SANDUSKY, Ohio – There are 18 reasons why Cedar Point is known as the roller coaster capital of the world.
The popular amusement park, located on a peninsula that juts into Lake Erie, has that many hair-raising, body-crunching rides. For those keeping track, that puts the 364-acre playland two coasters ahead of Canada’s Wonderland, located outside Toronto, and one behind Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif.
The steel and wooden roller coasters are a big reason Amusement Today’s readers voted Cedar Point the best amusement park in the world 16 straight years, from 1997 to 2013.
But they’re not the only ones. Cedar Point boasts 71 rides in all, a water park to cool off in, a variety of shows and lots of games. The location on the lake, which some rides practically hover over, also provides Cedar Point with a picturesque setting that’s no doubt the envy of many amusement parks.
It’s the coasters, however, that dominate the Cedar Point skyline. The two biggest heart-stoppers are Millennium Force, rated the No. 1 steel coaster in the United States last year in Amusement Today, and Top Thrill Dragster.
The 310-foot-tall Millenium Force was the tallest, fastest and longest steel coaster when it opened in 2000. The ride takes passengers on the familiar long, upward climb that’s followed by the sudden descent and stomach-churning ups and downs and sudden turns. But it does so on a bigger and more terrifying scale than most.
The Top Thrill Dragster is even taller, although with just one giant hump it defies the traditional coaster experience. The ride rises some 420 feet, and reaches a speed of 120 mph in under four seconds. The adrenaline-rush is over in 30 seconds.
Wooden roller coaster fans will want to try Mean Streak, once the tallest and fastest of its kind. It’s still tall and it’s still fast, with speeds of 65 mph. But the ride is anything but smooth, as it hurtles riders through swoops, blasting in and out of dark tunnels and through assorted twists and turns. This ride is one of the longest, clocking in at 3 minutes and 10 seconds. (BREAKING: Cedar Point announced Aug. 1 that Mean Streak will close Sept. 16.)
A wooden coaster far easier on the body is the Gemini. After choosing the red or blue side seating and making the long ascent, the rider is hurtled along parallel tracks into deep swoops and bending curves on the track’s figure-8 layout.
Other coasters include Rougarou, which opened last year. It takes riders 145 feet into the air, and then drops them 137 feet, just above the Cedar Point Lagoon, before riding upside-down in a vertical loop, with turns, dives and a 360-degree spin.
This year’s newest attraction is Valravn, a “dive coaster” that takes riders 223 feet in the air and dangles them on the precipice for four seconds, before plunging at a speed of 75 mph and launching into a series of loops and turns.
Not into roller coasters, or needing to restore some equilibrium? Circular rides, swing rides, bumper cars, a Ferris wheel and three carousels – two classic, and the unusual “Cedar Downs Racing Derby” – are among the family attractions that await.
There are also kiddie rides found in Camp Snoopy, Planet Snoopy and Kiddy Kingdom, including two coasters for the younger set.
Soak City provides an alternative to the heat, with numerous body and inner tube slides, including the 76-foot-long Zoom Flume chute.
On a recent Sunday, lines longer than five minutes were rare despite a large number of people in attendance. Crowds there are nothing new – Cedar Point was the most visited seasonal amusement park in the United States in 2015, with 3.5 million visitors.
Cedar Point also proved to be a pleasant park to be despite the heat, with well-landscaped and shady areas, plenty of drinking fountains and that close-up view of Lake Erie.
A couple of rides – the Skyride, which takes people about one-third of the way into the park, and the small Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad passenger train, which tugs along a 2-mile circuit – allow visitors to get on and off, giving the soles of their shoes a rest.
It’s easy to see why Cedar Point – coaster enthusiast or not – reigns so supremely in the eyes of amusement parkgoers.
If you go
Driving: Cedar Point is 252 miles – or about 4 hours – from Buffalo. Take 90 west to US-6W to Cedar Point Drive in Sandusky.
It’s possible to drive down in the morning and still make a whole day of it. The park is also 61 miles west of Cleveland.
Park tickets: Save money by purchasing online. The $65 gate price drops to $52.99 for a ticket good any day. Daily admission tickets, excluding weekends, are $47.99. Other discounts, including $5 off $20 parking, are also available.
Lodging: There are six resorts near the park and the beach, and plenty of lower-cost hotel options that are mostly six to eight miles away, and start around $60 per night.
Food: Cedar Point has no shortage of hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, Cokes and ice cream. It’s why the park touts an average of 91 miles of hot dogs eaten a year, and 29,000 gallons of ice cream consumed. Starbucks, Johnny Rockets and Subway are among chain offerings.
App: Download the Cedar Point app to track wait times.