The tallest drop tower rides in North America, from thrilling to scream-inducing


The concept of a drop-tower ride is simple: Vehicles carrying nerve-wracked passengers rise high in the air, pause for a few anxious moments and then — cue the screams — plummet to the ground.

Perhaps the most famous drop tower ride is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World, which has been wracking the nerves of visitors since 1994. (A similar Twilight Zone attraction opened at Disney California Adventure in 2004, but Imagineers changed it a couple of years ago for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” theme.) Its faster-than-freefall drop, which, according to Disney lore, plunges 13 stories in its 199-foot tower, is plenty thrilling.

But there are attractions at other parks that tower above the Twilight Zone — way above. Let‘s run down the tallest drop tower rides at parks in North America. If you are deathly afraid of heights, you’ll surely want to steer clear of these contraptions, all of which soar so high into the airspace the Federal Aviation Administration requires them to be outfitted with warning beacons. You’ve been warned.

Valleyfair in Minnesota has a 250-foot drop

We begin our tower tour at Valleyfair near Minneapolis where the Power Tower ominously looms 275 feet in the skyline. Built by ride manufacturer S&S, the three-tower attraction combines two of the company’s models, both of which use compressed air launch technology.

Two of the towers are Turbo Drops, which slowly ascend the tower, momentarily hesitate at the top, and then drop. On the third tower, known as a Space Shot, passengers shoot from the bottom to the top of the tower and then drop and bounce a couple of times before the ride mercifully ends.

“Our ride gives visitors the opportunity to try both experiences,” says Raul Rehnborg, vice president and general manager for Valleyfair. “Whether you are on the bottom waiting to be shot up or at the top waiting to drop, there is this overwhelming anticipation of not knowing when it’s going to happen.”

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