Trip Report: AJ's Epic Theme Park Summer-Part 1 (Cedar Point)

Edited: September 16, 2014, 3:32 PM

Over the past summer, I've done a record amount of traveling. Between two separate trips, I've spent five weeks away from home. During the course of the trips, I visited Lincoln, NE for a school competition, took a road trip through the four corners states, enjoyed a weekend in Las Vegas, toured the best theme parks of the Midwest and East Coast with Theme Park Review (TPR), and took a family vacation to New York and Boston. Naturally, some parts of the trip were good and some parts not so good, but overall the entire summer was a blast.

This trip report will cover the second trip of my summer: a two week TPR trip through the Midwest and East Coast followed by a one week family trip to New York and Boston. The report will be mostly the same as the one I have going over on TPR at the moment (though with less pictures), but will be one update behind. I will try to update weekly, but that may not always be possible. At the moment, I do not plan to put the first part of my report on here (road trip to Nebraska and back), but it may be seen over at TPR (along with all the pictures) in the original thread.

One last introductory comment: I rate coasters on an A to F scale. Using the site descriptions, A would be Outstanding, B would be Good, C would be Average, D would be Weak, and F would be Pathetic (note: I have been on very few coasters worthy of F ratings, as kiddie and family coasters do not qualify).

With that, onward with the first report.

Part 1: Cedar Point-July 22nd & 23rd, 2014

The first day of the TPR Mini New Hotness trip was Thursday, July 24th. However, since January I had been talking with some other trip participants about adding on a couple days at Cedar Point beforehand. I had been to Cedar Point before, but that visit was some time ago (2008) and I only had one day then, not enough time to fully explore the park. We talked for a couple months about potential ideas, then in April the trip finally started to come together as details were finalized. A group of five of us (I, Rob, Caroline, Judd, and Hans) decided to share a car rental to get from Sandusky to Cincinnati on Thursday, and we'd all spend Tuesday and Wednesday at the park.

To do Cedar Point without breaking my budget, I ended up taking an overnight flight to Cleveland. Unfortunately, there was a 4 hour separation between my arrival and Rob's arrival (who was renting the car), plus my flight was early and his was delayed. In short, I spent 5 hours killing my phone battery and wandering around CLE. At about 10:30 A.M., I headed out to baggage claim and met Caroline. Rob's flight arrived shortly afterward, then we picked up the rental car (took some time) and headed for Cedar Point.

Cedar Point

The original plan was to arrive at Cedar Point around noon on Tuesday and have that day plus all of Wednesday. Of course, we ended up arriving about 2 P.M. due to various delays. With the aid of reasonable crowds and Fast Lane Plus on Wednesday, this was plenty of time for the park and we even ended up leaving a bit early.

Upon arriving at the park, we immediately proceeded to ride GateKeeper, and then met up with Judd (who had been there since opening). As I was the only one of the four of us to have visited previously, I somewhat acted as a tour guide and took everyone around the park. We decided to knock out as many coasters as possible on the first day, and by closing we managed to ride all of them except Millennium Force. The second day was spent re-riding our favorites, riding some non-coaster rides, and checking out a few of the diversions in the park. By the end of the second day, I felt that I had finally truly experienced Cedar Point, a feeling I didn't quite have on my previous visit.

Coaster Reviews:

Cedar Point's coaster collection is somewhat interesting. On one hand, it contains three top ten coasters, a feat no other park has done. However, while it is a good collection overall I can think of a number of parks with a superior collection, as half of Cedar Point's coasters are average at best. In addition, the park is seriously lacking a notable wood coaster...hopefully their next coaster is a GCI or similar.

