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Cedar Point’s “Starlight Experience”; a weekend at the park May 26, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment.
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I have a season pass for Cedar Point — I decided to spend the weekend there Memorial Day weekend, and had a marvelous time staying at the Lighthouse Point cabin right on property. It’s a great little cabin with AC and 2 t.v.’s !! It has a small exterior porch, and a terrific lake view. It’s also a 2-minute walk from the Magnum park entrance. Highly recommended (they are appropriate for up to 6 — though 6 is pushing comfort level)

CP-cabin

I’ll get to the overall ride review in a bit — but since I’m a director and designer at heart, let’s take a look at the shows and other stuff first. First off, two of the major live shows are not yet up and running — neither Signed, Sealed Delivered (the Broadway-style review) is running yet, nor is the ice skating show, Snoopy’s Big Bow Wow. Those arrive in June and I’ll update this when those are up and running.

UPDATE 8/8/09:  Signed, Sealed, Delivered is now up and running. The show is fast, loud, and at times unintelligible. But the performers are good, and the show is the closest thing the park has to a “broadway review” type production. There is too much Four Seasons and not enough Vandellas, but it’s still fun and well performed. The kids tend to mug and play to their friends in the audience (at least at the performance that I saw) but there is enough talent to spare.  Snoopy’s Big Bow Wow is looking a bit tired — but maybe that’s cause it was the last performance of the day. The technical work and lighting here are marvelous — the best in the park — but the skaters look a little time-worn, and the lead male ice-dancer has a beer belly. Still, it’s a fun event, equally impressive to the adults and fun for the kids. Certainly take some time out to see this well-done ice review. Its unique, and its well done.

GOT COUNTRY, at the Red Garter Saloon is a loud, upbeat pop country show with three guys and three girls. The lead male (Billy) in particular is quite impressive in his vocals, the remainder of the cast good. This show is LOUD — needlessly so. They singers had a hard time outshouting the canned music that is cranked to levels that are too loud for this intimate venue. Arrive at least 1/2 hour before the performance or you will have noplace to sit. You can stand at the bar for the 25 minute show, but then you’re hardly going to get the chance to take the load off for an hour and relax. By the way, the Red Garter serves adult drinks and beer in addition to food. Standard themepark fare – but not bad to combine lunch with the show. Service is SLOW.

On the Wicked Twister Midway – The All-Wheels Extreme show opened this weekend. It’s fun, rowdy, and the extreme bike riders, roller skaters, and performers are all energetic and fun. The tricks and stunts are standard theme park level, some of it very well choreographed. The dancers are enthusiastic. The two male gymnasts are fantastic, although a bit one trick after their first sequence. This is a great 25-minute show. It too requires you arrive early. You can do some people watching of people on the beach while you are waiting. You’ll enjoy it, just don’t think too much cause the “storyline” is non-existent. Enjoy the music and the stunts, you can’t go wrong.

Over on the Frontier Trail, the majority of it transforms at night into the new “Starlight Experience”. They advertise “a million LED lights at a cost of approximately a million dollars.” There are nowhere near a million lights, but it’s bright and colorful, and it really IS an addition to that part of the park. You won’t linger long while walking through the display, but it’s a pretty and colorful way to end the day. It looks like this:

CP-TE1 There are also some big blow-up snoopy characters themed to the colors of the display which loosely follow colors appropriate to the “seasons” — blue and white for Winter; Green for Summer, etc. They are the same things you see people put in their front yards at Christmas Time. Snoop, Lucy, Charlie Brown, etc.

In order to set up, it takes them about a half hour, and they close down the frontier trail during that time. I heard a lot of grumbling from the teens who are used to running through the trail to get from Millenium Force to Maverick for their last rides of the evening. Now, they have to go around on the Gemini Midway, or take the train. It also started a good hour too late — 9:15. Eventually, they’ll get that setup down to a bit less time, and they really do need to start it earlier in the evening if they still want to retain that family audience this is clearly aimed at.

It’s pretty, and it’s worth a wander through. It wasn’t worth a million dollars which would better have been served fixing the bathrooms, or hiring a few more kids to clean the bathrooms all summer — still the most disgusting bathrooms I’ve seen at any theme park anywhere.

