Vacation Memories- Through the Years

As I have stated many times and as you can tell by my blog name we are a roller coaster family.  It is something we truly enjoy and something we have done for years.

The memories we have created are priceless.  We started when my son was in 1st grade and last year, as a 7th grader was the first year we missed a coaster vacation. It’s my fault. It’s not a money thing, it’s a back thing, like I need back surgery. I managed to get myself around the park as long as I could, but eventually I needed surgery. It was the standing in line that hurt the most, the coasters never bothered me.

Biggest bummer?  Our kids still love doing that vacation with us and our time with them is running out.  It kills me.  But in honor of Mother’s Day and my favorite vacations with my kids, I give you:

Through the Years

Great America ’03

Disneyland ’04

Great America ’05

Six Flags Valencia ’05

Magic Mountain ’06

Great America ’06

Cedar Point ’07 – Maverick

Great America ’08

Great America ’08

Cedar Point ’08 – Top Thrill Dragster

Kings Island ’08

Update ::  We didn’t make it to the park in ’09, but we did manage a trip in 2010!!!

Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain 2010

9 Steps to Do Cedar Point on a Budget

cedar-point-vacation

If you are looking for a frugal Cedar Point Vacation, I have the information you are looking for.

Here are 9 steps to do Cedar Point affordably and do it well.

1. Be flexible about when you can go.  If you go earlier in the season or later in the season the rooms are cheaper.  We always go late August.  The room rates go down and the park is less packed.  To get the most out of my trip I also plan around the local school schedule.  I try to go once they are back in school in hopes of having it not be as crowded.

2. Use one of their motels first and foremost.  You get in an hour before the public if you do.  Breakers Express is the cheapest, unless you choose to camp.  Plus if you are staying for a day or two the packages save you money on the entrance fee. We have stayed at Hotel Breakers and Breakers Express and we like the benefits of both properties. Plus you get free parking.

3.  Get a room with a fridge.  Go to the grocery store and buy fruit and muffins for breakfast and  meats and veggies for lunch along with nuts and chips for snacks. This option works best if you stay on the property and it’s so much cheaper and better than the food in the park.

4. Don’t buy expensive drinks in the park.  Better yet, don’t buy any drinks at the park. They have to give you a cup of water if you ask.  This is true, our last trip we did it the whole time and paid very little for any water.  If you must buy water, buy it out of the vending machine so you don’t have to pay sales tax.

5. Buy a Season Pass.    Since we travel all the way from Oregon we make a full week of it.  Therefore we buy the season pass.(Chances are there will be a day pass to the water park with your season pass.)  It costs a lot up front, but in the end it’s cheaper than buying a ticket every day.  Plus you don’t have to go to the window to get your ticket every day before you enter the park.

6Leave the property to eat dinner.  You will probably spend the same as the restaurants on the grounds, but you will get better food if you leave the property.  We went to a great restaurant just down the road, had amazing food, great service and no wait at all.  We came back to find an hour wait at TGI Fridays.  Our food was much better than what they were going to get and we paid about the same (ours was more upscale), plus it was less stressful.  We chose a restaurant that Dan Aykroyd even ate at, so it must be good.

7No need to do anything else.  Take advantage of the beach and the boardwalk.  After you have paid so much to get there and do the park, don’t spend money on other things, enjoy it!! It’s Cedar Point!! The Roller Coaster Capital of the World!!

8. Carry your snacks in with you.  We have the guys wear cargo shorts and we pack snacks in there so no one has to carry any bag.  When you need refueling pull out some nuts or trail mix and ask for that free glass of water. We bring ziploc bags to put our snacks in after we purchase them from the grocery store.

9. When you get a season pass you should get a booklet that shows discounts you get at participating stores.  Take advantage of this when getting souvenirs and any food you choose to purchase.

Now throw your hands in the air and enjoy!!

6 Steps to Planning the Perfect Rollercoaster Vacation

The Beast Kings Island '08

The Beast Kings Island ’08

These steps can also be done with any amusement park, even Disneyland or Disneyworld (although they are open all year long).  I always like to get the most out of my trip, so here is how I go about it.

