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Reopening in Ohio - Cedar Point and Kings Island

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
We have the first full week of amusement park operations on the books here in Ohio, and wanted to share my experience as we all get a feel for how Covid-19 adaptation has played out at parks. Specifically, I had the chance to visit Kings Island and Cedar Point in quick succession last week, both to get that Orion experience at Kings Island in and hunt down my damn memorial brick for Cedar Point's 150th anniversary.

To not bury the lead, here's the quick TL;DR of my experience:

  • Covid-19 protocols worked - Social distancing, mandatory mask wearing, and other precautionary steps were well implemented, and not too cumbersome at the end of the day.
  • Bad park experiences were due to lack of new staff experience - Make no mistake, even a seasoned ride op has to adapt to all new requirements of cleaning and precaution; it was clear (at Cedar Point specifically) that ride staff still need more experience under their belt... which makes sense, given it being the second week of the actual season.
  • Yes, you can wear a mask all day - lack of preparedness and ensuring you have a comfortable mask is on you, not the park.
  • Yes, I plan to head back soon - and will feel very confident in my safety.

For those also looking for a bulleted list of Cedar Fair's specific Covid-19 actions:
  • Mandatory reservation of visit, at least one day prior, with staggered entry scheduled throughout the day. Around 10,000 allotment per day.
  • 6-foot distancing in all queues, both considering front to back and side-to-side.
  • Mandatory mask wearing at all times, with some "relief areas" if folks need to take a breather.
  • For high demand rides, access passes issued to spread out queuing throughout day.
  • All food areas very spread-out for seating, very minimal indoor seating/dine-in option (if any).
  • Rides often utilized 1 row or 2 seat-offset design for spreading.
  • Frequent and often disinfection/wipe down of rides.
Mask of Choice - Neck Gaiter/Buff
I can't recommend Neck Gaiter's enough to coaster folks as a comfortable/all-day wearing mask option that sits light on your face, extremely breathable, and (depending on the option you get) can be made of "Coolwick" fabric that will feel cool-to-the-touch. I've worked with Neck Gaiters for years, especially back in the day when I worked in outdoor education and high-ropes climbing courses as a way to both shade from the sun and stay warm during the winter. Quick tips for Neck Gaiter options if you're shopping:
  • Here's my specific spec of Gaiter; I've used and loved Buff brand for years: https://www.rei.com/product/146017/buff-coolnet-uv-multifunctional-headwear
  • DO NOT GET THE WINTER-GRADE GAITERS - they're typically made of merino wool or warm-inducing material. You will be miserable.
  • Some Gaiters have a built-in sinch for tightening if needed - I personally prefer the straightforward material so I can more easily manipulate.
  • Having a tough time keeping the gaiter tight to your face? You can roll over the top portion of fabric, or even double the entire gaiter over for a tighter fit.
With the headlines out of the way, let's unpack!

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Kings Island
My friend Kevin and I were cautious on our first visit to a park during Covid, intentionally selecting a week day to visit, and going in with zero expectations.

Specific for entry, we had to:
  • Reserve attendance in advance
  • Temperature screening
  • metal detector (standard)
Once in the park, we headed immediately for Orion (duh), which I'll copy my ride experience description from the Construction discussion:


Had the chance to visit yesterday (with a longer trip report inbound shortly, especially for how Kings Island handled their Covid-19 protocol. Spoiler: they did a good job).

For Orion, here's some hot takes and review:

Theming
.... It actually, kinda, worked! Area 76 (or whatever number we are using) is a nice doubling-down of the secret military base theme established allllll the way back when Flight of Fear was installed in 1995. While Firehawk was adapted to a test-pilot-ish theme to match, the back area felt rather unconvincing to say the least; just a few hangars and military-looking apparatus strewn about. While the military-looking appartus have been further strewn about with the new and improved military base theme; some additions of lighting package and fresh coats-of-paint to existing structures has the whole place pretty satisfactorily themed. To play out the Orion story-line (AsTeRoIdS iN sPaCe!), some asteroid impact sites have been added around the base, one even "damaging" some of the Flight of Fear hangar. A portion of the queue also goes through a prep room, telling the story of how each of the former roller coasters in the park were test projects, culminating in Orion (aka Alton Towers Secret Weapon Light Motif)

And yes, there's A LOT of concrete laid bare along the site. But... it isn't too bad? In that, it's a lot of dead space that you don't need to ever walk along. Or at least, you get a good vista view of Orion which is nice.

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My favorite part of the theming is a new addition just before you enter the base - a conspiracy theorist broadcasting from his beat-up Volvo. (Audio is being perpetually piped out) The truth is out there, folks.
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Queuing
I give Kings Island props on this one, as they were thoughtful on mitigating excess Covid queuing/excess queuing in general that occurs for a big, new coaster. Setup outside the queue, visitors were given timeslot cards for an hour window when they may return to ride. Basically, grab a card, come back at the allotted time, ride, repeat. Easy system, that while not as sophisticated as a virtual queue, meant actual queue times were ~30-40 minutes each ride (at half capacity for Covid loading).
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Ride Experience
Ahhh... you wanted to go there? After I was telling you how surprisingly well done the theming was? And the good job on queuing?