GateKeeper:

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I was excited to ride GateKeeper, as it was my first experience with a wing coaster. After riding, however, I can see why enthusiasts don't care for them. The ride wasn't bad, it just wasn't nearly as good as it looked like it would be. I do like the fact that GateKeeper is a long ride, but hate that the second half is almost worthless. It was somewhat like the Silver Bullet of Cedar Point; there's nothing wrong with the ride, and it is definitely worth riding, but it's not something worth going out of the way for. B+

Wicked Twister: I really like the impulse coasters, and to me Wicked Twister is the best of the bunch. The ride isn't the most impressive coaster out there, but it provides a quick thrill and is more intense than it looks due to the tightness of the twists. Capacity is relatively low on this ride and it isn't always on Fast Lane, so I'd definitely recommend doing this one early in the day. B+

Raptor: To me, Raptor is the worst of the best as far as inverted coasters go. It's a top tier ride, but not as good as rides like Afterburn or Alpengeist. The ride is a good length, is really smooth (with the exception of one or two transitions), and has great pacing. I do think it gets a little less exciting toward the end of the ride, but I still consider this the best non-Intamin at Cedar Point. A-

Blue Streak: Here's a ride that's significantly better than it looks. Blue Streak may be just a simple out and back, but it has a good amount of airtime and is really smooth for a 50 year old woodie. The ride is a little on the short side, but not enough to complain about. Plus, Blue Streak typically has a 10 minute wait or less as long as both trains are running. Overall, the ride isn't anything mind-blowing, but it is still worth riding once or twice during a visit. C+

Iron Dragon:

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As of now, I have been on all the suspended coasters in North America. I can definitively say that Iron Dragon is the least impressive of the bunch. The ride is worth doing because it is a dying breed, but it's just a fairly short and relatively dull ride. C

Mantis:

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A lot of people hate Mantis. I don't love the ride, but I don't have a problem with it either. To me, it's pretty average for a stand-up. Although it's not the smoothest ride out there, it is a fun coaster with a good sequence of elements and is actually one of Cedar Point's most forceful coasters. I hope this ride isn't being permanently retired and is rather being transformed for next year, even though it isn't one I'd particularly miss. C+

Mean Streak: On my previous visit, Mean Streak was very rough. The coaster must have received some track work recently, because on this visit it was smooth. While this was a slight improvement, I still find the ride to be very dull and uneventful. There are a couple decent drops at the beginning of the ride, but pretty much everything after the mid-course brakes just drags out the coaster without adding anything. C-

Cedar Creek Mine Ride: While not the worst mine train out there, Cedar Creek Mine Ride isn't that great. To me, the ride just feels like an oversized kiddie coaster with uncomfortable trains. This one is smoother than some of the other Arrow mine trains, but I've got a feeling that is partially due to a relatively low-speed layout. This is one to ride just for the credit. D+

Maverick:

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To me, Maverick is almost the ideal coaster. The ride has a variety of elements, giving it moments with good airtime, strong forces, high speeds, and inversions. The ride is long, but there isn't a dull bit of track in the coaster. The first part of the ride is thrilling, but it isn't until the second that you realize how intense this deceptively small coaster actually is. And even though the ride is intense, it isn't so intense that it can't be ridden again and again. If there is a fault of this ride, it is that you can receive some pretty painful neck chops if you aren't paying attention or don't know what to expect, but after one ride it shouldn't be too difficult to prevent this. I absolutely consider Maverick a top five coaster, and it is my favorite ride at Cedar Point. A

Gemini:

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Before this visit, I had only ridden one track of Gemini. For this trip, the ride was racing on Tuesday (one track was closed on Wednesday due to mechanical issues). When the coaster is racing, I consider this a must ride. Even if the coaster isn't racing, it is still a fun ride with a good amount of airtime and one of the best first drops at Cedar Point. Gemini isn't the smoothest coaster, however, so it might be a good idea to hold on. B

Woodstock Express: In addition to GateKeeper, this was my other new credit at Cedar Point. This is the larger version of Vekoma's junior coaster, and while not as good as custom versions it is significantly better than the standard version. Even though it may just be a family coaster, I personally thought this was better than some of Cedar Point's bigger coasters. One word of warning, however...this is the most restrictive coaster in the park. Members of my group who fit on Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, and even Millennium Force couldn't fit on this, and I had to try several seats before finding a seatbelt I could buckle. C

