Best UK Thrill Coasters For Kids

When the heck did kids get so brave? I remember standing in Forbidden Valley in 1994 staring at what my child brain perceived to be an actual living, breathing beast (OK the ads might also have had something to do with that) and telling myself I would NEVER in a million YEARS be going on that ride (Nemesis, in case you missed it). Cut to 2023, opening day of the brand new Mandrill Mayhem rollercoaster at World of Jumanji in Chessington World of Adventures Resort of the place is swarming with keen 1.2m-ers desperate to get their bums on the seats of *checks notes* a quadruple launching, forwards and BACKWARDS rollercoaster that goes upside down. I even saw one devastated little girl who couldn't ride as she was too small.

And it doesn't stop there. A friend of mine recently took her three year old son on the Tower of Terror and as much as he wasn't thrilled about the experience he didn't seem to hate it either. My own four year old nephew has cried several times because he was too small to ride Croc Drop, a rotating multip-drop tower set within the jaws of an Egyptian crocodile god, and Rage, a beyond vertical drop coaster featuring three inversions. He did cry when we took him on the Green Scream which is arguably much less intense but if you ask him now what his favourite ride is I guarantee you he'd say that one. 

My point is, kids just seem to have no fear these days. I remember what a rite of passage is was to ride your first 'upside-down' rollercoaster over the summer holidays, purely for the bragging rights when you were back at school in September. I'm pretty sure mine was Python at Busch Gardens by the way, but I know for a lot of UK enthusiasts that accolade goes to the legendary Corkscrew at Alton Towers. And even then, with the promise of regaling the tale of your summer theme park trip with friends, it took so much courage to get yourself in the seat in the first place, and now we have kids crying because they are literally too small for what I would have assumed to be a pretty intimidating coaster experience.

So it seems we have a nation of young thrillseekers on our hands, and how to satisfying that urge for adrenaline and adventure? Where do you even start? Today I'm counting down my top five rollercoasters I'd recommend for kids who are ready to take on their first white-knuckle rides!

The aforementioned Mandrill Mayhem is my first recommendation, and largely the inspiration for this post. Firstly, despite being what I believe is the smallest B&M coaster in the world, the size of the track is still chunky, meaning it looks like a proper, big boy rollercoaster. For me, Mandrill Mayhem is a great starter thrill coaster because it gives you a little bit of everything without that intimidating first-hill climb which is I'm sure what turns most kids off. 

It's got great launches, forwards AND backwards so you get all kinds of crazy sensations throughout the ride. The launches themselves are super thrilling without being too gut-wrenching and intense, so it edges just on the right side of fun for those who are more easily rattled. There's lots of little pops of airtime, some great lateral forces on the final helix and, of course, it goes upside down! A great first-inversion for those who've never experienced it before as it's smooth and floaty, not like the head-bashing intensity of the vertical loops we had to deal with as kids.

Rage is sneaky because it lures you in with its candy shop colour-scheme and fairly unintimidating height and compact layout, but it's a whippet of a thing and packs a ton of intensity into the short ride it delivers. I'd recommend this one as I feel it would be fairly easy to coax a nervous rider onto it given the aforementioned, and there's nothing in the layout that I'd perceived to be particularly panic-inducing. 

...Except maybe the lift-hill. Vertical lift-hills are, for lack of a better word, terrifying. BUT - this one is fairly short and honestly if you can conquer a vertical lift-hill you can do anything. The beyond vertical drop is a weird sensation too, and the inversions on Rage put your body through pretty much every angle available so it's great for experiencing a bunch of different forces for the first time in one go.

I know Thirteen LOOKS spooky, and that might put some kids off, but in my opinion it's more of a glorified mine train just with some slightly more interesting elements. So yes, the scary theme. A lot of bigger coasters tend to go with dark/more intense themes, especially here in the UK, so Thirteen is a good one to start with to ease into that as in my opinion the theme is waaay scarier than the ride itself. 

The outdoor portion of the coaster is fairly tame (although the first drop always feels higher than I remember, anybody else get that?) but *spoiler alert* the indoor section is where it gets interesting. A vertical drop in the dark plunging you into a pit below, and then a backwards launch followed by winding tunnels in the pitch black. I...feel like I've made that sound scarier than it is, it's a lot of fun but it is quite terrifying, especially if it catches you off guard. I remember growing up everybody used to brag about going on X:\No Way Out at Thorpe Park, a 'backwards the dark!' so I feel like Thirteen is the modern day equivalent of this?

In terms of easing into different coaster types and sensations, suspended family coasters are a great precursor to larger coasters like Nemesis and Nemesis Inferno whilst still being mega thrilling in their own right. Flight of the Pterosaur at Paultons Park is no different - not only is this fun family coaster really well theme as part of the Lost Kingdom land, it has some really intense moments including a brilliant first drop and a few genuinely intense helices. 

I actually think the restraints on this coaster add a lot too - the B&M inverts have the classic over the shoulder restraints that, whilst making you feel very safe, are quite restrictive. Flight of the Pterosaur is a lapbar only setup, meaning you feel a lot freer gliding through the layout. Depending how afraid of heights you are, this can potentially be intimidating for younger riders but may also add to the thrill!

Slightly odd one but hear me out - I think the fact that this coaster has the word 'big' in the name says something in itself. It feels braggable, like you've conquered a BIG ride! It's also a classic, a Blackpool Pleasure Beach icon and one generation after generation have whited their knuckles riding - it's a lot tamer by today's standards but there's something cool about that shared family experience and it being a bit of a rite of passage. 

I would also argue it's the most airtime a 1.2m rider can get in the UK - the first drop is nuts and I float out of my seat every single time. If you're looking to ease a thrillseeker-in-training into what airtime feels like I'd absolutely say the Big Dipper is the place to do it - that out and back layout and relentless bunny hills never fail to deliver.


Hopefully that's enough coasters to keep them going through their next growth spurt and get them prepared for reaching the coveted 1.4m mark! 

What do you think, do you agree with my list? What do you think are some great thrill coasters for kids in the UK? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,