(The header photo is of hilarious stand up comedian Tommy McNamara appearing in a Cedar Point commercial. Tommy is recording his album next month at Union Hall. Check here to see if tickets are still available -Ed.)
“Cedar Point will move you…ooh ooh get to the Point.”
The jingle that launched a thousand trips to the amusement park located in Sandusky, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. One of the most interesting things to me now about my history with Cedar Point is that at the time, it was a very local experience for me. I didn’t really think of going to Cedar Point as an event. It was 40 minutes from our house, so it was just something we did a couple of times each year, like going to the zoo. After relocating to the East Coast for college and then rest of my adult years, I found out from so many people that Cedar Point was either 1) a lifelong dream for people who grew up as roller coaster enthusiasts or 2) something that family vacations were built around. It’s a small scale version of growing up in Anaheim and not realizing that Disneyland was a thing.
Cedar Point has been around since 1870, and in the last 149 years the park has been the site of numerous milestones: In 1913, Knute Rockne invented the forward pass on the beaches of Cedar Point. Cedar Point has hosted the world’s fastest coaster (Top Thrill Dragster), tallest dive coaster (Valraven), first giga coaster (Millennium Force- tallest and fastest at the time), and the longest walk to the parking lot carrying a vomiting child (my father and me, 1988).
My first trip to Cedar Point probably took place in 1983 or 1984, and from that point until 2002 I went every year, either with my family or with high school and college friends. The place has served different purposes for me over the years: throughout younger childhood it was a family event; as a teenager it was the spot to go and try (and fail) to impress young women who would not talk to us and we would not see again. Now, it’s the place where my wife insists we go if we are in Ohio during the summer months, and a reminder that I hate standing in line and don’t really care very much for roller coasters, to be honest.
Cedar Point opens new attractions every year, and currently features some of the most innovative and impressive roller coasters in the world. I’m not going to talk about those. This is going to be a recap of some of the rides that meant a lot to me as a child.
Blue Streak is the oldest currently operating roller coaster at Cedar Point. It opened in 1964, and at the time of its opening it was the only roller coaster in the park. Its launch began a new era of coasters at Cedar Point. Blue Streak is one of the first rides you encounter as you enter the park. Most people pass by it in favor of the newer coasters farther along the midway. This makes sense, because Blue Streak is not particularly tall or fast. That said, it is the first grown up roller coaster I ever rode, and it scared the life out of me at the time. I’m pretty sure I was five when I first rode Blue Streak. As I mentioned in the Indoor Soccer article, I was a very tall child, and while I most definitely wasn’t emotionally ready for grown up roller coasters, I was big enough, and that’s what really matters!
I went on with my dad and my Uncle Darrel, after Darrel offered me $1 to ride it. I did. I was scared. Terrified, really. The first words I said when the ride was over were, “pay up.” This was followed by “I’m never doing that again.” That turned out not to be true.
WildCat was the first coaster I really loved at Cedar Point. The great thing about WildCat was that each car only held four riders, so it was like you had your own coaster to yourself and your family. You also “raced” against another car, a feature that I always appreciated in roller coasters. WildCat was a good ride for getting in repeated runs while the lines were very long at most of the bigger attractions. A lot of my favorite childhood rides fulfilled this role. My philosophy has always been that I’d rather ride a lot of the lesser known rides than wait half the day to get onto one of the premier rides. Unfortunately WildCat was torn down in 2011, so it’s no longer available to fill gaps in the day.
For a long time Witches’ Wheel was my favorite ride at Cedar Point. Given the other options there, that may be true for only me, but I don’t care. You could love the Magnum, but Witches’ Wheel was all mine. Witches’ Wheel was what is known as an Enterprise ride. Enterprise rides consist of 20 gondolas arranged in a circle (each gondola can hold one to two people). The ride moves clockwise, while also being raised from a horizontal to a nearly vertical axis via a central arm. The result is something like a ferris wheel that flips you upside down, and you are held in your seat within the gondola by centrifugal force. Like WildCat, Witches’ Wheel was a ride that I went on over and over again, during busy times in the middle of the day. Also like WildCat, I can’t do that anymore, since the ride was torn down in September 2018.
I’m pretty sure I only rode the Demon Drop once. The reason I am including it in this article is that it was the first ride at Cedar Point that truly intimidated me. It opened in 1983, around the time that my parents started bringing us to the park, and it was one of the first things guests saw when they walked through the park gates. The concept for Demon Drop was simple: individual vertical cars sat four people across. The cars are lifted to the top of the ride, then pushed forward. The car then drops 60 feet, eventually ending up horizontal on the track.
Apart from Demon Drop being the big, bad attraction when I was a young and timid child, the reason I avoided it is that nothing make me more nervous than rides that don’t have anything underneath them. In my opinion, the scariest attraction at Cedar Point is the Sky Ride. Seriously.
Cedar Point got rid of the Demon Drop in 2009. It was relocated to another park owned by Cedar Point’s management company, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Pennsylvania.
The opening of the Magnum in 1989 was huge; it was the tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster in the world when it opened, and for awhile after its debut it was the only ride at Cedar Point that mattered. The debut of the Magnum taught me what it really meant to wait in line; 2 hours plus was the norm. Of course, 30 years later there is no line for the Magnum, so people my age can make up all the reps they couldn’t get in when they were young and it was popular. WildCat and Witches’ Wheel may be gone, but Magnum is picking up the slack.
The Magnum holds up better than most 30 year old attractions. The chain lift taking the car to the top of that first hill, where you look out onto Soak City and Lake Erie below, is breathtaking and still very scary.
The last ride I’m going to cover is Gemini. Opened in 1978, Gemini is the much more famous racing coaster at Cedar Point, and if I had to guess, it’s my dad’s favorite ride at the park. Gemini was king of the hill until Magnum showed up. When you reached the beginning of the line you had the option of waiting for the blue coaster or the red coaster, so it was my first experience with choosing spots strategically so that you could try to race with friends in the other car. It taught children the important lesson of tribalism. Your car was better than the other one just by virtue of it being the one you chose, and in addition to being a roller coaster it was a contest. Of course, it was controlled entirely by the ride operator, but beating the other car still meant that you were objectively better. Like the other rides on this list that are still operating, now you can ride the Gemini as many times as you want with no wait, and your tribe consists of the rest of a half-filled car.
Did you ever go to Cedar Point as a kid? What was your favorite ride? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.