I’ll be the first to admit (and the editor in Robert Niles will probably scream at me admitting this) that this is not going to be the most comprehensive report about HalloWeekends at Cedar Point. A wild mix of conflicts, along with a back injury, kept me from visiting Cedar Point during its most popular event of the year - HalloWeekends. Finally, I found a date that I could get there, limited though I am.
I’ve been following various Cedar Point fan sites, and most of the time the running issues have been 1) massive crowds on Saturdays especially and much larger than normal crowds on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, 2) long lines and limited operations at the food venues in the park, and 3) major back-ups on the causeways leading to the park. I was curious to find out for myself - I tried to monitor the live webcams to see the parking lots, how full they were, and how congested the pedestrian walkways, midways, etc. of the park were. It seemed that Cedar Point often aimed the cameras at places that made it impossible to judge the size of the crowds. Intentional or not, I usually couldn’t judge crowd size.
We went on a Thursday evening, which was reportedly the lightest day of the long weekends. It was also the shortest operating hours of the weekend, with pass holders allowed in at 5 p.m. and the park open until midnight. We arrived at 5 p.m. and had no problem either on the causeway, parking lot, or park entrance.
Cedar Point does a really outstanding job of decorating for the season. Gigantic skeletons are everywhere. The cemetery of dead rides is always fun to check out, and the Top Thrill Midway (don’t ask me, I don’t know anything about what will happen to it) is lined with thousands of pumpkins, gourds, and squash in elaborate patterns. The entire park is a Halloween spectacle.
We decided not to do any rides, but instead to focus on the food, entertainment, and haunts. The show that we wanted to see the most - the one with the best word-of-mouth - was “Wake the Dead: a Murder Mystery Musical” in the Palace Theater in Frontier Town. We got there early enough to have time to talk with some locals waiting for the show, and they verified the past HalloWeekends problems with crowds. They made several attempts to come to the park on Saturdays and never made it due to massive line-ups on the causeway. They had nothing but good things to say about the show we were waiting for, and they were right. It was extremely well-staged, and the talent was probably the best we’ve seen at Cedar Point. It was fun, engaging, and since it had four different endings, depending on what performance you went to, it invited repeat visits by the audience - if you could get in. I understand that it’s always SRO, with a long line extending back to Maverick.
Dinner was at the new Farmhouse Kitchen and Grill. We didn’t try anything new there, but while we gorged ourselves on chicken tenders and steak, we were “entertained” by Scare-a-oke (yes, a HalloWeekends version of karaoke). The entertainers were having fun, and that’s what is important.
Frontier Trail is not a scare zone per se, but it was dark and foggy, and there were Screamsters scattered through the Trail, providing jump scares to unsuspecting visitors. Several haunts, Cornstalkers and Slaughter House: You’re Dead Meat, had their entrances along the trail.
We stopped at Coasters to try the Syringe Burger, their signature cheeseburger with “eight-second sauce,” and their “House-made Pumpkin Roll from Chef Elka’s Pastry Kitchen.” The cheeseburger was rather smushed-down, and the syringe with the eight-second sauce (which tasted like a mixture of mustard and mayo) did nothing but shoot mustard all over the place rather than into the bun… and after eight seconds it still just tasted like mustard. Not spicy at all.
The pumpkin roll, however, tasted wonderful! Rich, just the right amount of pumpkin spice, and the cream filling was a great addition to the pumpkin cake.
“The Midnight Hour: 25 Years of HalloWeekends with the Midnight Syndicate” was presented for three performances each night (four on Saturdays). The two remarkably talented performers/composers and a small cast of creepy actors and singers presented a show that, in spite of being similar to every other show they’ve presented over the years, still provided an appropriate horror event.
For some strange reason, a woman brought her two-year-old to the show and sat right down front. Thirty seconds after the show started, the kid was screaming and she was carrying him out. Stranger things....
We passed “The Witch Sisters’ Insult-Emporium: Witch Please!” performing on the Ballroom balcony, overlooking the main midway. These three Hocus-Pocus-inspired witches happily were cackling insults to passers-by, and lots of people were sitting on the benches facing them, enjoying the insults and entertainment.
The only indoor haunt we went through was “The Haunting of Eerie Estate,” formally just called Eerie Estate and held in the old Cedar Point administration building. It was supposedly rethemed from previous years, but I didn’t see anything different except for a ouija board in the first room that moved around a bit. The ouija board we had when I was nine years old moved more - and was scarier.
Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends has become a victim of its own success. What has become its busiest time of the year is the same time that it has the most trouble finding workers. I’ve heard from many workers, both park employees and volunteers working as a fund-raiser for their local charity, that they have, at times, had difficulty getting to the park in time due to the traffic on the causeways. A friend of mine left home two hours early to get to her job, and was late. Many of their regular restaurants were closed, and there are only so many food trucks that can be brought in to make up for the difference. We didn’t have any problems on Thursday night, but there are too many reports of short-staffing issues on other evenings for this to be disregarded.
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