Cedar Point Trip Report - All But Iron Dragon
My initial trip to "America's Roller Coast" was a most memorable one.
Ever since I was in Elementary School, I have wanted to visit Cedar Point. Back then, I had access to Time Magazine as many school assignments would end up making use of them. One day I recall looking through an issue and stumbling upon an article that went something like "Cedar Point: The Roller Coaster Capitol of America". I don't recall the details of the article but I do remember that it left an impression in my mind that Cedar Point was a place I had to visit one day. In my mind, it was the true mecca of amusement parks, the place where thrill ride seekers like myself would want to visit. Who needs Disneyland when you've got Cedar Point?
To be fair, my only experience at amusement parks when I had read that article was probably Lagoon in Utah, or Funland in Idaho Falls if you want to be generous. Even though Cedar Point has changed a lot since that article in Time Magazine many years ago, the message hasn't. Cedar Point may not have the most, but it could still be called the roller coaster capitol of America because of the sheer quality of its coaster lineup. Now that you know the back story, onto the trip report.
My girlfriend and I arrived at the park just a bit after opening time. Enough for there to already be lines but the parking lot was still plenty empty. Arriving at the park is almost half the fun, to be honest. As you approach the park, it builds your excitement by showcasing its tall lineup of rides, visible from the roads leading to the park. Lake Erie also greets you on your way, which accents the industrial look of the park well. As you make your way to the entrance of the park, you see the newest thrill ride, Gatekeeper, flying over the actual gates as a way of greeting you as you walk in.
Now, the first ride I was eager to take was on the Gatekeeper itself. While the coaster showcases thrills over the entrance, the ride's entrance is fairly far off from it. Now this is where a different aspect of the park I didn't expect came into play: The landscaping. Cedar Point is a beautiful park full of lush scenery and well-maintained flowers. You could spend hours just looking at the landscaping and detail they put into everything. This made walking from ride to ride much less of a chore because you never knew what fine detail might greet you around the corner.
As I found Gatekeeper's entrance, I noticed that the wait time was rather long. Being my first time at the park, I wasn't sure how long a long line would be, so this was the time I decided getting a Fast Lane Plus pass might just be worth it. An expensive treat, but one that will save you in a park as busy and packed as Cedar Point. A Fast Lane Plus on that day cost $90, which I would have rather not paid but we only planned on a one-day trip, and one that I hoped to make the most of. As the lines at other rides didn't look to be any smaller, I got the wrist-band that allowed me to "hop the line" in a sense.
The Fast Lane Plus as an idea in of itself is a great idea for those who can afford it. If you have $90 to drop that day and aren't a regular park visitor, it's probably a great investment. However, this pass did seem to be quite a contrast to the Fast Lane offering at Kings Island. Where Kings Island's Fast Lane will most often take you to the direct front of the line immediately at the station, most of the rides that used Fast Lane at Cedar Point only took you to a portion of the front of the line. What this meant is that you would enter through a separate line and then just end up merging with the regular line, which wasn't as convenient as I had hoped. While not a deal-breaker, this did make you wait 15 minutes or so to ride Millennium Force, Gatekeeper, Raptor, Top Thrill Dragster, and more. While Cedar Point may have a larger selection for your buck, Kings Island seems to offer a more pleasant experience for the Fast Lane user.
Also offered with our ticket was unlimited drinks all day with a wrist-band. What this meant is that you could go to any drink stall in the park and get any drink you wished to have, completely for free. With the weather being as hot as it was on that day, this investment more than paid for itself after just a few drinks. Scattered throughout the park are also new Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, which means you can get special combinations of drinks that make it even more worth your while.
Once acquiring the Fast Lane Plus pass, my first ride turned out to be Corkscrew. I attempted to hit Top Thrill Dragster first but the ride was down for the moment. This seemed to be a common theme as the ride would frequently have a train of riders roll back from the hill. Apparently the wind can cause the ride to not make it over the hill as intended.
Corkscrew is a classic ride designed around the idea of going through two corkscrew elements over the midway around the ride. Built decades ago, I knew this ride would probably not be as thrilling as others but could be fun and would definitely be one I'm glad I rode. Before heading to Cedar Point, I had read some rather poor reviews of Corkscrew, so my expectations were incredibly low heading in. Corkscrew was one of the few rides in the park that made great use of the Fast Lane, with the special line taking you directly to the station.
The ride on Corkscrew was a pretty pleasant one. For all the talk of head-banging, I didn't experience an ounce of it. The ride whips you through a vertical loop before making its way over the midway through two corkscrews. The visual of these over people as they are walking past the ride is a great one, and Corkscrew is a must-ride if you are new to the park. After all these years, this ride managed to pack quite a thrilling punch and with none of the problems I had heard about before riding.
