My family has two types of trips that we take to Cedar Point, the so-called “roller coast of America” that’s located in Sandusky, Ohio: “us” and “them.” When it’s just us — that’s me and my wife — we get to take in all the mammoth roller coasters or spend a night at the historic Hotel Breakers (especially during the fall, when HalloWeekends is in full effect). A “them” trip, on the other hand, is all about our two young children and making sure they have the time of their lives (until they start complaining about being tired and wanting to go home, of course).
By Marc N. Kleinhenz
Our visit this week was definitely for the kiddos, but it also represented something a little more special: it marked my family’s return to the amusement park for the first time since 2019. And, what’s more, seeing as how the much-ballyhooed 150th anniversary celebration got pushed back from ‘20’s truncated season to this year, there were all sorts of additional fun things to see, do, and — most importantly — eat, even if the likes of Millennium Force and, most sadly, Steel Vengeance weren’t on the experiential docket for the day.
After our 90-minute drive to Cedar Point, one of our very first stops once there had to be at Starbucks, which is located next to Sky Ride’s first embarkation station. While it’s great for fueling up on that all-important caffeine, it also brandishes a little in the way of theming, featuring some late 19th – and early 20th-century photographs, a suitably retro chandelier, and a small cameo appearance by the Peanuts characters, the mascots of the park. The light touches actually put the venue on par with some of the Starbucks that can be found at Universal Orlando Resort down in Florida, and they’re also indicative of the aesthetics that you can find at other establishments all throughout Cedar Point — which we’ll see in just a little bit.
With my iced green tea latte in hand, we were ready to head out to Kiddie Kingdom and Planet Snoopy, the first of the park’s two Peanuts-themed children’s areas. Two things immediately jumped out at us as visitors who hadn’t explored the amusement park in a couple of years — one fun and one more pragmatic. Let’s start with the latter first: there is still a large assortment of hand-sanitization stations spread everywhere, denoted on your smartphone’s map and in person by a novel coaster-and-heart icon (which my eight-year-old really got a kick out of). Indeed, my wife and I were definitely feeling that love once we realized that park management had also installed them at the exit of essentially every children’s ride, as well.
Much more entertainingly, the anniversary festivities can be found literally all throughout the 300-acre park, in many different forms and packages. Not far from Starbucks, we spotted the first exclusive food sign parked outside of a restaurant, showcasing what special culinary wares (officially dubbed “Taste of Cedar Point”) can be found inside; from the Focaccia Caprese Sandwich to the Crazy Cherry Shake and Loaded Funnel Cake Fries, they all looked suitably enticing.
Commemorative merchandise also reigns supreme at many different stores, most especially the Pagoda Gift Shop, which has been transformed into Celebration Central. You can expect to find the more standard t-shirts and mugs at these various locations, but also some unique items, too, such as the coffee-table book “Rolling Through the Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology,” which provides a detailed history of “the World’s Greatest Amusement Park,” replete with 75 maps and 1,200 images from throughout the past century-and-a-half.
You can also mark the sesquicentennial by watching or participating in the Celebrate 150 Spectacular Parade and Street Party, respectively, or play various redemption games to try and win prizes, including the limited-edition 150-Year Anniversary Bear (which is individually numbered to — you guessed it — 150 stuffed animals).
But, by far, my personal favorite part of the anniversary goings-on is the Courtesy Corps, which are a modern resurrection of Cedar Point’s particular form of guest service from the 1960s and ‘70s. This is how the company itself explains it:
“The Courtesy Corps of the past were highly trained attendants who stood from open to close to verbally share park knowledge, answer questions, and direct guests to shows and attractions.”
For 2021, you can find these friendly experts at several mobile stations spread all throughout the amusement park, answering questions and helping visitors register for anniversary contests. We definitely saw guests taking advantage of their services during our time there — and I hope to see the tradition continue past this year’s operating season.
When it was time for lunch, my family and I made our way to a venerable Cleveland institution: Melt Bar and Grilled, a gourmet grilled-cheese and craft-beer restaurant that has exploded in popularity since it was first featured on the Food Network back in 2010. There are 12 locations now, including at Progressive Field (home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team) and, of course, Cedar Point, which opened in 2017 and which has really done a lot to up the park’s food game.
Beyond its crazy menus — my personal favorite grilled cheese is the Backyard Pork BBQ, which stuffs pulled pork, thick-cut breaded onion rings, sharp cheddar, and a custom barbecue sauce within two slices of bread — the regional chain is also known for its crazy décor, which combines its signature blue ceilings with tons of kitschy holiday decorations. In keeping with what we already saw with Starbucks, there’s also a plethora of Cedar Point theming that’s been piled on here, most memorably up front: where normal Melt locations have hand-drawn collages of all these iconic Cleveland personalities (including Superman!), this one has a collection of Cedar Point attraction names and logos, both past and present. Sitting there and picking them out while waiting for our over-the-top food to arrive became a fun game for my two sons and me.
(You can check out Melt’s crazy story here. I’ve long been lobbying for the idiosyncratic company to make the trek down to Universal CityWalk Orlando — it’d be the perfect complement to that other regional superstar, The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.)
After packing in some more kid rides and the obligatory visit to the Dippin’ Dots stand for the boys, my family decided it was time to call it a day — but, on the way out, my wife and I had to make just one last stop. The new French Quarter Confections (well, okay — it technically opened last year, but it’s definitely new to us) replaces the old Bayou Refreshments, and while the funnel cake-centered menu may not appear to be that different on first glance, there’s absolutely been an upgrade.
This new incarnation places an emphasis on building your own items, from funnel cakes and elephant ears to doughnuts and waffles on a stick, while still offering a plethora of sweet side treats, like cotton candy, salt-water taffy, and chocolate-covered strawberries. The missus and I settled on some Funnel Cake Fries, dowsed in powdered sugar and with some caramel dipping sauce on the side — a sweet and delicious reward for our children-focused day at the park.
Complementing the experience was the stepped-up New Orleans theming and the renovation that this space has received — whereas before it was a walk-up counter, it’s now been transformed into a venue with indoor waiting and service. Along with several other gastronomical debuts across the whole amusement park (the hand-breaded chicken tenders of The Corral caught our eye, and visiting the Mac Shack, with its gourmet mac-‘n-cheese, will be a must for our next visit), this is precisely the kind of evolution that Cedar Point needs if it wants to continue to offer a fun, thrilling, and slightly-more-immersive experience to visitors.
The park may be celebrating its past, but its future is clearly brighter than ever.