Riding every coaster in a single state isn’t always easy. 

Well, truthfully, sometimes it’s very easy. Three states have zero coasters (Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Delaware), and three more have just one (Alaska and North Dakota, plus Wyoming if you count mountain coasters). Conversely, there are 92 roller coasters in California and 63 across Texas. 

Virginia has 24 coasters, the 12th-most in the nation, but they’re thankfully spread out almost entirely between two parks — Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion — that are separated by just a one-hour drive. 

By visiting two additional family entertainment centers, you can ride every coaster in the Old Dominion. Which I managed to do in just a two-day trip in 2022. 

I’m not going to promise to do this for every state — who am I, the Sufjan Stevens of roller coasters? — but here’s my list of every coaster in the state of Virginia, ranked from worst to best:

Python Pit at Go-Karts Plus (Theme Park Tribune)

24. Python Pit (Go-Karts Plus)

Opened: 2007:

Made by: E&F Miler 

There are dozens of these models at small amusement parks and family entertainment centers across the country, and they may exist solely to inflate coaster enthusiasts’ credit counts. 

In fact, when purchasing the 14 credits ($7) needed for the ride, the Go-Karts Plus woman laughed and said, “Oh, we have another enthusiast.” Guilty as charged. This must happen regularly, considering how Go-Karts Plus is located only 10 miles away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, I’m  

The ride is about as janky as you’d expect. You ascend the 11.5-foot-tall lift hall, go down a drop, a single helix in the center and back around. In this case, four times around.

Great Pumpkin Coaster (Theme Park Tribune)

23. Great Pumpkin Coaster (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1997 (as Taxi Jam)

Made by: E&F Miler

These oval coasters can also be found in small parks, FECs and, unfortunately, in several Cedar Fair parks.

It’s not a bad ride for what it’s trying to be — the first coaster for very small kids — but there are better models that serve the same purpose without feeling this cheap. Cedar Fair can do better.  

It outranks the Python Pit only because the coaster track travels through a giant pumpkin. Be warned, coaster credit hunters: Anyone over 60 inches has to be accompanied by a child to ride, which seems like a rule specifically aimed at keeping enthusiasts out of the line.

22. Twist-N-Shout (Fun Land of Fredericksburg)

Opened: 2018

Made by: SBF Visa

These small-scale, indoor, spinning coasters seem to be the new favorites for FECs. This beats out the E&F Miler coasters only because it’s smoother and offers some nice lighting. It’s also located about an hours’ drive from Kings Dominion and even I feel silly for having gone that far just for this credit.

Grover’s Alpine Express (Theme Park Tribune)

21. Grover’s Alpine Express (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 2009

Made by: Zierer

This 24-foot-tall, 600-foot-long coaster is undoubtedly meant for kids, but it’s a more appropriate kiddie coaster for a major park. That may be why near-exact copies exist in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (Air Grover) and Sesame Place San Diego (Super Grover’s Boxcar Derby). You can expect a smooth ride and the Sesame Street theming may help soothe any kids wary of their first coaster.

Apple Zapple (Theme Park Tribune)

20. Apple Zapple (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 2002 (as Ricochet)

Made by: Mack Rides

A cloned coaster, this is Mack Rides’ Wild Mouse model for large parks (think Coast Rider at Knott’s Berry Farm). You know what you’re getting — hairpin turns, a few drops — but at least the trim brakes don’t hit hard on each turn and you don’t have unnecessarily restrictive shin guards. On the downside, it loads slowly, making it a mediocre ride with a long line.

Anaconda (Theme Park Tribune)

19. Anaconda (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1991

Made by: Arrow Dynamics

This is not in last place, but it’s the first coaster on this list I consider to be actively bad at what it’s setting out to do. 

I’m going to offend coaster enthusiasts with this statement, but I have yet to find an old Arrow looping coaster that I’ve wanted to ride again. Anaconda has the same issues as others, such as uncomfortable over-the-shoulder restraints that cause headbanging and unbearably rough inversions. Not even the admittedly cool dive under the lake can make up for those flaws. 

