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Thrill Rides

What was the very first roller coaster like?

Teenagers on a roller coaster smiling with their arms up
© Joe McBride—The Image Bank/Getty Images

What’s the best part of summer? If you’re into thrills, it may just be a roller coaster ride. Did you know that roller coasters have been around for more than 200 years? It’s true! 

The world’s first roller coaster may have been the Aerial Walk in Paris, France. This thrill ride opened in 1817. Riders climbed a staircase that led to the top of a tower. Then they got into a three-wheeled car and rode down a sloped track at about 40 miles per hour (64.4 kilometers per hour). Then the car was towed back up the track for the next riders. 

Not long after the Aerial Walk opened, Coney Island in New York became a resort—a place where people went to relax and have fun. Beginning in the 1820s, hotels, theaters, and restaurants started popping up at Coney Island. Then, in 1884, an inventor named LaMarcus Thompson came up with a new way for Coney Island visitors to have fun: He built a roller coaster or, as he called it, the “Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway.” This was the first roller coaster in the United States.

Like the Aerial Walk, the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway was different from many of today’s roller coasters. Passengers paid five cents (about $1.48 in today’s money) to ride from one end of a 600-foot-long (182.9 meters) track to the other. The ride traveled at only 6 miles per hour (9.7 kilometers per hour). There were no loops, so riders didn’t get to go upside down. Still, the coaster proved to be very popular. By 1900, there were hundreds of roller coasters all over the United States.

Today, there are more than 2,400 roller coasters all over the world! Here are some fast facts about the very best thrill rides.

(Kingda Ka) Dusso Janladde (CC BY-SA 3.0); (Formula Rossa) © Su Wei/; (Steel Dragon) Holiday Point Australia (CC BY 2.0); (The Smiler) Ruth Hartnup (CC BY 2.0)

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Fun Fact

Joey Chestnut smiling and holding up a championship belt that says Nathan’s with a thought bubble that says How did I do that.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images News; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Joey Chestnut celebrates his win at the 2021 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Every year on July 4, the hot dog company Nathan’s Famous hosts a hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. Competitors have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs with buns as they can.  Competitive eaters are a serious bunch. This contest is not recommended for anyone without training first!

In 2021, the men’s and women’s winners were Joey Chestnut, who ate 76 hot dogs, and Michelle Lesco, who ate 30.75 hot dogs. 

Ice Cream Time!

One large bowl and two small bowls of blueberry ice cream with other bowls and bottles of milk
© Shaiith/

What’s better than ice cream on a hot summer day?

Did you know that you can make this sweet treat at home without an ice cream maker? Just get permission from an adult first.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1/3 cup rock salt or kosher salt
  • One resealable plastic bag (quart or gallon size)
  • One plastic storage container with a lid (big enough to hold the filled plastic bag)


  1. Combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in the plastic bag. You can also add extras like chocolate chips or cut-up strawberries. Push out the extra air and seal the bag. Make sure it’s sealed tightly!
  2. Put the ice and salt into the storage container. Then put the filled plastic bag into the storage container. Seal the storage container.
  3. Shake the storage container hard for 7 to 10 minutes, until the liquid has hardened.
  4. Open the container and the bag and enjoy your ice cream!

Off We Go!

© Stock Footage, Inc.—Verve+/Getty Images

What makes a roller coaster go?

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: something that people do because it is enjoyable, entertaining, or pleasant

Definitions provided by
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How many rides can you find?

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