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A first-timer's review of Cedar Point

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Published: August 3, 2014 at 8:21 PM

For years I have billed myself as an amusement park veteran: Disneyland... check, Universal... been there, Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Farm, Busch Gardens... all conquered. Yet the roller coaster haven of Cedar Point always had eluded me. This summer I finally had the opportunity to visit the historic park and I was impressed. Traditionally, theme parks, with their ability to transport visitors to another world, always intrigued me more than big rides, but Cedar Point — with its massive collection of roller coasters — seemed promising. With the exception of its Frontier Trail, there is negligible theme to the park. Instead it is clear they just wanted to create big, fast coasters. In that they have succeeded absolutely.

To ensure that we got the full experience, my travel companions and I vowed to ride every major coaster in the park. The weather cooperated as the skies remained nice and overcast with a cool breeze. Crowds were definitely present but not unmanageable and we were able to ride everything we wanted before we left for the day. Ultimately, we rode 13 different coasters (with a couple of repeat rides) in nine hours. (Full disclosure: We skipped Wicked Twister, it may be a great ride but from queasy personal experience I have learned it best to steer clear of backward coasters, in hindsight I feel that perhaps I should have toughened up and ridden it but now it gives me an excuse to go back.)

The first thing that becomes apparent is the reasonable price of entry. Accustomed to dropping almost $100 to get into Disney or Universal, Cedar Point’s price of $60 (less with a coupon) was a nice change of pace. Unfortunately this was slightly offset by the ridiculous in-park gouging on food. While all parks take advantage of their captive audience, it is blatant at Cedar Point. I don’t mind paying a little more for something unusual like Butterbeer, a Krusty Burger or the Grey Stuff but here it was standard frozen-fried food. Case in point: a small drink, fries and 6 mozzarella sticks cost an outrageous $16. I tried to outsmart the system by just ordering a single corn dog by itself and they wanted $7.50! No, thanks. But it is probably wise to avoid the fried food when riding coasters anyway.

I had high hopes for the three wooden coasters that Cedar Point offered. The oldest coaster in the park, Blue Streak, and its much larger successor, Mean Streak, were standard wooden coasters that offered little innovation. I found them both to be rather jerky and uncomfortable. The racing woodie Gemini, on the other hand, was more fun and the novelty of trying to outrun the competitor train was entertaining. Overall, though, I found all the wooden coasters to be lackluster and would probably stick to the smoother steel rides in the future.

Next up were some of the older steel coasters. Corckscrew — a very short looping ride — was decent but was over so fast I had little time to enjoy it. I thought the Cedar Creek Mine Ride would be fun, as I envisioned a Thunder Mountain-type trip, but was disappointed by its lack of theme, speed or height. Iron Dragon — a suspended roller coaster popular in the 1980s — was interesting. While the ride itself lacked any noticeable thrills, zooming through the tree tops is a cool effect that faster coasters cannot duplicate. (It also greatly reminded me of riding Magic Mountain’s Ninja as a kid, so it was a fun stroll down memory lane as well.) Mantis — a large, looping, standing coaster — was a nice change of pace, but I become far better acquainted with the bicycle seat you must straddle than I would have liked. In its defense it is a BIG standing coaster — largest in the world when it opened in 1996 — and has some noticeable thrills. But the bicycle seat and I are not on the best speaking terms anymore and our budding romance was cut short after the first loop. Unfortunately, Mantis destroyed my dream of becoming a Tour de France winner, but such is life.

The best of the older crop was Magnum-XL. As we boarded, the gentlemen on the speaker reminded us we were about to experience the world’s fastest, tallest roller coaster in the world... in 1989. Fortunately, I think the ride holds up pretty well. While it is certainly not as smooth as some of its younger brethren it has some good speed and the bunny hops at the end were outstanding. Raptor — an incredibly intense inverted coaster — was very fast with a multitude of rolls and loops. This was definitely the most intense inverted coaster I have ridden and seemed far more extreme than even the Dragon Challenge at Universal.

Top Thrill Dragster

For me, the top four coasters in the park were simply a cut above any other coasters I have ridden. Top Thrill Dragster was incredible though brief. It was a popular attraction and we waited about 45 minutes for a 30-second ride. I have to admit that the wait was worth it. Going from a complete stop to 120 mph was exhilarating. Years ago I had the privilege of flying in a T-38 training jet and this was the closest to that experience I have ever felt. Flying up the hill and back down was cool but over before I could really appreciate the height. Nonetheless, an excellent ride and one I heartily recommend.

I have very mixed feelings about Maverick. I had heard many great things about this ride and I think it has tremendous potential. One issue was the long wait, 90 minutes before we got on the trains. Obviously this is not the rides fault, but it did give us too much time to hype the ride up. Nonetheless, that first 95-degree drop is killer, and the launch in the tunnel was great — the hair pin turns were unlike anything I have ridden. But it was rough on the neck, really rough. My travel companions and I got smacked around on several of the turns that greatly reduced the enjoyment. I kept wishing for one of those airline pillows that you wear around your neck. If the designers ever can find a way to stabilize the rider’s head this would be a perfect ride. Even amidst such complaints, Maverick is still an incredibly fast, fun, and exciting roller coaster.
My second favorite ride at Cedar Point was the new Gatekeeper. What a great, smooth ride. At present it holds the record for being the highest and longest wing coaster in the world and it shows. The winged component of the ride is innovative and really gives the rider a sense of flying. Zooming through the structures was unforgettable and I really licked the sensation of gliding by the railings and other parts of the track. A phenomenal ride.

