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Buffalo News

July 5, 2009

Enjoy the thrills of kid-friendly Sandusky
By Christine A. Smyczynski

 “There it is!” cried several boys from the back of the bus as the loops from numerous roller coasters appeared on the horizon. These kids have been anticipating this moment for months and had volunteered to work at a spaghetti dinner, a Lenten fish fry and other fundraisers to raise money for their class trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

At the end of May, I had the opportunity to accompany 70 eighth grade students, along with their teachers and several other parents, to this amusement park, located on the shores of Lake Erie about a 4 ½ hour drive from Buffalo.

Cedar Point first opened as a bathing beach in 1870 and introduced its first roller coaster in 1892. It has been voted the “Best Amusement Park in the World” eleven years in a row in Amusement Today magazine’s annual Golden Ticket award. Roller coaster aficionados will concur with that; with 17 roller coasters it has the most roller coasters of any amusement park in the world.


The 364-acre park, the second oldest amusement park in North America, is located on a peninsula on Lake Erie, about an hour west of Cleveland. It is not merely an amusement park, but a vacation destination. In addition to about 80 rides, with about 3 dozen of them are geared to young children, the park also features Soak City, an outdoor water park and several live indoor shows, such as Got Country at the Red Garter Saloon in the Frontier Town section and Signed, Sealed, Delivered in the Centennial Theater. Four resort hotel properties are also associated with the park.

The day of our visit was one of those crazy on again, off again rainy days, so some of the rides had to be shut down for a short period of time. However, our kids managed to have a great time and were able to ride quite a few rides, despite the weather. Now I’ll have to admit, while I really enjoyed wild rides when I was a bit younger, in recent years I found that I have to stick to the tamer rides to keep from getting dizzy. I joined the girls I was chaperoning on the old fashioned cars and on Cedar Downs, a carousel-like ride that featured race horses instead of the traditional carousel horses.

Popular with my charges was the Tower of Power, which raised you up 240 feet in the air, before quickly dropping you back down at 50 MPH. Even the kids who normally don’t like rides said it was “very cool.” The girls also loved the Gemini roller coaster, which they rode twice in a row. I almost considered going on this ride, but hey, someone had to watch the purses and backpacks! Since I’m planning a trip back to Cedar Point with my family later this summer, I might actually give it a try when I return.

One ride that looked really scary was the Dragster, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. This ride is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It goes from zero to 120 in four seconds; then propels itself along a track 420 feet into the air, loops back down to earth, and returns back to the station, all in the span of 17 seconds! A couple of the girls were actually brave enough to go on it. They waited almost two hours for their 17 second ride, but said it was really worth it.

More my speed was the Sky Rider, a relaxing ride which glided gently along a cable above the ground, offering a great view of the entire park. It lasted way longer than 17 seconds and the wait for it was less than five minutes! You can even meet some of your favorite Peanuts characters, like Snoopy and Charlie Brown, throughout the park. There is even a Snoopy store, which has a nice selection of Peanuts merchandise, as well as the Great Pumpkin Patch for little ones to explore.

There are also almost 20 other retail shops, as well as over two dozen restaurants in the park. The park is almost too big to see in one day. We had to leave before dinner, so we didn’t have the opportunity to see the park after dark. New this summer is the Starlight Experience along the Frontier Trail section of the park. The trees and buildings of this area are decorated with thousands of colorful lights, which at twilight transform the area into a magical wonderland. Also, each night at 10 pm, weather permitting, is Hot Summer Nights, a combination show of music, sound, light, video and pyrotechnics.

More Fun in Sandusky
Sandusky also has a number of hotels with indoor waterparks, which are open year-round, so if you visit during bad weather or in the off-season, there is still plenty to do. Our group stayed at the Kalahari Resort, which was really amazing. It features America’s largest indoor waterpark. At 173,000 square feet, it is larger than 3 ½ football fields.

The waterpark features a 12,000 square foot wave pool, five waterslides, a 3,000 square foot activity pool, where kids can play water basketball, a really cute kiddie area, lazy river tubing and FlowRider, which pumps 50,000 gallons of water per minute, offering an indoor surfing experience.

The kids in our group really had a blast trying this, as we really don’t have much of an opportunity to surf in Buffalo! The resort also features a full service spa, specialty shops, a large video game arcade; compete with a miniature golf course and special guest activities every day. There are also four restaurants in the resort, along with five places to get refreshments and food in the waterpark.

Other indoor waterparks in Sandusky include Castaway Bay, a 237 room Cedar Point property, which has a 38,000 square foot waterpark. Another place is the Northwoods-themed Great Wolf Lodge resort, which has a 41,000 square foot entertainment area with a waterpark, outdoor pool, and game arcade. Rain, a much smaller waterpark, is located in the Quality Inn & Suites.

If you go
Cedar Point (419-627-2106; 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, Ohio.

Kalahari Resort (419-433-7200, 877-525-2427; 700 Kalahari Drive, Sandusky, Ohio.

Castaway Bay (419-627-2500; 2001 Cleveland Rd., (US Rt. 6) Sandusky.

Great Wolf Lodge (419-609-6000; ) 4600 Milan Road (US 250), Sandusky, Ohio.

Rain (Quality Inn & Suites) (419- 627-6761, 800-654-3364; ), 1935 Cleveland Rd., Sandusky, Ohio.

Take the NY State Thruway (I-90) south from Buffalo. Continue on this route Pennsylvania and Ohio, until you reach Route 6 west. Follow the Cedar Point signs.