Bottoms Up: Face-down roller coasters in the U.S.

I love roller coasters of all kinds, from the small dips of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to the wild corkscrews of the Batman. But, few roller coasters give me that stomach flipping/weightless feeling (some kind of science involving g forces and negative/zero g) that I get when riding a face-down coaster.

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On a face-down coaster, riders usually board sitting, with an over-head harness and ankle harnesses (Pictured Above). When all passengers are securely fastened, the seats rotate up, so the rider’s back is parallel with the track. This allows you to truly take on a ride head first.

Where can you take on these thrills? Find out below.

1. Manta,  SeaWorld Orlando

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SeaWorld Orlando’s Manta allows riders to travel through air similar to the way manta rays travel through the sea. The first loop is really the kicker. After traveling up a hill, you dip into a forward-starting loop (many roller coasters take you down a hill to begin a loop). The concept causes a weird, yet exciting, feeling of zero g’s. Manta is not for the faint of stomach.

After conquering the first loop, the ride contains a couple of cork screws. You get to see a large portion of the park, as the face-down riding allows you to really notice what’s around you. You even catch a water spray near the end of the ride.

The stand-by queue area is an air-conditioned aquarium featuring a variety of rays, fish, and sea horses. If there’s a long wait, you’ll at least have something to entertain yourself.

In the summer, you might consider riding in the single riders line to make your wait go by quicker. If there is a chance of thunderstorms, ride Manta early. SeaWorld has strict rules on thunderstorms (like most theme parks) in the area regarding their outdoor shows and rides. Thunderstorms typically hit in the afternoon during Orlando summers, so riding early can avoid this problem.There are usually shorter waits around closing time (30 minutes before or so).

Manta is also part of SeaWorld’s Quick Queue, a paid service similar to Disney’s FastPass and Universal’s Express Pass. Quick Queue Unlimited allows you to skip the lines. It does cost extra, but you can ride as many times as you want and at any time.

2. Superman: Ultimate Flight, Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Great America, Six Flags Great Adventure 

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Superman: Ultimate Flight allows riders to actually fly like Superman with its down-facing riding. Most Six Flags have a Superman-type roller coaster, and you can ride this particular type of coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta, Six Flags Great America in Chicago and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J.

I’ve only been able to ride this coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia, but it’s my favorite coaster at the park (a close second: Goliath). When you take the giant loop, riding the coaster on your back is foreign and crazy and awesome.

At Six Flags Over Georgia, Superman is at the back of the park. I recommend going straight to Superman if you arrive in the morning, as many people begin at Georgia Scorcher (front left) and Georgia Cyclone (front right). It’s a can’t miss attraction, so be prepared to wait. Superman: Ultimate Flight is included in Six Flags’ Flash Pass. The pass costs extra, but allows riders to avoid long lines.

3. Tatsu, Six Flags Magic Mountain

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Tatsu is designed to make riders feel like they’re flying like a dragon. With a max speed of 62 miles-per-hour while traveling over a mountain, tree, and rock, it seems they accomplish the feat. Tatsu stands at 17 stories high, giving riders a 2-minute riding frenzy.

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I unfortunately have not been to Magic Mountain (it’s on my bucket list), but this ride seems amazing and insane. You take a 104-foot corkscrew and experience zero g, high speeds, and plenty of twists. Since I can’t describe this ride from a rider’s perspective, take a look at this front-row video of the ride.

Remember: You will lose loose belongings on these types of coasters. Rides like these have compartments where you board the ride to leave loose shoes (flip flops/sandals) and other items. However, the park is not responsible for lost or stolen items (since they offer paid lockers) stored in these compartments. I have never had an item stolen, but I never leave anything of much value here. I try to wear shorts/pants with pockets that can be fastened with buttons or zippers. I’ve held loose items in my hands before (like my debit card or sunglasses), but that’s not particularly safe. There is a strong chance items will fly out of your pocket if your pocket does not fasten. The safest options are to wear bottoms with fastening pockets, leave your items with a party member, or invest in a paid locker. Happy riding!