To read last week's report from the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, click here.
With our tour of the Henry Ford complete, it was time to pile into Joshua's car for the two hour drive down to Sandusky. Here, it was quickly discovered that the car wasn't quite as large as I thought it was. Fitting five was doable, but it wasn't comfortable. As the most well-rested, Douglas was elected driver for this part of the journey. As for the rest of us, Kevin slept, Evan slept, I somewhat slept, and Joshua was too squished to sleep.
Fortunately, we encountered minimal traffic and Douglas drives a bit faster than most Midwesterners, so we arrived a little faster than expected. As we turned the corner out onto the causeway, the excitement built as I got my first look in four years at my favorite amusement park in the world.
The Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance Tour
Part 2: Cedar Point
Rising out of Lake Erie on a peninsula extending from the shores of Sandusky, Cedar Point proclaims itself as America's Roller Coast. Here stands 17 roller coasters (the park counts 18, which is arguably true as well), many of which are either the best of their type or among the best in their world. The only true destination park in the US not operated by Disney or Universal, Cedar Point draws visitors from throughout the Midwest and beyond, with a trip to the park acting as a rite of passage for any who call themselves a coaster enthusiast.
I have visited the Point a total of three times. My first visit was in 2008 as part of a family trip, but due to our schedule we only had one day at the park. While sufficient for a highlights tour, it wasn't quite enough to fully experience the park. On my second trip in 2014 (which you can read about here), my group allotted one and two-thirds days for the park, which was just about the right amount of time. For this trip, we spent about the same amount of time at the park, though it was spread over three separate days, reducing exhaustion a bit and ensuring that a bad weather day wouldn't ruin it all (spoiler: Cedar Point had perfect weather throughout).
As we approached the front gate, I checked the wait times on my phone and saw that Steel Vengeance was posting a 120 minute wait. Despite the fact that all of us wanted to ride that, we opted to hold off and focus on the front of the park this evening. After all, everyone in the group except Douglas had other coaster they needed to ride, with Evan, Kevin, and Joshua's most recent visits falling in 2007/2008/2008, respectively. So, in we went, made a quick stop at the rest room, and then turned right to our first ride of the tour.
GateKeeper, the largest of B&M's wing coasters, greets all who enter Cedar Point's main gate. Towering 170 feet above the shore, the coaster flies through 4,164 ft. of track and 6 inversions, including the signature keyholes above the entrance. While not the most extreme coaster, it is a fun ride and the prefect start to the tour. This was a new ride for three of us...Kevin and Joshua both declared it the best of the wing coasters, while Evan preferred Dollywood's Wild Eagle (I tend to side with the latter).
Following our ride, we stopped for a quick spin at Wicked Twister, an Intamin Impulse Coaster that falls into the category of good but not great, then made our way to the classic Cedar Point Corkscrew.
An extremely photogenic ride, the Corkscrew is an old Arrow looper that provides only a short and uncomfortable ride by today's standards. I'm not a huge fan of the ride, but I'm willing to do most coasters once per visit and Kevin needed the credit, so we took this oldie out for a spin.
After Corkscrew, we tackled the remaining rides on the Gemini Midway: Magnum XL-200, the world's first Hypercoaster and a much better Arrow creation (though one that is starting to show its age); Gemini, a racing coaster that provides more of a thrill than it looks like it would, as well as a hybrid that predates RMC over 30 years; and Top Thrill Dragster, the best one-trick pony in the coaster world, with a 120 MPH launch and a 420 ft. tall top hat making up the entirety of the 17 second ride. Despite short lines throughout (our longest wait was 30 minutes for Dragster), Cedar Point is a sizable park, so with the sun getting low we decided it was time to grab dinner. By a 4 to 1 vote (Joshua being the lone dissenter), we opted to leave the park and head out to Famous Dave's on the Cedar Point marina.
I've often heard Famous Dave's referred to as one of Cedar Point's better food options, though I never managed to get out there on my previous two visits. As it turns out, the place is a popular Midwestern barbeque chain, making it less than ideal given the plans for tomorrow. However, the food was good (I got some form of a BBQ chicken sandwich) and the prices were not too much different than what we would have spent inside the park.
Full from dinner, we ventured back inside the gates and headed up to the front of the park to tackle Cedar Point's remaining B&M creations. First up, Raptor, an older inverted coaster that was the largest of its type upon opening.
