Part 6 - Cedar Point
"There’s two kinds of people, my friend; those with loaded guns and those who dig."
After an hour of driving we finally exited the Pennsylvanian rainstorm and were eventually treated to the most beautiful golden sky. The warm glow gave our journey a certain ‘cinematic aesthetic’, so it seemed very fitting to deploy accompanying ‘cinematic music
’ through the car speakers as the light grew ever dimmer, which captured the mood perfectly. Here we were, like cowboys riding into the sunset for a long awaited and emotional showdown.
Not long to go now...
I’m not sure whether it was the setting sun, or the music, but I ended up feeling rather pensive. After all, we were about to face the ‘final boss’ of all theme parks. For some time, I have softly feared this ‘end game’. How could it ever live up to the hype? And what existed beyond it…..?
My anxiety didn’t last for long though. At the cusp of darkness, we caught a fleeting glimmer through the trees:
“I saw it, I saw it!!”
Cedar Point then fully appeared before us, causing a brief explosion of celebration followed by a stunned silence.
As we would be staying at Hotel Breakers, our drive would take us around the perimeter of the park. This road is well known for offering incredible up-close views of some of the meanest coasters in existence. For years I have anticipated this and, just as we were passing Blue Streak, I executed my plan to start playing one of the most epic pieces of music of all time. I invite you to relive this moment by listening to that music as you scroll through the below photos (which can do all the talking for me):
Seeing Steel Vengeance ascend the lift hill, as the music was climaxing, was… honestly… probably one of the most epic and emotional moments of my life.
We parked up and headed into Hotel Breakers. If you ever find yourself weighing up whether staying at Hotel Breakers is worth it, do yourself a giant favour and just do it. It was brilliant. Our room was in the main building just above the Starbucks.
The view from our room.
The view whilst having a paddle.
We loved the cute seaside aesthetics of the promenade and although we didn’t have time to relax on the beach, we found ourselves walking up and down it several times to take it all in. It just ‘added something’ to the experience, you know? There were also Jet Skis for hire, which looked really fun (maybe next time). From a practical perspective, it was also super convenient to head back to our room for a rest during each of our two park days. Post-trip, Mrs. Nitefly and I both agreed that we could happily spend 5 nights at Hotel Breakers.
We woke up in the morning with the sort of excitement that comes from visiting Cedar Point for the first time: HURRGHN!!!!! \o/
Our entrance, 2-3 minutes from the hotel, was at the ‘Magnum Gate’:
Top Thrill Dragster looked ridiculous.... oh look there's Magnum too!
Of course, Dragster would be down for our visit. There was nothing we could do about it and it didn’t bother us, in part as we’d get to experience Kingda Ka in a few weeks. Mrs. Nitefly is absolutely terrified of Kingda Ka and I’m similarly terrified of Zumajaro, so our little agreement is that we will each brute-force ourselves onto our respective most feared rides on the planet. Stay tuned for that one.
Suddenly, we were in. Oh my…
My dear friends. I’m pleased to report that Cedar Point is….. absolutely ****ing amazing
. I’m sat here in disbelief at how good it really was. Just, head in my hands… I can’t even. I'm sorry.
I’d like to clarify a major misconception though. I suspect you have heard people refer to Cedar Point as an amusement
park. In reality, Cedar Point is actually a theme
park. It’s theme? Great big ****-off roller coasters
. Now, that’s a theme I can get behind! Just about anywhere you go, the views are incredible. You don’t even have to try. Look at this:
Look at this!
The midway section towards the front of the park is certainty less inspiring than the back-end (which is actually quite pretty in places, particularly between Millennium Force and Maverick), but any time you feel blighted by a wide stretch of tarmac, there is a very simple remedy: look up.
Our first ride then… how could it not be Steel Vengeance? We ran over to it with stars in our eyes annnnnnnnnnnnd it was down. Ominously so. A cherry picker was assisting a team seemingly doing some maintenance to the lift chain. ****. Fearing the very worst, we would have to make do with another ride for now.
Oh, how about this one? I heard it was supposed to be pretty good...
Maverick was Mrs. Nitefly's most anticipated ride of the trip.
It wasn’t long before we were boarding for a front row ride.
