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So, You're Going to Cedar Point
Many have experienced the story, and many more have heard it: "We went to Cedar Point yesterday, and I only got to go on a few rides!" As the #1-ranked amusement park in the world, Cedar Point attracts millions of visitors every year, despite the fact that they are only open full-time from May through Labor Day, and on weekends until the end of October.
If you really want to experience the majority, or all, of what Cedar Point has to offer, you will most likely need to stay for two or three days, though many who live within reasonable driving distance of the park often take one-day trips. People who make day trips most often are there for the rides and are not going to go to Soak City, the beach, or parasail. In order to make the best day trip possible, you first need to prioritize and plan before you go and have an effective strategy to get to those rides once you get in the park.
Making the Trip
There are two main ways to get to the park on a day trip to Cedar Point by car. One is to either make a partial trip or drive all the way to Sandusky late the previous evening and stay at a nearby hotel or motel, then make the rest of the short drive to the park early the next day. The alternative is waking up early in the morning and driving out the entire way. If you stay at a Cedar Point lodge that night, you can gain a one-hour early entry into the park. Only certain rides will be open in early entry.
Cedar Point opens at 10 AM to the general public, and depending on the day, it can close at 10 PM, 11 PM, or midnight. Depending on how late you are willing to drive home, you can plan a trip according to their scheduled hours on a particular day.
Perks for a Price
There are two perks that do not require staying at a Cedar Point lodging facility. Because of that, they do come with an extra charge.
The first is "Fast Lane". This does not apply to every single ride in the park, but it does apply to the most popular and formidable. In brief, you can buy your way into a special queue and bypass the normal lines.
There is also a "Fast Lane Plus". This is an option where in addition to the special queues, you also get unlimited rides on a few select roller coasters.
Best Times to Go
The amount of business during its season can never be considered low. However, there are times of the season and times of the week where it is considerably more crowded than others. During the part of the season that it is open full time, May tends to be the slowest month. The reason being is that it is cooler, and there are many days when going on a 300-foot-tall roller coaster that goes over 90 mph may be uncomfortably chilly. There will be fewer extended stayers who plan on going to Soak City, the beach, or parasailing for the same reason.
To get on the most rides possible, there are also optimal times of the week to make your visit. Cedar Point is definitely most crowded on weekends, so you will get substantially less riding time if you go either Saturday or Sunday. I would strongly recommend against a weekend trip unless you are making it the entire weekend or a three-day stay. There will also be extended stayers who take a vacation day on either Friday or Monday for a long weekend at Cedar Point with their families. Monday and Friday are less busy than the weekend days but busier than the middle of the week. To minimize your waiting time, it is usually best to go Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. That is not the preferred time of the week for people to take a single vacation day off work, but the most tractable if you place a high priority on going on the maximum number of rides and minimizing waits. This is especially true if you are not willing to pay the substantial extra fee for Fast Lane or Fast Lane Plus.
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Navigation of the Park
It is easy to fall into this hazard upon entrance into the park, especially if you are going in a large group. Everyone pays the fee and enters the park without a plan of attack. There is a debate about where to go first.
"How about the Raptor?"
"No, let's go on something less scary first. How about the Mine Ride?"
"No, that's too far back, let's go on something closer and work our way back later."
"Let's go on Ocean Motion! No, I want to go on a roller coaster first."
A common conversation like this is often followed by a period of tenuous wandering trying to find something that all of you would like to go on. When your group finally finds something that has majority appeal, you all walk to it, and then there is another debate about whether or not the line is too long. If it is decided the line is too long, then there is more aimless wandering. Then there are a few in the group who have to go to the bathroom, so the rest of you also decide to go to be sure you won't have to go in another half hour. Before you know it, you all have been in the park for an hour and have yet to go on a ride, or even get in line for one. Imagine your whole day going like this and you will be lucky to get on seven rides, especially with breaking for meals and perhaps "beat the heat" breaks which consist of a cold beverage and sitting in the shade or an air-conditioned facility.
One recommendation to avoid this is that if you have either never been to Cedar Point or have not been for a long time, or for whatever reason do not know your way around, print out or buy a park map. There are some standing ones in the park, but it is better to keep one to yourself. Obviously, this is not necessary if you know your way around.
To minimize debate, it is best to split up into small groups of two or three people, and definitely no more than four. If there are ten people, you can split up into three to five groups of two to four people. Communicate your taste in rides beforehand. Different people have different levels of bravery and adventure when it comes to thrill rides. It would not be a compatible mix to have a group of three consisting of two people who can't wait to get on the Millennium Force with one person who won't go on anything bigger than the Mine Ride or Wildcat. The large group can collectively decide on "meet back" times in case there is a particular place you all want to go on at once or a meal break where you all can share your ride experiences. This can be done every two to three hours.
After you have separated into your subgroups, instead of debating where to go when, each of you should take turns being the navigator for a set period of time, perhaps also at two to three-hour intervals. That way everyone in the group will get to go on rides that are of the highest priority to them. It will also eliminate the aimless wandering and arguing over the line length and desirability of the ride. If the other one or two people in the subgroup strongly dislike the ride the navigator has picked, they could always either sit it out and wait for the rest of the group or go on a nearby ride that has a shorter projected waiting time and meet back at the ride the navigator has picked. Do not make the navigator wait for you at your ride, because after all, it is not your turn to direct the subgroup.
When you are the navigator, take into account where you are located in the park when you take over. If Top Thrill Dragster is your top priority ride, but you are at the furthest distance from it, it may be best to not go there first. If you are a navigator for a group of three for one-third of a 10 AM to 10 or 11 PM, or 12 AM day, you will have plenty of time to get there. Consider the other members of your group in terms of the quantity of rides. Do not go lapping back and forth if your first and second priority rides are at opposite ends of the park. It is an often said phrase "Quality over quantity". But the truth is, every ride in Cedar Point is a quality ride. You may not like every single one of them without exception, but there will certainly be a ride right nearby that you will love.
Have loads of fun!