The roller coaster. A pinnacle of modern engineering and architecture. A high technology machine with the sole purpose of ensuring safe and efficient thrills and chills. Works of art. Tools of storytelling. And really, really fun.

The first roller coasters in New Jersey were built in the 1890s. From the Palisades to the Jersey Shore, those simple machines utilized gravity and friction (and a little bit of luck) to allow leisure seekers to experience a new adventure.

In honor of National Roller Coaster Day (August 16th), I wanted to create a compendium of every roller coaster in the great Garden State. Even more ambitiously, I decided to rank them from "worst" to "best" - which turned out to be a more daunting experience than the tallest lift hill and fastest coaster launch.

Statistics

All roller coaster lists and statistics here are courtesy of the Roller Coaster Database at RCDB.com.

New Jersey is home to exactly 50 operating roller coasters, as of August 2022. That ties us for fifth of all states in the U.S. (California 86, Florida 56, Texas 56, Pennsylvania 55, New York 50)

Those 50 thrill rides are split among 14 theme parks across the state:
14Six Flags Great Adventure — Jackson, N.J.
7Morey's Piers — Wildwood, N.J.
5Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park — East Rutherford, N.J.
4Casino Pier — Seaside Heights, N.J.
4Playland"s Castaway Cove — Ocean City, N.J.
2Clementon Park & Splashworld — Clementon, N.J.
2Gillian"s Wonderland Pier — Ocean City, N.J.
2Jenkinson's Boardwalk — Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.
2Keansburg Amusement Park — Keansburg, N.J.
2Land Of Make Believe — Hope, N.J.
2Steel Pier — Atlantic City, N.J.
2Storybook Land — Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
1Fantasy Island Amusement Park — Beach Haven, N.J.
1Funplex (Mt Laurel) — Mount Laurel, N.J.
1iPlay America — Freehold, N.J.
1Mountain Creek — Vernon, N.J.

In terms of geographical density, New Jersey has approximately 5.7 roller coasters per 1,000 square miles. Number one in the country! And it's not even close — Maryland comes in second with 1.7 coasters per 1,000 square miles.

And in the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey has the second highest per capita roller coaster count — 5.4 coasters per 1 million population. New Hampshire beats us with 8.6 coasters per 1 million residents.

Ranking Methodology

To be completely honest, I have ridden very few roller coasters on this list. (An oversight I must remedy in the coming months and years.) I am a huge coaster enthusiast. And a former Great Adventure ride operator. I also did hours of extensive research, consulting the public, coaster enthusiasts, and park employees for information and insight. I have embarked on countless "virtual rides" of each coaster, watching on-ride point-of-view videos across the internet.

Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media
Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media
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I am sure every single person out there will disagree with something in my analysis and rankings. You might disagree with a lot. But that's OK — everyone has their own opinions regarding theme park rides, and that's part of the fun!

To make my ranking of all 50 roller coasters in New Jersey, I started by assigning each ride a score, based on a subjective analysis of two important elements:
—Is it thrilling?
—Is it fun?

Bonus points are added for meeting any of these criteria:
—Does the ride offer a spectacular view?
—Does the ride have special, high-quality theming?
—Does the ride offer something unique that other NJ coasters don't have?
—Is the ride world-class, world-renowned, or record-breaking?

Penalty points are deducted for any of the following:
—Is the ride overly rough or uncomfortable?
—Is the ride an exact copy or clone of another coaster?
—Does the ride have a maximum height restriction?

That last point deserves explanation. You may not be able to tell on the radio or the web, but I stand at a towering 6'6" tall — 78 inches. There are several roller coasters in New Jersey that have set a maximum height restriction, based on manufacturer suggestions. I consider such a rule to be bad design, not an abundance of safety. Since this is my list, any coaster that I would not be allowed to ride must lose points.

One more note: I am only ranking currently operating roller coasters in New Jersey. (According to RCDB.com.) So apologies to fans of the Great American Scream Machine, Rolling Thunder, Chiller, Lightning Loops, Jet Star, Star Jet, Jack Rabbit, and Toboggan Slide — they're not on the list. Rest In Pieces.

Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure, circa 2002. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
Rolling Thunder at Six Flags Great Adventure, circa 2002. (Dan Zarrow, Townsquare Media)
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Coming Soon

It is worth mentioning two new roller coasters have been announced at New Jersey amusement parks for 2023.

Steel Pier in Atlantic City recently announced a new spinning wild mouse style coaster for next year. They are going to hold a contest to decide on a name.

And construction is underway on another spinning coaster at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township. The long-delayed Cinder Roller Coaster will be New Jersey's 8th from the SBF Visa Group company.

Assuming those two rides open on schedule, and no current coasters close down, New Jersey's roller coaster census will increase to 52 next year.

Honorable Mention

My original intention was to rank every single roller coaster in the state, from #1 to #50. But unfortunately, this task became logistically impossible. There are just so many kiddie coasters, family coasters, and spinning coasters that are too similar. Plus, there really is not a single bad roller coaster in New Jersey —I just don't have the heart to rank one in "last" place.

Instead, I settled on a detailed top 30. Here are the other 20 coasters in New Jersey that absolutely still deserve honorable mention and a thunderous round of applause (listed alphabetically):
—Dragon Coaster, Clementon Park & Splashworld
—Dragon Wagon, Gillian's Wonderland Pier
—Freedom Ride, iPlay America [Virtual Ride]
—Hang Ten, Fantasy Island Amusement Park
—Harley Quinn Crazy Train, Six Flags Great Adventure [Virtual Ride]
—Hot Tamales, Casino Pier [Virtual Ride]
—Joker, Six Flags Great Adventure [Virtual Ride]
—Loco Motion, Steel Pier [Virtual Ride]
—Pirates Gold Rush, Playland's Castaway Cove [Virtual Ride]
—Pirates Hideaway, Casino Pier [Virtual Ride]
—Rollies Coaster, Morey's Piers [Virtual Ride]
—Sea Serpent, Keansburg Amusement Park [Virtual Ride]
—Skull Mountain, Six Flags Great Adventure [Virtual Ride]
—Thriller, Land Of Make Believe [Virtual Ride]
—Tidal Wave, Jenkinson's Boardwalk [Virtual Ride]
—Timmy's Half-Pipe Havoc, Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park [Virtual Ride]
—Twisted Timbers, Land Of Make Believe [Virtual Ride]
—Wacky Worm, Gillian's Wonderland Pier [Virtual Ride]
—Whirlwind, Playland's Castaway Cove [Virtual Ride]
—Wild Whizzer, Morey's Piers [Virtual Ride]

The Top 30 Roller Coasters in New Jersey

Happy National Roller Coaster Day! The state of New Jersey is home to the 5th most roller coasters in the United States, spread across 14 thrilling theme parks.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist and Chief Roller Coaster Test Rider for Townsquare Media New Jersey. His first roller coaster was the Great American Scream Machine. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.

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