1.    What is the opening date of the park? Or When Does it Close for the Season?
One of the parks we go to in N. California opens in April.  Since summer vacations haven’t started yet it’s very very empty, thus getting the park to ourselves.  Also towards the end of the season many locals are done with the park and getting back into routines.  The end of the year strategy only backfired on us one time and that was with Kings Island.  Make sure you check days and hours, since many are only open for extended weekends at this point, not necessarily during the week days.

2.    Check the local school calendars and compare them to yours.
I like to do this because I want the park to myself or at least as much as possible to myself.  If the park does open in April and they are open for long weekends I try and go on a Friday for sure while everyone is in school, but plan a 2nd day for the Saturday so you can at least have some of the Entertainment that goes along with park.  I check our days off against theirs and usually I am able to come up with something.

3.    Check Airfare.
Again if you are going on an off time chances are even your airfare will be cheaper.  Not only that, if you have frequent flier miles they are easier to use at this time as opposed to spring break or any other Holidays.

4.    Find out the cost of a Season Pass compared to a Day Pass.
If I am flying into some place we usually plan to stay more than one day.  If that is the case often times it cheaper to buy a season pass than to purchase 2 day passes.  Although look around for coupons or discount on day passes and compare.

5.    Find out what a Season Pass gets you in to.
When you purchase a Season Pass to Six Flags you can go to any Six Flags in the nation.  Only catch is you have to activate it before going to any others.  I say this because the Park in Texas may be cheaper to buy a season pass to than the one in California.  You can purchase both online, but you have to activate it at the park you select as your main park even if it does cost more.  Once activated you can go to any of the parks.  Often times too the Six Flag season pass comes with coupons that you can use for food or even into nearby water parks.

Cedar Fairs you have to purchase a Season Pass to a specific park and then you can upgrade to other parks.  They do tend to cost more, but personally they are my favorite.

6.    Purchase Your Airfare, Buy your Passes Online and Pack Your Bags, and Enjoy!!

Kings Island

The Beast Kings Island '08

The Beast Kings Island ’08

Ah…after you leave Cedar Point you should NOT got to Kings Island.  We had been warned, but since we had platinum season passes and we got in with that card at no additional charge we thought we would at least give it a try.

First off the park is much, much smaller and packed.  We were there on a Saturday night and with the Platinum Pass you can get the passes that put you at the front of the line on 4 rides.  The catch is the rides are not close to each other and the times are pretty close, so you kind of need to choose what rides you want to do.  Now remember we had just ridden Top Thrill Dragster earlier that day, so every time we got off one of the roller coasters at Kings Island we were like “that was cute”.  The adjustment was hard.

We were not super excited about the park, so we didn’t have quite as much motivation to get there and open up the park.  So the nice thing was we got to sleep in.

Once we got to the park we decided to push through and make a day and hit all the rides.  The lines were long, so we had to change our strategy mentally.  We usually hit parks during off seasons, our kids don’t know what it’s like to stand in line for over 30 minutes.  Well they didn’t know then, but they do know now.

The Beast!!  It is a wooden roller coaster that’s all it’s cracked up to be.  It was long, amazing and not bumpy.  Son of Beast was just a great.

We took time to sit down and watch some shows too.  Or at least we tried.  Don’t judge us Barry Williams, but we just couldn’t sit through it.  Yeah that’s right the name is ringing a bell.  That’s Greg Brady along with Bobby and Cindy.  They were entertaining guests at Kings Island while we were there.

Over all Kings Island ended up being a fun time.  Even with the new ride Diamond Back coming out next year I don’t think we will ever return to that park.  Unless for some weird reason work takes us to Cincinnati, then we might.

My tip is don’t go over Labor Day Weekend.  Even though I knew it was a holiday I was kind of hoping that everyone was done with amusement parks for the summer, turns out they aren’t.  They like to end with a bang, literally, there were even fireworks, and quite a show at that.

Eating Good around Cedar Point

Food. That always becomes the source of concern when we travel. We don’t like fast food, deep fried food or just plain unhealthy food, so we have to search, and search we do. Before I left I had spent time on the web trying to find some really good places for us. We don’t normally like chain restaurants because they lack good quality taste and they lack nutrition. The first day we were having such a good time in the park we decided to try something just outside the gates and hopefully not too heavy. Heavy never works when you are riding rides all day long. We ended up at Famous Daves, which we didn’t know at the time was a chain restaurant. I ordered a salad, which wasn’t bad, it was all ice berg lettuce (see I’m even a salad snob) and it had a BBQ dressing on it that I was not real fond of. But since it was a BBQ restaurant that is what they had. Everyone else got hamburgers and fries. The Hamburgers were greasy and the BBQ sauce was real thick. I don’t think anyone finished their meals. The kids each got pops and we had water. The meal cost us $48.00. It was a huge disappointment.

