Ah, the off-season.

For those of you living in warm climates, the “off-season” is that long stretch of time when amusement parks are closed for winter. When I lived in southern Texas, the off-season was only about 2 months long. The parks were open from early March thru New Year’s Day. Now that I live in Canada, my home park opens near the end of May and closes for the season in early October. Usually. Sometimes, that short season is even shorter if the early- or late-season weekends get too much snow.

“I know it’s almost June, but the park is closed for snow, eh? Moose out front should’ve told ya.”

So how can you get your coaster fix in the long, cold winter - or even between visits to the nearest park? Well, you’ve got options.

Early on, there was RollerCoaster Tycoon. This computer-based simulation allowed (I should probably say “allows,” present-tense, because the game is still available on several platforms both desktop and mobile) you to build a whole park and manage all the stuff that happens, from building rides to opening shops and even naming the peeps that visit.

screenshot courtesy of Marc Lacombe at Park Vault

If you loved RollerCoaster Tycoon, but don’t love the fact that newer types of rides aren’t included, then Parkitect is your groove. It’s basically the same kind of gameplay as RCT, but with updated rides (yes, even RMC single-rail coasters!), better coaster building systems, and a killer sandbox mode. Since it’s on Steam, you’ve also got thousands of content creators sharing their stuff (which you can put in your own parks).

You can micro-manage every little detail in your park.

The upper end of park management sims at the moment is Planet Coaster. It’s available on Steam as well, but you’ll need a much more powerful computer to run it than you need for either of the other two. If you’ve got the goods on your system, though, it will suck up hours and hours of your life.

All you’re gonna get is the screenshot from Steam, since my system choked trying to run it.

If you don’t care about managing the whole park and you just want to build and “ride” a coaster, then No Limits 2 is your best friend. This is the most realistic coaster sim out there - so realistic, in fact, that a good number of the preview videos you see from parks when they’re promoting an upcoming coaster were made in No Limits 2.

You can “ride” the coasters, operate the controls manually, and do pretty much anything you want.

All of the above are fun, all of them have massive fan bases, and all of them can take your mind off not being able to ride in real life. But what if virtual coasters aren’t enough? Maybe you want to build something you can touch. You could build a coaster in your back yard if you have lots of money, lots of space, good carpentry skills, some tools, and neighbors who aren’t too complain-y. Or, if you don’t have those things (or don’t have a back yard), you can go small-scale with toy sets. K-Nex has a few sets available, if realism isn’t important to you. It also takes up a good amount of space.

LEGO, after many years of begging from fans, finally released a coaster set. It’s fun to build, but since the track pieces are not flexible, your ability to build a custom layout is seriously limited. It’s also quite expensive.

Lots of great detail in this set.

There’s another option for building a brick-based coaster, and that’s CDX Blocks. CDX is a division of CoasterDynamix, a small company specializing in coaster models. Their LEGO-compatible set went on sale in 2017 and changed the game. It’s less expensive than the LEGO set and infinitely more customizable. The Cyclone set came out first, and is the largest set (as of this writing).

photo from cdxblocks.com

Later, two smaller sets were added to the lineup, each one compatible with LEGO as well as the other CDX sets. There’s a mid-sized set called Flyer:

And a very small set called "Little Dipper” that could fit on your desk.

The CDX Blocks coaster sets are awesome. In fact, they’re so good that they deserve their own section, complete with tips, tricks, photos, videos, and more.

So if the off-season has you down, grab your computer or clear off your table and start building out your fantasy coasters. The parks will re-open soon enough.