Amusement parks — new rides, new thrills and good family fun
By John Benson | email@example.com
Summertime is around the corner, which means it’s time to scream your head off on a thrill ride or take a leisurely stroll at an amusement park. Or, how about this: Do both.
Granted, money can be an issue, especially with gas prices seemingly reaching as high as some of these sky-scraping roller coasters. But even on a tight budget, there’s a one-tank trip waiting for you in our area. Here’s a look at what regional amusement parks have in store this summer.
The Windseeker is Cedar Point’s newest ride.
Call 419-627-2350 www.cedarpoint.com
Admission: $46.99 (age 3 to 61, 48 inches and taller), and $21 for juniors (age 3 to 61, under 48 inches tall) and seniors (age 62 and older). $29.99 for Cedar Point Starlight admission (valid after 5 p.m. when Cedar Point closes after 10 p.m. and valid after 4 p.m. when Cedar Point closes earlier than 10 p.m.). Children age 2 and younger are admitted free of charge. Cedar Point opens daily starting Saturday.
Billed as “The Roller Coaster Capitol of the World,” Cedar Point boasts 364 acres with 75 rides, including 17 roller coasters. This year’s new addition is the high-flying WindSeeker, a 30-story-tall fun ride that basically combines the existing Cedar Point ride Wave Swinger with Power Tower.
“It’ll be a thrilling experience because you’ll see a great view of Lake Erie, Cedar Point and the beach,” said Cedar Point Director of Public Relations Robin Innes. “It’ll just be phenomenal. In fact, when you’re seated on one of the swings on WindSeeker, you’ll be seated almost eye to eye with people who are riding the Space Spiral.”
The $5 million WindSeeker (which will open later this month) is located in the former Ocean Motion location. That ride, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, now has been bumped to the front of the park.
Something else new this year is the nighttime show “American Portrait,” which Innes believes — with its patriotic- contemporary music, high-def video and pyrotechnics — to be the perfect ending to a long day at what is often referred to as the “amazement park.”
There’s no denying Cedar Point is the cr ®me de la cr ®me of vacation destinations in the Midwest. For 13 years running, it’s been named by industry publication Amusement Today as the Best Amusement Park in the World.
Naturally, one day the Sandusky venue won’t win the title, but the desire to keep the streak alive is what makes Innes and Cedar Point officials strive for greatness every season.
“I think it’s extremely important and something we’re very, very proud of,” Innes said. “Just the thought of saying it’s not going to happen one year makes me shiver a bit because it’s such an impressive award, and to do it for 13 consecutive years, it’s really a big motivator for us. Everybody on the staff says we want to do this again. At the end of the day, we want all of our guests to, when they’re walking out the gate, to say, ‘Boy, that was great. Let’s do it again.’”
Blue Streak at Conneaut Lake.
Conneaut Lake Park
12382 Center St., Conneaut Lake, Pa.
Call 814-382-5115 www.conneautlakepark.com
Admission: Free with all-day ride passes for $19.95/adult and $15.50/child. Individual rides are $1. Schedule runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Listed by American Coaster Enthusiast as one of its historic coasters, Conneaut Lake Park’s legendary Blue Streak, which was built in 1937, continues to be the focus for the venue’s personnel.
“The Blue Streak will be back in operation this year with 150-feet of new track in addition to the repairs they did last year,” said Conneaut Lake Park Restoration LLC member Greg Sutterlin. “The Blue Streak is a big part of the ride package. It was back up and running Labor Day of last year.”
One of the few remaining historical parks, Conneaut Lake Park, which originally opened in 1892 as Exposition Park, offers visitors rides such as The Tilt-A-Whirl, Trabant, Merry-Go-Round, Devil’s Den and more.
“It’s a smaller, more controlled family amusement park,” Sutterlin said. “It’s not like Cedar Point where they go for all the latest and greatest roller coasters and whatnot. It’s kind of a small park where families can come and enjoy the day or weekend and just make some memories. It’s one of a kind — a vintage, older amusement park — and not many of those exist in the country.”
Also located on the property is its water park, Splash City, and bar/restaurant, The Beach Club, which boasts a nonstop lineup of live-entertainment options and karaoke fun. This year’s bill includes plenty of polka-based events.
“On top of the amusement park, there’s a really nice Kiddieland,” Sutterlin said. “If people have small children, it’s perfect. And the unique thing is it’s on Conneaut Lake, which is very clean, clear water. It’s the largest and deepest natural lake in Pennsylvania.”
4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, Pa.
Call 412-461-0500 www.kennywood.com
Admission: $36.99/Funday Pass, $23.99/Junior Funday Pass (Under 46 inches) and $17.99/Senior Funday Pass. For entrance after 5 p.m., $21.99/Night Rider Pass and $10.49/Senior Night Rider Pass. Children age 2 and under get in free. Kennywood Park opened weekends beginning May 7, and daily operation starts next Thursday.
A year after unveiling its newest six-figure ride, Sky Rocket, Kennywood Park officials are hoping for more “oohs” and “aahs” regarding the newly added guest- experience improvements.
“We are adding a third Potato Patch location in the park so you can get those world-famous fresh-cut fries in a slightly shorter line, hopefully,” said Kennywood Park Public Relations Manager Jeff Filicko. “Also, in Kiddieland, we demolished our old set of family restrooms that date back to the 1950s and built a brand-new beautiful building that has family restrooms that are handicap accessible. And the front half of the building is a new refreshment stand with healthy options. So if you want to give your kids fruits and vegetables and juices, then you have that option over French fries and cotton candy.”
