Winter Chill Out 2018 – Trip Report and Highlights
Before I start, I want to give a shoutout to the guys at WildGravityTravels.com – I used their report as a reference to remind myself of a couple things that I forgot to mention. Give them a follow on all of their social media – they’re far more detailed than I am when it comes to these things, plus they have video of the event as well.
On February 24, I had the opportunity to attend Winter Chill Out 2018 with my friend Nick (IG: cp_guest1870), his friend Alex and Jon G (IG: coaster_bean). This post is intended as a trip report and commentary on the many (and I mean MANY) things revealed that day as well as the park tour itself.
Before I begin, let me say that as always, this event is for a great cause. If you ever have a chance to donate or help with an event for A Kid Again, please do so. It makes me proud that Cedar Point is my home park and that everything from this event including time, food and souvenirs are all donated.
We rolled up to CP about 10:15am after stopping at Target to get me an ankle brace – my ankle has been sore for over a week and I made the mistake of buying and wearing new boots that morning, which only made it hurt more.
First impression of Cedar Point 2018 – SEAGULLS EVERYWHERE. I’ve never seen anything like it but the entire parking lot aside from the first couple rows were covered in white feathers. I was fully convinced that I was getting pooped on at some point, but the seagulls within the park itself were minimal.
We went into the season pass office to check in, received our free gifts and headed over to the Midway Market to wait to depart. Small donuts and pastries were provided, as well as access to the Coke Freestyle machines. We departed from the Midway Market at around 10:45am and were taken into the Zombie High haunted house right at the front of the park near Gatekeeper. I’m not a big haunted house person. Even when I head to Haunt, I typically go on Sundays and only to ride or take pictures. That said, the thing that surprised me the most about the building was how massive it is. It took us around fifteen minutes to get through the entire thing. The detail is pretty amazing for as cheesy as some of the props are. I can imagine in the dark, it is actually quite scary when people are jumping out at you.
After Zombie High, we walked over to Millennium Force, which I found to be a disappointment. I was really hoping they would take us closer to the track somewhere or behind-the-scenes, but our only access was to the dismantled cars out in front of the ride (same as the last two years).
After taking our pictures, we were told that we were heading over towards the main event: STEEL VENGEANCE. When we got over there, the first thing you notice is that there is a lot of construction going on both related and unrelated to the coaster. I was disappointed to see that the rock structure in front of the ride now had poles on it where a sign would be installed. For some reason, I thought that they were going to carve the logo into the rock. Just prior to the railroad tracks, we were able to talk and have a brief Q&A with the lead construction foreman, who didn’t reveal too much besides the fact that the RMC guys are actually from RMC and put up in the area for months until everything is complete and that the light package will mainly be the yellowish Mean Streak-type lighting except the lift hill, which hasn’t been revealed yet. I was hoping for some kind of light package where the lights would sort-of chase the train, but a guy can dream I guess. He also said that besides repainting, the only major work done on the station was the addition of an actual fast lane entrance as well as widening of the track within the station. The new queue will wind around the Deprivation (formerly Edee Musee) building.
After the Q&A, they let us walk over to the Steel Vengeance construction site, where we got to talk a boatload of pictures in the ten minutes we were there. I ran ahead of Jon and told him I’m going to get all his shots. After I took some next to the track, I realized they weren’t stopping us from walking underneath the track and putting our head between the rails, which is where Jon and I (and many others) took some awesome shots. Had I been given another 5 minutes or so, I probably would have pulled out the fisheye or wide-angle and gotten a couple more, but oh well. I was extremely disappointed that the trains were not yet on site. I was hoping to get to sit in them and take pictures like we did with Valravn.
After Steel Vengeance, we were taken quickly over to Top Thrill Dragster, where they showed us the inside of the pump room. People took pictures but not much else happened here. I’m sure the engineer in the room could have answered any questions, but I took a look and a couple shots and then backed out of the way for others to take a look.
On the way to the next stop, Nick pointed out that they were replacing a piece of the track on Iron Dragon. The picture I took was the only one I saw on any social media, so I’m wondering if anyone else noticed it. I would have walked right by had I not been looking for it specifically.
