Who doesn’t love a good rollercoaster ride? That sense of anticipation (or dread) as your train clanks up the steep incline towards that inevitable drop into the abyss.
The feeling of butterflies in your stomach as you soar over the first hill and feel yourself pulling away from your seat, free as the wind. Those intense g forces that crush your body as the train whips through inversion after mind-numbing inversion. Whether it’s the rattling, rickety sensation only offered by the more traditional wooden coasters, or those uniquely-named inversions such as boomerangs and jo-jo rolls found on modern coasters of steel, the majority of Americans love to have a good scream on these thrill machines.
What? We didn’t see you raise your hand when we asked our first question? Well, we hope you won’t be too mad at us, because this issue is all about Cedar Point, the Rollercoaster Capital of America! A sprawling park perched on a small Lake Erie peninsula, Cedar Point covers three hundred and sixty-four acres and is home to no less than sixteen rollercoasters! It has received dozens of prestigious awards over the years and introduced the world to many new types of rollercoasters.
Like many of America’s older amusement parks, Cedar Point got its start as a small picnic and pleasure park in the late 1800’s. A dance floor, beer garden, and bowling alley soon gave way to more traditional amusement rides, and the first rollercoaster opened at the park all the way back in 1891. This original coaster stood a mere twenty-five feet tall and raced at a thrilling speed of ten miles an hour. After this, the park expanded rapidly throughout the early 1900s. While it did fall on hard times during the years of the Great Depression and World War II, it managed to stay afloat and avoided the wrecking ball that demolished so many of the era’s amusement parks.
Today, Cedar Point is the second-oldest amusement park in the country and by far one of the largest. It currently boasts over seventy rides in addition to its impressive rollercoaster line-up. Visitors also can enjoy the thrilling slides and refreshing waters of Cedar Point Shores Waterpark or the beach located on Lake Erie. A full-service marina, several on-site restaurants, three hotels, and an indoor waterpark resort round out the rest of the park’s offerings, allowing visitors to plan an entire vacation around this world class park.
Just like you would when planning a Disneyworld vacation, it’s very important to make a plan of action before visiting the park. It can be overwhelming when you first go through the turnstiles and realize how much there is to do, so plan what attractions you must include in your itinerary. Just like Disney, Cedar Point sees record-breaking crowds throughout the summer months, and it’s not uncommon for lines to stretch three hours or more for the more popular rides. Two full days are a minimum if you intend to see everything the park has to offer. If you want to enjoy the waterpark, spend some time on Lake Erie, or check out some of the other attractions in the Sandusky area, we would recommend a long weekend or four days.
When you first arrive at Cedar Point, you have several options for parking. The main entrance offers a great sense of arrival with the imposing Gatekeeper wing coaster flying over the gate, but you may want to skip the crowds and drive to the smaller parking lot located behind the park. This is normally used for the waterpark and sometimes can open later in the morning, so we recommend calling ahead to find out what hour it opens. Parking in the back can allow more time to ride the truly epic coasters which are clustered more towards the back of the park before the crowds disperse from the front gate. Remember also that visitors who are staying in a Cedar Point hotel or purchase the Platinum Pass are allowed early entry to ride some of the park’s select rollercoasters a full hour before normal visitors enter.
If you look at a map of the park, it is laid out somewhat in a figure eight shape. This makes it easy to make two large loops and hit most of the attractions. Unlike theme parks, most of Cedar Point is not divided up into lands. Instead, there are several long midways that are separated from each other and anchored by an iconic coaster, such as the Top Thrill Dragster. The one exception to this rule is Frontier Town and Frontier Trail, much of which may remind you of Dollywood’s Craftman’s Valley. This was by far our favorite part of the park. Wide paths meander under tall shade trees and past authentic cabins where you can make and purchase handcrafts. A wonderful petting zoo and two water rides make this a favorite area for families as well.
Of course, how could we finish this article without mentioning the rollercoasters for which Cedar Point is so famous? There are historic icons such as the Blue Streak, an out-and-back coaster built in the 1960’s, kiddie coasters such as the Woodstock Express, and record-breakers such as Magnum XL 200, the world’s first hypercoaster. Then there are the scream machines which truly make the park a world-wide icon. Millennium Force, a gigacoaster which was the first coaster ever to top three hundred feet, dominates the area in front of Frontier Trail. Over a mile of sleek blue track snakes its way over much of the peninsula and leaves riders dizzy from the positive g’s. Valravn opened just last year as the tallest dive coaster in the world. The car dangles riders over two hundred feet in the air before dropping them straight down. Gatekeeper is the longest wing coaster in the world, Raptor whips riders through six inversions, and Wicked Twister launches riders forwards and backwards along two twisted vertical spires.
Our favorite two coasters were Maverick and Top Thrill Dragster. Maverick, themed to a wild bucking bronco, definitely feels like one. Two launches at seventy miles an hour, a beyond vertical drop, and nonstop twists and turns make it appear on almost every coaster enthusiasts’ top ten lists. Top Thrill Dragster stands over four hundred feet high, making it the first coaster to ever be dubbed a stratacoaster. The launch from a standstill to one hundred and twenty miles an hour takes even the most hardened coaster veteran by surprise, as does the straight down drop back to earth afterward. It is quite possibly the zenith of humanity’s search to create the most thrilling ride.