Riding Millennium Force was like an awakening for me. I did not know roller coasters could be this remarkable. Although the ride’s many world records now have been broken, it is to me the single greatest roller coaster I have ever ridden. The lift hill is crazy high and I might or might not have been white knuckling the ascent to the top. But as soon as the first drop commences it is nothing but abundant speed, turns and sheer awesomeness. I loved the smoothness of the ride and happily waited an additional hour just to experience it a second time. To anyone who has not ridden this coaster, do yourself a favor and book a trip.

Ultimately, Cedar Point is a fantastic park. Several roller coasters are among the greatest I have ever experienced. I cannot say that Cedar Point has dethroned Universal or Disney (their immersive environments still are tops) as best amusement park, but it definitely belongs on the list. To those of you who have yet to experience the Sandusky original, give the Mouse a reprieve for the season and check out the Point.

Previously:

Readers' Opinions

From Brandon Townsend on August 3, 2014 at 8:32 PM
Great article. My family and I have been going to Cedar Point every year for about 10 years and we love it. A true thrill park as opposed to a theme park, Cedar Point never disappoints. Staying at The Breakers really enhances the experience as well and is substantially less to stay at than Disney or Universal. (Although it needs a serious room update/makeover.) And I agree on the outrageous food prices.
From Anthony O'Neal on August 3, 2014 at 8:42 PM
We agree mostly on tour coaster assessments for Cedar Point.

I love, love, love Millenium Force (I like Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, as well). Top Thrill is great for the 18 seconds it lasts. I'm still a fan of Magnum XL. . . we went the year it opened, and I rode with my mom after a very long wait. Raptor is great, but I think the last time I rode it, I swallowed a bug, and it was on the little video. Mean Streak is rough. My neck didn't care for Maverick as much on the turns, but the drops were fantastic. Mantis, well, I wasn't comfortable, really, either. I like Wicked Twister, a lot.

Food prices will always annoy me, but for the cost of a ticket, not a bad time, really.

From 89.204.139.95 on August 4, 2014 at 12:03 AM
Gemini is actually a steel coaster. It has steel tubular track with wooden supports, similar to Cedar Creek Mine Ride.
From James Koehl on August 4, 2014 at 1:12 AM
It's always great to hear a first-timers assessment of my home park. It is tempting to become a bit defensive, but I think you gave everything a fair, honest review of your experience. Blue Streak is not the biggest, tallest, fastest woodie in the park, just the oldest, and for the locals it was just about everyone's first coaster of any kind. We all long for the days before the inner seat padding when all you had was a lap bar, a seat belt and an occasional few moments of gravity to keep you in the seat. Still my favorite. Sorry you skipped Wicked Twister, but glad you got all the others in. As far as the rest of the old coasters, remember that when built they were all cutting edge technology- Corkscrew was the first coaster in the world with three- count 'em three- inversions.
Yes, food prices are outrageous. The Platinum Pass discount helps a bit, but did you notice the huge picnic shelters at the front of the park? Very popular with regulars, as is tailgating.
I hope you didn't spend so much time in queue that you couldn't enjoy the rest of the park, but I'm glad you made it up to the North Coast. Your article was really well-written. Thanks!
From Nick Orlando on August 4, 2014 at 3:01 AM
As a northern Ohio native I really enjoyed reading your unbiased perspective on Cedar Point. I am used to people putting CP on a pedestal and experiencing it through rose colored glasses.

I wanted to add a note that Gemeni is actually not a wooden coaster. While the support structure is wood, the track is tubular steel and therefore it is classified as a steel coaster.

From James Rao on August 4, 2014 at 3:34 AM
I'm taking your advice a giving Disney/Universal a reprieve this year to visit both King's Island and Cedar Point instead (actually, I was just waiting until all three kids hit that magical 54" height requirement - what good is a coaster park if you can't ride all the coasters?). I appreciate your reviews and commentary, and look forward to visiting the Roller Coast in about one week....
From Russell Meyer on August 4, 2014 at 6:57 AM
It's a shame you had to wait so long for Maverick. Perhaps the wait time biased your opinion of the ride. Because of the capacity (trains only carry a maximum of 12 riders per cycle), the line does tend to move rather slow. I do think Cedar Point should consider modifying the restraints to the softer padded style OTSRs that Kings Dominion added to Intimidator 305. With all of the twists and turns on Maverick, it would be nice to not have that hard plastic digging into your neck. The newer restraints on Intimidator 305 solve that problem very well.

