8 Coasters That Were Not What I Thought They Were Going To Be

As much as I preach avoiding hype and spoilers for coasters before you've ridden them at all costs, between the inevitability of seeing stuff on social media and the portfolio of expectations we build up for certain coaster types and layouts after years and years of riding similar things, it's really hard not to go onto a coaster for the first time without some level of expectation in your brain. 

It's the same as knowing you're going into a horror film you expect it to be scary, or going into a comedy expecting to laugh. We ride B&M hyper coasters and expect airtime, we ride a Volare and expect to follow it with a trip to the chiropractors and we ride a Disney coaster expecting some level of world class narrative and theming. It's just how it is. So then how refreshing is it when your expectations are completely blown out of the water? There's nothing I love more than riding a coaster for the first time and having my expectations completely subverted. Even if I ride something expecting it to be great and it turns out to not be, it's quite humbling to know that even after riding hundreds and hundreds of coasters I can still be surprised. 

Today I wanted to talk through the top eight coasters that really were not what I thought they were going to be. Whether they ended up not living up to the fantasy I'd designed for them in my head or not being nearly as good as said coaster should be on paper, this list is a real mixed bag of coaster experiences that all have something in common - the surprise factor! And spoilers ahead, obviously.

Kicking off with a coaster I will never quite get over my first ride on and that is TRON LightCycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland. Space/futuristic themes have never really been my jam and having ridden a variety of motorbike style coasters in my day I'd made up my mind without even realising it that this was going to ride like one of those except with some neon lights and maybe a cool soundtrack. I had completely underestimated this coaster in every sense of the word. 

There were two things that shocked me about TRON. Firstly, the launch. The launch of this thing kicks ass. Not like the rattly wet fart of a launch you'd find of the Vekoma Motorbike Coasters of old, oh no. This thing has real bite, a lurging surge of energy right out the gate that made me immediately sit up and pay attention (as much as one can when strapped into those motorbike riding position restraints. And secondly was the theming. A few neon lights I thought. HA! Thing is just...I can't even describe it it literally feels like being inside a computer. It's completely psychedelic, retro yet futuristic and otherwordly at the same time and one of the only instances I can recall of a coaster forcing an involuntary "WOW" out of me. 


Urgh, this is a sad tale. Like many of us thirty-somethings, I grew up watching those travel channel "WORLD'S MOST XTREME RIDESS!!" documentaries, of which King's Dominion's Volcano: The Blast Coaster featured heavily. An inverted, double-launched coaster that sends you hurtling up and out of a WHOLE VOLCANO?! This thing looked absolutely incredible and the travel channel presenter guy enthusiastically agreed, spouting off impressive fact after impressive fact about this feat of engineering that had Volcano firmly on my must-ride list for years. I was psyched. 

Yh so...man it sucked. One of the most disappointing coaster experiences of my life. Imagine waiting ten years to finally get on a coaster only for it to just...urgh, it's so MEH! The launches barely did anything, the whole ride just kind of pootled around not really knowing what to do with itself and to make things even worse it's just really, really ugly. Awkward supports all over the place sticking out at strange angles, a poor layout centred around an admittedly very cool idea that just didn't really pay off nor up to the hype. Boo. 

If there's something I absolutely adore about theme parks and something that keeps my enthusiasm alive it's discovering a hidden gem, something that has absolutely no business being as fab as it is and yet it exists anyway, sitting there as a shining (yet hidden) beacon of fabulousness. When we visited Karl's Erlebnisdorf (I know you're probably all very bored of me telling you how fab it was at this point so I won't bang on any more haha) I had heard of K2. I knew it was one of those abc rides tube coaster things similar to one I'd ridden previously at BillyBird Park in the Netherlands so I had a vague idea that it would be something like that: pleasant, fun but very much a one and done. 

So not only did this thing have a fully fledged narrative beginning with an immersive, themed queueline plus a wonderful pre-lift hill dark ride section showcasing how potatoes grow (?!) but the coaster itself is just...it's mad? The trains are very exposed with just seatbelts so you feel every inch of speed it delivers, there's full blown floater airtime hills, it's smooth as butter and it has some beautifully forceful transitions and helixes. Plus more theming (animatronic...potato guy? I dunno...) and gorgeous landscaping around the external parts too. It's just so wonderful and I'm so glad it exists. 


Lord knows I love me a weird coaster, and Skara Sommarland's Tranan delivers the weird by the bucketload. The world's only S&S free fly coaster, riders sit what I will describe as log flume style, straddled across a bench-type seat lovingly nestled bum-to-crotch on either side of the track, suspended on a kind of rotating gondola that I'm guessing is intended to swing elegantly around as you traverse the layout. Also there's a giant stork bird thing carrying you (yh I dunno either). 

Obviously this drew my attention because it's utterly, utterly bizarre and unlike any other coaster I've ever ridden but all I can say is there is a reason there's only one of these. As much as the idea is unique and offers something very different to your regular coaster experience, the ride as a thrilling, roller coaster type attraction leaves a lot to be desired. You kind of spend the whole ride waiting for it to do something as it jerks cumbersomely around the track and any speed or sensation you start to feel is quickly nullified as the train get distracted trying to do something else weird. It's just a bit overcomplicated for what it is and as a dark ride system that takes you through show scenes and things I could see this being really fun, but as a coaster it's garbage.



