With all the craziness that 2020 has handed us, this week, for the first time in more than seven months, I visited an amusement park. And let me just say, it was such a nice feeling to get back to something fun. When the opportunity arose to join my brother and his wife on a visit to my parents and head out to Cedar Point (America’s Roller Coast) I couldn’t say “no.”
I know you’re thinking: what does this have to do with Disney? It doesn’t, but Cedar Point is owned by Cedar Fair, the parent company of Knott’s Berry Farm so we thought, why not? Let’s write about our visit. Cedar Point is located right on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The park boasts 18 roller coasters (including two kiddie coasters), and dozens of other rides and experiences. The park operates seasonally and opened to guests for the first time in 2020 in early July. As is the going standard with parks around the world, there are new rules and safety measures in place that all guests and associates must follow when visiting and working at the park. Below is my detailed (lengthy) recap of our visit on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.
When tickets first went on sale to the general public earlier this month, we had to make a reservation due to capacity restrictions. However, by the time our day to visit arrived, Cedar Point had stopped using that reservation system. I can only speculate, but my guess is that they never reached the capacity limitations in place on any of the reservation days and decided to invite more people to attend.
Entry and Temperature Check
As we arrived, the “normal” main entrance was blocked off, and guests were directed to an adjacent queue. There was signage posted outside the queue about masks requirements, social distancing of 6’ or more, and frequent hand washing and sanitizing. We weaved our way through the queue which then split into two lines that led to giant tents for an infrared temperature check. We noticed markers on the ground spaced every 6’, but didn’t have to stop, walking right through without pause. In the 2 minutes it took us to get through the queue and tent, we didn’t see anyone pulled over for additional temperature checks, so I can’t speak on that process.
Next, in lieu of a bag check, we walked through a metal detector with bags on and/or items in pockets. Everyone in my party made it through without setting off the sensors or requiring any extra checks. Finally, we made it to the “turnstiles” where an associate scanned the digital tickets saved on my brother’s phone. We were in!
I’m happy to report that mask compliance was 100%—with an asterisk—for guests and all associates. Cedar Point’s face coverings requirements allowed for guests to wear: cloth, surgical, or vented (not mesh) masks, neck gaiters, or folded bandanas that covered the chin, but were open at the neck. While every guest was wearing one, not all guests were wearing them continuously. Even as we waited for our first ride shortly after 11 am, guests were already pulling the coverings past their chin to talk amongst themselves. Depending on the attraction and what was happening at the loading station, every so often an associate would make an announcement “reminding” guests that coverings were required at all times even on rides.
As for the social distancing, for Cedar Point’s part, they had plenty of markings on all attractions and outside of restaurants and food kiosks. Things were clearly labeled and properly distanced. On attractions, a turnstile was placed at the entry to the loading zone and was manned by an associate so only the next group of riders were on the platform at one time. If riders were seated on the edge of a row, oncoming riders for that row had to stand back 6’ while waiting to board the vehicle. I was actually pretty impressed by how much thought went into the social distancing just boarding the ride.
As for the queues, 6’ markers were placed throughout. If a line zig-zagged or doubled back, markings were 12’ apart going the same direction so that a 6’ distance could be maintained coming the opposite way. Even with all of these clear markings, not everyone kept the 6’ gap. In fact, twice as we were queuing, the group behind us came so far forward it was like they were part of our group. It didn’t make me uncomfortable, but I was frustrated that they weren’t even trying to respect the rules.
When a ride was complete, guests were asked to remain seated to be dismissed by row allowing everyone to stay spread out. This was the hardest thing to comply with as I’m so used to trying to exit quickly so the next group can get on.
There were several of these rest stations located throughout the park—we came across at least four—that were dedicated areas for guests to take off their masks and relax. There was directional signage for going in and out of the RelaxZone, a hand sanitizer dispenser just ahead of the seating area, and groups of chairs for guests to use. We didn’t stop at the RelaxZone and I didn’t see anyone else taking advantage of them either.