As to the rest of the park: it’s exactly the same as last year (Oh, there are some new directional video monitors and a new fountain, but that’s basically like saying the cake has sprinkles on it versus it does not — no big whoop.) Magnum XL is celebrating 20 years (Can you believe it?). It is as sparsely ridden as in past years, and in two very busy Memorial Weekend days, it never had more than a half hour wait.

Top Thrill Dragster was up and down all weekend — but seemed to be running most of the time. When it runs, the line is about 1 1/2 hour all day — when it begins to break down, that wait can go up to 3 hours.

Millenium Force was whipping riders through the turnstiles as fast as they could. The ride is still marred by horrible restraint systems that don’t permit many riders to ride (those too tall or those too wide, or those with normal American shaped bodies that can’t fit inside the ridiculous seatbelt system). Make sure you try the sample chair at the entrance if you have any doubt. By the way, that new restraint system is here to stay. It was installed in 2004 after a death on a similar gigacoaster elsewhere, and in over-reaction Cedar Fair changed the restraints at all their parks and they have stayed that way. The Ride Ops on Millenium Force are the rudest and roughest at any of the rides at Cedar Point. Sure, they are in charge of possibly the best coaster on the planet – but the attitude here is basically “Get on, shut up, hold on, ride, get off, buh-bye”

Everything else was generally up and running except for the Pirate Boat swing — not sure if it had a mechanical problem or just plain old not enough ride ops. Their full compliment of employees won’t be on board until the high schools and colleges in the area all get out in early June.

I had a great time, and Cedar Point is what it is — an amusement park with the best coasters in the world, fighting an identity complex as a Ride Warrior park versus a Family Destination park — it’s both, though the Coaster and Thrill Ride portion is definately winning the game. The paddlewheel Excursion is a mere shadow if itself. The trainride spends as much time weaving around the roller coasters as it does going through the remaining wooded area of the park. They are both afterthoughts at this point. I’ll leave you with a final photo that sort of says it all…as the Paddlewheel Excursion boat winds its way through the lagoon, in the shadow of Millenium Force, dwarfing the ride, and ruining any “frontier ambiance” that the ride once had. It’s a sign of what Cedar Point has become — America’s Roller Coast, with a few other leftovers from the 50’s and 60’s holding on for dear life as they get pushed aside in favor of something that is taller, faster, louder, and more thrilling.  More photos can be found at my smugmug photos here: https://ronannarbor.smugmug.com/gallery/8317795_cRqWb#544890321_gq756

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Comments

1. Andrew B. - June 7, 2009

Great photo of the Starlight Experience, all of mine turned out blurry! I can’t wait for Signed, Sealed, Delivered to open, I saw it last year and it was one of my favorites! I’ll have to check back for a blog on Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

2. Mikey - July 23, 2009

You are SO right about Cedar Point’s identity crisis. We just spent a day and a half there (Twilight nights and a full second day). So many of the rides were just not up to snuff and too many of the rides my wife and I rode (and loved!) as kids are gone or fading away.
We love Disaster Transport, but over the past few years fewer and fewer of the “rooms” the coaster zips through have been lit up or decorated. The sound effects and “story” are gone from the ride. Now, it looks as if there is a fun house moving in where you used to go in for the line. The line now begins behind the Space Needle.
Paddlewheel Excursions is still telling the same jokes… which is fine. Many of the displays are not functioning (the photographer’s poof on his flash no longer flashes, the flying scientist does not attempt a launch (he pedals, but cannot take off since he cannot “find the parking brake” according to the boat captain). Too many other rides now are taking over the wilderness area around the ride, as well. And, across from the landing, a new bridge is partly built and on the lagoon’s island, there is a large cleared area. Perhaps a new ride or coaster is coming this fall? Say it isn’t so.
The new Starlight Experience is ok. Nothing really all that special, save the music. With music by Hans Zimmer (several selections from the “Sprit” soundtrack among others), the walk along what’s left of the Frontier Trail is pleasant.
Admittedly, I am NOT a coaster rider, but as a 39-year-old father who paid to get into the park, I’d like to be able to ride some rides. On our full day there I only rode Disaster Transport, the train, and the Sky Cars. No other rides were really that interesting anymore.


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