I have been known to be partial to a spinning coaster or two and actually quite enjoy the likes of a Reverchon spinning wild mouse or a Maurer Sohne spinner. Approaching Tornado at Bakken, an Intamin spinning coaster, I was particularly captivated by the charming entrance to the ride wherein which we see the track bursting through the rooftop of a barn (something about coasters partially peeking out of buildings gives me serotonin - more on that shortly) and I joined the queue charmed but not really expecting anything other than a good old-fashioned fun spinning coaster. 

Oh. My. God. Anybody who has ridden this insane coaster knowns exactly what I mean when I say this thing is pure chaos from start to finish. From the near-on launch of the violent lift hill that basically boots you down the first drop to the absolutely disorienting rest of the ride, this coaster left me utterly breathless between laughing my head off and trying desperately (and failing) to get my bearings for just a second. It's just ridiculous. Why is it so chaotic? Why is it so violent? What even happened? God knows. 

Another coaster that is entirely my fault for building up a fantasy in my head that it didn't live up to is Powder Keg at Silver Dollar City. This coaster and its tumultuous history had fascinated me for a long time. Between its rustic Wild West theming, to it being a launch coaster (an instant way to capture my attention,) to the fact that it start life as a water ride called Buzzsaw Falls, I was buzzing to ride Powder Keg and it was one of the attractions I was most looking forward to riding at Silver Dollar City. 

Urgh, what a let down. It just doesn't really do much? The launch is forgettable, the layout is forgettable, aside from the stunning views and the fact I was disappointed with my ride I'm surprised I remember anything about this coaster at all. I can't say what exactly I thought this would be or why I was so enthralled by it...I think it has something to do with the fact that this is exactly the kind of coaster I'd love to build in RollerCoaster Tycoon so there was something exciting to me about riding such a thing in the real world? But yh, not good, not good at all. 


Gemini is a strange one in that apart from the listing on RCDB informing me of its existence, I'd heard literally nothing else about this coaster. Not that it was good, not that it was bad, not that it was mediocre, just a whole lot of nothing. Looking at it when we arrived I thought it looked a little odd - steel/wood hybrid coaster with a futuristic theme that opened in the 70s, most likely will ride like those old racing woodies. Not terrible, fun while you're on them but not particularly memorable either. A one and done as we say in the business. 

But lordy lord this is one of the most 'fun' coasters I've ever been on. Just a joy to ride and something we had such a blast riding we ran straight back around multiple times to do it again. Racing coasters always have that extra level of fun because of the competitive element, like you cheering and hooting and hollering will somehow urge your train to go faster, and there's something I love about that. Combined with the fact that Gemini had a genuinely fun layout that would be great even without the racing element adding a veil of distraction to the experience and I was absolutely blown away by just how much I enjoyed it after thinking this would be just another cred-box ticking exercise for me. 

(Source: Diary of a Roller Coaster Girl)

Remember earlier when I said I'm a sucker for an indoor coaster that has a 'peekaboo' element where the track is outside of the building for a little bit? Maskerade at Wiener Prater duped me big time. Between the cheeky bit of track popping out the top, the lurid pink facade and track and the beautiful art deco/retro theatre style entrance I was completely bought into the fact that this was going to be fabulous, and if the outside had charmed me this much just think what treats and wonders await inside!

Yh turns out it's a a disco ball in a shed. Sure, it's got an elevator lift-hill which adds a certain je ne sais quois, but apart from that it pretty much just pootles around in the dark not really doing much. It's a spinning coaster that doesn't really even spin. It's just SUCH a shame because the 'theme' from the outside is so fab and it does a great job of luring you in only for it to be totally lacklustre once inside. Let down and very much an instance of a coaster being a much more impressive off-ride experience than on the damn thing. 


That's eight just off the top of my head but I'm sure there's a ton more if I really put my mind to it! Like I've said over and over again, I do my absolute utmost to not buy into hype or put too much faith into the experiences of others because at the end of the day we're all different and enjoy and appreciate different things. But that said, there's only so much we can do and as creatures that learn from experience it's hard not to hype stuff up for ourselves, so I do try to see the funny side.

What are some coasters that weren't what you thought they were going to be? Are there any coasters you thought were going to be mediocre that you came off loving? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat. 

Talk later xoxo,


  1. I love Gemini, and it's been distressing to see a lot of people calling for its removal in recent years. Nothing earth shattering, sure, but one of my favorites there.

    I go to Silver Dollar City every year and I find Powder Keg to be very hit or miss for me personally. Sometimes I go and I'm in love with the thing (and it was at one point in my teen years my number 1 coaster). Other times I go and I want to love it but it just doesn't click for me. Even on the same visit I've flip flopped-I had an incredible night ride on my last trip, only to have a nothing ride on it the next day. I can't explain it.

    I wanted to love Tron, but it just felt so short. Maybe it's nostalgia talking, but give me Space Mountain any day.

    Volcano wasn't amazing but it was iconic and weird. The thought of KD without it is just bizarre to me.