Known for its thrill rides, the amusement and water parks here cater to a younger crowd, too.
When you think of Ohio, you may think of Cleveland, Columbus, college football, and the Cavaliers. But, there’s another Ohio destination that starts with a “C” that is well known in the Midwest and among roller coaster enthusiasts around the country. Cedar Point, located on the shores of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, is the self-proclaimed “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” But as my family and I discovered, Cedar Point promises to thrill kids of all ages.
Back in 1870, the town of Sandusky added a beach and beer garden to the area to bring in tourists and locals, alike. Since that time, Cedar Point has grown to include an amusement park with 18 roller coasters, a water park, several hotels and campgrounds, a variety of restaurants, and other experiences - all with families in mind.
What to do?
With more than 70 rides, Cedar Point is one of the largest amusement parks in the world. Of those 70-plus rides, 17 are listed at the highest thrill level (red), and another dozen are listed as the second highest thrill level (orange). Thrill seekers will find themselves unable to decide where to start with all those options!
One of the biggest draws is the Top Thrill Dragster, a coaster that includes a set of bleachers for those too scared to ride but who still want to take in the fun. The ride itself is only 17 seconds long, but there are plenty of moments that will take your breath away. You’re rocketed down a straightaway at a speed of 120 miles per hour in less than four seconds. The ride then races up a track at a 90-degree angle to 420 feet above the ground. You stop for just a moment before hurtling back to Earth in a corkscrew pattern. Top Thrill Dragster is located in the middle of the park so just about everyone stops to watch the ride at some point during their visit, but only the bravest of the brave actually ride it (and that description doesn’t include anyone in my family!).
After you’ve recovered from Top Thrill Dragster, it’s time to head to the park’s newest roller coaster, Steel Vengeance. Built in 2018, the coaster is billed as the “tallest, fastest, and longest hybrid roller coaster in the world.” And that’s not just boastful marketing. Steel Vengeance breaks 10 world records including the most airtime on any roller coaster at 27.2 seconds. The coaster is steel on wood and is the first hybrid coaster in the world to stand more than 200 feet tall. Besides the height, Steel Vengeance also has a 90-degree drop and four inversions.
My kids weren’t quite brave enough (or tall enough in some cases) for the bigger rides, but that didn’t stop my older boys from checking out a few of the orange-rated roller coasters. At the end of the day, their favorite was Iron Dragon with its cars that hang from the track, swinging while you race around dips and turns. Iron Dragon doesn’t have any inversions and tops out at about 40 miles per hour, so the excitement level was perfect for my family.
KidTripster Tip: If you are looking for a more intense experience on Iron Dragon, sit in the back row. Our KidTripster cub reporters rode in several different locations, and both agreed that the back row was the best location to kick things up a notch.
KidTripster Tip: Before heading through the gates at Cedar Point, it’s best to know your child’s height and have a clear understanding of the height requirements for each ride. Several of the bigger roller coasters require riders be at least 48 inches tall.
While Cedar Point is primarily known for the roller coasters and thrill rides, there are options for those who aren’t looking for high speeds or big drops. The park offers three areas dedicated to the smaller set and those looking for a tamer way to spend the day. In Kiddy Kingdom, my family found a variety of rides perfect for our preschooler including helicopters, skyfighters, and the Roto Whip. Most of the rides in Kiddy Kingdom do require that riders be under 54 inches, so older siblings aren’t able to ride with younger brothers or sisters.
Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy both offer Peanuts-themed rides, as well as occasional visits from characters like Charlie Brown and Snoopy. My family spent most of the afternoon in Planet Snoopy enjoying those rides once my middle son was done with his thrill-seeking streak. The Kite Eating Tree ride was a favorite with its bouncing and dropping up to 20 feet high. That particular ride does have a 36-inch height requirement, and no one over 54 inches can ride it, so again, pay attention to your child’s height.
KidTripster Tip: Several rides in Camp Snoopy and Planet Snoopy require children under age 6 ride with someone over the age of 14. I found a few of these rides weren’t well-marked and weren’t built to accommodate adults, especially those who are pregnant, so we had a few meltdowns when I had to pull the preschooler off a ride. Because of the different requirements on each ride, take some time to study the park map in advance online to help guide expectations.
My family also enjoyed the Sky Ride that takes you soaring above Cedar Point and offers great views of the park, as well as Lake Erie. My family used the time to scope out interesting looking ice cream locations, but it also was a great way to move from point A to point B without doing any extra walking.
Shows & Special Attractions
No matter how intense your group is about roller coasters, most everyone will need a break at some point. Thankfully, the park offers a variety of entertainment options.