Once the ride was over, my girlfriend and I decided to give the Super Himalaya a shot. There isn't much to say here, as it's just your standard Music Express style ride. If they plan on keeping this ride, I'd say Cedar Point could invest in the ride a bit and give it some much-needed love.
As Top Thrill Dragster appeared to still be down, we decided to keep chugging on to the back of the park and found the entrance to Magnum XL 200 was not too far off. Magnum is one of the rides I had always dreamed of riding, after hearing about it online, seeing it on numerous TV specials, and even riding it in roller coaster simulation games. The ride ended up being a pretty fun experience up until the end. My thighs did not enjoy being slammed into the lap bar as we headed back into the station. I've heard there might be alternate ways to ride that make the experience easier on your legs but that's probably an indication that something with the ride needs to change. I wouldn't say Magnum was a bad experience, just not one I'd be racing back to anytime soon.
As with most rides at Cedar Point, Magnum XL was not too far from the next one, with Gemini racing along its track nearby. This area appeared to have been recently upgraded, with new rides such as Lake Erie Eagles and Pipe Scream. Also in this area is one of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines I mentioned earlier.
Gemini is an interesting ride as it appears to be one of the first to be styled in the modern trend of a wooden structure with a steel track. Who knew that Gemini would be a trend-setter today when it opened in the 1970s? Gemini is a roller coaster that also has a racing component, where you will dispatch with a train next to yours that races along the track as it makes its way through the structure. The racing element adds a lot to the experience as you root for your train to make it back to the station before the other. Having only ridden one side of the track, I'd happily ride the other if I make it back to the Point.
Visible from the Gemini area is the giant wooden beast known as Mean Streak. However, on the way I spotted Maverick. An intimidating launch coaster with twists, turns, and inversions galore. Another ride that used its Fast Lane line well, this one takes you directly to the station allowing you to get on pretty quickly. Maverick is supposed to give you the experience of riding a wild horse in the wild west. I can say Maverick accomplishes that goal well with its launched lift, 95 degree drop, and wild twists and turns that throw you all over your seat. A definite must-ride for anyone that finds their way to Cedar Point.
After Maverick, we made our way back to Mean Streak. Talk about a ride with a poor reputation, I was expecting this coaster to beat me up to a pulp. The ride itself was not as bad as I expected, with more of a slower ride than it appears. As you come racing down the initial hill on Mean Streak, you hit some very noticeable trim brakes that slow down the train considerably. This makes the ride almost crawl through some portions of the track, making it much less thrilling than it appears to be. I didn't feel tossed and turned at all like I expected, except for the end where the brake slams you into your lap bar like no other.
Maverick is in the middle of the Frontier Trail section of the park, which is a collection of rides and themes set to the old west of the United States. In here are many rides including Shoot the Rapids, Thunder Canyon, and Skyhawk. The two water rides, Shoot the Rapids and Thunder Canyon were well suited to the western theme, with old-time signs and log cabin surroundings. Throughout the area are many old cabins from the 19th century, with real shops inside them that add to the authentic feel of it all.
On the other side of Frontier Trail are two famous coasters in Cedar Point, in Millennium Force and Mantis. Millennium Force could still be called the star attraction at Cedar Point as it towers over the rest of the park. Packing a punch as the world's first Giga Coaster, Millennium Force was another on the list of rides that I knew must be part of everyone's trip to Cedar Point. Heading up to over 300 feet is quite the thrill but even more shocking is how long it takes to get to the top, which is mere seconds. Despite the short trip to the top, you do get a nice view of Lake Erie.
Heading to the top does mean you have to go down though, and go down you do at 80 degrees and 93 MPH. Being a 14-year-old ride, it was as smooth as any ride I've ridden built within the last few years. Flying across the track feels like nothing, with plenty of twists and turns as you careen back to the station. One aspect I think adds to the experience is the absence of any mid-course brake run, so the ride never appears to slow down until the very end. Being as smooth of ride as it is, I wouldn't want it to. My favorite roller coaster was Diamondback before riding the Force but it may have been good enough to take the crown.
Beyond Millennium Force, we were finally beginning to feel hungry. Nearby from both Mantis and Millennium Force is a small chicken stall, offering chicken fingers and fries. The chicken and fries were pretty good but overpriced as you might expect. I'd get them again but wouldn't turn down trying something else if in another area of the park next time.
