Monday, June 2, 2014

Cedar Point: Roller Coasters, Dinosaurs and Family Fun

Luke has recently been asking if we could go to an amusement park this summer. Aside from the fair, we have never taken our kids anywhere with rides (I know, we're horrible parents), so I told him that would definitely be on our summer list. Imagine my joy when I received an offer to visit Cedar Point--it was only slightly below Luke's unbridled joy!

To begin with, Cedar Point has a beautiful setting. I am used to parks that can be seen from the highway, so I loved that you had to drive down the frontage road and take in the view of Cedar Point along with the stunning backdrop of Lake Erie. The boys noticed as we entered the front gate that the hedges were cut in the shape of various Peanuts characters. They had a blast pointing out which ones and choosing their favorites. I like that their excitement was triggered before we even entered the park.

When we walked in to the park (after a very quick wait in line--despite arriving right when the park opened, along with everyone else, it seemed), we spotted several Peanuts characters. The boys made a beeline for Snoopy to show him their shirts.

As you can see from their squints, we had the benefit to visit on a beautiful sunny day. Thank you, weather!

After this, we headed to Camp Snoopy. I want to add that I found it amazing how big Cedar Point is. It is a very spread out park, and they've done an excellent job of keeping a lot of shade trees and beautiful landscaping within the park. We definitely got an idea of size as we walked to Camp Snoopy, but it was a good way to plan out our rides for later in the day. Tommy and Luke rode a few of the smaller rides, then Tommy wanted to ride the Woodstock Express, which is a roller coaster with train cars. Now, I've been on kiddie roller coasters before. I never expect them to move or have much of a drop, but the Woodstock Express was pretty fast for a kid coaster. We loved it! Tommy screamed his head off, then immediately asked to go again. I like that there is this option for kids who are too little for the other roller coasters (Woodstock Express requires riders to be 36" and accompanied by an adult), but they still get the feel of a roller coaster. I want to say that Tommy rode this one at least five times.

Since Dinosaurs Alive is right next to Camp Snoopy, we headed here after a few more kid rides. Dinosaurs Alive does require a fee on top of the Cedar Point admission; however, it is very minimal (a family of 4 would have to pay $10 total). We went to the animatronic dinosaurs exhibit at Brookfield Zoo a few years ago, and this far surpassed it. As a teacher, I enjoyed that each dinosaur (there are over 40 dinosaurs) area comes with a sign and educational information about the different types of dinosaurs, where they were discovered, interesting related facts. We loved reading them and learning something new. There are also dinosaur related jokes scattered throughout, which Luke enjoyed reading. What I liked is that as you're viewing the dinosaurs, you wind back amongst the trees. Although you can see some roller coasters, the rest of the park blends into the background and it truly is like you're on a Jurassic island.

All told, it took us about thirty minutes to view the entire exhibit. We definitely could have spent longer, but Tommy didn't want to stop and fully read the signs like the rest of us. We all thoroughly enjoyed everything that we learned about the different types of dinosaurs. Because the additional cost is so reasonable for what you get, I would absolutely recommend tacking this on to a Cedar Point visit.

We did head to lunch next because the boys were starting to get a little punchy. Cedar Point graciously provided us with a delicious lunch that included fruit and chicken with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes (YUM), but there are so many options for dining within the park. You can pretty much find anything from hot dogs to diner style to casual fine dining and everything in between, either inside or directly adjacent to the park. I loved that they have such a wide variety of food choices. The boys also got Snoopy stuffed animals, which basically made their day, as you can see.

(Note the gorgeous backdrop.)

Luke was chomping at the bit to ride some bigger rides, but I told him he needed to let lunch settle first (okay, maybe *I* needed to let lunch settle first). We rode the ferris wheel, which is an excellent way to get a bird's eye view of the park at 136 feet in the air. What I loved about the ferris wheel is that you didn't just go around once. We went around five times total, which made it a really enjoyable ride. We also got stuck at the top, which Luke loved.

The view from either side was absolutely stunning.

Tommy opted out of the Giant Wheel, so Shane took him to the kids' area while we were riding. Cedar Point offers a lot of rides just for kids, where you have to be between two certain heights to ride. While we were in line for the Krazy Kars (kiddie bumper cars), I watched the attendant measure and turn away two boys who were two big. As a parent, I really appreciate this because there are bigger bumper cars and many of the kids on Krazy Kars (my own included) were still figuring out the mechanics of operating the cars, so it's nice for them to be able to do this without bigger kids smashing into them. Tommy declared Krazy Kars to be his favorite ride in the park.

Luke graciously rode a few more rides with this brother, then I told him we would ride a few of his rides. At seven, Luke is not quite tall enough for all of the roller coasters, but he is tall enough for some, which was very cool and exciting for him.
We rode Corkscrew first, a roller coaster that twists and turns right over the midway, so we'd already walked beneath it a few times. What I enjoyed about this was that the ride operators gave a brief history of the ride as you were waiting to ride it. It was neat to learn how high up it went, how much of a descent, when the ride was built and so on. Luke was mostly just thrilled at the prospect of going upside down not once but three times. He absolutely loved it, and I absolutely loved seeing his pure joy when the ride halted to a stop. At this point, I started having so much fun that I absolutely forgot to take any more pictures. Rest assured there were many smiles and much joy.

