Today’s roller coaster has its roots in the Russian ice slides of the mid-1600s. Popular mostly around the city of St. Petersburg, these wooden constructions looked like giant skateboard half-pipe ramps coated in ice. Happy-go-lucky Russians would shoot down the ramp on a sled, zip up the other side, and then gradually slide down to the middle. Even the Russian Empress Catherine the Great was a fan! Wheels didn’t enter the picture until the late 18th century, when primitive roller coasters were made out of carriages which ran over gentle hills. The first roller coaster built in the U.S. was called the Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway and opened in 1884 in Coney Island, New York.
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