Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure - Jackson, NJ (about 1.5 hours from NYC by car)
Brooklynites pride themselves on being bold and fearless creatures, even making it through the summer without air conditioners, so being hydraulically launched 45 stories in the air at 128 mph on a rail of steel ain't no thing. But, oh, ha!, in layman's terms that means you're being catapulted—while lying horizontally (perfect for napping!)—from 0 to 128 mph in three-and-an-half seconds, flinging higher than five Cyclones stacked on top of each other, so let's go ahead and call that bonkers. In even simpler terms, Kingda Ka is the tallest, and second fastest, roller coaster in the world. Then you've got El Toro, featuring the steepest drop of any wooden coaster in the country (recently ranked the best wooden coaster by Amusement Today), while Nitro took the number three spot for best steel coaster in the 2011 Golden Ticket Awards. Jersey's Six Flags is essentially your one-stop shop for big-kid rides.
Ride of Steel at Darien Lake - Western New York (about 5.5 hours from NYC by car)
The roller coaster naming committee at Darien Lake calls a spade a spade with Ride of Steel, the tallest coaster in New York State. In fact, towering at 208 feet, it takes the title as being one of the tallest this side of the Mississippi. Oh, snap. Darien has even more going for it, including the new-for-2013 ride Blast Off, whose 185-foot upwards hurl stimulates a legit NASA space launch, plus close proximity to Niagara Falls so you can reenact Jim and Pam's wedding.
Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce - Bristol, CT (about 2 hours from NYC by car)
I'm all about the generous amount of water rides at appropriately named Lake Compounce, but the park's real claim to fame is the Boulder Dash, a wooden coaster weaving its way through the area's natural mountainous terrain. As one of the the East Coast's fastest and longest wooden tracks, it's taken top honors in various "best wooden coaster" rankings over the last decade.
Hydra at Dorney Park - Allentown, PA (about 1.5 hours from NYC by car)
As an Ohioan who attended Penn State, a typical day in college involved convincing the natives that Cedar Point provided more cherished childhood memories than Dorney Park. Seeing as a road trip from Brooklyn to "the roller coaster capital of the world, thank you very much" in northern Ohio would call for an overnight stay, my hat goes off to Dorney. It's stocked with eight coasters, including the inverted Talon and the feet-dangling Hydra, the first-ever coaster to flip riders upside down as the train leaves the station, before it even hits the hill. Might as well get the party started.
Hurricane Coaster at Adventureland - Long Island, NY (about 50 minutes from NYC by car)
While not the amusement park in the Jesse Eisenberg-starring movie of the same name, Adventureland has those quaint, family-wholesome vibes going on, so you can still pretend it's the summer of 1987 and that relatively tame—though still twisty, twirly—steel coasters like the Hurricane are straight-up terrifying. Aside from mental time traveling, Adventureland is one of the cheaper options of the bunch. While an all-access bracelet will only set you back $24.99, you also have the choice of redeeming $1 tickets in exchange for one ride (rides typically require three-to-five tickets). Plus, not enough places in this world come with employees who high-five you.
Jack Rabbit at Seabreeze Amusement Park - Rochester, NY (about 5 hours from NYC by car)
I regret to inform our engorged Brooklyn egos that the Cyclone is not the oldest roller coaster in America, despite its landmark status and corresponding sentiments of nostalgia. The honor actually goes to the Jack Rabbit, a 93-year-old fossil that has been in operation since its first go in 1920. At one point the train dips into a pitch-black tunnel, its thrill quotient raised by the unspoken chance that the track could literally break down* at any given moment. Because it's SO OLD.
*Really, though, that's why the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) has safety regulations and standards, so you're all good riding the Jack Rabbit.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.