His next goal was to ride Pipe Scream, which is a new ride for 2014 (along with Lake Erie Eagles). Pipe Scream spins and coasts up and down the track. I am not a spinning person. Even merry-go-rounds make me motion sick, so this was a tough one for me. I ended up focusing on the center of the ride, so I missed a lot of the views. Luke, however, loved it and told me that being at the top of the track was amazing. Luke also wanted to ride Iron Dragon, which is a suspended coaster. This was fun because it takes you over the lagoon and through the woods, so you get a lot of different views during the ride.

When we got our map at the hotel the day before, Tommy noticed a train and was obsessed all day with the train. So of course, we had to seek out the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad. I absolutely loved this. It was laid back and it covers about two miles of track, so you get a view of the park from a different perspective. We spotted rides that we hadn't yet seen! You also get the option of riding a full loop or getting off at a half-way point, so this may be a good way to get around the park without walking. The boys' favorite part is when the train goes through Frontiertown and you go through a whole area of a wild west type town populated by skeletons, some of which move and make noise. Tommy is still talking about the skeleton fireman spraying a house fire.

We rode a few more rides, then it became apparent that it was dinnertime and my kids were starting to feel our full day at the park, so we made a fairly quick exit (with a stop for Dippin' Dots). Unfortunately, we were unable to stay another night because Shane had a funeral to go to on Sunday. I will say this: when we return, we will absolutely spend two days in the park. There were quite a few more roller coasters that Luke wanted to ride but we didn't have the time to do so in finding the balance between he and his brother riding rides. There were areas of the park that we couldn't check out as much as we wanted or that we wanted to visit again. We spent eight hours in the park, but there is so much to do that we definitely needed another day!

Some tips on how to make the most of a visit to Cedar Point:

  • Stay at a hotel connected with the park. We stayed at Breakers Express. It was relatively inexpensive and just a few blocks from the park. Unlike some of the hotels, it doesn't offer a shuttle, but we were given a parking pass at the front desk, so a shuttle seemed unnecessary to us. The rooms are just the right size for when you aren't planning to spend much time in a hotel room, and it was clean and quiet. There is also a pretty big outdoor pool area, which would have been great to run the kids around in if we'd stayed another night. Most importantly, the hotels connected with the park offer a discounted rate on tickets and you can also gain early entry to the park for select rides. You could also consider Lighthouse Point if camping is more your style or Sandcastle Suites if you were looking for a bigger room with amenities like a microwave or refrigerator. There is definitely a wide range of options to choose from, which I really like.
  • Think about Fast Lane if you don't like waiting in lines or can't spend two days at the park. We never waited in a line for more than 30-40 minutes, which really isn't bad. However, I watched several people move right to the front with a Fast Lane pass and I kept thinking, "Why didn't I do that?" In our family, I can see how we would buy one for one of us and just Luke because it isn't really applicable for kids' rides (or necessary, they never had much of a line). Luke was pretty patient about waiting in lines once I explained that it's all part of the experience, but I can see the benefit in jumping to the front on some of the rides with longer lines--especially if you might want to ride them over and over. 
  • Look into the All Day Dining Plan. My kids get HUNGRY when we're at parks and walking around all the time, so they want to eat constantly. The all day dining plan has an option where for $29.99, you can enjoy an entree and a side every 90 minutes at participating locations. I am pretty sure my kids would actually eat every 90 minutes. 

Finally, I know I have quite a few runners reading my blog, and I wanted to share that Cedar Point is this year hosting the inaugural Run & Ride Weekend, with a half marathon, 5k and a 1-mile fun run for kids. I am disappointed that I didn't know about this sooner because I definitely won't be half marathon ready by then, and it's absolutely something I would love to do. I am putting it on my to-do list for next year, though! Entrance to the race includes a long-sleeved tech tee, reduced parking, free entry to the park Friday after 5PM, all day Saturday and Sunday, plus discounted ticket prices for friends and family who may be coming with you. Like I said, I will definitely be planning on this half marathon next year.

I can't say enough good things about Cedar Point, obviously. We will be back sooner than later. Do you have any exciting summer plans?

Disclaimer: I was given passes to Cedar Point and Dinosaurs Alive, as well as provided lunch. All opinions are my own.


Julie said...

Sounds like so much fun! I haven't been to Cedar Point since I was a kid. Need to get that on the list this summer!

Theresa Mahoney said...

You guys sure did pack in a lot in only 8 hours! We went for 2 full days and got the fast passes, and I still think there was more we could have explored!

Your boys are going to be so hooked on Cedar Point now. Once you get to the world's best amusement park, no others compare :)

Toni said...

I grew up going to Cedar Point...was sometimes the highlight of the summer! My son has never been much of a "rider" (I KNOW!) so it's not a place we have frequented since he's been born. However, he recently asked me if we could go because he wants to try roller coasters. :) I will agree with the comment above, once you visit Cedar Point, other amusement parks seem to "lack." I'm glad you and the family had such a great time...they really do it up well for the kids.