The second half manages to make things even worse with a series of slow, awkward transitions after the mid-course brake runs. Being rough and boring is just about the worst combination for any coaster. I will celebrate the day that this monstrosity gets the ax.

Woodstock Express station (Theme Park Tribune)

18. Woodstock Express (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1974 (as Scooby Doo)

Made by: Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters 

So how much do I dislike Anaconda? Enough to put the family wooden coaster above it. 

The difference between the two is not only is Woodstock Express is relatively smooth and comfortable, but it provides a satisfying ride experience for its intended audience. Again, sorry to the coaster enthusiasts, but intensity isn’t everything. You’ll get some minor airtime and that’s enough to get the younger kids interested in something bigger.

17. Grizzly (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1982

Made by: Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters

This beats out Woodstock Express because it provides more airtime, which isn’t surprising since it’s about double the height and speed. It doesn’t rank higher, however, because of how rough it has become. The woodsy setting and a few good pops of airtime can’t make up for all that jostling.

Reptilian (Theme Park Tribune)

16. Reptilian (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1988 (as Avalanche)

Made by: Mack Rides

This is one of only four bobsled coasters in the U.S., and the only one I’ve personally experienced. It got some love before the 2022 season with a paint job and a retheme into Reptilian to fit into the new Jungle X-Pedition section. 

The novelty of having coaster cars disconnected from a central track and freely moving through turns is worth experiencing, but it also wears off quickly. If you’re looking for the typical coaster thrills and forces, you won’t find them here, which limits Reptilian’s appeal to being a lower-tier coaster. 

Backlot Stunt Coaster (Theme Park Tribune)

15. Backlot Stunt Coaster (Kings Dominion) 

Opened: 2006 (as The Italian Job: Turbo Coaster)

Made by: Premier Rides

One of the last remnants of Paramount’s ownership of Kings Dominion, Backlot Stunt Coaster is, truthfully, a solid ride for more mild coaster lovers. 

The 40 mph launch sends riders around an upward helix and swerving through police cars and other set pieces that look, vaguely, like an action movie chase scene. Because at one point it was, when it was originally themed around the chase from the 2003 film “The Italian Job.”

But 14 years removed from Cedar Fair stripping out any explicit connection to the film, it feels like they’ve abandoned this to become just another coaster. Rather than distinguishing itself with special effects, all of them seem to have been turned off or removed entirely. I personally think a truly themed coaster would add some nice variety to regional parks (as you’ll see later on this list).   

Tumbili (Theme Park Tribune)

14. Tumbili (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 2022

Made by: S&S Sansei Technologies

The newest coaster at Kings Dominion is also a clone, another S&S Spin Free Spin model that has been the modern-day version of a Vekoma Boomerang.  Seven Six Flags parks have slightly larger models, but Dragon Slayer at Adventureland in Iowa is the same as Tumbili — and all of these have opened in just seven years. 

Kings Dominion sets their Free Spin apart ever so slightly with its Jungle X-Pedition theme, making the supports look like bamboo trees and masking the sound of the vertical lift with a drum loop. Free Spins serve their purpose, offering a somewhat variable ride experience, even a pop of airtime now and again, without taking up too much space — all while being comfortable, which is why it beats rough Arrows and old woodies. But I doubt anyone considers these cookie-cutter models their favorite coaster.

Loch Ness Monster’s interlocking loops, with Alpengeist and Griffon in the background (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

13. Loch Ness Monster (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 1978

Made by: Arrow Dynamics

The first coaster in the world with interlocking loops is truly iconic. But that doesn’t mean it’s still good. 

As with Anaconda, Loch Ness Monster suffers from roughness and those awkward Arrow transitions from a pre-computerized design age. The newer trains that were added in 2018 help alleviate the headbanging and I did enjoy the ride’s first drop, but an old Arrow is still an old Arrow, even in a great setting. It may have moved up in the rankings if its helix tunnel still had any effects.

Racer 75 entrance (Theme Park Tribune)

12. Racer 75 (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1975 (as Rebel Yell)

Made by: Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters

Not only is this the oldest coaster on this list, it also holds a special place in coaster history for being part of the origin story for the American Coaster Enthusiasts. 