The chicken stall happened to be just under Mantis, so I decided to try that next. This ride ended up being the worst ride of the day. As I attempted to latch into the restraint, I found it wasn't quite working. The attendant came over, made me bend my knees and then I stood up after being latched in. This made the ride quite uncomfortable as I felt the latch cutting into my crotch. While I was focused on that during the entire ride, I didn't notice that the ride was beating me up quite a bit otherwise. I got off the ride feeling incredibly beat-up. My entire right side felt like it had been kicked and beaten for at least a half hour after riding.
We then decided that I was healing enough to move on to the next ride, and pushed on to find the next set of thrills. Also next to Mantis is Iron Dragon, which unfortunately does not support Fast Lane. The line seemed to be longer than I had wanted, so I skipped it this time. I don't think this ride is too popular most days but the line on this day stretched past its entrance.
Heading out of the area took us to the main midway of the park, nearly in front of Raptor. Here sits two classic rides that add to the great atmosphere of the park, Antique Cars and Cedar Downs. My girlfriend and I rode around in the Antique Cars as a fun distraction, and rode Cedar Downs because it looked like a ton of fun. Both rides are a great idea for families because they're fun for any age and thrill tolerance. Cedar Downs has a great, memorable tune you can hear from far away that remains in my head to this day.
Raptor made a ton of noise surrounding these smaller rides, so it was next. A great ride that towers over the main midway, this ride is almost as good as the brand new Banshee at Kings Island. For being as old as it is, I did not expect it to be a smooth experience but it felt nearly brand new. This ended up being a thrilling ride that is a must-ride for any newcomer to Cedar Point. Besides Banshee, I don't know if you could find a better inverted coaster out there.
As I was waiting for Raptor, I noticed that I had missed Blue Streak on our way over. To be fair, it is pretty easy to miss being on the other side of Raptor, almost obscured entirely from the main midway. This is a wooden roller coaster painted blue, with an out-and-back design which sets it far apart from the much more complex Mean Streak. Blue Streak is classic in every sense of the word. The feeling of popping out of your seat and the clank of the tracks adds to the thrill and nostalgic feel of the ride. Don't count the ride out either, it's much faster than you expect it to be.
Finishing up that section, it was time to cross the midway and ride the park's latest coaster, Gatekeeper. While this ride definitely packs a punch, it never seems to pick up the speed you expect it to. Flying through the signature keyholes near the entrance is probably the most intense part of the ride, which is a bit disappointing if you're expecting a big thrill out of Gatekeeper. I'm not saying the coaster in any way is bad, just that it seems to lack that edge that would make me want to ride it again and again. You won't regret riding though, as it is definitely a ride that needs to be experienced at least once.
Getting off Gatekeeper left me with a little bit of a conundrum. I was feeling quite a bit nauseous getting off, so we grabbed additional drinks and headed off on a pressed penny hunt. You can acquire these decorative pennies by finding machines strewn throughout the park. We discovered that there was a machine at the exit of Maverick we missed, so we headed back there to complete the collection. Making this trek also allowed my body to calm down after the queasiness Gatekeeper left me with.
Another ride that I happened to miss on our first way around was Cedar Creek Mine Ride. This ride is a bit off the path we took earlier, so it was somewhat easy to miss. No Fast Lane on this ride either but the line looked small enough to not be a problem. About 15 minutes later, I rode one of the tamest coasters in the park. What wasn't tame was the lap bar design, which jammed into my knees because it's connected to the rest of the people in the car.
From here, the day seemed to be winding down in pretty quick fashion. On the way back to the main midway, I wanted to take another spin on Millennium Force. I dare say the ride was better the second time. I doubt if I lived closer that I'd ever get sick of riding this one.
After getting off Millennium Force, we noticed that Top Thrill Dragster appeared to be in operation again. Before it could stop working again, we raced over and I got on within about 20 minutes with my Fast Lane Plus. All of the build-up, all of the rides, and the missed opportunity earlier all built to this moment on Top Thrill Dragster. I felt my heart jump just a little bit as I climbed in. I was about to be launched over 400 feet in the air, and I couldn't have been more ready.
As the ride accelerated to the sounds of a real dragster vehicle, the train flew to the top of the massive hill. For a second, I realized this was the climax of the day. The rest of my time at the park couldn't get any more thrilling than this. As I looked over at the rider next to me, I realized they had their hands up as mine were clutching the restraint on me. In the moment, I threw my arms in the air, ready to experience the rest of the ride without restraint. Nothing I've experienced on any roller coaster in my life has come close to that moment on Top Thrill Dragster.
Upon leaving that ride, it was time to grab a souvenir or two and head back to the hotel. Doing so, I reflected back on my time on the rides that day and the great time I had. A dream I have had since I was barely tall enough to ride roller coasters had come true. I came, I rode, and there's no doubt the experience was better than I expected.