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The Rao Family Visits the Roller Coast: Part 5

James Rao

By James Rao
Published: August 30, 2014 at 10:15 PM

ICYMI: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Our second full day at Cedar Point is in the books. We took it slow today knowing it was our last day of coaster fun for this trip, and also knowing the kids were pretty wiped out from repeated rides on Top Thrill Dragster the previous night. Still, we arrived at the park early and met James Koehl and his son Anton for some Early Ride Time on Millennium Force. In hindsight, we probably should have entered the park through a different entrance, but the Soak City lot was familiar and easy. Besides, we were in no real rush as our goal was front row on Force, and Early Ride Time or not, we knew we were in for a bit of a wait.

At 9am we popped into the park and made a beeline for Millennium Force, along with most everyone else, and headed to the front row. Due to some inefficient ride ops (they were releasing a train every two minutes for a throughput of about 1080 riders an hour, which seems horrible for a headliner – by comparison, Diamondback at Kings Island which holds 32 riders instead of Force’s 36, was pushing upwards of 1600 per hour the days we visited), we waited about thirty minutes to ride despite making the coaster our priority. In hindsight, we probably should have skipped the front row and ridden near the back of the train as we would have been able to ride about three times during the Early Ride Time instead of one. But, I felt it was a moral imperative to ride in front, so we waited. And, it was a terrific experience. With absolutely wonderful views, awesome speed, and powerful thrills, Millennium Force deserves to be discussed as one of the best coasters in the nation. Yeah, there is almost no airtime on the ride, but it is all about smooth, sweet, wonderful speed. It was a great way to wake up, and it was a great ride. However, by the time we exited the wait was already at 45 minutes, so we moved on because Magnum 200-XL was just a hop, skip, and jump away offering a similar, if not better, ride experience and some amazing views at a throughput of 2,000 riders per hour. Nice fall back, if you ask me.

More Force

Speaking of Cedar Point’s coasters, I read a trip report on TPI recently where the writer stated that essentially Cedar Point has a couple tiers of Coasters. I’ll expand that notion into Disney terms. There are your E Ticket coasters like Millennium Force, Maverick, and Top Thrill Dragster. Then, a step down in terms of less wait, but not in terms of less fun, are your D Tickets, Magnum XL-200, GateKeeper, and Raptor. Then come the C Tickets, those coasters you ride when the lines for the E and D tickets are too long, like Wicked Twister, Blue Streak, Gemini, and Mantis. Then come the B Tickets, the so called one-and-dones, like Iron Dragon, Cedar Creek Mine Ride, and Mean Streak. And the final tier of coasters are the kiddie coasters which no self-respecting adult should ride unless that adult has an age- and height-appropriate kid who wants to take a spin, Woodstock Express and Wilderness Run. During our visit we rode every coaster except the kiddie rides and the busted GateKeeper, and overall, I am of the opinion that the diverse collection of coasters at Kings Island was the superior bunch. I’m not trying to start a war here, or trying to offend anyone, I am just stating my opinion. Cedar Point has some great coasters, but the excessive waits for the E and D tickets, combined with low rider throughput, left me feeling a bit underwhelmed with their selection. Both parks have a lot to offer, but I’ll take Banshee, Diamondback, the Beast, and Firehawk over pretty much anything the Point has to offer. Except for Maverick, as it is really a special coaster.

After we rode Millennium Force in the front row we headed to Maverick which was only up to a 20-minute wait. As a side note: later this same day when the standby line was I excess of 2½ hours, the posted wait for Fast Lane Plus users was 30 minutes. Can you imagine spending upwards of $90 for Fast Lane Plus and still having to wait 30 minutes to ride? Cedar Point desperately needs a few people-eating attractions to help with the excessive waits on their slow loading headliners!

Maverick complete, we continued our circuit around the park, hitting Magnum XL-200 before we rode the newest addition to the park: Pipe Scream, a Zamperla family thrill ride that takes you 40+ feet above the midway at speeds of up to 40 mph on a short section of roller coaster track. It is not a great ride, but we had a fun time riding it as we hooted and hollered like we were riding the greatest attraction ever built!

After Pipe Scream we headed to the Sky Ride, rode it to the front of the park and headed over to Pink’s for lunch. Labeled as the “Hot Dog To The Stars,” Pink’s, which has been popular on the west coast for a long, long time, serves hot dogs, chili dogs, and burgers. The location at Cedar Point is their first franchise east of Las Vegas. I had to order the Cedar Point dog, obviously, but we also got a Philly dog, a couple Bacon Chili Cheese dogs, a Monster Dog, a Bacon Chili Cheeseburger, two orders of bacon cheese fries, and water to drink. It ran about $70, which isn’t horrible, but isn’t cheap either. Still, the food was all very good and filling, and if you like your hot dogs to have a bit of a “snap” (which I do not) you should be fine. We have a hot dog place in Kansas City called NY Dawg Pound that uses Nathan’s All-Beef Hot Dogs, which I much prefer to Pink’s dogs. However, the food was flavorful and had lots of great toppings, so I call it a win.

Pink’s

After lunch we headed across the midway to a counter stand that served Elephant Ears. These delectable treats are giant crepes fried then covered with cinnamon and sugar. When the people making them pull the crepe out of the oil, they shake it back and forth so it actually looks like an elephant ear. Regardless of what they look like, they are huge, sweet, and yummy. And remember to eat them fast, when they are still somewhat gooey from the oil...delicious!

