Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Comparing Park Features

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While touring the various parks, besides noting what we enjoy and had fun with at each park, we started making comparisons and contrasts between them. Certain themes began to arise in our minds. Today’s post will start a short to moderate discussion of the things we observed and discussed during our tour. True, we only saw 5 of the 11 parks, and not even all of them, but our observations, comparisons and contrasts, between those five form a reasonable basis for some conclusions we have drawn.

Family of Parks

I won’t go into a precise history of the Cedar Fair Parks, how they went from single parks to an amusement and water park system. Suffice it to say, in our tour of the parks, we came across a unified sense of the parks. They aren’t cookie cutters – each has its unique style and flavor – but they do have a sense of being a part of each other, and not just alone. They are a family, with all the uniqueness and differences of a family and all of the elements that unite one.

Of the parks we visited, many of them were built in the 1970s and 80s, which seems to have been a popular time for amusement parks:

  • King’s Island – 1972
  • World’s of Fun – 1973
  • King’s Dominion – 1975
  • Canada’s Wonderland – 1981

Two of the parks are older. Michigan’s Adventure was founded as Deer Park in 1956. Cedar Point is the oldest at 1870.

Map Improvements

The different parks had maps that looked similar in print color, graphics, etc. but had significant differences in practical legend constructions. Some parks had lists of attractions numbered, with numbers scattered across the map that were hard to find. Others had the map divided by a grid, and the attractions noted to their grid location. In the first one, you sometimes had to look all over the map to find a number, especially when there were multiple color/number systems. In the second, you might find the grid location, but the attraction might not have anything labeled for it within the grid.

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What we recommend is that both methods be used.  If each attraction has a grid location attached to it, and a number on the map, the patrons can locate the grid section, and then easily find the numbers. This same numbering system should also be used on the season dining flyer, so people can cross-reference it with the map to find the food locations.

Park Entrances

The main improvement at World’s of Fun, our home park, this year, was a new entrance gate and entrance plaza.  This made us look at the other parks for their entrances.  Most of them seemed to have a similar feel, like they were recently redone as well.

Four of the parks had a similar park entry style.  King’s Dominion, King’s Island and Canad’s Wonderland were all built on the same model of an entry gate leading to an international street with a fountain down the middle and a monument at the end (Wonder Mountain or Eiffel Tower). All the other streets looped off the main street. Cedar Point opened to its main midway,  and is made of other midways opening off the main one.

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Michigan’s Adventure is either a C or a loop. There is a central lake, and if you are walking, it forms a trail around three sides of it in the rough shape of a C.  When you include the railroad that connects the fourth side, you can go around the park in a loop.

World’s of  Fun, our home park, has an entry plaza, but is designed in a loop fashion, following the theme of the book Around the World in 80 Days with an inner and outer loop. Each has its advantage.

Coaster’s Restaurant

We found the iconic 50s Coaster’s Restaurant at every park we went to. And they all had classic period cars out in front. The only one that didn’t was our home park, Worlds of Fun.  Worlds of Fun used to have cars out front, and we are not sure why they got rid of them. They need the cars, just like they need the authentic 50s music playing inside, instead of off-period music.

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Reentry Hand Stamps

All the parks had an ink stamp you got to allow you reentry the same day. Kings Dominion had an invisible ink stamp that had to be scanned under a special light to see. The rest of them had visible inks. Worlds of Fun has stamps with several themed words, each stamp with one of the words. The ink used at Worlds of Fun also tends to run, especially if you sweat. The other parks had more durable inks.

Cedar Point had stamps in different colors that featured the various rollercoasters at the park. I got a stamp the first night we were there, and when I left the second night tried to have the guy stamp me on the other wrist, but he insisted it had to be on the same hand and actually stamped over previous day’s stamp. That irritated me. He could at least have stamped in a separate spot so both could be easily read and seen.

King’s Island had faces of Peanut’s Characters, which was also cool. Michigan’s Adventure had a bright green ink.

Log Flume Rides

Several of the parks had log flume rides Unlike Worlds of Fun, all the others had a seatback in the middle dividing the seating compartment – which made it easier for 3 or 4 people to ride. We’d like Worlds of Fun to update its log flume cars with this feature.

