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Cedar Point offers Autumn thrills

Sean Sweany | Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Click. Click. Click. Click. It’s a familiar sound.The never-ending click-click of roller coasters brings fear and anticipation to a day at the amusement park. Although summer is nearly over, it is never too late to make a road trip to an amusement park, as parks allow visitors to continue to defy gravity further and further into the year. The closest big name amusement park to South Bend is Cedar Point, stretching out on a peninsula into beautiful Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. The self dubbed “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” is a mere three hour drive east on Interstate 80 and well worth a visit for any intrepid thrill seeker. Cedar Point features 16 world-class roller coasters, which have won many awards and records over the years. Top Thrill Dragster, the parks newest record breaking coaster, seats riders in trains that resemble drag racing cars. At the “starting line” position, riders begin a countdown with the familiar “Christmas tree” red, yellow and green lights. When the lights turn green, the train launches forward at an astounding 120 mph toward a completely vertical climb up a 420 foot tower, more than twice the height of the Main Building. Upon reaching the top of the coaster, riders have a brief second to appreciate the breathtaking view before plummeting face first down the 420 feet to the ground. Top Thrill Dragster was the first roller coaster to break the 400 foot barrier and it set the bar for other parks to build coasters even faster and higher than before thought possible (the current rumor is that Cedar Point will again raise roller coaster standards in 2007 with a coaster standing 500 feet tall). Junior Michael Spond, who visited Cedar Point recently, describes Top Thrill Dragster as, “the most intense ride imaginable. It must be what it feels like to fly in a fighter jet.” For those who find the fighter jet feeling of Top Thrill Dragster somewhat intimidating, a more reasonable coaster exists in Millennium Force. Built in 2000 as the tallest and fastest coaster in the world, Millennium Force stands 310 feet tall and reaches speeds of 93 mph. Thanks to the height, blazing speed and many stomach-churning hills, Millennium Force has earned the ranking of the best steel coaster in the world from Amusement Today, an international publication that covers amusement and water park news and trends. If the idea of 300 feet makes you queasy, try your luck at the next-tallest coaster at the park, Magnum XL-200: the first coaster ever to reach the 200 foot mark. This “hyper-coaster” is nearly one mile long and is so loved by enthusiasts, it has been ranked as a Top 5 coaster ever since its construction in 1989. In addition to these three giants, Cedar Point features 13 more outstanding roller coasters including the inverted coaster Raptor, the stand-up coaster Mantis, Wicked Twister, Gemini and Mean Streak. Most of these coasters would be the premier amusement rides at parks such as Six Flags, but they play only minor supporting roles at Cedar Point. In addition to world-class roller coasters, Cedar Point also offers many smaller, carnival-type rides that hearken back to the park’s origins as a basic turn-of-the-century boardwalk resort. These rides have always been intended to spin and flip people upside down repeatedly, but technology allows designers to do this in more extreme ways than ever. The brand new maXair spins riders around at 70 mph while swinging them at heights up to 140 feet and providing several seconds of weightlessness. In addition to housing a staggering 68 attractions and shows on 364 acres of land, Cedar Point is also a full fledged resort. There are three hotels, a campground, a marina and several miles of beaches on the peninsula. Not content with the old waterpark which sits directly underneath Magnum XL-200, Cedar Point built an indoor themed waterpark/resort this spring called Castaway Bay, complete with tropical slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. Employees at Cedar Point are continually rated as some of the most pleasant and helpful in the country, and if you make a trip there, be sure to thank them for all the hard work they do. Food purchased in the park is expensive, as would be expected, but the choices are quite diverse and surprisingly good. There are also numerous fast food restaurants within a five minute drive of the front gate for those trying to save money. Normal one day park admission costs $44.95, but discounts can usually be found online, sometimes in amounts up to $15 off the regular price. Cedar Point is open for normal operation on the remaining weekends in September. For weekends during the entire month of October, Cedar Point transforms into a haunted atmosphere called HalloWeekends. Roller coasters no longer draw the only screams, as the whole park is eerily decorated for Halloween. Monsters lurk around the foggy, darkened park terrifying guests as they take in the surroundings. Werewolf Canyon is an especially popular frightening walking journey through a pitch-black canyon teeming with hungry werewolves. HalloWeekends also features three highly themed, spooky haunted houses, live entertainment, plus all the regular Cedar Point thrills for one price.The best way to experience Cedar Point and ride as many rides as possible is to arrive with a group of friends when the park opens and stay until the park closes. It is possible to make the three hour drive in time for the opening, but after a long day of fun at the park, a good plan is to find a hotel nearby to stay the night. There are many inexpensive hotels in Fremont and Bellevue, cities just west of Sandusky. Overall, Cedar Point has roller coasters second to none and is altogether one of the best amusement parks in the world. Nearly every year a new mind blowing attraction is built to make sure guests come back and keep screaming. So next time you’re in the mood for a road trip with an extreme adrenaline rush, remember to visit America’s Roller Coast, Cedar Point.