Maverick was astonishing. The top-notch beyond-vertical drop leads into some intense twists before delivering a spectacular airtime hill, easily one of my favourites to date. The following inversions are excellent and forceful, albeit probably the weakest part of the ride (only as the bar is so high). I was actually taken aback by the mid-ride launch, as Cedar Point’s official POV suggests that the train pauses before this for a few seconds, but the pause we experienced was far shorter in duration for us on all rides. The subsequent trim break did hit intermittently, but never seemed to dramatically affect the post-trim segments, including the two astonishing dives. Pure thrill with butter-smooth delivery.
Every ride on Maverick had us on the break run in disbelief of how good it was. It’s sailed into my top-5 at the time of writing, no question. In terms of being easy to love and exceeding expectations, for both of us it was the smash hit of the first of our two road-trips. Very impressive indeed. Pleasingly, I actually can explain my approval for Maverick mathematically (*bzzzz*
): "Maverick = (VelociCoaster - Taron) x 1.2".
Having done all of those within a ~10 month period, to my mind Maverick is easily the best. It swaps out all moments of ‘mine train’ meandering for ‘peels skin off your face’ bad-assery.
Our next ride would be another highly anticipated legend:
Millennium Force is the most basic coaster concept imaginable, perfectly executed (“let’s make it really
big and really
fast”). The end result is, obviously, really
good…effortlessly good, even. The aesthetics are breathtaking throughout and the exposed ’two in a row’ seating somehow makes it feel ‘ultra-nimble’, enhancing the sense of speed. Spot on.
Taken in the Forbidden Frontier section of the park.
You may have to queue an extra 20-30 minutes for the front row, but it’s totally worth it for the sensation of being strapped to the very front of a glossy smooth rocket. It’s certainly the fastest feeling ride I’ve done to date, which is not much of a surprise on the basis that it actually is
the fastest ride I’ve done to date, just pipping Orion. A pleasing, joyous rush. I can’t ask for more than that.
At this time, the park app was suggesting that Steel Vengeance had now opened. There was no way we could risk it going down, so we set off with great haste…
With the ride now open, I could finally appreciate the sight in front of me. Steel Vengeance is such a statement, like nothing else I’ve seen. Don’t let middling height stats make you think otherwise; it’s aesthetically monstrous. If you’ve ever been wowed by Zadra’s visuals, imagine taking Zadra’s oblong footprint and extending it on on one side to make it an equilateral triangle. That’s what Steel Vengeance looks like in the flesh. Plus, the lift hill is chock full of wood, unlike Zadra and Iron Gwazi, making seem even more massive.
From the road…. what a beast!
It was astonishing to behold from entrance plaza and even more exciting once we entered the queue line. I felt like I was entering a stadium to a World Cup final. Electricity was in the air.
Soon, I found myself borderline tearful ascending the lift hill. At that very moment, Mrs. Nitefly and I were the only two people in the world on the front row of Steel Vengeance. Steel Vengeance!
After two dreadful years of pandemic induced heart-ache, here we were. The day was ours. In a strange way, it sort of didn’t matter if the ride was good or not. Being there was simply enough.
But the ride did happen. My god… the two giant airtime hills that start the ride are ridiculous
(doubling the similar sensation on Iron Gwazi’s single post-drop airtime hill). The ride then converts into Zadra until the MCBR, where thereafter it all becomes very disorientating (in the best way) - even from inadvertently memorising the track from POVs (*blush*
) it was still hard to know what would happen next on-ride in real time. The final bunny hills then provide a well-humoured and cheeky finale.
There was however an unexpected deja-vu of sorts, post-ride
".... Unbelievable! That was insane!”
".... I have no words.”
Some minutes later:
".... I think I prefer Iron Gwazi.”
".... me too.”
Underwhelmed feels too heavy handed of a word to use, but with such high expectations, it’s the closest word the describe how we were feeling. Through our aggressively critical eyes, it was obvious that Steel Vengeance had three major ‘flaws’. Firstly, it really went all the way on the air-time hills, to the point that the airtime was borderline redundant by the end of the ride through gross repetition. I also found it somewhat uncomfortable, which I also found with my initial experiences with Zadra, but the abundance of the airtime hills made this much worse… damn those RMC restraints! Lastly, it lacked that killer sensation of speed found on both Zadra and Iron Gwazi (and also on Maverick and Millennium Force). Overall, Iron Gwazi just seemed to have a more rounded, better balance, with more standout moments to punctuate the experience (i.e. the death roll, first drop and ‘wave turn’).
