“Ya… That’ll never get old!” That was the sentiment D expressed with a wide grin as we came to a screeching halt at the end of our 4th run on Top Thrill Dragster, one of only 2 strata-coasters (400+ feet tall) in the world. Top Thrill, the 1st roller coaster to break the 400 ft. mark, among other records, rocketed us from 0 to 193 KPH in under 4 seconds. And Millennium Force, a giga-coaster (300+ feet) that set 6 world records when it opened and remains in the top 10 fastest coasters, took us up to 150 KPH by the bottom of the 310 ft drop that opens the ride. But the speed that was perhaps most impressive was the Fast Lane Plus that took our wait in line from over an hour to under 15 minutes.
Cedar Point is an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio (about an hour West of Cleveland, right on Lake Eerie). The self-proclaimed “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” boasts 14 coasters (OK, 16 if you count Wilderness Run and Woodstock Express which only have a 36″ height restriction). Many are (or were upon their debut) record-breakers and that’s what set us heading cross-country for a weekend of thrills. But those thrills come at a price.
After booking our last-minute, cross-country flights, renting a car for the hour drive from the closest international airport (CLE), and purchasing a hotel and admission package, we naturally turned our nose up at the thought of investing even more money into the Fast Lane pass that would let us skip the lines to get on rides. We were even more averse to the upgraded Fast Lane Plus pass which included the rest of the big coasters. That sentiment didn’t last long.
We showed up Saturday morning for early admission included in our package. Unfortunately there were high winds and we found only a few of the rides running. By 11 am, when the park officially opened, the only two big coasters open were already at 45-60 minute waits! After our 2nd 65-minute wait, we began to reassess our plans for the weekend and upon seeing other wait-times posted at 2 hours, our minds were made up. We hadn’t travelled twelve hours one way to ride a handful of roller coasters and waste time in line-ups. Even with two full days at the park, we weren’t sure we’d get to ride all the coasters we wanted to.
Since winds were still fairly gusty and not all of the rides were going, we headed back to the hotel – Castaway Bay – for a late lunch and an afternoon at the indoor waterpark (which had few slides but the ones available were fast, fun, and original) and purchased our Fast Pass Plus for Sunday, online. There was a slight discount of $10/person but a processing fee of $5 for the online purchase. We headed back to the park after dinner to enjoy the features of HalloWeekend. One look at the line-up for the first haunted house, and we quickly realized that a Fright Lane pass would be needed to enjoy the evening. Good thing we brought a lot of USD!
We also quickly realized that the extra investment in all passes was worth it. They gave us access to dedicated ride/exhibit entrances that circumvented the long line-ups and took us right up to the chutes at the car embarkation point (or haunted house entrance in the evening). There are a few rides where the Fast Lane doesn’t take you right up to the chutes, but it lets you cut into the line at about the 15-minute point and I don’t think we waited much more than 10 minutes for anything. As a result, we rode some of the coasters multiple times where we would have gone only once if we’d had to wait in the full-length line. We rode each of our favourites – Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster – at least 4 times and that was priceless to us. Plus we were in much better moods, given that patience is not really a virtue for either of us. Another priceless advantage.
But to put $ value to the experience, we certainly got a return on our investment. Here’s how we saw the math:
Regular admission = $39.99/person. Based on line lengths and wait times we would have been able to ride about 8 coasters during our 8-hour visit. This equates to $5 per ride.
Admission + Fast Lane Plus = $127.48/person ($39.99+$87.49). We were able to ride over 20 times during our 8-hour visit. This equated to $5.79 per ride. The benefits we got with the pass were worth every 80 pennies per ride!
Fright Lane = $75/person (we were already at the park so the admission was a sunk cost). We were able to walk through 6 haunted houses in 3 hours. Given that the houses had 30-60 minute lines, we might not have been able to see them all so we felt is was money well-spent. Plus, ScreamFest (Calgary’s haunted house experience) is $45 with front of the line access and we felt these haunted houses were better.
So the bottom line is: if you want to maximize your Cedar Point experience, spending your time speeding through the loops, turns and hills of the roller coasters, instead of winding through the queue at a snails pace, buy a Fast Lane (or Fright Lane) pass! However, it was not an inexpensive weekend. If you are travelling on a budget, you may not want to spend the extra money on the pass(es). In that case I recommend focusing your visit on Sunday as line ups were considerably less than Saturday. But take advantage of the early admission option (offered with hotel packages) as the hours are shorter and you won’t want to run out of time.
And for those of you who aren’t thrill seekers and want to enjoy the roller coaster from the comfort and safety of your couch, check out these videos. They give you a taste of the ride, sans butterflies, g-force and windblown hair.