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Ride the Paddlewheel at Cedar Point (2012)….No, it’s not what you think… June 19, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Travel.
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So, as you most likely know (or if not, here’s the scoop) Cedar Point closed down the Paddlewheel Excursion last year to make way for this year’s Dinosaur’s Alive! animatronic display on Adventure Island (nee Millennium Island)…but that’s not the only Paddlewheel in town at The Point…

One of the ORIGINAL Paddlewheels (from the 70’s) has been retrofitted and makes daily sailings on the hour from the CP Marina (the same pier as Famous Dave’s Restaurant). It provides a tremendous 45 minutes trip out onto Lake Erie, past CP, and back again — and I guarantee you the absolute best views of Cedar Point, from the most unique angle. The boat is freshly painted; it is in remarkably good shape, and it provides a really comfortable ride.

Captain Brian and his assistant Caitlyn make your trip enjoyable and personable, and the cruise sails rain or shine (unless the rain is severe or blowing sideways). Its a remarkably breezy trip on a hot sunny day…and need I mention again the best views of The Point.

The cost is 10.00 per adult, 8.00 if you are a Platinum Pass holder, and children 5 and under are free. You can reserve in advance by calling 1 (419) 627-2334…or you can purchase your ticket at the Marina Office, which is located right next to Famous Daves. You can bring beverages onboard with you.

If you are Cedar Point, it is attraction Number 4 on your map — and it is located just outside the Marina Entrance — Get your hand stamped, just walk across the street and down the pier toward Famous Dave’s and the Paddlewheel is located at the end of the pier.

Please help support this awesome attraction! Cedar Point doesn’t seem to do a very good job of advertising it, and it really is a wonderful way to spend an hour of your day – relaxing and enjoying the Lake as well as the most unique view of the park available from anywhere. I might suggest the sunset cruise for some amazing color.  If you are staying in the resorts, their flyer is inside your Resort Guide Notebook.

These photos were all taken on my cruise the other day. I highly recommend it.

Cedar Point – Paddlewheel Excursions closing forever as of Labor Day August 23, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment.
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Yes, it’s true — I’ve talked about it before, but this time its real — The Paddlewheel Excursions (nee Western Cruise) will offer its last rides ever at Cedar Point on Labor Day 2011.

This has been a long time coming, so its not a surprise to most Cedar Point veterans…with rising fuel costs and with increased maintenance costs not only of the boats, but also the animatronics (most of which have ceased working years ago), it comes as no surprise that the Paddlewheels will be “retired” (as Cedar Point calls it) after Labor Day.

Installed in 1964 as the Western Cruise (almost double the current length of the attraction), the ride was one of the remaining such attractions at any amusement park anywhere. Those of us who are older will remember the frontier fort it used to glide by, and the burning sunken paddlewheel steamer (all removed years ago as the park expanded). The ride in now a mere shadow of itself as it floats under coasters and dodges rides as they have ever-encroached on the water-retention lagoons at the back of the park.

Unlike the water attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, which are tracked underwater and run electrically (Jungle Cruise, and yes, even the Riverboat!), The Paddlewheel Excursions boats are free-floating gas-consuming, money-draining snake pits. They’ve been bleeding hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of maintenance, fuel, and operations monies. It was only a matter of time until they were gone. For years it has been the last ride of the season to open, and the first one closed in the fall. It has opened later and later each day, and closed earlier and earlier each evening. This part-time ride has finally come to its end of days.

In its place, the landing dock area will serve as the entrance/exit for next seasons Dinosaur’s Alive exhibit that will make its home for the next few years on Millenium Island (now renamed Adventure Island). The bridge that is used during Halloweekends will be used for the new attraction.

Get your final rides in on the Paddlewheels….it’s a relic of another age — a time when Cedar Point really was an amusement park and not just a Coaster Kingdom…and it joins a long line of family friendly rides that have slowly been removed to make way for faster, taller, more exciting attractions (Pirate Ride, Earthquake, Frontier Lift, White Water Landing, the original Shoot the Rapids, the Funhouse, the Aquarium,  etc.)

I’ve posted this photo before, but I thought it made for an appropriate final tribute to the Paddlewheel Excursions…you will be missed.

Cedar Point 2009 – End of Summer report August 24, 2009

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With the summer winding down, Cedar Point is entering what is considered “Dead Week” – the smallest crowds of the summer this week and next week as students return to school….Michigan folks might be surprised to learn that Ohio Schools have already gone back — we have the new law that schools can’t start until Labor Day, which makes for a frighteningly long summer this year for parents.

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I’ve had three great weekend stays at Cedar Point this year between the Hotel Breakers and the Lighthouse Point Cabins…and have used my season pass 9 times so far this year with two more planned trips before the season is over.

In short — two of the big attraction shows have already closed for the summer (Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Extreme Wheels Stunt Show), and the remainder are scheduled to close this coming weekend. That will put Cedar Point solidly into fall Hallow-weekends mode, with the Halloween funhouses opening in mid-September and the Halloween parade and other annual attractions ready to go.

The Twilight Experience has proven to be a huge hit, with throngs passing through each night; and their set-up time got down to less than 10 minutes (another plus, given the initial half-hour setup at the beginning of the season).

Rumors abound for next year’s new attraction – t0 be announced on or around Labor Day, but this warning in advance: Ride the Paddlewheel Excursion while you still can, enjoy the awful jokes as you float around the lagoon with its half-broken animatronic displays. Cedar Point has fired it’s animatronic maintenance division which means great changes are in store for this attraction next season, even without an announcement at this point. Another heads up, if you like soakers, better get your final rides in on Snake River Falls as well.

The Cedar Point forums are abuzz with rumors of next years attractions and Cedar Point apparently likes it that way, feeding the rabid 15-year olds with twitter and facebook “clues”…it’s all nauseating. One certainly: land has been cleared on Millenium Island for an attraction said to span from the “mainland” across the lagoon and onto the western side of the island. Rumors range from new log flume to minor family coaster. My money is on the log flume, since CP announced when they tore out White Water Landing to build Maverick that they would be replacing it with a new water attraction down the road. CP is desperately in need of family attractions right now, and that would fit the bill. Frankly, I totally don’t care what new attractions they put in next year, but they are in vital need of updating their bathrooms and providing enough cleaning staff to make them less disgusting.

Overall, the coasters ran for the most part. No attraction was closed for more than a day or two at the most (Millenium Force being the ride with the worst track record this season, especially compared to Top Thrill Dragster which seems to run on it’s own will most of the time, but which seemed to run most of the summer this year). Chaos and Demon Drop, both for sale for years now, are still open and running as well. Disaster Transport looks to be on its final legs as well. I don’t give that one more than another season or two of operation, if that long. Mean Streak is also heading for the scrap pile. Ride it now if you want to experience a backpain-migraine inducing-teeth-rattling ride on one of the worst wooden coasters ever built, and one of only a handful remaining of the designer’s coasters in the country. No amount of repair can fix that one.

Cedar Point remains a fantastic local vacation spot — but with the shows now closing for the year and Halloweekends spook houses ready to open, it will only be a few more short day trips for myself. I leave that to the teens. But a few more rides on Millenium Force and I’ll call it a season. A few shots from this past weekend:

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

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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)

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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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