I found Racer 75 to be smoother than its younger neighbor Grizzly. This PTC woodie has a simple, out-and-back layout which does deliver airtime, just not enough to outrank the shorter InvadR. It doesn’t help that the racing element is largely dependent on park crowds being large enough to justify loading the second train with riders instead of sending out the train empty.

InvadR (Theme Park Tribune)

11. InvadR (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 2017

Made by: Great Coasters International

Busch Gardens Williamsburg deserves an elite wooden coaster. InvadR doesn’t hit that mark, but I came off thinking it wasn’t nearly as bad as coaster enthusiasts claim. 

Other than the chain lift ending with a pre-drop and a left turn before the real 74-foot enclosed drop, InvadR acts like a typical woodie, delivering some pops of airtime. There’s just not enough of it, as the ride is only around 50 seconds from the end of the lift hill to the final brakes. 

At 48 mph, I’m not sure I buy that this is a “family coaster,” but it’s not trying to be a headliner like Mystic Timbers or other GCI creations. It still delivers more airtime than Racer 75 without the roughness of Grizzly.

Tempesto (Theme Park Tribune)

10. Tempesto (Busch Gardens Williamsburg) 

Opened: 2015

Made by: Premier Rides

This was the first of the Sky Rocket II clones in the SeaWorld chain, later followed by Electric Eel at SeaWorld San Diego and Tigris at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. 

So yes, it’s not original, but if you’re going to have a cloned coaster in your park, make it a Sky Rocket II. The three successive launches eventually get you 150 feet in the air, only to crawl through a heartline roll in an element that I can’t imagine becoming tiresome, alongside its two non-inverting half loops and a full non-inverting loop.

The only downside to some may be the comfort collar restraints. Unwieldy as they are, they’ve never felt uncomfortable to me.

Flight of Fear show building (Theme Park Tribune)

9. Flight of Fear (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 1996 (as Outer Limits: Flight of Fear)

Made by: Premier Rides

Another remnant from the Paramount days, Flight of Fear doesn’t have the most impressive stats for 2022 — 74 feet tall, 54 mph, and four inversions — but like Disney’s Space Mountain, it comes off as more intense for taking place indoors and in the dark.

Unlike Space Mountain, this is a genuinely thrilling coaster on its own, with a spaghetti bowl layout pulling 4.5 Gs, all without being able to see what comes next and with only a lap bar.

Verbolten (Theme Park Tribune)

8. Verbolten (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 2012

Made by: Zierer

I feel like this gets some undeserved hate as retribution for the ride it replaced: the beloved Big Bad Wolf suspended coaster. If you stop and judge Verbolten on its own merits, it’s one of the most technologically-advanced coasters outside of a Disney or Universal park. 

The indoor portion of the ride has three randomized “stories” (really just some effects), offering a major incentive for re-rides. It was also the first North American coaster with a drop tack, predating Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando by seven years.

Dominator’s cobra roll (Theme Park Tribune)

7. Dominator (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 2008 (relocated from defunct Geauga Lake, where it opened in 2000 as Batman Knight Flight)

Made by: Bolliger & Mabillard

B&M floorless coasters are rarely anyone’s favorites, but Dominator sets itself apart. It happens to be the longest floorless coaster in the world (4,210 feet) and has an unusually tall 135-foot loop. 

That’s the first of five inversions along the long layout, and I feel like not packing in more inversions actually helps the ride experience. Putting a little more emphasis on low-to-the-ground speed, especially in its second half, offers a welcome change from the typical B&M floorless formula.

Alpengeist (Theme Park Tribune)

6. Alpengeist (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 1997

Made by: Bolliger & Mabillard

At 195 feet, Aplengeist is still the B&M inverted coaster in the U.S. 25 years after its debut. Its first half packs in four of its six inversions, all while weaving in and out of the deepest ravine at the center of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It’s one of the best examples of the park’s setting enhancing an attraction.

What keeps it down at No. 6 is its second half. It’s become common for the mid-course brakes to come close to completely stopping the train, taking the edge off its last two inversions and its snow-themed trenches.

