Nothing says summer like making a day trip to Kennywood Park. Even though it’s one of the oldest amusement parks in the nation, Kennywood continues to offer new thrill rides, like the Sky Rocket roller coaster which debuted last year — along with old favorites like the Log Jammer, Thunderbolt, and the Merry-Go-Round. Visitors can also enjoy several last-of-their-kind rides, like the Kangaroo, the Turtle (one of two remaining), and the (16-car) Whip. But as many of us who grew up in Western Pennsylvania know, Kennywood is more than just an amusement park; it’s a great place to delight the senses!
4800 Kennywood Blvd.
West Mifflin, PA 15122
1. Probably the first view you catch of the park from a distance will be the too-high track of the Phantom’s Revenge. This may look serene enough, tall steel towers and arcs sketched against the sky, until you see a roller coaster train hurtling along the steel track.
2. The Wave Swinger, which sails its wicker-chair swings in centrifugal loops high over the park, offers a classic amusement park sight. And its pretty lights are definitely a reason to stay past nightfall.
3. The Racer, with its refurbished wood-worked facade and electric-lit sign that spells out R-A-C-E-R after dark, provides an old-time midway ambiance; while the sign at the top of the first hill warns creepily, “Don’t Stand Up!”
1. Potato Patch Fries, not far from the entrance to Lost Kennywood, and next to the Turtle, are highly sought-after sustenance. Definitely get them smothered in cheese sauce. And do not pass up the bacon topping, or you will regret it.
2. An ice cream cone, preferably a chocolate-vanilla twist with a quick dip-and-roll through crushed peanuts, is coolly refreshing. These are sold at the Pagoda snack building, behind the merry-go-round.
3. A free drink of cool water is available at water fountains throughout the park. Less cool, but more “cool”: the water one can slurp from the giant, retro mushroom fountain, behind the Grand Carousel and the Cosmic Chaos ride.
1. There is an unmistakable sensation of excitement (or for the faint at heart, a little dread) as another safety bar falls into place across your lap and locks with a click, just before so many rides start.
2. The beyond-butterflies hidden drops while on the Exterminator, the semi-dark, “mad mouse” indoor coaster. The stomach-lurch which always catches one by surprise on the Kangaroo. Or the infamous “double dip” on the Jack Rabbit, which threatens to toss the unlucky right up and out of the train.
3. Pittsburghers of a certain age will recall fondly the no-longer-with-us Noah’s Ark whale, whose mouth provided the unique entrance across its giant, spongy tongue into haunted Noah’s Ark. The rickety freight elevator which replaced the whale as an entrance offers its own tactile thrills. And so does the deep-submersible craft which brings you wetly back from the depths.
1. The clickety-track, wooden roller coasters that take advantage of Pittsburgh’s hilly terrain, especially the Thunderbolt and the Jack Rabbit, plunge riders noisily down ravines only to race them thunderously back up seconds later. This artificial thunder mixes with the screams of said riders, which carry throughout the park. It always sounds like somebody’s having way too much fun.
2. At the center of the Grand Carousel, which is a National Historic Landmark, a 1916 Wurlitzer band organ belts out good cheer all day and into the night. This Merry-Go-Round’s lights make it a sight to see at night, as well.
3. The frenetic blare of the horn on the Bayern Kurve will definitely catch your attention. Or maybe it will be the melancholic whistle of Noah’s Ark that follows you home.
Kennywood Park opens for the season on Saturday, May 7th; but until it opens its daily summer season on May 19th, the park is only open on weekends. Admission costs $36.99 for a regular Funday pass ($17.99 for seniors aged 55 and older); Night Riders (admitted after 5 p.m.) pay just $21.99!