Among inverts, this one ranks somewhere in the middle for me...it's not as good as others we'd ride later in the trip, but it's better than those local to me (Silver Bullet and Batman the Ride).
However, the ride I was really looking forward to was just next door. Valravn, the longest, the tallest, the fastest dive coaster in the world, towers above Cedar Point's marina gate and completely changes the look of the park's main midway. As a big fan of the B&M dive coasters, I was really looking forward to trying this one. I have to say, the views from the top are absolutely spectacular, and I really like the layout of this coaster, but sadly the ride experience left a bit to be desired. Using the same vest restraints that B&M uses on their wing coasters, this ride just didn't have the same hanging feel found on SheiKra or Griffon. It's still a great coaster (my favorite of Cedar Point's B&Ms), but on my coaster list this one lands more around 50 than around 30 like the other dive coasters.
With time running short, we took a quick ride on the classic Blue Streak, then headed back to our final B&M...Rougarou. I'd ridden this coaster before as Mantis, and have found it to fall into the "just ok" category. As Rougarou, the ride now runs floorless trains rather than the former stand-up carriages, but the rest of the ride remains the same. It runs a little on the rough side by B&M standards, though nothing too terrible, and due to the train design some of the transitions feel a little off. Unlike some, I don't dislike the ride, but it also wasn't something I felt the need to ride again during the trip.
At this point, less than 30 minutes remained until closing. Douglas was out for the day (he had passed on Rougarou and Valravn), but the rest of us opted to end the night with a ride on Millennium Force. The first giga coaster ever built, Millennium Force has been consistently declared one of the best coasters in the world. I've never ranked it quite that high, but it does slip in right at the bottom of my top ten list (just behind its twin Intimidator 305). A long ride all about speed, it is more of a fun coaster than an extreme one, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Even better still, on this fine June evening, we were greeted with just a station wait for the coaster. If it wasn't for the long walk around, I would have gladly gone for two or three rides, but after one ride everyone was a bit worn out.
With ten coasters conquered in a bit over five hours, we headed off the peninsula and to our hotel for the night, an Econo Lodge on the far side of Sandusky. The worst hotel of the trip, it was functional for our needs. After getting checked in (which was a bit of a process due to the Wi-Fi being down), we retreated to our rooms (Douglas and I to one, Evan and Kevin to another, and Joshua to solitary confinement). Needless to say, it wasn't too long before I passed out.
At 8:30 A.M. the next morning, somewhat refreshed from about 7 hours of sleep and slightly energized by a weak hotel breakfast, we found ourselves standing at Cedar Point's resort gate as we awaited a new set of companions. Joining us once again was James Koehl, but this time he was accompanied by another well known TPI figure: Jeff Elliott, along with his wife (Evonne) and kids (names forgotten...sorry!). Hailing from Colorado, they had trekked back to Cedar Point to seek Vengeance, and by coincidence our trips had aligned perfectly. Since the Elliotts had only a single day at the park, we opted to splurge on Fast Lane Plus for the day, hoping it would get us numerous rides on the park's latest RMC creation and make the day a whole lot more enjoyable. It didn't quite work for the first, but absolutely succeeded for the second.
At 9 A.M., the gates were thrown open and everyone gathered at the resort entrance proceed directly to Steel Vengeance. With the kids too short to ride, Jeff took parenting duties while the rest of us joined the rapidly growing queue. About 40 minutes later, we were in the station of the ride when this Rocky Mountain Construction monstrosity showed us why it Requires Maintenance Constantly. Another 45 minutes pass while a couple mechanics head out onto the track and (my guess here) replace a bad sensor. Once they're done, the ride sends a couple test trains, and then it is time to board.
Unless you've isolated yourself from the theme park community for the past 18 months (in which case you're probably not reading this report), you have undoubtedly heard about Steel Vengeance. Built on the remains of Mean Streak using RMC's patented IBox track, Cedar Point has transformed a mediocre wood coaster into arguably the greatest thrill ride ever built.
Towering 205 feet into the sky, the coaster begins with a 200 foot drop at a completely vertical angle. From here, the ride features non-stop airtime hills, overbanked turns, inversions, and enough changes in direction that the relatively simple layout still caught me off guard on subsequent rides.
