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Robert Niles
Editor

Theme Park Insider Summer Roadtrip: Cedar Point

Published: July 26, 2010 at 6:07 PM

SANDUSKY, Ohio - I wish that I would offer you the fool-proof, follow-this-and-you'll-see-it-all-and-have-a-great-time plan for Cedar Point. After all, as "America's Roller Coast," Cedar Point draws millions of thrill rides fans from around the world its northern Ohio home every year.

Cedar Point

But I can't.

One thing I have learned about Cedar Point, however, is that more than any other theme or amusement park I've ever visited, the setting of this particular park is essential to its appeal. Cedar Point's environment, on a thin peninsula jutting into Lake Erie, blesses this park's rides with some of the most spectacular views in the industry. From the top of Millennium Force, 310 feet above Lake Erie, you feel as if you are floating on air, with the enormity of that Great Lake available before you.

At the same time, the upper-Midwest, Great Lakes setting exposes Cedar Point to inconsistent weather, including rainstorms that can happen at any hour of day or night. Forget about Central Florida afternoon storms, or the blessed consistency of Southern California summer sunshine. It's northern Ohio. Don't like the weather? Wait a few minutes - it'll change.

Sure, you could build indoor attractions to guard against inclement weather. But then you couldn't enjoy those awesome views. So Cedar Point embraces its environment, for good and for bad, and you've just go to go along with that.

Even if it means enduring waits in the rain.

That's how our day began on Sunday. We'd queued up at 9am, with a few dozen other guests staying at Cedar Point's Hotel Breakers, for our one-hour early entry into the park. But just as the National Anthem finished on the park loudspeakers, the skies opened up again, keeping the four roller coasters that are supposed to open for early entry closed. Still, Natalie and I made the soggy walk over to Millennium Force and hoped for the best. Worst case, we'd be toward the front of the line when the park opened at 10.

But 20 minutes after 9, the rain stopped again and we saw the first test train make its way around the track. Five minutes later, we'd walked through the queue and strapped in for our ride 300 feet up.

Millennium Force at Cedar Point

Millennium Force delivers two things in world-class quantity - views and speed. A stiff lake breeze only amplifies the feeling of speed as you fly down the 80-degree hill and over the first airtime hill, eventually maxing out at 93 mph. Unlike the one-trick-pony Top Thrill Dragster, Millennium Force sustains its speed for much of its two-minute ride, rewarding you with occasional glimpses of the lake along the way.

From there, Natalie and I walked up the Frontier Trail toward Maverick. This 2007 Intamin Blitz coaster reminded me of Dollywood's Mystery Mine: It's a western-themed steel coaster that attempts to offer unique motion elements that go beyond the lift-up, drop-down, bank-to-the-side repertoire of almost all coasters.

Maverick

Maverick starts with a 100-degree drop - that's right, it's not straight down, but down and a little bit backward as well. That's just the first of many odd track angles on Maverick, which spends much of its ride rolling the track to one side, then the other, often at angles beyond 90 degrees. Track rotations on roller coasters almost always set up inversions, but Maverick employs them as straight-line elements of their own. Throw in a false ending (one of my favorite theme park elements), and Maverick delivers a frisky two-minute adventure.

By that time, our extra hour was up, and day guests were flowing through the gates. So Natalie and I rejoined Laurie and Brian to sample some of the other rides they'd been eyeing. Our 13-year-old daughter, Natalie, loves coasters ("Big coasters = Happy Natalie!" she wrote to a friend), but 10-year-old Brian prefers whippy flat rides, which I can't handle. So Brian gleefully led his big sister on to the Matterhorn, Tilt-A-Whirl and other stomach scramblers that I'd only be caught dead on.

Brief showers frequently interrupted the morning, shutting down the big coasters, as well as the Sky Ride, forcing us into a game of "look for the test run," where we'd hop into the queue whenever we saw a test vehicle on its track, signaling a ride was about to reopen.

By noon, showers retreated for the day, and by 3 pm, so had the clouds.

