Friday, August 12, 2011

Impression: Cedar Point

How does one even begin to critique Cedar Point? I sit down to right this review apprehensively, not quite knowing how to start talking. Cedar Point is practically my second home, the park I've been visiting since before I can remember. Whether it's the rides, the atmosphere, or the personal factor that makes it my favorite park, I don't know. What was originally supposed to be a one-and-a-half day trip turned into an amazing three day trip.

We started out with the family on Thursday night with Platinum Passholder ERT on Magnum and Top Thrill Dragster. We fought against the crowds to move further into the park, and by the time we reached Dragster, the line was extended all the way to the station. Not a good way to start out. We noticed that the queue had not been opened, however, so we got in line anyway. The longer we waited, however, we began to realize it would be smarter to head to Magnum, which closed at 10:45 regardless of opening time, and come back to Dragster later. With that, we got out of line and headed over to Magnum.

Photo courtesy of Cedar Point
The first ride on Magnum was my personal favorite. I grabbed the front row, left seat, and got a very smooth, thrilling, and airtime-filled ride. Magnum was absolutely flying over the tracks, ejector airtime on every hill. Better yet, it was one of the smoother rides I've had recently and it was bug-free. I sat in the back row for the next ride, my only complaint here being the roughness. It wasn't really that bad, but it was much more noticeable than in the front. I always recommend the front row on Magnum if you want the best ride. While the 'ejector seat' (row 3, left seat) is preferred by some for the airtime, I find the increase in airtime to be minimal and prefer the front for the smoother ride and the equally impressive airtime.

Photo courtesy of Cedar Point
We managed to get three terrific rides on Top Thrill Dragster after that, with no more than a 5 minute wait for any of them. We started out in the middle of the train, moving to the back row for the second ride, and front row on the third. I was not sure we would make it on for that last ride, as ERT was ending and ride operators were moving guests to other rows to fill up the trains. We stood firm the whole time and got our ride, thou, which was just as exhilarating as ever. We took off down the launch track at incomprehensible speed, my arms flying upward instantly without my consent. We hurtle  up and over the top hat, slowing just long enough for me to view the whole park laid out around me. We fly downward once again, and in what feels like a split second, the ride is over. This really is one of my favorite rides in the park. It's short and simple, but the adrenaline rush is unmatched. After the ERT finally had to end, we left the park tired and happy.

Ocean Motion
The next morning started out with some light rain showers, that put a damper on our spirits as we arrived at the park around 11. By the time we made it in, it was coming down quite hard, and we pulled into "Donut Time" to come up with a plan. None of the rides were open, we were disappointed, and we almost left. I managed to convince the family to wait a little longer, and sure enough, the rain slowed down to a light drizzle. A few of us walked over to the newly remodeled (and moved) Ocean Motion, which was just as fun as I remembered it and now looking ten times better. My only complaint with the new setup was that riders exited on the same side as they entered, causing a few jam-ups on the platform. We stopped back into Donut Time to catch up with the rest of the group before heading over to maXair, which looked to be one of the few open rides in the park.

We arrived at the 45 minute wait just a few minutes later in slightly heavier rain, and spirits were low once again. The ride ops were fortunately very efficient, and we managed to get on in about 30 minutes instead. Power Tower, maXair, Skyhawk, and now Windseeker make a great collection, and maXair is definitely one of my favorites. It's wonderfully thrilling and relaxing at the same time; if I only had a pillow, the soothing spinning/swinging motion could put me to sleep. Still, the height and speed keep me alert, and together make this an excellent ride.

Power Tower
It was just starting to clear up again, and we headed over to Wicked Twister. None of us wanted to wait 45 minutes for a ride that's usually a walk-on, so we headed deeper into the park. A few of us went to ride Power Tower, me included, while others took a spin on Matterhorn. We did "Space Shot," which had a shorter line and is usually my favorite. Despite my love of roller coasters, I am terrified of heights. I'm usually fine on roller coasters because I feel enclosed and am secured with lap bars, seat belts, and other harnesses. These drop towers are much more intense as I am exposed on the outside of the tower, but I love them anyway. Once again, it's not a very complex or interesting ride, but just plain fun and exciting.

We were itching to get on some coasters, so we headed back around the Iron Dragon lagoon area and towards the Frontier Trail. Iron Dragon had a massive line and Wildcat was closed, so we moved on. Mantis, however, had a 45 minute line, which we somehow ended up in only moments later. The line moved quickly enough, and we ended up filing into one of the middle rows with a short line. All buckled into the uncomfortable seats, we took off up the lift hill. This ride on Mantis was actually better than most of mine in the past. Still quite rough and head-bangy toward the end, but the first half wasn't too bad. I might. Even be able to call it 'decent' rather than simply 'tolerable'.

We moved towards Millennium Force next, which had a surprisingly short wait of 30 minutes. Before we got in line, we decided that we wanted to get a bite to eat. Thus, we walked all the way to the back of the park for Chick-fil-A. After a delicious lunch of lightly-breaded chicken, we headed over to Maverick, in the rain once again. We got into the hour-and-a-half wait anyway, worrying that our day was slowly getting away from us and we had only been on a small handful of rides. Maverick stayed open during the rain, only stopping briefly to put two more trains on the tracks. We ended up boarding in about one hour, as Maverick is generally one of the fastest-moving lines in the park.