I certainly didn’t see that assessment coming. Oh well, a night ride would allow me to determine whether Steel Vengeance was better than Zadra or not. Hmm.
Oh. My. God. That night ride changed everything.
Nothing can compete with Steel Vengeance at night. Not only had the ride warmed up, and the restraints were more comfortable (somehow)… but the visuals of going through the structure in the second half of the ride elevated it to untouchable levels. Going through the structure is a major win that Zadra has over Iron Gwazi, but Steel Vengeance does it 20x better. Being in the structure was disorientating, baffling and hilarious. What was going on?! The wooden beams passing on all sides reminded me of driving at night through snow with your headlights on, which itself always reminded me of the Millennium Falcon jumping to light speed
. It was simply otherworldly.
Now, feast your eyes on this monster from another dimension!
As we ended our night ride, thunderous applause erupted on the break run… and all of a sudden the ride had Beast-like ‘communal appeal’. Smiles everywhere, cheering, whooping. It was like a big party. Steel Vengeance was an event. The
event. My mind was made up. Without any further hesitation, I enthusiastically declared Steel Vengeance as my new number one coaster. Mrs. Nitefly laughed: she’d thought exactly the same and declared likewise glowingly.
At the time of writing, it feels wrong to put any other coaster about the mighty Steel Vengeance, but nevertheless it was not a bombastic ‘home run’ into the pole position. I think I would still give the nod to Iron Gwazi for daytime rides, which means it’s those superb night-ride aesthetics that heavily lean in Steel Vengeance’s favour. But it’s not just RMCs in that race either; Maverick gives stiff competition wholly devoid of that signature RMC rolling-of-the-dice with discomfort.
“But what chance did the ride have to truly blow me away initially?”
I monologued internally, as we plodded back to our room at the end of our first day. During our first ride, I may as well have been riding in a hi-vis jacket, taking notes onto a clipboard for my stern algorithmic assessment. What is lacking? What are the faults? How could it be better? Goodness… so much self-imposed ‘missing out’. Clearly, I’m most receptive to feeling love when I’m not desperately looking for it. I reminded myself of the words of a very wise man: "Merriment is always the effect of a sudden impression. The jest which is expected is already destroyed.”
“I had such a lovely day!”
interrupted a beaming Mrs. Nitefly.
“Hmm? Oh..! Yes, me too
” I smiled back, earnestly.
That’s the big 3 (operating…) dealt with, but what about the rest? Prior to visiting Cedar Point, for some reason I had it in my mind that the other rides were middle-ground filler. Foolish mortal! I could not have been more wrong…. let’s get to it.
Gatekeeper is absolutely enormous. Look how vast it is:
You can barely see the lift hill here.
It also smashed it out of the park. Swarm on steroids. Graceful, forceful, thrilling… and those key-hole moments were to die for. I far preferred this to Thunderbird at Holiday World. Even with its somewhat redundant post-MCBR section it’s pipped Montu for me as my favourite ‘large scale B&M looper’. It can certainly keep my gate any day. Or, umm... something.
Raptor was a little less impressive to us than Gatekeeper, but still a treat and a fantastic ride in its own right. Even in this modern era, it could easily be a strong park headliner. The layout was ‘very B&M’ but the helix mixed things up (crazy forceful). I’d give the nod to Montu over Raptor, but there’s not as much in it as I was expecting.
If you look closely you can make out Gemini-themed parade floats in the bottom right of this photo.
Valravn is my favourite dive coaster to date. We didn’t have any issues with the vest restraints and it does just a little more than SheiKra. Most importantly, the view from the top of the lift hill surpasses the view on Millennium Force. Big ****-off coasters…. everywheereee
In yet another welcome twist, Gemini blew us away. The return to the station was admittedly a little janky but regardless, at the time of writing this is by far away my favourite duelling ride. The trains ride close so that you end up high-fiving those on the other train on the way round, giving Gemini the communal ‘good times’ vibes of a rapid ride. Isn’t that just the best? The airtime on Gemini is legit too. I’ll be gutted if they remove this before I get back to it.