Our next stop was a bathroom break in the cafeteria/lunchroom area where lunch has been served the past two years and then we were ushered upstairs for the big presentation and quick Q&A with Tony and Jason. This is where the MANY park changes were revealed. They are as follows:
- Frontier Inn is gone and Chick Fil-a will be returning. A lot of people are big fans of Chick Fil-a, including myself, but I can’t help but wonder if Frontier Inn was considered a failure or if Chick Fil-a leaving in the first place was some kind of contract dispute. I only ate at Frontier Inn once and the food was just ok, so I don’t have feelings one way or the other one this.
- The Park Plaza gift shop, which you encounter on your right as you enter the park and pass the carousel will be getting a complete makeover to match the beach theme of Cedar Point Shores and the rest of the resort. The “Tim Burton—Jack Nicholson era Joker colors are out” as Tony put it. I was surprised however that we’re only about two months from opening day and the outside hasn’t been touched yet. That said, I’m sure the inside work has been ongoing and I can’t wait to see what it looks like.
- Iron Dragon VR will be back once again this year with the same storyline and same timeframes each day and week. I will say that I’m not a huge VR fan, but I really liked the storyline on there and it gives me a reason to actually ride Iron Dragon again.
- Luminosity is no more and with the stadium being torn down, neither is the All Wheels Extreme show. That said, the old Luminosity stage will be used to house a show that combines elements of both called “Vertical Impact”. Tony led into it by saying it was a 400+ foot drop tower as a joke. During the Q&A, Nick asked Tony what the reason was for Luminosity being retired and Tony simply said that it was one of those decisions where they wanted to change something that had been around for awhile and it was Luminosity’s time. I was never a big Lumo fan, but it was always packed and pulled a lot of people away from the rides, lowering ride times in the evening. It also was point at which many families took their young ones and left for the evening, accomplishing the same thing.
- Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack is being replaced with a restaurant called Frontier Fold-overs” which didn’t really pique my interest much until they showed some of the food. It actually looks quite incredible and will be made fresh. Options include a BBQ fold-over, Sicilian, Crispy Chicken and more.
- Two new Coke freestyle stations will open where the Coke refresh stations used to be near Gemini and the Skyride station.
- A custom cotton candy stand will open near the back half of the Skyride. Details are forthcoming but it will include 10(!) different flavors of cotton candy and not just blue and red like most places.
- The old stadium area is still a mound of dirt. We were told that they would let us know what is going on there when the time is right (just like last year when they teased SV). I have some predictions moving forward that I will release in a blog post later on.
- A new parade/street party event will debut this year along the midway and include a dance party and meet-and-greet with several Peanuts characters. They showed the logo and the new parade is titled “Snoopy’s Dog Days of Summer”.
- A new arched entrance area for the boardwalk was debuted and it was announced that the full-service “Sand Bar” will open just outside the park near the walkway from the hotels along the boardwalk towards Wicked Twister.
- The Hotel Breakers expansion is nearly complete as crews are working on the pool and hot tub as we speak.
- Burger Patio near Raptor and Chickie & Pete’s will be replaced by Buckaroo’s Burritos. The combination of the re-theming of Frontiertown as well as the success of Buckaroo’s back there made this an easy decision.
- The already-announced high-end RV park will replace Sandcastle Suites. I think they said 25 or 35 spots were created to meet demand in a market they weren’t taking advantage of. The setup looks fantastic and it is another way to keep guests/families on-site for more than just a day trip.
- The seldom-used-outside-Haunt gazebo near Skyhawk will play host to a new show named “The Traildust Trio”.
- The patio next to Round Up, which was also seldom-used besides getting out of the shade and overflow seating was already removed and is being transformed into a bigger stage area for Bluegrass Jamboree, including actual seating. The stage itself was being remodeled as well before its move across the path.
- The Round Up menu is being completely overhauled to specialized items named after the Steel Vengeance characters. Jason stated his love for aioli at this point, which became a running joke.
- A big announcement that caught people by surprise was the return of the tunnel effects on Maverick (see video below). I’ve been riding it almost yearly since it opened and didn’t even remember that it had effects. The back end of it is probably the coolest part and sort-of reminds me of the one part of Space Mountain, just on a smaller scale.
