Meet the IRL Roller Coaster Tycoon

Andrew Stilwell has ridden a lot of roller coasters in his lifetime — 240 to be exact — and he hasn’t even hit his peak. A writer for amusement park blog Coaster101, Andrew’s hobby is one that has its ups and downs, but his niche interest has allowed him to experience adrenaline rushes across the country.

Andrew’s fascination with amusement parks started as a kid growing up in Florida where his family took frequent day trips to Disney World and Universal Studios. After moving to North Carolina in 2000, Andrew got his fix by reading about them.

“I consumed all of the information that I could,” Andrew says. “I used to tell people I wanted to design theme parks, but then I realized how much math and physics is involved in that.”

A Hobby with Its Ups and Downs

His lifelong interest in the subject led him to Coaster101 in 2013. From Carowinds in Charlotte to Seaworld in San Diego, Coaster101 has sent him on a professional quest to cover events and review coasters. But, it’s also sent him on a personal quest to be fully immersed in a park — and to ride coasters with plenty of airtime. 

Andrew (blue shirt) on Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion in Richmond, Virginia.

“Airtime is what I like most in a coaster,” Andrew says. “It’s what enthusiasts call the moment where you get that jump, you know? When you go over the back of a hill and you’re just floating.”

Right now, Andrew’s top-rated rides are Fury 325 at Carowinds, the Maverick at Cedar Point in Ohio and Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion in Richmond, Virginia.

Since his start with Coaster101, Andrew has helped grow the blog’s social media following, started a podcast and gone far off the beaten path to visit parks big and small.

“I think that’s one of the things I love most about amusement parks. They’ve brought me to places I never would’ve traveled to before,” Andrew says.

Although COVID canceled a few of his plans to visit parks and cover events in 2020, Andrew says he’s looking forward to increasing that 240 number.

“The more coasters you ride, the more ‘cred’ you have in the roller coaster world,” Andrew says. “Growing Coaster101 is a big deal to me and not to quote Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, but I’ll ride roller coasters until I can’t anymore.”

To learn more about Coaster101, check out their website and follow them on IG.

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