Bathrooms and Hand Sanitizer
Speaking of hand sanitizer, the main entrance to each ride had a dispenser and one as you exited the ride vehicle. There were dispensers outside of the restaurants, restrooms, and as you entered the RelaxZone. Bathrooms were open and sinks were either automatic or just a push top. Hand dryers were working, but I didn’t see any paper towels or trash cans. Water fountains were working and I refilled my water bottle at one station.
We had several rides we wanted to tackle so we didn’t cover the whole park. From what I could tell, all of the big rides were running even the ones that had previously been marked as not operating when the park reopened. The Planet Snoopy area was closed and guests were encouraged to visit Camp Snoopy or Kiddie Kingdom.
I won’t list everything open, but I will tell you what we managed to ride:
- Steel Vengeance (twice)
- Cedar Creek Mine Ride
- Millennium Force
- GateKeeper (twice)
- Magnum XL-200
We probably could have squeezed in a few additional rides, but we didn’t feel like pushing ourselves that hard. Plus it was hot, and some of our rides required a timed Access Pass that we had to plan around.
During our visit we witnessed the cleaning of two rides. The first was for GateKeeper and associates were spraying and wiping down individual seats. The other cleaning we saw was on Magnum XL-200. Associates sprayed the handles, lap bar, and open seats skipping those that were blocked off. Then the empty car was sent out the track to dry off. While we didn’t see the cleaning of other vehicles, several times we did see empty cars going through a full ride cycle before guests were allowed back on.
This system worked like a combination between Disney’s paper FastPasses and Virtual Queue. Paper Access Passes were handed out near the ride entrance at 11am and 3:30pm. Guests could queue (6’ apart of course, and clearly marked) in this area prior to distribution times. As distribution opened, each party would walk up the associate who’d hand them a pass with a return time.
Of all the attractions at Cedar Point, only four required an Access Pass:
- Steel Vengeance
- Millennium Force
- Top Thrill Dragster
Upon returning during your hour-long window, you’d show your pass at the ride entrance and then tear it up and place it in a small bin.
Guests could not bring outside food in with them, but plastic, sealed water bottles were allowed. We only ate once during our visit choosing to dine at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Frontier Town. Queuing was spaced out to and inside the restaurant. An associate was at the door to maintain restaurant capacity which was limited to 35 persons. I don’t know if this location previously had a full menu or not, but during our visit the only food options were a sandwich, nuggets, fries, and fresh fruit cup.
Plexiglass separated us from the associate, Bird, working the register. After placing the order, Bird asked if I was a Gold Pass Holder which I am not. She proceeded to scan her ID giving us a 20% discount! That was our Magic Moment of the day if you will. I was hoping to use Apple Pay to complete the transaction, but their system wasn’t equipped for that and I had to use the chip reader. Other than that, the process was very smooth. We got our soft drinks at the register (sans straws and lids), and waited in the cleared dining room for our order to be called. We had to ask for flatware and our bottled water when we picked up the meal. All Chick-fil-A associates were wearing gloves and face coverings. Tables were set up on the porch and surrounding area outside the restaurant.
I was so excited for my first visit to Cedar Point in what has to be at least 12 years. I was thrilled to experience three new rides and return to some great classic attractions. I absolutely love Steel Vengeance (formerly Mean Streak), a steel wooden coaster which gives riders non stop thrills from start to finish. It’s now my new favorite roller coaster, bumping Millennium Force to second place. If thrilling roller coasters are your thing, this is the park to visit.
In terms of health and safety, I think Cedar Point’s safety measures were good. Some things like the 12’ spacing in the zig zag queues and waiting to be released from your row went beyond my expectations. Did I feel safe? Yes. Did I use hand sanitizer and wash my hands more frequently than normal? Yes I did. Given the chance would I return? At this point I would, but I’d also caution those who are on the fence to skip it.
If this is a serious issue for you it’s better to wait for next year. There are too many things the park cannot control or enforce, not because they don’t care, but because some people will not be respectful. The issue isn’t the park or safety measures, it’s how we as guests respond to and follow the rules.
Whether you find yourself staying at home and enjoy virtual visits to Cedar Point (or your favorite Disney Park), or actually venturing beyond the gates, I hope you have a fun and safe summer!