Elephant Ears

After dessert we once again moseyed down the Frontier Trail where Jim again lamented what was and what could be if only Matt Ouimet would listen to the Koehl Family. Ignoring his lamentations, we headed to Lusty Lil's Revue in the Palace Theater across from Maverick. This vaudeville-style song-and-dance show is a lot like the saloon show at Silver Dollar City, though it has more songs and fewer corny skits (personally, I like the corny skits). The actors were talented and energetic, and the live musicians (piano and drums) were great. We ordered a couple tubs of popcorn for the event, and just sat back and enjoyed the show. Lusty Lil’s is definitely worth a stop in the afternoon when lines everywhere else are long but you want to hang around the park rather then head back to your hotel and swim.

After the show, we rode a complete loop on the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad. It was a pleasant enough excursion, although you don’t get to see much of the park. However, you do get to see the back side of a few coasters and Sandusky Bay, as well as some skeletons in various scenes of carnage and mayhem. It was not a bad train ride. One question: how come people don’t wave back to folks on the train at Cedar Point? Look, when the train passes by everyone is supposed to wave. Jeez. Get with the program, people!

It was mid-afternoon and pretty hot and crowded when we exited the train, so we headed to the cars and changed into our swimsuits. Afterwards we headed out to Lake Erie to the beach area sectioned off in front of the Breakers Hotel. No sooner did we get in the water then we were instructed to get out because of possible dangerous riptides. Whatever. We’d been riding coasters for four days, we could handle a little riptide. However, good citizens must always remember to be cheerful and obedient. So, seeing that the beach was not an option, we headed back inside the park to visit the water rides.

Water Ride

Cedar Point’s trifecta of water rides are all situated in the same area, which is kind of nice because Cedar Point allows folks in that vicinity to leave shoes and shirts in a cubby and tour the rides without fear of getting those articles of your outfit soaked. We rode Shoot the Rapids first, followed by Thunder Canyon, and finally Snake River Falls. None of these rides stood out to me as they were all pretty standard water attractions, but they served their purpose and by the time we were finished, we were all soaked. So, we headed back to the hotel, got cleaned up, changed, then stopped at Jimmy John’s for dinner (hey, we wanted something quick), and headed back to the park.

Once we were back in the park we only had about two hours before we wanted to get a bleacher seat for Luminosity. Millennium Force, Top Thrill, and Maverick had excessive waits, so we spent our last couple hours riding Mantis and Magnum, and doing a little shopping (that’s when I bought my Maverick T-Shirt). At about 9:35 we sat down in the bleachers of Celebration Plaza to watch Luminosity, Cedar Point’s version of a night-time extravaganza.

Luminosity

The show itself features performances of current and past musical hits utilizing live singers, dancers, drummers, and aerial performers. It is staged similarly to an arena concert, with performers running every which way and “doing their thing” on the stage and at various smaller platforms spread throughout the area. There are, of course, lots of lights, lasers, and video, as well as a few fireworks during the finale. Once the show ends a DJ platform rises in front of the stage, and a dance party (sort of) ensues. Luminosity is a high energy show, and parts of it worked really well for me. I especially liked when they showed vintage footage of Cedar Point, and I enjoyed the finale. Overall, the show was not something I would sit through on repeat visits but it was entertaining enough. A nice “kiss goodnight” from Cedar Point to its fans.

Once the DJ busted out his tunes, we bolted for the exit. On the way out we parted with our new friends, the Koehls, and promised we would be back some time in the future if for no other reason than to hear more of Jim’s vignettes and to ride GateKeeper. Thanks Jim and Anton for everything. You guys were amazing.

Now I am sitting in the hotel room contemplating the long drive home. I am tired, sore, I’ve lost my voice, and I might even be getting a cold, but I don't want to leave. And I would not hesitate to stay if I had some assurance Gatekeeper would be open tomorrow. However, I’ve received no response from the Cedar Point folks so I can only presume GateKeeper will have to be saved for another visit. [Incidentally, @CedarPoint tweeted that GateKeeper was open the next day at about 5:00 PM, when the Rao Family was about two hours away from home – *sigh*.]

Gatekeeper

Overall Cedar Point is a thrilling and majestic park, but it is also a grin-and-bear-it experience. It is busy like an Orlando park, but without any realistic options for bypassing the waits other than to skip rides (or spend a small fortune on Fast Lane Plus, something I was not willing – or able – to do). My advice for future visitors is to tour Cedar Point like Disney fans tour Disney: be at the park very early, leave during the 1:00 to 5:00 timeframe, and then return to the park in the evening when it really shines. Additionally, it helps immeasurably if you go to the park with someone who knows the local history as our adventures were enhanced by Jim and Anton Koehl. They were amazing travel companions filled with great stories and great energy and enthusiasm for this venerable park. Cedar Point might have been overwhelming without them in the group. At any rate, and despite some of my comments, we had a wonderful time at The Point; we really did. We filled our days and our nights with great adventures and left Ohio happy, exhausted, and penniless – what more can be expected from a vacation?

When the Rao Family first started planning our Cedar Point excursion, we went into it expecting we would find a carnival-style, midway mecca. Instead, we found a park that, with a few tweaks here and there, a fresh coat of paint, and some innovative whole family dark rides, could shatter the preconceived notions that define an amusement park, and completely transcend the genre. But, regardless of what the future holds for the grand old amusement park known as Cedar Point, the Rao Family is looking forward to another visit somewhere down the road. We will need some time to rest and recover, of course, but we’ll be back. Someday. Until then, “Ride On!”

Final shot from Cedar Point

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