The Main Midway at Cedar Point

Ultimately, Natalie declared Maverick her favorite ride of the day, though she also enjoyed Millennium Force and Iron Dragon (which, although she liked, she said wasn't as fun a ride as the late Big Bad Wolf, which closed at Busch Gardens Williamsburg after 2009.) Laurie hauled Natalie aboard the Corkscrew with promises of a super-smooth ride, only to discover that the Arrow coaster doesn't ride the same as it did when she was a kid in the late 70s. Laurie came off that ride looking like we had expected the kids to look after their third go on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Finally, we convinced Brian to try his first "big" coaster, and he joined us for a trip on the Blue Streak, the oldest coaster in the park, a Philadelphia Toboggan woodie from 1964. At 78 feet, the Blue Streak isn't huge, but it delivers more than its share of airtime, particularly when the ride's a walk-on and the trains are going out half-filled. Brian loved it so much that ran with his sister to ride a second time.

Here comes Theme Park Insider: The Next Generation.

By the way, we did stay overnight at Hotel Breakers. At $410 a night, it ain't cheap, but the package included four one-day adult tickets to the park, the early entry, as well as parking for our car in an ultra-convenient lot that allowed for a scenic drive around the permitter of the park when we arrived. Strip the extras, though, and it's still $200+ a night for a room that offered easy access to the beach, as well as a killer view of the park.

View from the room at Hotel Breakers

But that's all of note that the room offered. We stayed in the Breakers Tower, which could use another refurb, as the beds were among the saggiest on our trip, and none of the rooms had available WiFi or Internet access. Nor did it offer a modern climate control system, just an old-fashioned knob on the A/C unit, which we could turn to "High," "Low" or "Off." Welcome to 1989.

Still, staying on the peninsula remains the best way to fully experience Cedar Point. Look, you can find an iron park at dozens of other locations around the country. If you're not taking some time to walk the beach or admire the views here, you are, literally, missing the Point.

Next Up: We're going back to Holiday World!

Replies (33)

Tim Chatlos

Published: July 26, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Good to hear you had a solid trip despite the weather complications.

Cedar Point's accommodations can definitely be a mixed bag. Unfortunately the prices don't always much the quality of services (Motel 6 can offer Wifi but a $300/night hotel can't?) and bedding you'll find in most of the hotels. Our favorite places to stay are the Lighthouse Point cottages with the water literally at your doorstep.

Derek Potter

Published: July 26, 2010 at 6:45 PM

Prices at the Breakers peak big time in July. It really is a matter of supply and demand at that hotel, especially on the weekends. I too would like to see some nice upgrades to some of the rooms, especially at a couple of hundred bucks a night. I guess they don't really figure people will be spending a lot of time in their room.

Glad to know that someone else appreciates the scenery that Cedar Point has to offer. If I'm at the Breakers, I enjoy getting up early, watching the sunrise on the lake and walking the boardwalk. It doesn't get much more peaceful and serene than that. Of course the insanity begins when the park opens...but I highly recommend that early morning sunrise.

steve lee

Published: July 26, 2010 at 6:58 PM

I hope you just forgot to mention Gemini...
Alex Gamso

Published: July 26, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Any comment on Disaster Transport and it's well missing theme?
Jorge Arnoldson

Published: July 26, 2010 at 8:16 PM

You should've tried the Fearsome Foursome Challenge as seen in "Bert the Conquerer". I believe you get fast passes to go to the front of the lines of four coasters (three of them being TTD, MF, and Maverick, I can't remember the fourth), and you have to ride them all under an hour.
148.168.40.4

Published: July 26, 2010 at 8:19 PM

the only accomodations that of any value are the cabins and cottages at Lighthouse Point.
Joshua Counsil

Published: July 26, 2010 at 8:57 PM

Good report, Robert. I'd like to know your opinion of my favourite coaster in the park, Magnum.

Also, I have to disagree about the scenery. Lake Erie is a pretty unappealing lake, and the park itself has far too little shelter. Even on a moderate day, I find myself uncomfortably warm and surrounded by concrete and steel. It's very difficult to find shade.

Still, easily the best coaster selection around.

Also, what did you think of Sandusky? I thought it was quaint and appealing, the ideal small-town-America.

James Rao
Writer

Published: July 26, 2010 at 9:07 PM

Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on your travels, Robert.

Any comment on the food offerings, or the new Shoot The Rapids attraction?

