March 2005 Issue
Get to the Point
There's always something new at Lake Erie's famous amusement park and resort. This year, it's a gigantic pendulum that swings and spins at speeds reaching 70 mph.
When You Go
Cedar Point, One Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky, 419/627-2350. www.cedarpoint.com. Admission-price packages are available. Discount tickets are available at a variety of Ohio supermarkets and venues. Open daily May 7-Sept. 5; Sept. 9-Oct. 30 open Fri.-Sun. Call for times.
Where to Stay
Cedar Point has accommodations to fit every taste and budget. Here are four, each distinctly different.
- The charming 650-room Hotel Breakers, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, offers picture-perfect views of Lake Erie, along with turn-of-the-last-century elegance exemplified in Tiffany stained-glass windows, a four-story rotunda and wicker furniture. One indoor and two outdoor swimming pools, an Italian eatery and a 1950s-style ice cream shop add to the ambiance. Summer room rates range from $150 to $350 per night.
- For those wishing to get far - but not too far - away from the roar of the crowd, Sandcastle Suites Hotel is the ideal solution. Located on the tip of the Cedar Point Peninsula, the hotel, with 187 two-room suites, sports a tennis court, outdoor pool and whirlpool spa and spectacular views of sunrises and sunsets over Lake Erie. Summer room rates range from $135 to $335 per night.
- The epitome of quaintness, Lighthouse Point has 64 waterfront cottages with private lakeside decks and 40 cabins, each with their own microwave, refrigerator, cable TV and outdoor grill. Summer rates range from $135 to $250 per night.
- Roughing it never felt so good. The 112 sites of Camper Village RV Campground are idyllic places to settle in. In addition to a plentiful supply of picnic tables and charcoal grills, the complex has a rest room, shower and laundry facilities and a camping supply store. Rates range from $50 to $75 per night.
Where to Eat
Think of amusement park food, and your tastebuds will conjure up images of hot dogs, elephant ears, funnel cakes, cotton candy and homemade fudge.
But for a more epicurean dining experience, try one of the park's themed restaurants:
- Famous Dave's is known for its barbecue. Specialties include wings and ribs.
- Bay Harbor has upscale cuisine, including New York strip steak, Lake Erie perch and lobster.
Take advantage of these amenities, guaranteed to help make your Cedar Point experience a smooth ride:
- The park's FreeWay system allows guests to reserve a spot in line at major roller coasters. Patrons can ask to have their hand stamped with a boarding time valid any time within a one-hour increment of when they want to ride.
- Parents may obtain a KidTrack wristband for their children at Guest Services at the Main Gate and all other entrances. Guests write their 10-digit cell phone number on the band and fasten it around their child's right wrist. If children become separated from their parents, Cedar Point employees are authorized to call the cell phone number and report their location. Children will be safely supervised until parents arrive.
- Guests with small children who want to board many of the rides with height requirements can participate in the Parent Swap program. One parent waits with the child on the midway near the ride's exit. When the other parent is finished riding, the person who waited with the child enters the ride through the exit.
Summer in Ohio. A great time for parades, picnics and get-togethers with loved ones.
For my family this year, that means a reunion at Cedar Point amusement park/resort. Although my husband's siblings are scattered up and down the East Coast, warm memories of trips to "the Point" linger. My brother-in-law wants to recapture his youth aboard the Blue Streak, the park's oldest coaster that made its debut 41 summers ago. My niece, a college sophomore, is ready to discover why a group of high school friends from Maryland would regularly carpool the 800-plus miles to Sandusky and back to ride rides.
If you haven't visited Cedar Point since the Earthquake ride shook, rattled and rumbled (it was retired after the 1984 season), then it's time to discover why the place has been voted the "Best Amusement Park in the World" for the seventh consecutive year by Amusement Today magazine, the Texas-based publication that covers news and trends in the industry. Although old favorites like the Dodgem bumper-car ride and the Matterhorn bobsled are still going strong among the 68 rides filling the park, new thrills are added each year based on guest suggestions and preferences.
"When we built the Millennium Force coaster in 2000, people came out in droves and said, â€˜Wow, this is the greatest thing we've ever been on. Keep doing this. Build us taller rides. Build us faster rides,'" recalls Bryan Edwards, Cedar Point's public relations coordinator. "It's truly a â€˜Field of Dreams.' We build it and they come."
The newest towering achievement is maXair, a gigantic pendulum that swings riders to and fro to a height of 140 feet while spinning them in a clockwise direction at speeds reaching 70 mph.
But the park is also committed to adding attractions tailor-made for the nonthrillseeker. Last November, Castaway Bay, a new indoor waterpark with overnight accommodations, debuted at the corner of the Cedar Point causeway. Through the long winter, visitors flocked to this Caribbean-themed oasis, splashing their way through the 100,000-gallon wave pool and relaxing in The Grotto, two 50-person whirlpool spas - one indoor, one outdoor - and being drenched by 1,000 gallons of water from a bucket in the Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse.
