Oh, how badly I wanted to grow taller when I was a pre-schooler. After all, unless you were tall enough, you couldn’t ride the coolest rides at the amusement park. And, the coolest of them all, the roller coaster, was truly off-limits until you met the height requirements. The kiddie up and down roller coaster that went in a circle didn’t interest me; I wanted to go on the biggest, baddest, fastest rides in the park. It was like hitting the lottery when I was able to ride the first looping coaster on the East Coast of the United States. This child of the 70’s definitely had one of those cool “I survived the Super Dooper Looper” t-shirts.
But, did you know there are roller coaster ride-on toys? They might not have loops or reach speeds rivaling a Ferrari but they do provide something the big coasters don’t – hours of excitement right in your back yard. These outdoor toys include a platform or base, a ramp and a riding toy. And, did you know they’re built by two of the most trusted toy companies in the world and cost not much more (or even less) than a day at an amusement park?
Famous Roller Coasters
Besides an admission price of almost $80, you’ll have to travel to Dubai to ride the Formula Rossa, Ferrari Roller Coaster. Riding the Super Dooper Looper will set you back around $70 a person and America’s favorite roller coaster, SuperMan, will cost you as much as $72 a person.
Kid Tested, Family Approved
When it comes to the toddler set, Step2 and Radio Flyer make some of the toughest, coolest and safest riding toys. And, their up and down roller coaster toys are among their best.
We love this family enjoying their Hotwheels version of the Step2 Extreme Coaster. Kudos to Micah for creating the spectator section – a great idea to ensure children stay out of the play area.
A few thoughts before we get into the details of these cool riding toys…
- All of these up and down roller coaster toys do require some assembly – most families reported no issues other than missing parts.
- These are large, bulky toys that are usually shipped in their original boxes – more than one Christmas or birthday surprise was ruined by the non-camouflaged packaging. Plan accordingly.
- Consider the length of the play area, as the above video shows, walls and fences can shorten the riding experience.
- These toys can be used indoors or out.
- Safety helmets might be a good investment for the Step2 extreme roller coaster versions.
- More than a few parents and grandparents admitted to successfully taking test runs or showing children how the toy works. The weight limits provided by the manufacturers do appear to be on the conservative side. However, our guess is that the car axles would suffer with prolonged use by adults or larger children.
- While 2 roller coaster toys promote their tracks can double as racing tracks for miniature toy cars, all of the tracks work well with small toy cars.
Who Makes Kids Up and Down Roller Coaster Toys?
Radio Flyer is a name most often associated with bright red wagons. It was founded by Antonio Pasin, a cabinet maker in 1917. At that time, Pasin’s company was known as the Liberty Coaster Company and sold three wagons, a pedal car, a scooter and sled runners that could be used on their wagons or scooters. The company would become known as Radio Steel and Manufacturing and in 1987 became known as Radio Flyer Inc., in honor of their iconic red wagons. Their products are manufactured in the United States and overseas. They boast that 99.9% of their overseas volume comes from suppliers who have received the “ICP Seal of Compliance.” Radio Flyer currently manufactures 1 toy roller coaster.
Radio Flyer offers a free 2 year warranty on most of their toys but requires registering the product.
Step2 was founded in 1991 in Streetsboro, OH. They started with just 5 employees and have grown to become the largest American manufacturer of preschool and toddler toys and the world’s largest rotational molder of plastics. The company began by offering their products to daycare centers and other institutional buyers. They now have over 800 employees and their products are available throughout the US, Canada and over 70 other countries. They currently manufacture 9 different toy roller coasters.
Step2 offers a three year warranty to “the original purchaser” on most of their products. However, if the toy is used for daycare or commercial services, the warranty period is only six months.
Companies Who Don’t Sell Roller Coaster Toys
In researching this article, we realized that neither Little Tikes or Fisher Price sell a roller coaster ride-on toy.
Thomas the Tank Engine™ Up and Down Roller Coaster
Calling all little Thomas fans. Have we got the perfect riding toy for you!
Our research placed this Step2 roller coaster firmly at the top of our family favorites. It is one of the most highly rated toys we’ve ever reviewed. The few one star ratings that we did find were for missing parts rather than problems with the toy’s construction, durability or fun.
Children reach the platform via one of the non-slip steps located on either side of the coaster. The coaster car is held in place by recessed wheel wells until your child is ready to push off and roll down the track.
This toy roller coaster features an authentic Thomas the Tank Engine face and decals. The coaster car can be used with the track or alone. The high back, handrail and foot rests provide a fun and secure ride.