75.121.214.160

Published: July 26, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Can't believe you didn't mention Top Thrill Dragster! I love the big coasters, and TTD made my heart rate rise just being in the cue! Short, but awesome!
James Rao
Writer

Published: July 26, 2010 at 10:00 PM

^He did mention it. Called it a One-Trick-Pony. I would tend to agree. Sure, it is a thrilling trick, but unless you are lucky enough to get a rollback, the experience is awfully short lived.
Mike Gallagher

Published: July 27, 2010 at 1:44 AM

Somebody commented on the Fearsome Foursome Challenge, implying anyone could attempt that. I don't believe that's something offered to the public. I think it was a one-shot for the show.
Melissa Donahue

Published: July 27, 2010 at 3:42 AM

Mike - According to the CP Blog, "anyone" can attempt the challenge in an hour; however, you must fIrst fill out an online contact form in advance and then wait to be selected. If you are lucky enough to be chosen by CP, you will have a staff member escort you to each of the four rides to verify your progress. Due to the large number if requests, not everyone is guaranteed a chance at the challenge.
Mike Gallagher

Published: July 27, 2010 at 7:36 AM

Melissa,

So, basically...it's a lottery. Nice prize, but as much as I love roller coasters, I'd rather win the Powerball or MegaMillions. Then I'll be renting Cedar Point for myself and other coaster enthusiasts in my circle and won't NEED the challenge! :)

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 27, 2010 at 7:46 AM

The two rides that I really had wanted to go on, but missed this trip, were Magnum XL-200 and Shoot the Rapids. Rapids looks like a basic Shoot-the-Chutes ride, but since it is new this year, I had wanted to give it a go. And Magnum looks like a fun ride.

But the rain killed enough ride time in the morning that we missed them when we were up in that part of the park. Cedar Point really is a two-day park for first-time visitors, or anyone who wants a comprehensive visit. On a one-day trip, even with early entry, you're going to miss some things.

And Mike? You will remember your friends on Theme Park Insider, right? ;-)

Mike Gallagher

Published: July 27, 2010 at 8:52 AM

"And Mike? You will remember your friends on Theme Park Insider, right? ;-) "

Yep...and the other sites I frequent..but I'm NOT springing for transportation,,,gotta draw the line somewhere! I will charter a bus for my local peeps, though...including some non-enthusiast folk :)

Joe Brown

Published: July 27, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Robert, not sure how much time you will have, but about 90 minutes south of Holiday World is another small park called Beech Bend. It's in Bowling Green, KY. The park isn't much as most of their rides are standard carnival stuff. But their big woody Kentucky Rumbler is on par with Holidy World's coasters from what I hear. I'm not a coaster rider so I can't say for sure, but it does look impressive. May be somethign to check out whilst you are in the area.
steve lee

Published: July 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Kentucky Rumbler is a really nice coaster in the vein of Dollywood's Thunderhead. Of course, if you're going to go that far along you may as well spend a few hours at Mammoth Cave National Park. There's even an alpine slide...
Mike Gallagher

Published: July 27, 2010 at 12:17 PM

I agree with Joe, and speak from experience. Kentucky Rumbler is a great ride...the Holiday World comparison is sort of apt..it's better than Raven and Legend, but let's not complete that wood trifecta..if ya get my drift. Beech Bend also has a quite enjoyable Crazy Mouse. The park itself is a P.O.S. It is, however, one of the few where I've found fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea :)
96.255.101.170

Published: July 27, 2010 at 1:53 PM

Wow, $410! We were there a couple years back, but went the weekend (and week) before Memorial day weekend. I think we paid about 117 a night (also had a coupon from their coupon book). Still overpriced. Those were the worst beds i have ever experienced. Anytime my husband or I moved a muscle, the whole bed would shake and roll. we finally gave up halfway through the first night and slept each in one of the double beds (not even queens!). But you cannot beat the location; and I would brave it again simply to be on the doorstep of CP.
Ryan S

Published: July 27, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Robert, Maverick only has a 95 degree drop (no less insane though) (It also takes my top spot). When I went to cedar point, I stayed at the hotel at the very tip of the peninsula, but I am blanking on the name of it, fortunately, the weather was perfect the day I went, CP is a great park. Good review.

What was your favorite ride of the day, though?

M. Ryan Traylor

Published: July 27, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Reading this makes me more and more excited for my trip next summer, which has similar stops. Cedar Point, Kings Island, Holiday World, & Dollywood.
Erin B

Published: July 27, 2010 at 5:51 PM

I'm so, so sad to hear that you missed out on Maggienomnom [my absolute favorite coaster in the park, which I think I've made very clear, haha]. It sounds like you had a pretty good time at the park, which is nice to hear. Maybe I'm a bit jaded to the park after spending so much time there, but I was anticipating some negative comments.

I can't wait to hear about your trip to Holiday World, especially an update on how Voyage is running. I've heard that it's getting more & more beat up, which is really sad to hear.

Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 27, 2010 at 7:01 PM

I won't make it to Beech Bend on this trip, but, please, keep those tips about unsung parks coming! I think it's great for people to spread the word about smaller parks that really are doing something unique.

Sharp eye to notice that I didn't select a favorite ride. That's because I can't decide. I liked Millennium Force best, but was intrigued by Maverick. Maverick offered such a different experience than the Giga/Mega coasters that have become so popular recently that I find myself thinking more about that ride than the one on MF. It's growing on me.

Melissa Donahue

Published: July 27, 2010 at 7:16 PM

I completely agree about Maverick, Robert! I think it can be considered the dark horse of roller coasters. In a different thread, I listed MF as my #1 fav with Maverick in 2nd, but it's a close call. And the last seat of Maverick is the ultimate best, by the way! :)
Erin B

Published: July 27, 2010 at 7:16 PM

I also meant to throw in that you missed the worst of our erratic weather. I went Thursday evening -- terrible storms rolled in unexpectedly, tornado warnings & all. I went Friday evening -- more violent storms rolled in & we were all literally dripping wet by time we made it to our cars. I finally got a rain/storm-free trip on Sunday night. Ohio weather is frustrating, to say the least.
Joshua Counsil

Published: July 28, 2010 at 1:00 PM

I noticed you didn't comment on the staff. Were the employees friendly and efficient?
Robert Niles
Editor

Published: July 29, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Fun story about the staff at the Beaches and Cream ice cream parlor in Hotel Breakers on Saturday night: Natalie orders a single scoop cone, and starts to get a bit concerned when the guy behind the counter dips down for a second scoop. Hey, she doesn't want to get charged extra for a second scoop when she ordered only one.

"Um, that's a big single scoop there," she says.

"Oh, no," the guy behind the counter replies. "This isn't a single scoop."

"Well, duh," Natalie thinks to herself as the guy dips down into the freezer again.

He then plops a third scoop onto the cone.

"Now, THAT's a single scoop!" he announces. Three scoops on a "single" scoop for $2.99. And Natalie reported that the ice cream was delicious.

It's been a while since I've had any serious complaints about staff at any of the parks I've visited. I've been finding most theme park employees friendly and efficient recently. But I didn't get the sense that I was being nickel-and-dimed at Cedar Point, the way I felt at Six Flags. Granted, I was paying more up front, with the Hotel Breakers deal. But inside the park, I found the prices "theme park reasonable," with the occasional good deal, such as the ice cream.

Lynda Beam

Published: July 30, 2010 at 6:36 AM

I LOVE Cedar Point, it's been a favorite family vacation spot for decades and my husband and I now go there together (he proposed on the Big Wheel). He, however, wants the room with the jacuzzi so now we only go every two years instead of annually. But it IS a really nice room! I have photos on Trip Advisor from 2009 if you want to take a look.

But I really wish Breakers would get into the 20th century and have some reliable wireless internet. And when you're spending $400+ a night for a room, free breakfast would be nice too!

71.238.251.121

Published: July 30, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Shoot the Rapids has been down most of the summer.. The boats for the ride were to big when they ordered them, therefore the boats get stuck a lot. It may not be running if your going to CP this summer.
Laurie Niles
Editor

Published: July 30, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Hey, don't forget Power Tower! That was one seriously thrilling ride, with a gorgeous view from the top. But don't look down when you get there! Natalie and I rode the slow-up, fast-down blue seats and really enjoyed it.
Joshua Counsil

Published: July 30, 2010 at 8:17 PM

IMPORTANT!

My buddy called me an hour ago out of the blue. He's going to Cedar Point tomorrow and I'm invited.

We can't afford one of the CP hotels. They are ridiculously expensive for such cheap properties.

Can anyone (quickly!) recommend:

A nearby, reasonably priced hotel?
The best places to eat nearby (not in the park)?
Whether Cleveland, particularly the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is worth visiting?

Please contact me via e-mail! Send me a message using my profile. Thanks!

Trip report to follow!

James Koehl
Writer

Published: July 31, 2010 at 5:56 AM

Robert, did you take the pics? They are seriously some fine photography. I especially love the one from top of Space Spiral. It gives a good idea of how beautiful and unique Cedar Point's location is.
Brad W

Published: July 31, 2010 at 11:03 AM

Great pictures (especially the first one)!! Any chance you could post some higher quality versions of those pictures? I'd love to have the first one as my desktop.

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