Day 1: Come along for the ride, enjoy the show
Start the day with a cinnamon roll from Donut Time, located at the park's entrance. This grab-and-go eatery opened last year in response to requests from early birds who wanted to be among the first in line but also wanted their fill of breakfast food.
No trip to Cedar Point would be complete without a twirl on the Midway Carousel, which dates back to the mid-1940s. Other tried-and-true, low-impact rides to explore today include the Calypso, a ride with spinning seats, the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, an authentic coal-fired steam engine that transports passengers through the complex; the Space Spiral needle that provides a 285-foot-high panoramic view of the park and Lake Erie; and the 145-foot-high Giant Wheel.
Guests with tots in tow can head to Camp Snoopy, where adults can ride side-by-side with their kids on old favorites including the Tilt-A-Whirl, a circular ride with free-spinning gondolas, and Lolli Swing chairs. Go go-karting or play 18 holes of miniature golf at Challenge Park, which also includes a state-of-the art arcade and the X-Treme Trampoline, on which participants have been known to bounce more than 20 feet in the air.
It's always showtime in at least one of Cedar Point's five theaters: Camp Snoopy Theatre presents a sing-along and appearances by Charlie Brown and friends. "Snoopy's Summer Vacation," on stage at the Good Time Theatre, features professional ice skaters and the Peanuts gang. The Extreme Team takes to the high dive at the Aquatic Stadium. Centennial Theatre stages a retrospective of American music. Baby boomers will enjoy "Twistin' to the '60s" at the Palace Theatre. (Check times and dates for all shows upon arrival.)
Day 2: Ups and downs
It's time to take the plunge on one or all of the park's 16 roller coasters. The daring dips and flying turns will give pause to even the bravest among your party. Be sure to take a good long look before you get in line to make sure you know what you're getting into, and batten down the wallets, keys, loose change and cell phones. (Lockers can be rented for this purpose.) Most of these scream machines are designed to turn you upside down and inside out as you go round and round.
Following are a few of the impressive highs and lows.
Absolutely not for the squeamish, Top Thrill Dragster made its debut at the park in 2003 and gave Cedar Point the distinction of owning the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the universe. Riders begin their journey by securing themselves into an 18-passenger train that reaches a speed of 120 mph in four seconds (no, that's not a typo). The train zooms straight up a 420-foot-tall hill on a track that rotates 90 degrees, crests the coaster's apex and then free falls back to Earth, racing 400 feet to the ground and twisting 270 degrees as it does so.
Millennium Force. The name says it all. Termed a "gigacoaster" for its extreme height of 310 feet above the ground and top speed of 93 mph, this baby was voted Best Steel Roller Coaster in the World by riders in a poll conducted by Amusement Today magazine because of its ability to provide two minutes of speed and terror. The Force is definitely with you as you ascend and plunge hills that are 310-, 169- and 182-feet tall, enter and exit two tunnels and conquer two 122-degree overbanked turns.
Would you like to swing on a star? Raptor is undoubtedly the next best thing. Riders take flight by dangling 137 feet above Cedar Point's main midway, before being twirled upside down six times, and flipped over and down into a 180-degree roll. (Better lay off the corn dogs before climbing aboard.)
Cedar Point's coasters may be world renowned for speed and excitement, but the park has not forgotten the feint of heart. Guests who don't have the constitution for dizzying loop-the-loops and satellitelike views can still find thrills.
More than 60 million visitors have ridden the Cedar Creek Mine Ride since it opened in 1969. The no-surprises-in-store, 48-foot-tall coaster winds through Frontiertown at varying speeds, all of them palatable.
The perfect family-bonding ride, Jr. Gemini is billed as "the roller coaster version of a bike with training wheels." Parents ride side-by-side with children 19 feet above the ground at 6 mph, cresting a 9-foot hill.
No trip to Coasterland would be complete without paying homage to the Blue Streak, the woodie that started it all. Although she may have taken a back seat to hipper contraptions, there's still a lot of life left. After cresting a 78-foot-tall hill, riders careen over a half-dozen smaller ones and master a hairpin turn. Nearly 54 million riders have conquered the coaster since it premiered in 1964.
Day 3: Soak it up
It could be the name of a Beach Boys tune. Since 1988, Soak City has been making a splash with crowds. The 18-acre waterpark, lying along the picturesque mile-long shoreline of Lake Erie on Cedar Point Beach, features a 500,000-gallon wave pool and two tranquil inner tube river rides. For those who want to make waves, the jungle-gymlike, 48-foot-tall Splash Zone is filled with aquatic gadgets that spray, squirt and get guests sopping wet. Ten water slides, including two 60-foot speed slides, and the 76-foot-tall Zoom Flume guarantee there's something for every member of the family to enjoy.
In addition to sun and sand, plenty of R and R is also at hand. Bathers just wanting to contemplate life's ebb and flow can rent a cabana for the day. Stretch out on one of the provided chaise lounges and while away the hours with a good book or by listening to a few tunes. When its time for a bit of refreshment, belly up to the adults-only Bubbles Swim-Up Bar for a Long Island iced tea or daiquiri.