Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
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.
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.
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