Iron Dragon and Blue Streak were charming and, along with Gemini, gave the line up some vintage flair. Cedar Creek Mine Train was a little more dated, but surprisingly long and overall a good time - terrible legroom though, unfortunately.
Magnum was a bit of a wildcard. We opted for the so-called ‘magic seat’ (car 1 row 3) and were appalled by the unbearable Lightening Run-esque triangle hills in the finale. Ouch. We decided to give it another go in the middle and had a much better time of it. You’ll have to wrestle with some very outdated profiling on the turnaround, but it’s definitely possible to have a good time… in the right seat.
Corkscrew and Rougarou were the only two duds, as expected. Rougarou actually bopped Mrs. Nitefly’s head around so much it made her cry. More like Rouga-poo
. Or even….. Poogapoo
The supporting flat rides were great too. The StarFlyer had a disappointingly short cycle, but was triumphantly blasting out the theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation, so frankly it could do whatever the **** it wanted (“Nuur, nuh nuh nuurrrr, nuh nuh nuuurrrrrr!”
). The nearby antique cars were impeccably presented, possibly the prettiest I’ve done to date. It gave sensational views of Valravn:
... and beyond.
The real flat ride pleasure was the Cedar Downs Derby Racers, a spectacular carousel-type ride that’s almost identical to Blackpool’s own Derby Racer. Mrs. Nitefly took the outside and, once more, a competitive and thrilling race commenced! We whipped our horses (lovingly) and laughed. It was just so…. light and carefree. When the memories of the coasters have faded I will continue to look back at this moment very fondly, particularly the maniacal look on Mrs. Nitefly’s face each time she took the lead.
You can add two fab transportation rides as the icing on the cake:
From the Sky Ride.....
....now in the other direction - a great view of Raptor.
The train ride that circled only a small portion of the park was in-part wonderfully themed to a skeleton village, with some decent effects.
Other misc. oddities:
- The operations at Cedar Point are insanely good, in part helped by an amusing ‘hype-person’ on the major attractions that pump up the crowd and keep people moving as quickly as possible. Think one part 'wrestling commentator', one part 'Jungle Cruise' and one part 'Silver Star ops' and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
- This was the only park of the trip that had extensive merch options akin to some of the Florida parks. It really added to making the park feel like a destination. Even Hotel Breakers had its own lines of merch. Naturally, I indulged.
- It’s a little hidden away but there was an interactive actor-driven adventure you could participate in (Forbidden Frontier). It looked as if you gathered clues from speaking to the actors and exploring, to solve a mystery, or find treasure. We walked around the area and it seemed well thought out and substantial. You could probably kill more than an hour of time here if you’re so inclined.
- For some reason, every time I spoke to a female ride attendant at Cedar Point, it was as if Mr. Darcy had graced their presence. This was a wonderful change to the usual disdained look as if they were greeting Heathcliff. “I… I love your accent”
several of them blushed on independent occasions, then in harmony in my mind, for days afterwards.
- Likewise, for some reason, every time I spoke to a male ride attendant at Cedar Point, they all gushed at my rad coaster-merch t-shirts. Two of them even left their positions in the stations to talk about Energylandia (“Woah, you’ve been on Zadra and Hyperion!” “Yeah… I’m, just…. kind of a big deal *stretch*”
- For reasons unknown to me, when I showed Mrs. Nitefly the “woo Niteflys on honeymoon in 2020!” brick embedded in the midway that I arranged as a surprise for her over two years ago, she spontaneously projectile vomited everywhere (yes, really). Huh. Well, I guess I can always move to Cedar Point if things don’t work out.
- Running from Maverick to Steel Vengeance for a final ride, with other enthusiasts we met in the queue to Maverick, is now one of my greatest park memories. We were all sprinting over and then, to our horror the train cut us off from getting to Steel Vengeances plaza…. Noooooo! However… the driver stopped the train at the crossing and the staff rushed to manually open the gates to get us through, before park close. Have you ever heard of anything like that at a park before?! Stopping the train before the crossing to let the enthusiasts get their final night ride.... legends.
Visiting Cedar Point was a dream come true for me. It was everything that I could have hoped for. I wish you all get the chance to visit and have as wonderful of a time as I did.
Stay tuned for the final instalment from our first road trip, where we head back to Chicago to visit our very first Six Flags park: Six Flags Great America.
Thanks for reading.