Friday, July 27, 2012

Kennywood - Trip Report

Kennywood (outside Pittsburgh) is a traditional park, and a smaller one. It's also quite old. It's one of the main parks people think of when they say that traditional regional amusement parks can have "charm", and indeed Kennywood has lots of it. 

The buildings are sometimes old, but in a historic way rather than a dilapidated way. The rides are sometimes simple ("flat rides"), but they are apt to be things that are historic too. There's a kangaroo here, which is like a simple spinning ride that has a "hop" built into it. And it's the only one left in the entire country.

History is around every corner. The former tunnel of love (never named that, though!) is now a Garfield boat ride, with 3D paint. It was both oddball and awesome.

The haunted house ride, Ghostwood Manor, is a shooter, and it was one of the best ever. The effects were highly creepy, often realistic, and extremely impressive for a "regional" park like Kennywood. It was also too realistic for my five year old, so be warned.

The park just has a really great mix of experiences. There are water rides, swinging rides, kid rides, train rides, family rides, dark rides, carnival rides, and roller coasters. The coasters are famous.

The racer is fun on a wooden track, but nothing extreme. The Thunderbolt is a marvel of lateral forces - you HAVE to ride with someone else, or you aren't riding.

The Jack Rabbit is a terrain wooden coaster with tremendous airtime. Who cares that it's decades old? It's ideal for kids. And for adults, for that matter.

Such a fun park. They've added more modern coasters here and there, but at its core, the MIX is what makes Kennywood great. Tickets are reasonably priced on their own, but promotions at certain times of the year are even better. We paid $27/adult on a summer day to go. I can't imagine a bargain like that anywhere else in the country.

Kennywood was my wife's favorite park of the seven we visited. Not because it "won" with any one coaster, but because the atmosphere was just right. It was actually relaxing.

One last addendum. We ate fast food at the "Soda Fountain" counter and bit into their pickle spears, which amazed us. Frankly, I always thought a pickle was a pickle was a pickle. Not so, apparently. How odd to have your eyes opened only when you reach middle age. Anyway, weeks later I emailed Kennywood's PR department and asked for more info, not sure I'd get anywhere. A few hours later, I had the answer: Freestone's Kosher Spears is what they used, and I could even buy them myself online. Now THAT typifies the Kennywood attitude and friendliness.

Click for a larger panorama:

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.