Alright, the ride. Let's get this out of the way first - this is the worst Giga coaster I've ever ridden, and is moreso competition with Hyper B&Ms than it's Giga brethren. I have it slotted between Apollo's Chariot and Diamondback on my "Hyper" scale, and it's my 43rd favorite roller coaster overall. Full stop.

But as Don Helbig has made readily apparent - that is kinda what the park was going for. Nowhere in this layout is there a "top 10" spirit of contention - it's too short, too small, and too-few-airtime hills do count against it. BUT, for what is there; it's actually pretty alright. In true B&M tradition, you will find floater airtime hills for days, giving the better ride in the back of the train. Specifically, while I still need to ride a few more times to figure out if the first sideways airtime hill actually does anything; there was a good floater tug on the turn around and speed hill. The speed hill was the best element IMO. That unfortunate trim half-way through however leads to aimless meandering through the second half. And while you get some pops of airtime in the final airtime hill (really moreso due to the transition of the train, similar to Fury's treble cleff turnaround) and (yeah, I'm about to write this) hill into the brake run - you're just grasping for straws of airtime at that point.

I do think it's better than Diamondback. I don't think it's the best coaster in the park. And I also think the GP will find it pretty fun, but recognize the far too many similarities to the Hyper across the way. As in.... every rider onboard was asking the same question of if it was built by the same people who built Diamondback. ?

TL;DR Talking Points
- The Orion theme is pretty solid.
- The Orion ride is what we expected, lots of floater.
- Don't go in with high expectations, take it for what it is.


With Orion out of the way, much of the day focused on working clockwise around the park.

Big Hole In the Ground (aka Vortex)
Arguably more stark than Orion's new footprint and sight line is the MASSIVE crater, now located between Windseeker and Beast. It is a stark contrast, both in terms of realizing how much of a grade change there is (and always has been) on the site, and how many trees have subsequently been removed in the work. Vortex track is still being actively sorted and removed from site, with a few lingering pieces still hanging around; it gives pause to wonder if it could be integrated into future theming (which would be pretty cool).
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Riding Other Roller Coasters, Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Collectively we were able to ride just about all the major roller coasters, save a thunderstorm that did ding us rides on a few of the middle-tier coasters. Overall, Covid logistics were pretty ok/reasonable. All trains were half-loaded, be it alternating everyone other row, or staggering off-set seating to create space between riders. Unfortunately, all seats were very pre-assigned, so no requesting front/back seats. But, 6-foot distancing was very present throughout, and folks were mostly good on monitoring their distancing in the queues. It's a rare moment when rides who held onto their massively long, first year queues can gratefully have space for the extra spreading.
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One thing to note however is that some coasters actually ride like crap with lightly/half loaded trains. Not all, but this moment can help you appreciate the difference in physics when you shift hundreds of pounds of weight around a train.

And FWIW - Mystic Timbers still hauled!

Riding Other Rides, Pretty Unaffected?
Hopping aboard other thrill rides like WindSeeker and White Water Canyon were pretty... normal? Again, implementing distancing on these rides was pretty straight forward, and the actual ride experience was very much the same. Especially loved getting on water rides in the middle of the hot day.
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BuT hOw DiD yOu EaT wItH a MaSk!?
Tables were spaced out and you took your mask off, duh. TBH, the hard cap on park attendance GREATLY helped on food queue lines - I've never had my Panda Express order filled in such lightning time. :p

Nothing else to majorly report! It was a great visit, that by-and-large worked quite well. I will be particularly interested to revisit now that Kings Island has eliminated their pre-reservation requirement, and if that will equate to a surge in crowds.

Alright, next park!

Cedar Point
Quick on the heels of our Kings Island visit, we popped up to Cedar Point to see how America's Roller Coast has got on. To cut to the lead - it was ok. Cedar Point is clearly understaffed, which is partly impacted by lack of immigrant workers and domestic workers who went MIA on their contracts. This translates to not all coasters/rides operating, and limited food/amenities/restroom options within the park. Overall, we averaged one roller coaster an hour during our visit, which was pretty good all things considered; but this is still a very "new" crew, that only has a few weeks of work under their belt. I dearly hope operations are able to improve as ride ops get used to this new normal.

So... what is new at Cedar Point?
Not much really. Despite this being the 150th anniversary of the park, much of that celebration has been postponed. So outside a few new food venues and the memorial brick walk, much of the 150th content will be earmarked for 2021. Ironically, they even have one of the paddlewheel boats parked in an outside lot for the new Snake River Expeditions boat ride.