- The seldom-visited Emporium shop next to the train station will become the official Steel Vengeance theme shop. It will be redecorated and re-themed completely to SV.
- Sagebrush Sue’s restaurant is being re-themed and given a new menu. The new name will be Sidewinder Sue’s.
- Lusty Lil’s French Revue will be a new show debuting in the Palace Theater. Also announced is that the theater will stay open between shows for patrons to dip out of the sun into the A/C and grab a cold drink anytime they would like.
- The Chuck Wagon will be re-themed to “Miss Keat’s Smokehouse”. About 3 people out of 100 understood the joke at the Q&A. This was done to build on the success of the BBQ and Brew event.
- The arcade will depart and be replaced by the return of the shooting gallery.
- Steel Vengeance will be getting its own beer from Brew Kettle just like Valravn did.
- The General Store and Trading Post will be re-themed to be a traditional general store-type venue. Old fashioned candies and fudge will also be available.
- Testing on Steel Vengeance will begin sometime in March once the trains are on-site.
- An indoor sports complex is indeed being planned and built at Sports Force Park.
After the event, Jon and I briefly got to speak with Tony about Media Day and Passholder Preview Night. He said Media Day hasn’t even been planned out yet and that they weren’t sure if Passholder Preview Night was happening or not. We can hope.
After the presentation with Tony, we were taken into a smaller building around the corner for a marketing presentation. In addition to explaining the role of the marketing department to us, we were introduced to the newest presentation of Cedar Point to 13 local markets titled “A Place Like No Other”. It was quite a difference from previous presentations and commercials which always promoted CP for its thrilling rides and coasters. They are going full-out to promote CP as a resort destination. I really liked it. It was totally different than anything I’ve seen from the park before.
After the marketing presentation, we were taken to the linens building where all of the laundry is done for the park and hotels. It was really cool to see the scale of the operation, especially the size of the machines used for cleaning and folding. I’m not sure I could ever do such a tedious and repetitive job myself, but the guys and gals working there were on their game. It was amazing to see how fast they processed each piece and the workers were exceptionally accommodating of so many people impeding on their workspace.
The last part of the day before lunch was the annual trip to the maintenance shop. Nick had worked a summer as a maintenance intern so he knew some of the workers and pointed some things out to me that I would have missed. The on-site maintenance shop typically works on a lot of the Intamin rides, while B&M and Arrow rides are at the Amazement Shop across Cleveland Road (outside of the park). I asked the foreman what the ride that was the biggest pain in the butt was and he said “if you took a poll of all the maintenance guys, it would be 46-to-0 that Dragster is easily the biggest pain”. Some of Maverick’s seats were in there being refurbished (as they do annually) and the Dragster wheels and chassis were still separated and being worked on. The seats and lapbars were all piled up in the corner ready to be re-installed when the time comes.
Lunch followed the trip to the maintenance shop and was a welcome site for everyone. The mac-and-cheese bar was fantastic and we can only hope that makes it into the park this year. The boneless wings were also wonderful.
After leaving the park, we were invited to The Amazement Shop across the street from the peninsula and Castaway Bay. Inside, they had many of the cars from Rougarou and Wicked Twister taken apart and were rebuilding them. Out in the parking lot, the cars from Raptor, Wilderness Run and others were sitting out ready to be taken back to the park. I got a couple good shots with my phone (I didn't bring my camera in with me) and I also photobombed one of Jon's shots of Raptor. There were all kinds of old props out back including the giant giraffe that used to sit in the infield of Mean Streak. Speaking of Mean Streak, one of the old yellow cars is still there on display. Not sure if there are any plans for it, but it was cool to see and get up close to. As bad as Mean Streak was, its still nostalgic to see things like that.
Reflecting on the day – I had a great time once again. Thank you to Tony, Kristi, Jason and everyone else who volunteered their time and energy to make it worthwhile. Shoutout to Kristi for driving the golf cart around the park like she stole it. Raising $40,000+ for A Kid Again is absolutely awesome. I hope in the future they actually add some raffles and things in to make even more money. I know I would buy a lot of raffle tickets to win various souvenirs and whatnot, and I’m sure others would as well.