by Michael P. Coleman
My first visit to Cedar Point was way back in 1974. I’ve always held very fond memories of the park and the first roller coaster ride of my life, Blue Streak. That coaster’s then terrifying 65-foot first drop left me and my mom breathless. It was the third tallest ride in the park at the time, and the largest coaster.
This season, Cedar Point, located about 2 hours from Detroit in Sandusky, Ohio, is using the tagline “The Best Amusement Park in the World”, and I decided to put them to the test. I couldn’t wait to ride Blue Streak again, but with so many amusement parks to choose from, I flew in thinking that the park could not possibly live up to that tagline.
I walked away realizing that, sometimes, “the hype” is justified.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I felt like Marty McFly from Back To The Future. Today’s Cedar Point bares little resemblance to that quaint park I remember. Today, Blue Streak sits in the shadows of enormous, steel scream machines like Raptor (which leaves riders’ feet dangling beneath them thru a hair-raising ride), Mantis (which offers a standing roller coaster experience), Corkscrew (one of the country’s first inverted coasters), Mean Streak (a hybrid wooden / steel monstrosity that really shakes you up) and the Gemini, a unique racing coaster that pits your car against another for a race back to the launch station.
Don’t sell the Blue Streak short, however. It’s a small, vintage rickety nightmare of a coaster in it’s own right, an old school “out and back” coaster that gets the heart pumping.
Before you even you enter the park, you’ll be greeted to shrieks from riders on GateKeeper, Cedar Point’s newest additional that whisks riders through and above the actual gate of the park, through several inverted loops for a heart-stopping 2 minutes and 20 seconds — while suspended on either side of the coaster’s track.
Another of the Cedar Point’s favorites is Magnum XL-200, which was the world’s first roller coaster to top 200 feet in height when in debuted in 1989. We rode it twice. We had to. UNBELIEVABLE.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a quick walk to the other side of the park offers Millennium Force, which set another record as the first coaster in the world to top 300 feet. With this one, the excruciating chain-lift that’s a feature of most roller coasters is replaced by an elevator cable lift. It’s smooth and gets you to the top of the first hill super quickly, but that only means less time to pray to whatever god you serve before you barrel over that first 80 degree drop. This coasters offers stunning views of the Lake Erie shoreline, and reaches a white knuckle top speed of 93 mph. Also, close to Millennium Force is the deceivingly-small Maverick, which offers an initial drop of 95 degrees — you heard me: 95 DEGREES! You actually drop inward as you head down that first hill.
But the one that will absolutely take your breath away is Top Thrill Dragster. Can you imagine a trip up more than 400 feet, with a vertical, twisting trek down and back to the launch station in only 13 seconds? Neither could I. I’d like to say my life passed before my eyes, but the inside of my eyelids and the face of my late father — or was that Jesus? — were about all I saw after the first few seconds of that ride. Do you know how many times you can scream “Oh, my God!” in 13 seconds? I do, now.
Cedar Point offers lots of family friendly fare too, from one of the oldest carousels still in operation in the country at the front of the park, to live shows, great concessions, and plenty of rides for those who don’t want to scream all day. I wasn’t one of the those people, and make no mistake: Cedar Point’s roller coasters are the stars of the show. My only disappointment of the trip was that the park’s several water rides weren’t open, yet — but that just gives me a reason to visit again later this season.
If you get a chance, visit Sandusky, Ohio’s Cedar Point. If it’s not “the best amusement park in the world”, I don’t know what is. The kids will have a ball, and the trip is sure to reawaken the kid in you. In fact, why don’t you meet me at the entrance to Top Thrill Dragster. I double dog dare you.
Look for information on Cedar Point, including accommodations and point-of-view videos for many of their rides, at www.cedarpoint.com. Michael P. Coleman is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California. Catch him between coasters at michaelpcoleman.com, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP