Cedar Point: A History of the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”

Posted by Staff on Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Aerial View of Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio

For the past fourteen years, Cedar Point has been named “Best Amusement Park in the World” by Amusement Today. There’s no doubt that the park’s scenic location on a Lake Erie peninsula, in Sandusky, Ohio, has played a role in securing this honor. Indeed, it was the beautiful lakeside beaches that first inspired a German immigrant named Louis Zistel to open a beer garden on Cedar Point peninsula. It was this beer garden, opened in 1870, that paved the way for what is now one of the world’s most well-known amusement parks.

Prior to 1870, the peninsula, true to its name, was thick with cedars, and was primarily used for fishing and hunting. When Zistel opened his beer garden, as well as a bathhouse and dance floor, he brought guests over on his steamboat, the Young Reindeer, at a price of 25 cents a head. Over the next two decades, Cedar Point became a popular destination for sailing and boating parties, but it wasn’t until the early 1890s that Cedar Point started on its trajectory toward a full-fledged amusement park.

The Switchback Railway Roller Coaster at Cedar Point 1892

The Switchback Railway

The first roller coaster installed at Cedar Point was the Switchback Railway in 1892. Just like the Switchback Railway that debuted at Coney Island in 1884, this ride was a simple gravity-powered coaster. According to Cedar Point, the Switchback Railway “stood an amazing 25 feet tall and reached an unbelievable top speed of 10 mph.” Their tongue-in-cheek attitude is understandable considering the number of record breaking roller coasters they would add over the years.

Cyclone Roller Coaster at Cedar Point Ohio

Poster of the Cyclone Roller Coaster

Through the turn of the century, the park expanded drastically under the direction of George A. Boeckling. He brought to the peninsula a number of hotels, restaurants, ballrooms, and a midway featuring rides, games, a skating rink, fortunetellers, and other entertainment. In 1929, toward the end of the “Boeckling Era” (he died in 1931), the classic Cedar Point wooden roller coaster, Cyclone, was opened along the beach. The Cyclone survived until 1951 when it was torn down due to its poor condition. When the Cyclone came down, Cedar Point found itself without any roller coaster. However, a few years earlier, in 1946, they had added the longest standing ride at the park, the Midway Carousel.

Cedar Creek Mine Ride at Cedar Creek, Ohio

Cedar Creek Mine Ride

After Boeckling passed away, there was little expansion throughout the 1930s and 1940s. It wasn’t until the late fifties that a major investment of $1,200,000 was spent on rejuvenating the park. Following this sprucing-up, the Blue Streak, Cedar Point’s oldest roller coaster still in operation, was built in 1964. Named after a local high school’s sports teams, the Blue Streak is to this day still the favorite of many loyal Cedar Park fans. In 1969, the park’s second oldest operating roller coaster, the Cedar Creek Mine Ride, arrived on the scene. This Mine Train ride was built by Arrow Dynamics, and utilized the tubular steel tracks they had developed for Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Top Thrill Dragster

It was in the 1970s that Cedar Point began setting roller coaster records. The red, white, and blue Corkscrew, was the first roller coaster to span a midway, as well as the first corkscrew coaster with three inversions. In 1978, Cedar Point once again set a roller coaster record with the Gemini, which at the time was the tallest and fastest roller coaster ever built. Since then, Cedar Point has continued to push the limits of what roller coasters can do. Both height and speed records were broken once again in 1989 by the Magnum XL-200. Roller coaster records are continuously being challenged by parks all over the world, but Cedar Park is often a step ahead of the rest. In 2003 the Top Thrill Dragster reclaimed the tallest and fastest records with a height of 420 ft and a speed of 120 mph! Cedar Park has become known as the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” because it has been host to more roller coasters than any other amusement park. However, at this time, it is tied with Six Flags Magic Mountain for the most roller coasters.

Soak City Water Park at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

Soak City Water Park

Besides roller coasters, Cedar Point has also developed a water park, called Soak City, and a Peanuts­-themed area for children, called Planet Snoopy. So no matter your age, or what type of entertainment you prefer, the world’s best amusement park has got you covered.

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