Just how insane is Steel Vengeance? Watch the video above to see for yourself.
This is an extreme coaster...the airtime feels strong enough to rip you from the train and hurl you into the lake (not to mention remove your phone from your pocket), and the transitions are so quick that I accidentally elbowed Kevin in the head at one point (sorry!). It is an amazing coaster that makes all others feel tame by comparison.
It is also, in my 100% honest opinion, just a tad too much. I love RMC's creations, but most of them last 30-40 seconds from lift to brakes. This one, lasting over a minute and with no break in the intensity, started to go from extremely fun to a little uncomfortable after being tossed up and down for the 20th time.
Not helping this fact is that the coaster starts to feel repetitive toward the tail end, repeating the same three elements in different sequence as it races through the lower level of wood structure. After getting off the ride, I thought about it and came to a conclusion: For me, Twisted Timbers is better. Lightning Rod is better. Twisted Colossus, when it is racing as designed, is better. That's not to say that Steel Vengeance is a bad ride...it's easily a top ten coaster on my list, it just doesn't quite make it to the top. In fact, it fell just shy of my favorite coaster that the point.
That honor, as it has since my first visit, remains with Maverick (which I neglected to photograph on this visit). An Intamin Blitz coaster, Maverick is small in stature but very high in thrills, with a twisted layout enhanced by some theming and just the right combination of elements. A lengthy ride for a launch coaster, Maverick is one of only a few coasters I would consider a perfect ride. It is a coaster that I could ride all day long and still be satisfied with the day. But one ride was it for now, as we had other plans and the delay at Steel Vengeance had put us behind schedule.
The morning was largely spent touring the park to hit the rides Evonne had yet to experience or had a strong desire to ride. Millennium Force, Valravn, and GateKeeper, each with only a 10 minute or so wait due to Fast Lane, filled up our morning. It was then time to meet Jeff and kids for lunch at Cedar Point's newest full-service restaurant, The Melt. Best described as a fancy grilled cheese restaurant, The Melt features all sorts of cheesy sandwich goodness, all with the proper accompaniment. I opted for a Monte Cristo, the same as the famous sandwich served at Cafe Orleans and the Blue Bayou at Disneyland. Truth be told, I can't remember the last time I got one at that park (I've only eaten at each restaurant once or twice ever), but the one I had at Cedar Point was spectacular. This was the best in-park meal of the entire trip, and well worth the experience.
With lunch complete, the group decided it was best to split off and reunite later in the day. James and Jeff headed off to get a ride on Steel Vengeance, Evonne took the kids back to Camp Snoopy, and Douglas opted to wander on his own for a bit. Kevin, Evan, Joshua, and I decided to spend the afternoon doing some of the non-coaster rides of interest, as well as picking up a couple re-rides and missed coasters from the previous day. Like most pure amusement parks, Cedar Point's non-coasters are largely somewhat standard flat rides, but they do have two in particular that stand out:
-The Cedar Downs Racing Derby, which at first glance looks like a carousel, is truly anything but. The ride is gigantic and rotates at around 15 MPH, which feels far faster than it is when perched upon a wooden horse with nothing holding you in. As you circle the ring, the horses more not only up and down, but also forward and backward, simulating an actual horse race that lasts for 3-4 minutes. It may be small, but it is an absolute must ride for any who visit the park.
-The Power Tower, a 24 story tower ride with the option to be either launched to the top or slowly lifted and then dropped back to Earth. While not the most unique attraction, the views from the tower are fantastic due to its location on the peninsula, and the ride is plenty thrilling without being overly extreme.
Eventually, our group of four split ways as Kevin and Evan went to grab their kiddie credit on Woodstock Express while I went off toward Valravn to meet Jeff and James (Joshua took a break from rides and then headed for Frontiertown).
Together, we rode Valravn, GateKeeper, and Magnum, then headed to join the rest of the gang in Frontiertown. With the others tangled up in the 45 minute Fast Lane queue for Steel Vengeance (regular line was well over two hours), we decided to get a head start on Cedar Point's food festival: Brew & BBQ.