Magnum XL-200: The original hyper coaster is still a pretty good ride, though I didn't enjoy it as much this time as I did last time. This ride is still the airtime king of Cedar Point, but I do not remember it being as rough as it was this time. Perhaps I made the mistake of sitting in a wheel seat on one of my rides, as two out of three weren't bad. Still a better coaster than Desperado and one I'd recommend, just not one to ride over and over. B+

Corkscrew: And the award for worst Arrow looper goes to...Corkscrew. Yeah, there's almost nothing redeeming about this ride. I doubt it will ever go anywhere, as the ride doesn't take up much space and is somewhat of a defining feature of the Gemini Midway, but I don't have any desire to ride this one again. D+

Top Thrill Dragster:

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Even though I've been on over 350 coasters, there is still one type of ride that gives me a rush every time I ride: the accelerator coaster. Top Thrill Dragster is my favorite of the type, as while the coaster is short it has a great launch, a very tall hill, and an interesting spiraling drop that isn't rough in the slightest. While not the best coaster at Cedar Point, it is a bit of a waste to visit and not ride once, even though Top Thrill Dragster can have huge lines due to capacity issues. A

Millennium Force:

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Millennium Force has been called the best roller coaster in the world (or at least in North America) and appears to be the favorite of most Cedar Point visitors. While I really like the ride, I do not feel it is the best coaster at the park. To me, the ride is just too drawn out and focused on speed to be thrilling. I will give it credit for the first drop, as Millennium Force may have the best first drop of any coaster, but after that there are two hills with floater airtime and a bunch of giant curves and straight sections. Absolutely worth riding, and still a top ten coaster, but just not the best ride ever built as some make it out to be. Also, I personally think this is the best giga coaster (sorry I305 fans). A

Cedar Point Coaster Ranking:

Must Ride:

1. Maverick
2. Top Thrill Dragster
3. Millennium Force
4. Raptor

Good Coasters:

5. Magnum XL-200
6. Wicked Twister
7. GateKeeper
8. Gemini

Average Coasters:

9. Blue Streak
10. Mantis
11. Woodstock Express
12. Iron Dragon
13. Mean Streak

Credit Coasters:

14. Corkscrew
15. Cedar Creek Mine Ride

Non-Coaster Summary:

While Cedar Point is known for their coasters, they do have one of the best non-coaster ride collections of any major park as well. Due to limited time and a desire to get multiple re-rides, I only rode a handful of non-coaster rides at the park (most of which were on Wednesday when rain shut down all but a couple coasters). Of the flat rides I rode, the best was probably Cedar Downs, an old derby racer that is better than almost all other carousels. The ride has no seatbelts, moves about three times the speed of your average merry-go-round, is about twice the size, and features horses that move forward and backward to simulate a horse race. Other non-coasters I liked were Witches Wheel, Skyhawk, and Power Tower (Turbo Drop only...the Space Shot side was weak). I did ride the new Pipe Scream, which I liked but probably wouldn't bother to ride again. In addition to flat rides, I rode the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, which is probably my favorite non-coaster in the park due to a series of scenes depicting a western town with animatronic skeletons (this is the closest Cedar Point has to a dark ride). I also rode Shoot the Rapids, which was thoroughly underwhelming and will give you wet shoes for the rest of the day.

Overall Thoughts:

Cedar Point is often considered the greatest park in North America. There is certainly plenty to like about the park: several outstanding coasters, an excellent flat ride collection, plenty for the family to do, the most efficient operations you'll see outside of a Disney park, and an unbeatable location out on a peninsula, just to name a few. However, there is room for improvement at the park too: food quality and service is poor even compared to other Cedar Fair properties, the park needs a good wood coaster and some type of dark ride, some employees are a little too business-y and come off as less friendly, etc. Did I have a good time? Yes. Would I go back? Absolutely, especially if there was a major new ride. It is one of my favorite parks, but I'm going to modify the greatest park statement: Cedar Point is the greatest thrill park in North America. While I'd absolutely pick a trip to any Disney park over a trip to Cedar Point, I would definitely pick a Cedar Point trip over a trip to any other Cedar Fair or Six Flags park, all other things held equal.