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With that said, it was awesome to get to check out the brick walk, which I and a number of friends did purchase bricks for. It was really fun, which I was searching the brick walk for our own family brick, to spot folks I grew up with or went to high school together. It's corny, it's total fanboy, but heck - it's so fun to have "a piece" of Cedar Point.
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BUT THE RIDES, HOW WERE THE RIDES!!!!
Yeah yeah, I know. Ok so here's the TL;DR for Access Passes/Riding the Big Things
  • Millennium Force, Maverick, and Steel Vengeance have access passes, just like Orion.
  • The access passes go quickly.
  • If you want to ride any of these rides, book the earliest park entry time possible (park doesn't open rides until 11, but allows folks into the park early to process through)
  • Hurry back to the coasters, and pick up access passes in this order: Millennium Force, Maverick, Steel Vengeance. Reports thus far are that access passes will run out ~15 minutes after ride opening.
  • With any luck, access passes will be spread out throughout the day, which will allow you to focus on other rides throughout the day, and weave in the bigger ones.
  • If you miss your access pass time, they will most likely let you still ride after your time - but try not to press your luck.
  • As of this writing, entry for park guests is still from the front of the park only. If the back Soak City gate were to open up for guests, I would recommend entering from there to grab Maverick/Steel Vengeance tickets first, and then swing around to MF.
  • As is always the case, recommendation for rides is to ride at the back of the park first, and then move to the front later on in the day as crowds disperse.

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Just the same as Kings Island, rides had staggered seating to create distance between riders; still annoying that they were not allowing for selection of seat option. That being said, one quick tip on MF - they will allow you to select your seat preference if you are next up in the loading queue, and they will allow one additional set of riders queue for the front row.

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Overall, coaster operations ran relatively ok. It was very clear the crew doesn't have santization protocol down, which (I'm pretty sure?) was focused on wiping down rides after so many cycles, and running empty to dry out. Honestly though, implementation was all over the place by ride, that I wasn't able to determine the exact pattern. Gatekeeper, especially, was having a rough go on sanitization, which led to very long queues early in the day. (Despite actually loading every row of riders)

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And yes, Steel Vengeance lockers are back
Ugh. I get it, it's probably trying to minimize "touching" needs of riders outside of sitting in seats, but requiring $2 per locker rental for stowing all cell phones and wallets is still a blatant money grab to me, and a major step back for Steel Vengeance. I pray after everything is said and done with Covid, CP bring back to the onboard train storage, which will always be the right, safe, and fair thing to do.

So did you like your day?
It was mixed reports from others I knew who were visiting that day, but yes! I did enjoy my time. Just as Kings Island, having a relatively small park attendance made the park very easy to move around and take in the sights. Let's be honest - it's just amazing to be back in the park regardless. I think so long as folks go into these parks expecting queue-times on-par with a typical Halloweekends crowd - despite the VERY SMALL crowd - you are going to be in for a good time. But the days of grinding coaster creds and short queues are on pause for the next 1-2 years; park ops are just not geared towards that for the forseeable future.
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Pictures added! Somehow didn’t save into the first draft.
 

JJLehto

Hyper Poster
Great report and glad to hear! I hope in Aug the park will be as dead, (ideally dead-er)!
Thanks for the tips, and glad you had a pretty solid time!
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
Great report and glad to hear! I hope in Aug the park will be as dead, (ideally dead-er)!
Thanks for the tips, and glad you had a pretty solid time!
I’m eyeing a visit back to CP this weekend or next. I too am interested to see how crowds will be sans booking your date for visit.

Also a heads up, the park is going down to weekend only operation for the better half of August!
 

JJLehto

Hyper Poster
I’m eyeing a visit back to CP this weekend or next. I too am interested to see how crowds will be sans booking your date for visit.

Also a heads up, the park is going down to weekend only operation for the better half of August!

So I've heard, and apparently they are NOT doing fast lane?
This will change my calculus. Esp as I plan to hit KI as well (plus KW, possibly more) so gotta make sure they are all open.
 

Nicky Borrill

Giga Poster
+1 for ‘neck gaiters’ although have always called them ‘snoods.’ :)

So many advantages to them...

  • No fear of them coming off on coasters
  • They don’t ‘fall down’ every ten seconds
  • They don’t pull your ears out and make you look like a trophy
  • They don’t cause sores behind the ears
  • They come in some cool designs (including EP Blue Fire)
  • I actually find less ‘leaks’ and more of my breath goes through the fabric meaning they could be more effective
  • The above also means they steam up my sunglasses less
Glad you enjoyed your trips out to parks, and thanks for the report :)
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
So I've heard, and apparently they are NOT doing fast lane?
This will change my calculus. Esp as I plan to hit KI as well (plus KW, possibly more) so gotta make sure they are all open.
they are not selling fast lane, but honoring anyone who bought it this year as season pass add-on. From what we saw, it was a smaller fast lane crowd - helpful, because Cedar Fair’s crap fast lane system further compounds loading time issues since all rides are at half capacity.
 
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