Photo (cc) by Roller Coaster Philosophy
Billing itself as the best amusement park in the world, Cedar Point has 16 roller coasters, three kiddie ride areas and grand plans to empty your wallet.
While I went to Cedar Point a couple of times as a teen, those were generally day trips that I wasn’t paying for. However, I recently decided to take my kids and, holy cow, was it expensive!
If you’re planning a trip of your own to Cedar Point this year, here are a few tips to help you save some money.
Where to buy the cheapest Cedar Point tickets
Whatever you do, don’t buy your tickets at the gate. You’ll spend $59.99 per person for anyone who’s taller than 4 feet and not a senior. Shorter and older individuals can buy tickets at the gate for $43.99.
At the very least, buy your tickets online and save about $10 per ticket. You will pay a $5.99 service fee for your online order, but you’ll still come out ahead.
Or you could save $10 and skip the service fee by purchasing tickets from one of these retailers:
- Discount Drug Mart
- Giant Eagle
Cedar Point also has special discount days for military members, Girl Scouts and Michigan residents, among others. If you’ll be traveling later in the year, watch the Cedar Point website on July 25 for its Christmas in July sale, in which a limited number of tickets are sold at a low, low price.
You can also save money on tickets by staying at a Cedar Point resort. Regular tickets are $39 each, while junior/senior tickets can be purchased for $30 each with your stay. Starlight or evening tickets are $25 each, which is a discount from the $36.99 charged during the peak season. If you’ll be at the park for more than a day, you can get adult two-day passes for $75.
How to save on Cedar Point hotels
Speaking of hotels, Cedar Point resorts come with certain perks but they definitely aren’t the cheapest option. You could stay a few miles away from the park and pay half or even a third of the price of a Cedar Point resort.
To decide which is right for your family, you might have to do a little math and weigh the pros and cons of staying on-site vs. driving in.
Pros of Cedar Point resorts:
- Easy access to park, no parking fees.
- Admittance to the park an hour before the general public (note that not all rides are running during the early access hour).
- Opportunity to buy reduced-price tickets.
Cons of Cedar Point resorts:
- Complimentary breakfast not provided.
- More expensive rates.
- Most convenient dining options are pricey.
In the end, the convenience factor won out for me. Since I was traveling with a 4-year-old and 16-month-old, I wanted a room within walking distance so my feet-on-the-ground teen could take the little ones back for a midday break and nap while I stayed in the park with my thrill-seeking boys.
We stayed at Sandcastle Suites in mid-May, and I found a promo code that brought our price down to $179 a night for my family of six. Not cheap but more than $100 off the peak season daily rate. Our suite was serviceable albeit small.
For those who don’t have a promo code, you can get mid-week saver rates through mid-June. Cedar Point also offers reduced rates to season pass holders, active and retired military personnel, and CAA and AAA members.
However, if you don’t need the convenience of staying on-site, you can probably get cheaper, and better, accommodations in Sandusky, Ohio, or surrounding cities.
Eating on the cheap at Cedar Point
Is there any such thing?
Cedar Point prohibits outside food and drink after the entry gate, which means you should be prepared to pay through the nose for food in the park.
For example, a chicken fingers meal with fries and a drink – the one my local mom-and-pop restaurant sells for $5 – was nearly $14.50 at the concession stand. So too were the combo meals at a Chick-fil-A location in the park. Sit-down joint Johnny Rockets was actually cheaper, but your $8 will only get you a sandwich with no side or drink.
So how can you save? Here are a couple options:
- Pick an off-site hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast and load up before hitting the park.
- Pack a lunch and exit the park to eat it in the adjacent picnic area.
- Buy a dining plan — $13.99 gets you a single meal including an entrée, side and drink. You can get an all-day plan for $29.99 that will give you an entrée and side (no drink) as often as every 90 minutes, but if you plan to ride a lot of coasters, consider whether that much food is a smart idea.
- If you buy bottled water, go to a concession stand offering four bottles for $10 rather than spending $3.50 each.
- If you want fountain drinks, buy a souvenir drink bottle. It costs $9.99 online or $14.99 in the park (if you buy three or more, they are $9.99 each on-site). Refills are free for the first day you buy the bottle and 99 cents after that.
Again, keep in mind what will work best for your family. The Cedar Point parking lot is huge, so bringing a picnic lunch up to the front involves a lot of walking. That could be an inconvenience if you have young children or mobility issues. That said, you can pay $25 for premium parking (regular rate is $15) to cut down on your walk time.
Cedar Point certainly isn’t the cheapest family getaway, but it can be a fun vacation that offers something for individuals of every age. A little advance planning can help limit your costs for tickets, hotels and food. Then you’ll have extra cash to pay for those overpriced souvenirs and carnival games!