It's a shame you missed out on Wicked Twister. It looks similar to most other Intamin inverted impulse coasters, but is the tallest and fastest of the lot. Plus with the backwards spike straight, it makes for a slightly different experience (V2 is also pretty interesting with its 45-degree forward spike to avoid local height restrictions.

Mantis is getting near the end (as are many stand-up coasters). What once was a popular novelty is now just a painful check in the box on the coaster bucket list. Riddler's Revenge is still the best of the bunch, but even that one can be painful.

Iron Dragon, or Dragin' Iron as it is affectionately called, is also near the end of its usefulness. Maintaining Arrow suspended coasters is becoming increasingly expensive, which is why many, like Big Bad Wolf, are being retired. Also, the experience is not any better than what you can get on an inverted coaster, and aside from the out-of-control, will the swinging car fall off the track, feeling of the ride, there's really not that much appeal to the coaster type anymore.

Blue Streak is actually a pretty good woodie, considering how old it is and the weather conditions it is subjected to in the harsh winter along Lake Erie. Cedar Point has done a pretty good job keeping it running rather smoothly over the years. Mean Streak is a completely different story, and whenever you ride ANY roller coaster that has a trim brake on the first drop, you should worry. If The Point is no longer staking claim to the coaster record (now 3 behind Magic Mountain), Mean Streak would be a prime candidate for removal or replacement.

The food can be pricey, but Cedar Fair's new All-Day Dining Deal can be a pretty decent bargain, assuming you're group is willing to share. We did it at Canada's Wonderland and Kings Island over the past few weeks, and it really worked well. Guests pay a flat fee up front ($30) and are able to get selected entrees at specifically identified restaurants throughout the park every 90 minutes through the day. In most cases, the deal pays for itself in three meals, but can be a real value if you spend an entire day at the park, and are diligent in grabbing a meal every hour and a half. For a party of 3 or 4 that's willing to share a plate and simply nosh throughout the day, it can be a real money saver over plunking down $15-20 for each person for lunch and dinner. Depending on how you drink in the park, the refillable cup might also be worth the up-front costs. Typically they cost $15, but some parks have discounts if you buy more than one or pre-purchase the cup online. The cup allows for unlimited refills on the day of purchase/activation, and $0.99 refills on every day after that. You have to drink a lot to make the cup a good value, but considering how much a fountain soda (pop for those in Ohio) costs in the park (typically $3 or more), it can be a good value if you don't like drinking water exclusively.

From Eric Orlando on August 4, 2014 at 7:17 AM
@Russell - I agree with most of your points. I loved Mean Streak when it first came out but then it got really shaky. After complaints they added the trim break and it got worse. What was once a fun and out of control feeling woody because very ho hum.

For those that want a little history about coaster building check out the Cedar Point museum near Skyhawk. They have the original model of Mean Streak. I always liked looking at that. Plus it makes for a nice AC break in the middle of a hot day.

Iron Dragon - That's needed to go for a long time. I have friends who still love it though but I can't figure out why for the life of me.

Mantis - My trick for that is to crouch slightly right before they lock you in position. Then the bicycle seat never bothers me during the ride.

I'm glad you liked Millennium Force. My favorite ride ever was on a Halloweekends. My wife and I were row 1 in the dark. The fog and lights were out for the event stuff and the car was dipping in and out of the fog. It was simply amazing.

From Marc Ricketts on August 4, 2014 at 6:25 PM
Three weeks from right now I will be making my maiden voyage to CP and can't wait. Your top four are the ones I want to ride the most, but with 2 weekdays after schools have started we can hopefully avoid any 90 minute waits. I'm actually looking forward to Wicked Twister since they bent the track on V2 beford I rode it. I've noticed that parks with lower ticket prices than Disney make up for it with higher costs for food, parking, lockers, etc.
From Bobbie Butterfield on August 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM
Nice review. Cedar Point is a great park which I've visited three times although I will probably never go there again due to the long ride queues. On my first visit I had to wait 2 1/2 hrs. to get on Millennium Force. Subjectively, I prefer Intimidator 305 but objectively, I think that MF is the better coaster due to the greater variety and nicer scenery. Maverick is unquestionably rough albeit one of the better coasters I've ridden. The fact that it has a single rider lane is a plus although the single rider with whom I was paired insisted on sitting in the back and because I knew that it was going to be a rough ride, I declined to sit anywhere other than the front and as a result had to wait longer and ended up stuck on the lift hill for 45 minutes. Raptor is one of the better inverts I've ridden, Blue Streak is a delight and Gatekeeper is excellent but not as good, in my opinion, as X-Flight. I expected to like Magnum much more than I did; the airtime was such that I kept getting whacked on the legs by the lap bar and that detracted from the ride experience. As to Mean Streak, I found it completely lacking in airtime and thrills; it's just a bumpy old coaster with nothing to recommend it. I prefer Kingda Ka to Top Thrill Dragster not only because of the extra hill but because my elbows never got banged up on KK the way they did on Dragster. I did not dare to ride Mantis due to my back problems. I had gotten as far as the loading station and when I saw how the riders were positioned, I changed my mind, realizing that this was an invitation to disaster.

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