Radio Flyer 500 Toddler Roller Coaster Toy
The Radio Flyer 500 is the most compact of the toddler roller coaster toys. It’s not a true “up and down roller coaster” toy as it has a gentle sloping ramp but it does have a clever design where the six feet of riding track and the race car fit into the wheeled base for easy storage.
We always love toys that can be used in different ways and the the folks at Radio Flyer have provided another way to enjoy the Radio Flyer 500. Molded into the riding track is a second, smaller track that’s perfect for racing miniature toy cars like Hot Wheels or Matchbox.
The bright red racing car has front wheel footrests for safe riding – some earlier reviews knocked off stars for the lack of a footrest. The Radio Flyer 500, currently being sold, has them. Children will enjoy riding the car on or off the track. Families also report kids enjoy sliding down the ramp without the car.
The main complaint we found with regard to the Radio Flyer 500 was the short track. Radio Flyer Inc. responded to several reviews that mentioned the desire for purchasing more track with, “at this time, we do not carry additional track pieces.” Oddly enough, we saw fewer requests for more track among the owners of other roller coaster toys.
Step2 Up & Down Roller Coaster Ride On
There are two versions of this roller coaster ride-on toy currently being sold – the original and an Anniversary Edition. Best we can tell the primary differences between the two are the colors and the style of the coaster car. The Step2 website lists for both models for $129.99 but we saw the original being sold for as much as $35 less by some online stores.
It’s made in the USA with American and imported parts.
The Anniversary Edition of the UP & Down Roller Coaster was awarded the 2016 Spring Toys Parent’s Choice Award, and the original version was a 2008 Reviewer’s Choice Award on Buzzillions.
We checked reviews all over the web and the ones on the Step2 site were pretty indicative of what we found. The original Step2 Up & Down Roller Coaster had close to 1,000 reviews and over 98% were 4 or 5 stars. The anniversary edition had similar results though fewer overall reviews.
We did see a trend with the lower ratings; most appeared to be from families with 2-year olds. Several mentioned they thought their kids will likely enjoy the toy more once they get a little older. We also found reviewers on three different sites suggesting the Anniversary Edition appeared to travel along the track a bit slower than the original but both didn’t always make it over the second bump. We’re guessing here, but, perhaps the difficulty getting over that second bump may have to do with the weight of the child – the smaller the child, the less momentum sort of thing.
The Anniversary Edition is four pounds lighter. Unfortunately, we’re not sure if they changed the track or made the car a little lighter and easier for toddlers to handle.
Step2 Race Away Coaster & Step2 Dash & Go Coaster
Like the Radio Flyer 500, both of these Step 2 roller coaster ride-on toys don’t offer a true “up and down” ride. They are, nonetheless, our favorites for younger and/or smaller children. There’s two different models currently being sold. The only difference between the two appears to be the colors. The base price was $79.99 for both models. However, when we visited the Step2 website, the Race Away was discounted by $15 and we didn’t find it listed on other sites.
The Step2 Race Away Coaster and the Step2 Dash & Go Coaster weigh about half as much as the Step2 Up & Down Roller Coaster, or the Thomas the Tank Engine roller coaster toy. The track folds up under the platform to allow the toy to be put away. Several families mentioned that their children could easily reassemble the track by themselves.
They are the shortest kids roller coaster toys we found, they’re light weight and have a straight ramp. The straight ramp should eliminate the issue of some children not being able to get over the second bump in the two up and down roller coaster models. Of course, what makes these two models a little better for smaller children also makes for a generally slower ride – probably a good thing from a parent’s point of view.
Step2 Hot Wheels Extreme Thrill Coaster Ride On
I was a roller coaster junkie as a kid and I gotta say this model would have been my choice. It’s won a number of awards including the Most Wanted List 2016 TTPM – Outdoor Toy of the Year. It’s taller, longer and faster than the other models we’ve talked about. Though, it does carry a higher price tag with a MSRP of $329.99.
The steps are built into the ramp and children can easily push the low-profile car up the track to the platform. Like the other models, recessed wheel wells hold the coaster car in place on the platform.
And, like the Radio Flyer 500, this Step2 Extreme Roller Coaster is designed for racing miniature cars, particularly Hot Wheels cars down the track.
There is also a a straight-ramp version of the .
Build Your Own Roller Coaster Toys
As cool as all the outdoor roller coaster ride-on toys are, we couldn’t talk about toy roller coaster toys without at least mentioning a pair of indoor toys that might hold more appeal for parents and older siblings. K’NEX offers a variety of build your own roller coaster toys, but, we think the ones from Lego are a better option. These two allow for different budgets and appeal to slightly different age groups.