Fast Facts: Ups & Downs from Roller Coaster History

Ever since their first appearance in the earlier decades of the 19th century, roller coasters have been raising the bar at a rapid pace. The humble mini-train poking along on wooden tracks has been transformed into an insane collection of massive, fast-flying thrill rides that make even the most daring take a deep breath before locking in. Roller coaster production isn’t slowing down soon. Get to know the fascinating ups and downs of roller coaster history before taking your family to the theme park this summer with these 12 super-fast facts.

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  • Roller coasters were inspired in part by “gravity railroads” mining companies used to deliver coal downhill to locations many miles away. The earliest thrill-seekers paid to ride with the goods.
  • The most direct inspiration for the modern roller coaster comes from France, where rides consisting of small trains on wooden tracks were built for amusement, and daring loops intrigued daredevils.
  • In Paris, in the middle of the 19th century, “centrifugal coasters” appeared. These consisted of a long drop to gather speed, with a full loop in the center that guided the car around using centrifugal force.
  • The earliest “looping coasters” were known for being especially dangerous. Many caused whiplash.
  • The first official “scenic” roller coaster opened in 1884 on the now famous peninsula of Coney Island in Brooklyn. Slower, safe and popular, it guided riders through passageways and painted scenes.
  • Coney Island outdid itself with The Cyclone in 1927, a wooden roller coaster that still operates today.

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  • After the Great Depression, amusement parks declined for decades. Roller coasters nearly fell off the map until an upswing in the economy paved the way for Americans to enjoy theme parks again.
  • Disneyland set up shop in the mid-fifties in California. Its main attraction: the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
  • There are nearly 900 roller coasters currently operating in North America. That’s less than half of the roller coasters operating in Asia, and still less than the total number currently operating in Europe.
  • The tallest roller coaster in the world is Kingda Ka at Six Flags in New Jersey. At 456 ft. tall, the giant roller coaster also boasts the longest free-falling drop in the world, kicking off with a 418-ft. drop.
  • While Kingda Ka is also the fastest roller coaster in the United States, it comes in second in the world rankings to Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates. Rossa tops out at 149 mph.
  • The fan-voted best theme park for roller coasters in America backs up Cedar Point’s claim that it’s the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” However, many thrill-seekers say Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey has a higher concentration of the best roller coasters in the world, including Kingda Ka.

Before you think about setting off on your theme park adventure, make sure you’ve got all the gear you need to enjoy a flawless vacation. Shop luggage, totes, apparel, electronics and so much more for your family trip.

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Christopher Columbus

Christopher-ColumbusOctober’s biggest celebration may be Halloween, but trick-or-treating isn’t the only event happening this month. It’s also the time when we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ trip to the New World with Columbus Day. You probably know most of the major facts about the explorer’s most noteworthy voyage. However, did you know that only one of his three ships’ names is accurate. Or did you know that he tried to find financial backers in three other countries before the Spanish throne funded him?

In honor of Columbus Day, here are some more wild facts you might not know.

Christopher Columbus wasn’t the explorer’s real name
He hailed from Genoa, and his name in Italian was probably Cristoforo Colombo. Other languages have translated his name in different ways, including the Spanish Cristobal Colón.  Even in his native Genoa, details about his true name are foggy. In the 1490’s, spellings weren’t standardized and record-keeping was tougher. We could be celebrating Colombo Day in October if it weren’t for English and American writers who wanted to make the explorer’s name more familiar to their readers!

The Niña and the Pinta aren’t accurate names either
In fact, people who think they know all three of Columbus’ most famous ships are only 33 percent accurate. The Santa Maria was indeed one ship’s name, but the other two famous names we know today were nicknames. The Niña was christened the Santa Clara, but the little ship soon acquired the nickname La Niña, or “little girl”. This was a reference that might also have been a nod to its owner, Juan Niño. Historians aren’t sure what the Pinta was named, but its colorful nickname roughly translates to “painted lady.”

Christopher Columbus didn’t go to Spain first
The explorer wanted a wealthy backer for a trip across the Atlantic, but the most affluent prospects at the time were royal families. He spoke to Portuguese, English and French monarchs and was turned down by all of them. The Portuguese told him his calculations were off, and told him he would never find India in the time Columbus allotted for the trip. They were right – Columbus never reached India by sailing west, but he did reach the Americas, and was one of the first Europeans known to do so. If you’d like, you can celebrate Leif Eriksson Day. It commemorate the Norse explorer whom historians believe landed in Newfoundland about 500 years before Columbus’ voyage. It’s traditionally celebrated on October 9, a little before Columbus Day.

The explorer made four trips to the Americas, not one
Although his most famous trip was his first in 1492, he also made the months-long voyage in 1493, 1498 and 1502. Each trip brought more ships than the last. His travels around the turn of the 16th century helped spark a passion for exploring and a rush to the territories the Europeans called the New World.

Christopher Columbus always believed he’d found his destination and not a continent new to Europeans
He was convinced the silks, spices and dyes from lands east of Europe were still to be found west of the Caribbean islands and Central American coastlines where he put to port. It wasn’t until after his passing that maps with the new islands and shores had a name to put to the unfamiliar land: America.

Image Credit: oc-breeze.com