We decided for dinner that we would try a restaurant that I had found online. It’s called Red Gables and it’s just a few short miles from the park entrance. It was not a chain and the food was amazing. They have a 2 pork chop special, which my husband and I got and split. My daughter got the crab cake dinner. (We are from Oregon and I try those everywhere we go, and those are by far the best crab cakes I have ever had. Lots a crab and just a little breading.) My son got the 4 cheese pasta. Each meal came with salad and 2 sides. Which means we ended up with 3 salads and 6 side dishes. We had so much food. We even ordered scallops (amazing) as an appetizer and the kids had drinks and we had beers with our meal. I know, it’s definitely a wine meal, but I was craving a beer. My daughter said it was the best restaurant that she had ever been too. The whole meal cost us $90. We got amazing quality food and we got superb service on which we chose to leave a great tip.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. That was by no means a bargain meal. I agree 100%. But we chose to cut corners in other ways. We had a fridge in our room. We started by bringing cereal that would last us the whole time. So when we got there we bought milk, I had packed spoons and we ate out of the cups in the room. So breakfast was cheap and it’s what we all enjoy eating for breakfast. For lunch (because we didn’t want more bad expensive food from and around the park) we chose to go to the grocery store and we bought cheese, crackers, fruits, plus we already had nuts, bars and dessert that we had brought along. So everyday we would leave the park go to our room and eat a snack that would hold us until we left for a great dinner.

The second night that we ventured out we went to Lymans Harbor and ate a very good meal there too. It too was not a chain, they pride themselves in their perch, which was great. It is across the harbor from Cedar Point. So again just minutes from the entrance and plenty of places to sit, quick service, good service and out the door feeling great.

The funny thing was both nights we would go back and pass the TGIFridays and there would be a line out the door, people would be grumpy and they would end up paying just about what we paid. Only our experience was pleasant.

The last night we were there we decided to go easy on the budget and we ordered Pizza. The Red Gables has a pizza place next door so we thought we would give it a try. That meal cost us $15. HINT: You can go into the nice side of Red Gables and order a great meal and they will let the kids order a pizza from the other side if nothing on the menu is to their liking. LOVE THIS PLACE!!

Millennium Force Ride Night

Oh how I wish we lived close enough to take advantage of things like this:

“We invite all Platinum Passholders to join us this Thursday, July 24 for the rescheduled Exclusive Ride Time on Millennium Force. Ride time begins shortly after park closing and lasts for one full hour. You must present your Platinum Pass to enter the line. We sincerely apologize for last week’s cancellation, and we hope to see you Thursday!”

Kings Island Features Best Kids’ Area in the World

KINGS ISLAND FEATURES BEST KIDS’ AREA IN THE WORLD!

Being No. 1 is hard work! For the seventh year in a row, Amusement Today readers awarded Kings Island with the prestigious Golden Ticket for Best Kids’ Area in the World in 2007. 

Kings Island’s Best Kids’ Area, Nickelodeon Universe™, features two outstanding neighborhoods spotlighting SpongeBob SquarePants™ and Dora the Explorer™. Between the two areas, Nickelodeon Universe™ brings to life Nickelodeon’s most popular characters with a total of 18 attractions including more kid’s coasters than any other theme park in the world! 

Don’t miss Dora’s Sing-Along Adventure at Nickelodeon Theatre. Explore with Dora and Boots on a musical adventure for the entire family. Four shows daily. 

And, while sharing the dreams of your child’s imagination in Nickelodeon Universe™,, be sure to try our famous Blue ice cream. 

The Golden Ticket Awards are the result of a survey conducted by Amusement Today, a respected amusement park trade publication. Every year, hundreds of well-traveled theme park enthusiasts are chosen to share their expertise to determine a winner in each category.