To be completely honest, I was pretty neutral on this event from the start. I'm not a huge beer drinker and the food options were somewhat limited, so I considered not purchasing a ticket. However, 15 samples for $22 is a pretty good deal (even though I only used 10 of them), so I decided to indulge and join the others. The food itself was good (my favorite was probably the ribs, though the brisket was also up there) and the beer was acceptable (though I really liked Cedar Point's Rougabrew), so it made for a fun evening. Not wanting to get my phone saucy, I opted out of taking pictures during the event, so head over to James's excellent overview of the event for some of those (this is also the only time you're free to give me flak for omitting these, though to be fair I didn't wan't BBQ sauce on my iPhone).
The remainder of the evening was spent in Frontiertown, where we alternated between drinking beer, eating BBQ, and riding rides. At one point, we also wandered into the Cedar Point history museum, which was extremely neat to see (and something I'd forgotten existed). Eventually, Jeff and James were worn out and departed, while the rest of us wrapped up the evening with one last ride on Steel Vengeance.
The next day, we arrived to find that Steel Vengeance would have a delayed opening, so we opted to use early entry to grab a ride on Millennium Force and then head back to Frontiertown. This ended up being a bit of a mistake, as we were greeted by a sizable line for the RMC creation. Having ridden four times the day before, Douglas bailed. Joshua, who wasn't feeling up to rides this morning, also opted out. Kevin, Evan, and I waited it out and ended up getting on the coaster at about 11:30. With a planned departure at 2, I split off after the ride to go get another spin on Top Thrill Dragster while they opted instead for Maverick. As it turned out, I was not too far behind Douglas, but I didn't realize that until later.
One front-row Dragster ride later, I reunited with Kevin, Evan, and Joshua (who was not feeling too well), and we did a couple last rides before reuniting with Douglas near the exit. As it turned out, he had met up with James (who returned to the park on this day...it was a bit iffy if he was going to make it before we departed) and his son Anton after experiencing Dragster and they had spent the early afternoon together. We all said our goodbyes to James, then headed out to the car and put Sandusky in the rearview mirror as we headed out for our next destination (this time with me at the wheel).
As I mentioned above, Cedar Point is my favorite amusement park. The park has one of the best coaster collections on Earth, second only to Six Flags Magic Mountain in my opinion (though I will concede that Cedar Point has individual coasters better than anything at SFMM), and an excellent supporting line up of rides for all members of the family (though they are conspicuously lacking a dark ride). The park is clean but unthemed, and the operations are among the best you'll see at any park in the world. It is the best amusement park out there.
That said, it is extremely difficult to compare the experience of Cedar Point to a proper theme park, like Disneyland or Universal Orlando. Cedar Point generates its excitement solely from physical stimulation, not from creating an emotional connection or immersing you in a different world. It is a different breed of entertainment, yet one that is equally as valid. So, is Cedar Point the best overall park out there? That depends on your preferences, but unless you simply don't do thrill rides it is somewhere that every enthusiast needs to check out at least once.
Cedar Point Coaster Rankings:
For the entirety of this trip report, I will use the following classifications to rank coasters:
A Tier: A top coaster, one of the best I've been on and something that is travel-worthy on its own. Coasters generally need to make my top 30 or so in order to qualify for this tier.
B Tier: A very good coaster, one that is a must ride if you find yourself at the park. Most good coasters of a fairly standard design fall into this category, as do more unique rides that just fall short of the A category.
C Tier: A decent coaster that is worth checking out if the line is short, but is okay to miss. C tier coasters are usually older rides that don't hold the appeal they once did or rides that are just unremarkable compared to other similar rides.
D Tier: A mediocre coaster that is rideable but skippable. These are rides I'll generally ride once per visit if others would like to do so but would usually skip if visiting on my own.
F Tier: A truly bad ride that should be removed. I rarely use this rating as it is reserved only for rides I refuse to ride again.
Lastly, if you see a multiplier by the ride that is the number of times I rode it on this visit.
1. Maverick x3
2. Steel Vengeance x3
3. Millennium Force x3
4. Top Thrill Dragster x3
5. Valravn x3
6. GateKeeper x3
7. Raptor x3
8. Magnum XL-200 x3
9. Wicked Twister x2
12. Blue Streak
13. Iron Dragon
15. Cedar Creek Mine Ride
Next Week: Two Parks in One Day
To read Douglas's report from Cedar Point, follow this link. Note that his trip report is moving faster than mine, so you will be spoiled if you read beyond page 3. To see Kevin's photo report from this park, head over here.Tweet
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