What a ride! Maverick remains firmly placed in my top 10. Maverick has everything I love in coasters: speed, airtime, twists and turns. It's such a fast, out of control ride, and yet still very well structured to include so many great elements. We fly up that lift hill, with that same feeling of speed that I find on Diamondback's splashdown, before we tip over the crest and almost instantly pull out of an unbelievably steep drop. Twisting and turning through the rocks, we hurtle over the first airtime hill just to be thrown out of our seats. After a few beautifully smooth turns and some inversions, we enter the launch tunnel. Mere seconds later, we're shooting out the other end and up over the lagoon, before coming down into the s-curve that should have been the third inversion. A few great twists, a Stengel dive, another airtime hill, and we come to a stop. All of these elements are perfectly packed into one average-sized ride, that has earned its place in my top ten.

We walk quickly over to Skyhawk next, trying to avoid a painful ride on Mean Streak by riding something better instead. One thing that I love about Skyhawk is that it is almost always a walk-on, and today was no exception. We strap ourselves in and fly backward with great power, building speed as we swing backward and forward. As we finally reach maximum height, I look around at the guests below me and the rest of the park upside down once we swing the other way. We begin slowing down almost immediately, finally coming to an abrupt stop. As much as I love Skyhawk, it has an upsettingly short ride cycle, nowhere near as long as when it opened in 2006. I try to focus on the great ride experience instead as we walk back towards Millennium Force.

Millennium Force
We shove our stuff in a locker and run to the still-short 30 minute line. Soon enough, I'm seated in the second row of my favorite roller coaster at Cedar Point. We speed up the lift hill, and I spend those few seconds looking out to the left, trying to take in the whole park despite our ever-increasing height and my fear of it. I jolt my head back towards the front just as we crest the lift, and my hands fly up once again as we hurtle towards the ground on this seemingly never-ending drop. My vision starts to grey as we go through the first overbanked turn, but it clears up just as we enter the first tunnel. Up the  hill we go, still flying but with little airtime to be had. I look around at the rest of Millennium Force and now Shoot the Rapids as we traverse the next few turns. We hop over the next hill, this time hitting some strong floater air, before another tunnel and another good airtime hill. Just one more overbank and the ride is over. I really do wonder if it deserves my #2 spot sometimes, as the airtime is simply decent and the rest of the ride is filled with repetitive overbanks. For me, though, there's simply nothing to compare with that level of intensity. The forces aren't particularly strong through most of the ride, but that height and speed make for a simply unforgettable ride.  For me, that first drop is the very definition of thrill: unbridled speed and excitement. I absolutely love it.

As it's getting quite late in the day now, we decide that we want to finish up with one or two last rides. I was really pulling for a ride on Windseeker, but it had been down all day to to rain and... high winds? That didn't quite make sense, but we moved on to Raptor, which was fortunately a walk-on. We decided to wait one cycle for the front row, as for some reason it really enhances the experience more than on some rides. We climb the lift hill, swoop down towards the ground, and up into the iconic vertical loop. Into the great zero-g roll we go, and then we enter the cobra roll. After the MCBR, it's just a few flat spins and turns before we hit the breaks. It's not a particularly ingenious layout, but it still manages to be one of my favorite coasters in the park. Maybe the elements are not very unique, but they are arranged well and are themselves quite forceful. The loop is average, but the zero-g roll and cobra roll are both excellent. The corkscrews always take me by surprise, and overall I am continually impressed with Raptor's grace and force. Not only is it an exciting ride, but it is very elegantly designed; the signature B&M smooth transitions, the interweaving layout, and even small things such as the short straightaway before the cobra roll, just long enough to catch your breath. Raptor truly is an excellent design.

We headed towards the exit after that, knowing that we had ridden so many great rides and roller coasters in one day. I was still quite upset about missing Windseeker, and was desperate to come up with a plan. We decided to book a room at Kalahari, and ended up spending most of the next day at the waterpark, which was fantastic! We only had about an hour to get back to Cedar Point for one ride on Windseeker.

We run into the park, past other enticing rides like Raptor, maXair, and Wicked Twister, to reach our final destination: Windseeker. With a posted wait of 30 minutes, we hop into the makeshift overflow queue. Like all Cedar Point lines, this one moves very fast, and we soon find ourselves entering the ride area, dumping our stuff in a bucket, and hopping into our assigned seats. Let me just say - these restraints are terrifying. The lap bar comes down smoothly, but once you think it's locked, it still moves a little, which scared me quite a bit. No time to worry though, as we raise up off the ground, me clinging to the small and already sweaty handle. We start spinning, higher and higher, as I look out at the park, still gripping the handle intensely, and my sister with her eyes closed and talking to herself. Despite what some may say, this is definitely a thrill ride. The motion itself is nothing all to exciting, but the sheer height and sense of speed will be enough to scare some riders, like me, more than they expected. I manage to raise my hands half-heartedly just as we start the descent, still looking out at the park, which seems to be on it's side. Despite how scary it may be for me personally, I will definitely have to ride it again, and very soon.

As 10pm was quickly approaching, we knew we had no time for other rides. We stuck to our plan, stopping only for a hot dog at Pinks. It was the perfect way to end the night.

Overall Park Rating: 10/10 Stars
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