How One Roller Coaster Put a Small Suburban Amusement Park on the Map

ArieForce One is luring thrill seekers to its home outside of Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta

Fun Spot America Atlanta is having quite the year. Before the peak season for twirls around the ferris wheel and eating cotton candy hit, the family-run park located 30 minutes south of Downtown Atlanta installed a new roller coaster called ArieForce One.

It wasn’t just any roller coaster. The newest ride in the park’s lineup has trailblazing flips and historic stalls that leave you hanging upside down-and all that innovation has been drawing a steady stream of theme park influencers and roller coaster enthusiasts from all over to its home in the quiet suburb of Fayetteville all summer long.

“It’s a game-changer for Fun Spot America Atlanta and has undoubtedly put it on enthusiasts’ radars,” says John Stevenson, founder of

The coaster that is inspiring cross-country flights is special for a number of reasons. First, it carries quite the pedigree, as it was built by Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC). Widely recognized as an industry leader in roller coaster design, the Idaho-based company is renowned for creating the kind of fun, aggressive, and fast-paced rides that warrant repeat visits.

“Anytime Rocky Mountain Construction builds a coaster, it’s a big deal for fans. RMC’s creations are almost always the top ride in their respective parks,” notes John Gregory, owner and editor of the Theme Park Tribune.

Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta

The ride makes history right from the start, as it takes off on a steep, 83-degree first drop down a 154-foot lift hill, which creates the longest zero-gravity stall in the US (for the uninitiated, a “zero-G stall” brings riders upside down to feel like they are floating).

The ride then takes passengers through four inversions, including a first-ever Raven Truss dive in which the track flips passengers over and sends them propelling in the opposite direction. There are also a pair of zero-gravity rolls and a 180-degree stall-not to mention that all of this occurs in just 100 seconds of ride time while reaching hair-raising speeds up to 64 miles per hour.

“The coaster’s pacing is relentless-it’s blazing-fast from the moment it leaves the lift hill all the way until it reaches the brake run,” says Stevenson, who went on the ride around 10 times during a preview event in March. “No inch of track is wasted. Riders experience back-to-back elements with no reprieve in between.”

All that thrill costs a pretty penny. At a cost of $13 million, ArieForce One is the largest single investment Fun Spot has ever made, but the returns have been immediate-so far this year, the park reports it has seen a 33% attendance increase.

“We knew ArieForce One would appeal to our season passholders, coaster enthusiasts, and thrillseekers alike. It’s a fast, powerfully smooth coaster experience unlike any other,” says John Arie Jr., owner and CEO of Fun Spot America Theme Parks. The company, which has two Florida locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Aside from the twists and turns that are putting this coaster on the map as one of the best in the country, those who have experienced the ride say one of its biggest selling points is likely to disappear as word spreads and it becomes a magnet for enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Fun Spot America Atlanta

“The fact that you can ride it so many times in a row with almost no wait makes it especially appealing to the hardcore coaster fan,” says Gregory. “Fans are riding it dozens of times in a row thanks to the park usually having very short waits-you can’t do that at other coaster destinations like Cedar Point or Kings Island.”

After just a few months in operation, ArieForce One has already marked a couple of milestones. In June, the park hosted a coaster enthusiast event called HUGEapalooza that drew attendees from 35 states and two Canadian provinces, and by the middle of the month a local resident, James Fordham, became the first fan to ride the coaster 1,000 rides.

“Before ArieForce One, most coaster fans saw no reason to visit Fun Spot Atlanta unless you were just hunting for extra coaster ‘credits’ by riding its two small coasters,” explains Gregory. “It turned Fun Spot Atlanta from a skippable park to one that coaster enthusiasts can’t miss. Now, it’s like a coaster enthusiast magnet, and I wouldn’t dream of going to Atlanta without visiting.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Eric Grossman is a Thrillist contributor.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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