Kennywood, which opened in 1898, boasts an 80-acre property with more than 30 big rides and more than a dozen Kiddieland attractions.
One experience Filicko said some visitors are looking forward to this year is finally riding Sky Rocket, which because of delays, didn’t open up until last June.
“We learned it’s a great ride from start to finish,” Filicko said. “It’s fast, it’s smooth and it’s comfortable. It’s the type of coaster you can go on over and over again and not have that beat-up feeling you might have with other steel coasters or wooden coasters. It’s a great coaster.”
Dinosaur’s Alive at King's Island.
Call 800-333-8080 www.visitkingsisland.com
Admission: $35.99 adult (age 3-61; over 48 inches), $31.99 junior/senior (age 3 and older and under 48 inches, and age 62 and older) and $19.99 starlight (after 5 p.m.). Note: adult ticket is $51.99 at gate. Tickets are cheaper overall through the website. Kings Island opened weekends May 6 and begins daily operations Friday. Located 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, the 364-acre Kings Island amusement and water park (Boomerang Bay) features more than 80 world-class rides, shows and attractions.
Sure, Kings Island and sister park Cedar Point are sharing brand-new ride WindSeeker this year; however, Kings Island Public Relations Area Manager Don Helbig feels each attraction provides a different experience for riders.
“It’s a 301-foot-tall tower- swing ride, but whereas theirs is located by the lake, ours is in the Coney Mall section, so you’re going to have an overview of the entire park and the region,” Helbig said. “It’ll feel like you’re riding two different rides. It’s almost like they are roller coasters that are the same, but they ride differently. So if you ride one WindSeeker, don’t think you’ve ridden them all.”
Something else new is its Dinosaurs Alive! attraction, which features more than 60 life-size dinosaurs, including 56 animatronic models set up in a 12.5-acre outdoor Jurassic forest.
“We’re very excited about this,” Helbig said. “There is a $5 additional charge to experience Dinosaurs Alive!, but it’s an attraction that’s the world’s largest of its kind.”
Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer Park and Water World.
Waldameer Park and Water World
220 Peninsula Drive, Erie, Pa.
Call 814-838-3591 www.waldameer.com
Admission: Ride wristbands are $21.99 (over 48 inches)/$14.99 (under 48 inches). Entrance to Water World is $15.99 (over 48 inches)/$11.99 (under 48 inches). Ride wristbands for both parks are $24.99 (over 48 inches)/$17.99 (under 48 inches). Waldameer Park opened weekends May 7. Daily operations begin June 1. The park is closed Mondays (except Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day).
When it came time to expand, Waldameer Park and Water World, located at the neck of Presque Isle State Park peninsula, went all out for the 2011 season.
“This year, we put a whole new section in called The North End,” said Waldameer Park and Water World owner Paul Nelson. “We installed this year three new rides. They’re all family rides, so it’s a whole family section with a big archway, beautiful gardens and a big water fountain.”
The multimillion-dollar expansion includes the 41-foot-tall Flying Swings, the rotating Wendy’s Tea Party and rocking and rolling tugboat-based SS Wally.
“We’ve done a lot of things,” Nelson said. “We also bought a new train engine and a new car to go behind it so we can put wheelchairs on it. We’ve done the most improvements around the park, adding food lines and games in the arcade.”
Over the past five years, Waldameer Park has been reinventing itself with its new cornerstone coaster Ravine Flyer II joining the spinning Steel Dragon roller coaster, the classic wood-built The Comet roller coaster and the kid-friendly Ravine Flyer III.
“Really, we are designated as a family park,” Nelson said. “We started adding some teenage rides so the teenagers would come with the family. This year, we decided to put everything so the smaller kids can ride with their parents on the ride, and the rides are fun enough the teenagers will also enjoy it.”
1000 Sandcastle Drive, Pittsburgh
Call 412-462-6666 www.sandcastlewaterpark.com
Admission: $30.99, $20.99 for seniors and children under 46 inches, with children age 3 and under free. Sandcastle Waterpark opens weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend and begins daily operation June 11.
Located just down the street from Kennywood Park is its sister property, Sandcastle Waterpark, which recently received a face lift of sorts on its most popular attraction.
“Sandcastle has a brand-new stretch of boardwalk,” said Kennywood Park Public Relations Manager Jeff Filicko. “It’s more beautiful, durable and will be a great addition to the boardwalk setting.”
Set along the Monongahela River, the wet ’n’ wild outdoor venue offers a wave pool, grassy beach, volleyball area, lazy river and more. “Many people think of Sandcastle as Kennywood’s water park,” Filicko said. “A lot of people will go to Sandcastle during the day and come to Kennwyood for the late-afternoon and evening hours. We love it. It’s a great way to mix up the day.”
1100 Squires Road, Aurora
Admission: $29.99 for guests 48 inches or taller in bare feet ($17.99 after 4 p.m.); $14.99 for juniors and seniors. Parking is $5. The park opens May 28 for weekends; June 10-Aug. 21 every day; and weekends Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. Opens daily at 11 a.m. until either 7 or 8 p.m.
The water park features six major water rides, including Thunder Falls, Ohio’s tallest water slide. Admission deals include the 2011 Rock & Slide, which offers admission to both Wildwater Kingdom and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Museum in Cleveland for $41.99. Valid for a one-day visit at each attraction. Tickets must be used at both attractions by Sept. 5.