Pay Once, Visit Twice *Hurry before it’s too late*

You can’t conquer the thrills and family fun at Cedar Point in just one day…so why not come back for a second day of fun? Here’s how this special ticket works: pay one price of only $52.95 online through June 15, 2008 and visit on the operating day of your choice. Then come back for another visit on any other operating day of the 2008 season. That includes HalloWeekends! Two-visit tickets must be used by the same person and are non-transferable. Purchase your ticket now!

Review of Great America from the eyes of a 14 year old

After having gone to Cedar Point, Six Flags, and all those more popular places, Great America seemed smaller than the first time I visited it. It was still a blast to go on rides I could never work up the courage go on before, and even the new rides were enjoyable. The best part about our most recent trip to Great America, was that there was nobody there. Which meant no lines for anything. We got to stay on some of the top rides, as they ran it again and again. I was so spoiled from Friday, with not having to wait in lines, Saturday was horrible. Although they were still short (about 2 or 3 rides before our turn) it seemed like hours to wait for a ride, since I was so use to hopping on rides the day before.

Paramounts Great America-What I think

Great America '05

Great America ’05

We have been to this park a ton. My husband grew up going there on vacation. It was my first Roller Coaster park and I was in college when I first went. It was also our kids’ first Roller Coaster Park. So we have fond memories here….BUT we have also been to Cedar Point, Ohio, the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, so coming back to this park this year has mixed reviews for us.

First and foremost this park is clean. I mean Disneyland clean, which is more than I can say for all the Six Flag Parks I have been too. I really appreciate that. It gives it a great family feel as opposed to the others that just seem dirty and crazy.

Great America is not a big park. I never thought that until this year. You can make it around in no time. Which is both positive and negative. The rides are not far from each other, which I really like. There are lots of shops and cafes between rides too which is nice when you need water or things to eat.

They do have some great rides that I consider big. Although again, after having been to Cedar Point, none of the rides are BIG anymore. But nonetheless we enjoyed many rides here.

  • Invertigo. This ride is best done in the front row facing Grizzly.
  • Grizzly is a great wooden roller coaster. It is best done in the front. I rode it many times. In the past I had stayed away because….I shouldn’t even say this outloud to the world since I love riding roller coasters, but I have a bad back. But I only did this one in the front row and it seemed to work perfect for me. I had no problems whatsoever.
  • Drop Tower never gets old, which was good because we rode it alot. Mostly because there were no lines and we could stay in our seat. This is a great 224 foot free fall drop.
  • Flight Deck (formally known as Top Gun) is known for it’s speed instead of its height. And it is fast, so fast that I do tend to black out during parts of the ride. We did this one in the front row nearly every time.
  • Survivor the Ride was down when we were there 2 years ago, so we finally got a chance to ride it. It’s a fun relaxing ride. It goes in a circle while rolling back in forth over the track. It’s different, I can’t say if I liked it or not. I wouldn’t wait in line for it, but since we had no lines, we usually just did it as we passed it.

The new ride was not yet open. I was disappointed until I saw what it was, then I realized we had actually done it at another park. It’s a fun ride, but it’s not a roller coaster. So we didn’t mind that we missed it.

The food selection was ok. I would really like to see parks go with healthier food. They are slowly coming around. They did offer salads and fruit salad. But the one time we went to purchase the fruit salad it was gone. That was at 12:00. Either they didn’ t have many or it’s not just us that are trying to eat healthier and they were all eaten up. I was glad that we found the sushi, it was a filling yet non greasy selection that left us all feeling great.

The bathrooms were always clean. The cafes were always being picked up by someone and rarely did you seen any garbage on the ground. I know there were not a lot of people attending the park that day, but the workers were all there nonetheless, sweeping.

Most of the staff at the rides were nice and social. I got grease on my arm from one of the rides. I asked for a paper towel to clean up and she must have apologized 4 times. It wasn’t her fault, but she felt bad and made sure I got cleaned up and was happy. Thank you Jessica!!!empy-park.jpg

Overall we love this park, but we have outgrown it. None of these rides scare us at all anymore and give us that thrill we are looking for. I doubt we will make it back. We will probably venture out to others. But I highly suggest going if you have never been. It will probably always be a family favorite because of all the memories. The best part of all was our timing. We really did have the park pretty much to ourselves.