Refresh Stations

At Worlds of Fun we are used to the various drink refill options for our season drink bottle. There is the refresh station, which has a series of 6-10 soda fountains, and the freestyle machine, which has a selection of over 100 drink combinations from one machine. We found these to be the same at the other parks. But what we found especially unique at Canada’s Wonderland were several refresh stations that consisted of two soda fountains and two refresh machines, allowing you to choose either at one stop, instead of having to go to different stops to get your options.

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Dual service refresh station at Canada’s Wonderland.

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A neat Coca-Cola Marketplace at Cedar Point

All Season Dining Plan/Dining Options

We have enjoyed the all-season dining plan at Worlds of Fun. We enjoyed getting to use the plan at all the other parks during our trip. It showed us several things that we think would be improvements back at Worlds of Fun.

First, all the other parks feature their executive chef somewhere – on Fun TV, the dining plan flyer, etc. – but we haven’t seen that this year at World’s of Fun. The past two or three years we knew and felt the presence of Kevin Williams as executive chef, but the current chef is practically invisible. World’s of Fun needs to feel the presence and personality of the executive chef on the park’s food services.

Second, all the other parks had wider food selections than World’s of Fun. They all had more fresh green items than Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun had the cheapest and most arbitrary food plan of all the parks we visited.

Some of that food variety also involved specialty restaurants, local specialties. To use King’s Island as an example, the Cincinnati icon of Skyline Chili had restaurants in the park. Their pizza service was by another local pizza chain – La Rosas – and got high approval rating from our family member who had pizza.

World’s of Fun needs to find some local specialty affinity to add as a food feature. Everyone thinks barbecue is the trademark of Kansas City, but the Battlecreek barbecue just doesn’t cut it – it isn’t an external specialty restaurant. I don’t really think getting a local barbecue chain in is really the best idea, but there has to be some other iconic restaurant that could be partnered with to add variety and specialty to the menu.

At Cedar Point we saw them actually hand breading the corn dogs and cheese on a stick, not just putting items from a freezer into a frying vat. Just another way that a sense of freshness at atmosphere was added through the food preparation process.

Finally, we felt a lack of clarity about which items were on the dining plan menu. Some places had really good markings and specific lists of items, while others you only knew they participated but not what they were. Signage at the restaurants could be listed with greater clarity for the dining plans.

Overlapping Sound Zones

Here is an item where we definitely rate World’s of Fun the best.  For several years we have commented on walking through the park that you could get a jarring sound from two rides, or a ride and background noise, or ride music and Fun TV, would be overlapping so you were hearing both at the same time. Over the past couple of years someone at Worlds of Fun has been working on this, and the overlaps are less. Not perfect, but less.

King’s Dominion was the world offender, with the most loud, overlapping sound zones at once, and most recurrent throughout the park. But none of the other parks have yet seriously realized how conflicting sounds detract from the experience before you, to get this right.

Snoopy Photo Op

To wrap, I’m doing a small photo lineup.  We found this similar Snoopy Statue at each of the parks and I had my picture taken with it at several.

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The doghouse at King’s Island

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Canada’s Wonderland

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Michigan’s Adventure

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Cedar Point

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King’s Island

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One thought on “Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Comparing Park Features

  1. Leland Wykoff

    Thanks for this review. You pay attention to the details that can make or break the guest experience.

    Your criticism of of the soundscape bleeding over is spot on. This is a relatively easy fix if only someone is tasked with managing this element of the on-park experience.

    The Meal Plan issues you point out suggest CedarFair is not consistently applying Best Practices across the food and beverage division of the company. Such an oversight is surprising.

    Really impressed with using the Peanuts hand stamps–puzzling why only one of your visited parks employed this theme tie-in.

    One also wonders why the CRM system is not set up to allow same day return privileges. Such tracking would allow the parks to identify why guests take an absence from the parks.

    Perhaps they are leaving for meals? If that is the case management could take extra steps such as marketing meal plans targeted to plug this revenue leakage.

    Again, thank you for the delightful review, report, and insights. Great job!

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