Fifteen different live shows are offered across Cedar Point at different times and on different days. Depending on the schedule, you can catch Charlie Brown and friends singing and dancing at Camp Snoopy or classic country music with the Traildust Trio. During our visit, we enjoyed the Cedar Point Beach Crew, a group of California surfers who ended up in Ohio and can’t seem to find the beach. We first encountered the Beach Crew as they were driving around the park in a van that looked a lot like a certain Mystery Machine (and my youngest was slightly disappointed that we didn’t see Scooby Doo). We caught their live show later on the Main Midway and thoroughly enjoyed the beach music (think Beach Boys) and relaxed vibe.
If a live show isn’t for you, Cedar Point also offers Dinosaurs Alive!, an interactive exhibit with 50 life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs. Visitors have the chance to walk among the dinosaurs and even control some of them. There are also opportunities for guests to learn about the life of a paleontologist and explore what the world was like millions of years ago. This journey back in time is within the confines of the park but isn’t included with regular admission. Cost: $5/person in advance or at the gate.
Cedar Point also offers several unique experiences. We missed the glass blowing demonstration on the Frontier Trail but saw it several years ago and enjoyed watching the molten liquid take shape into a beautiful glass piece. The Glass Blowing Academy also offers hands-on experiences for an extra fee. While you’re on the Frontier Trail, you also can stop by the candle shop and dip your own candle for a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir.
Cedar Point Shores Waterpark is the 18-acre water fun area located near the amusement park. With 15 different slides, water play areas, and a variety of relaxation spots, the waterpark is perfect for warm summer days. Admission to Cedar Point Shores is not included in the regular admission to Cedar Point. Online cost: Youth under 48 inches tall $26; 48 inches tall or more $39.
Where to eat?
Cedar Point offers a variety of dining options on the property from chain restaurants (like Johnny Rocket’s, Subway, and Panda Express) to sit-down meals to fast food options. My kids tend to focus on junk food when in an amusement park setting, so we found the cotton candy stand where they spin fresh cotton candy in a variety of flavors including lemon, cookie dough, and bubblegum. The Auntie Anne’s pretzel cart also was a big hit with my family as was the soft serve at Bayou Refreshments. When real food was finally required, we stopped at Coasters Drive-In for hamburgers and milkshakes in the ‘50s-themed diner.
Cedar Point does offer dining plans that can be purchased when you buy your tickets or when you’re in the park. There are a variety of options, including an all-day dining plan where you can get an entrée and side every 90 minutes, if you so desire. The pricing of the all-day plan does seem like a deal, if you planned to eat more than two full meals at the park. However, I’ve found that my family doesn’t usually eat a lot of actual meals at Cedar Point and does more grazing. For families unlike ours who want to sit down two or three times each day, it can be a cost savings. I didn't find the single meal dining plan to be a savings at all, so plan to skip that option.
Where to stay?
If you are traveling from out of town or planning to spend more than one day at Cedar Point, there are several overnight options. The four Cedar Point hotels offer a variety of price points plus two marinas: Hotel Breakers, Lighthouse Point (cabins and RV sties), Express Hotel, Castaway Bay (think Great Wolf Lodge), and Cedar Point and Castaway Marinas.
On-site hotels offer perks like free parking, early entry to parks, and free admission to Cedar Point Shores water park when you purchase a ticket to Cedar Point. Know that the admission to the waterpark is only available on the same day that you use your Cedar Point ticket. Several of the hotels also have access to a private entrance to the amusement park which makes getting back to your room for a mid-day break a bit easier.
Cedar Point offers a variety of tickets, including one-day, two-day, and multiple-day options. You also can combine a trip to Kings Island, another Ohio amusement park located in Cincinnati, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, or Cedar Point Shores.
The best way to purchase your tickets is in advance online; look for constantly-running promotions that can save you as much as $20 per person. Rates at the ticket window are higher and don’t offer nearly as many options. Day tickets start at $45/person.
In addition to selling daily tickets, Cedar Point offers parking passes, photo packages, and Fast Lane Plus on the website. Fast Lane Plus is a great option if you are only visiting for one day or want to maximize your time in the park. Most of the thrill rides allow Fast Lane Plus holders to bypass the main line and head straight to the front. You’ll pay for the privilege, but depending on your goals for the day, it could be a worthwhile timesaver.
Cedar Point is located in Sandusky, Ohio, which is halfway between Toledo and Cleveland. No matter how you approach the area, you’ll be driving on smaller roads and winding through downtown Sandusky to get to the park. Be prepared for a slow drive as you near the park and be ready to calm down the kids once they get their first glimpse of the coasters, as you still have a good ten minutes in the car.
Former journalist Jamie Farber lives in West Michigan with her husband and three sons. Her English degree has somehow led her to a career planning Disney vacations with Mickey Travels. In her spare time, she enjoys planning her family's many trips around the U.S. and the Caribbean.
This writer received complimentary admission for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.