SANDUSKY, Ohio - For adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies who have not been to Cedar Point in a while - or for those who have never visited before - there has never been a better time to pay a visit to the most highly acclaimed amusement park in the world.
Somehow this writer had let two decades slip past since the last visit. In fact, I was with a group of friends from high school who went up during the opening season for the Magnum XL-200 - a sleek and lightening-fast steel coaster which at the time became the tallest one in the world by topping the elusive 200-foot height threshold. That roller coaster seemed so extreme, we thought nothing could ever outdo it.
Over the past two decades, however, mad scientist roller coaster tycoons have continued to raise the bar, inventing and bringing to life much taller, faster and more extreme roller coasters. At Cedar Point, the Magnum XL-200 is still a great coaster that thrills the crowds, but today it is literally dwarfed, overshadowed or left in the rear-view mirror by a number of newer, eye-popping thrill rides.
T-L Photo/ERIC AYRES
WINDSEEKER, which opened at Cedar Point in 2011, offers an extreme take on the general swing ride. The gondolas traverse up the mast roughly 300 feet, reaching a top speed of 30 miles per hour at the peak. That speed is maintained for 1 minute before the 64 riders began their descent back to Earth.
It seems Cedar Point has remained steadfastly dedicated to retaining its title as the roller coaster capital of the world. In fact, the industry's international publication Amusement Today has named Cedar Point the Best Amusement Park in the World each year over the past 14 years consecutively, and for obvious reasons.
What's best about this prized gem of the amusement park universe is that it's not too far from home - less than 3.5 hours away via easy highway drive time from the Ohio Valley.
For return visitors, you don't have to wait for decades to pass to rediscover Cedar Point.
There are new attractions added every season, and most of the time, a new multimillion-dollar addition will claim a title as the "tallest," "fastest" or "biggest" ride in its category. The classic Corkscrew and Blue Streak are still there, as is the mighty racing Gemini, which was topped in the wooden coaster category by the Mean Streak in 1991 when it claimed the mark as the world's tallest and fastest wooden coaster. The Mantis opened in 1996 as the tallest and fastest stand-up roller coaster. There is now the Raptor - a thrilling suspended coaster, Wicked Twister - an open-ended "launch" coaster, the Maverick - a twisting and turning steel coaster featuring a 95-degree-angled drop, which became the parks 17th coaster; and the huge steel Millennium Force - a world favorite that became the tallest (310 feet), fastest (93 mph) coaster in the world in 2000.
But the crown jewel of the roller coaster capital of the world in terms of speed and height has to be the Top Thrill Dragster. Crowds will wait for hours if necessary for this 17-second ride - one that launches a train full of thrill seekers down a track - blasting them from 0 to 120 mph in four seconds. The train is shot up into the sky 420 feet off the ground at a 90 degree angle, then it rockets them back down on a twisting track at another 90-degree slope. It shattered world records when introduced in 2003.
Roller coasters aren't the only key attractions at Cedar Point. Last year, the park introduced Wind Seeker - a 30-story high swing ride that takes riders to pulse-pounding heights, offering breath-taking views of the park, beach and entire peninsula. Shoot the Rapids opened in 2010 as the park's third water ride, and the 300-foot-tall Power Tower has been an iconic structure on the park's ridescape since 1998, catapulting riders straight up or dropping them straight down along one of four vertical tracks.
There are also scores of other rides, from larger carnival-style rides and classic amusement park staples to unique, state-of-the-art thrill machines to an array of age-appropriate rides for the little ones and four separate themed areas just for younger children.
We were slightly disappointed that a handful of rides were either not open at all or were closed for part of the day during our recent visit. It's understandable that safety comes first and maintenance must be done on these rides, but at one week into the season, it raises an eyebrow to find a half dozen rides out of operation. Yet, there are so many rides at Cedar Point, it would be impossible to try them all in one day. In fact, it would likely take a newcomer a couple of full days to become familiarized with the layout of the park.
Cedar Point does offer something for everyone - from a variety of shows and attractions to a huge selection of food vendors, restaurants and souvenir shops. But the park is primarily for riders particularly, big-time thrill junkies. There truly is no better place in the world to get your adrenaline fix.
There are special rates for groups and for visitors who stay at park resorts located right on the peninsula or just a short drive down the road. There are also many other hotels within driving distance. Either way, the cost of admission and an overnight stay of a day or two can be made reasonably affordable for any family that plans it out right. Cedar Point is undoubtedly a destination that should not be missed by the young or the young-at-heart.
For more information about Cedar Point, visit www.cedarpoint.com.
Ayres can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.