Lastly, my opinion of Fast Lane, Cedar Point's skip the line system. If you are visiting Cedar Point and have only one or two days, I absolutely recommend buying Fast Lane for one day of your visit. It is expensive, but it will save you a ton of time and make your visit much less stressful. Unlike other parks, Fast Lane will not grant you instant access, but it should cut your wait to about 10-15 minutes per ride. Even though we got lucky and found waits of 30 minutes or less for all but the big three (with a fair number of walk-ons), there is no way we would have gotten several rides each on Maverick, Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster without it. If you will be visiting for three days (the most I'd recommend for one Cedar Point trip), Fast Lane is optional, and I would advise against buying it for multiple days unless you've got plenty of money to spend.

Ride Totals:

Blue Streak: 2
Cedar Creek Mine Ride: 1
Corkscrew: 1
GateKeeper: 3
Gemini: 2
Iron Dragon: 2
Magnum XL-200: 3
Mantis: 2
Maverick: 5
Mean Streak: 2
Millennium Force: 4
Raptor: 2
Top Thrill Dragster: 4
Wicked Twister: 2
Woodstock Express: 1
Cedar Downs: 1
Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad: 1
Pipe Scream: 1
Power Tower: 2
Shoot the Rapids: 1
Skyhawk: 1
Witches Wheel: 1

Total: 44 rides over two days (~20 hours in park; 2.2 rides per hour)

Next Up: A look at two small parks in the Cincinnati area: Coney Island and Stricker's Grove, as the TPR Mini New Hotness Tour officially begins.

Replies (4)

September 16, 2014, 4:56 PM

Good trip report, AJ. Cedar Point keeps getting higher on my bucket list.

I gotta ask though, "Mini New Hotness"? There's a bad joke or two in there somewhere.

Edited: September 16, 2014, 10:55 PM

In order to understand Mini New Hotness, you must understand a few things about TPR in general:

1. The site is a fairly PG-13 site with more humor than most theme park sites.
2. Robb Alvey (the owner of the site) is somewhat of a 40 year old teenager. That is not a bad thing, it just gives the place a different feel.
3. The term "new hotness" comes from a Men in Black line, and has been in use on the site since it began to describe new top tier attractions.

Why Mini New Hotness? Well, TPR did a two-week trip in 2012 called the New Hotness Tour (I was not on that trip), where the goal was to visit as many new rides as possible. That particular trip started in New Jersey and went through Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee before ending in Georgia. The 2014 trip had the same goal, but since it was a one-week trip through Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illionis, it was given the name Mini New Hotness instead.

Edited: September 18, 2014, 9:10 AM

Good stuff, AJ, thanks for sharing. While we disagree slightly on Magnum (I could argue that because of its great throughput it is a better overall experience than Millennium Force), we completely agree that Maverick is the best ride in the park (and one of the best coasters in the nation), and Cedar Downs is a hidden gem. I look forward to your next update.

Edited: September 18, 2014, 3:30 PM

James, I definitely find one of Cedar Point's biggest issues in the ride department to be the capacity (or lack thereof) of their headliner attractions. The four major Intamins all have capacity in the 1,000-1,300 riders per hour range. At most coaster parks, this would be sufficient, but not at Cedar Point. Even though the operators do the best job they can, it still just isn't enough. A three train B&M can typically do 1,700-1,800 with a crew who's really on top of it, and some Arrows can approach 2,000 RPH (back when Gemini used six trains, it could actually do over 3,000 from what I've heard). These are the capacities Cedar Point needs.

I will say this: With Fast Lane, when it's a 10 minute wait for Magnum or a 15 minute wait for Millennium Force, I'm going to pick Millennium Force every time. Without Fast Lane, however, I would absolutely pick the 15 minute wait for Magnum over the hour-plus Millennium Force line.

Also, Cedar Downs is an absolute must ride. Those I was with thought it looked silly, but after riding they agreed it was pretty awesome.

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