Griffon (Theme Park Tribune)

5. Griffon (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 2007

Made by: Bolliger & Mabillard

Griffon takes you 205 feet up, holds you at the first drop for a few seconds, then sends you down a vertical drop under a bridge and through an Immelmann loop. Then another vertical drop, another Immelmann, a splashdown, and you’re done. 

Nearly every dive coaster has some version of this ride’s layout, but if the same tricks keep working, why change? Griffon is as smooth and graceful as they come, and it’s always in the conversation for the best dive coaster.

Apollo’s Chariot (Theme Park Tribune)

4. Apollo’s Chariot (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 1999

Made by: Bolliger & Mabillard

Rounding out the quartet of Virginia B&Ms is the company’s first-ever hyper coaster, Apollo’s Chariot. Technically it’s only 170 feet tall, but that 210-foot first drop over the water qualifies it as a hyper. 

These smooth, floater airtime-filled beauties became popular coaster models for a reason, and Apollo’s Chariot pulls off the same graceful intensity with the added bonus of its woodsy setting and maneuvers in and around the water. 

Being the first of its kind also holds it back from a higher spot in this list. Later B&M hypers have provided longer airtime moments than the original as the company learned through experience and if you’re a well-traveled coaster fan, Apollo’s Chariot may seem a tad mild by comparison.  

Twisted Timbers (Theme Park Tribune)

3. Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion)

Opened: 2018

Made by: Rocky Mountain Construction

On first glance, Twisted Timbers may seem like it would be one of the weaker creations from hybrid coaster masters and enthusiast darlings RMC. Nothing could be further from the truth. On this relatively small plot, Twisted Timbers packs in more airtime than some parks have in their entire coaster collections. After the 109-foot-tall barrel roll first drop, your butt will barely touch the seat.

So why is it only No. 3? Two reasons: one, even though I enjoy the ride, I find myself uncomfortably jammed up against the RMC lap bar on those near-constant airtime moments. Second, for as good as Twisted Timbers may be, it’s not unique among RMC hybrids — whereas the No. 2 spot on the list provides a thrill you can’t easily find on other coasters.

Intimidator 305 (Theme Park Tribune)

2. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion) 

Opened: 2010

Made by: Intamin

305 feet tall. 85-degree first drop. 90 miles per hour. I’m not ashamed to admit that this Dale Earnhardt-themed coaster was the first coaster which, as an adult, sort of scared me. After all, it supposedly requires over-the-shoulder restraints to protect riders who have blacked out. 

Its reputation for intensity is well-deserved. Every ride I’ve taken on this coaster gave me a greyout, where your peripheral vision is filled with fuzzy spots, sort of like TV static, thanks to the positive G-forces. That sounds scary, but having momentary greyouts on coasters is not uncommon — though finding a ride that does it consistently on the same element is, at least to me.

My greyouts happened during the first helix after the drop and my vision didn’t fully return until the large airtime hill under the lift. After that, I305 is all about speed and sudden shifts in direction, with delightfully jarring transitions that whip you from one side to another with little warning. 

Coaster enthusiasts appear divided on I305, with its detractors typically bemoaning its lack of airtime compared to other giga coasters (meaning over 300 feet tall). To me, that’s short-sighted and assumes that every elite coaster experience needs to be similar. I say incredible speed and pulling positive Gs can still be fun.

Pantheon’s vertical spike (Theme Park Tribune)

1. Pantheon (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Opened: 2022

Made by: Intamin 

This may ruffle some feathers, but the newest Busch Gardens coaster also happens to be Virginia’s best. 

It’s not uncomfortable for anyone, unlike Twisted Timbers and Intimidator 305. Varied elements appeal to just about every rider: speed, hangtime-filled inversions, floater airtime, ejector airtime, and even a thrilling near-miss element on a Zero-G stall.

In fact, out of the elements in all the coasters I’ve discussed in the list, there are none I like more than when Pantheon launches you backward over its bunny hill, providing serious ejector airtime. 

Pantheon is the complete package and one will please hardcore enthusiasts and the causal fan alike. For now, it’s the king of Virginia’s coaster lineup.

DISCLOSURE: These rankings are based on my own opinion and perspective. I paid for my own tickets to each of the parks and rides mentioned in this list.