My First Visit to Kennywood Park
Kennywood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been near the top of my amusement park bucket list since I first saw photos of it in my first roller coaster book. As a child, I viewed Kennywood as the quintessential American amusement park — a symbol of the American spirit and a hodgepodge of different rides and attractions that so many parks would try to emulate.
Earlier this week, I ranked the park’s six major coasters, but there is so much more to this amusement park than its roller coasters. So this report will focus more on the park as a whole rather than its coaster collection.
As I only had one day to spend at the park (and a Saturday in late June, nonetheless), I decided to splurge on the park’s VIP Coaster Tour pass, which gave me front-of-the-line access to the park’s six major coasters. Unfortunately, you can only redeem the pass at each coaster once. But because of that front-of-the-line access, I was able to snag front-row rides on several of the coasters.
The tunnel to Kennywood links the entrance plaza with the park itself. It’s unassuming, but rest assured that great things are ahead.
Kennywood really likes its fountains (and so do I). If you’re also a fountain fanatic, you’ll be quite pleased. Here’s one in the back of the park…
…and a larger display.
I didn’t have time to stay for the nighttime laser show, but the lagoon seems like the perfect place for such a production. And watching people ride the Skycoaster is always enjoyable (although I’d rather see the lagoon without it).
The long lines kept me from checking out several of the park’s eclectic mix of flat rides and dark rides — including Ghostwood Estate. But that’s all the more reason to come back to the park.
I really don’t like spinning, but I decided to bite the bullet and ride it since I had the skip-the-line pass. It was a fun ride, and the spinning wasn’t overwhelming (your results may very depending on the weight distribution).
I received many recommendations to try the park’s famous Potato Patch Fries, but unfortunately both spots selling them kept long lines throughout the day. So I opted for the park’s relatively new Johnny Rockets, which offered a surprisingly good burger. The fries were a different story.
But it was a short wait, and I had little time to waste.
I love amusement parks because themed lands are not necessary — a volcano-themed enterprise can be located near an alien-themed disko ride and no one asks any questions:
Speaking of Cosmic Chaos, it’s probably one of my favorite themed disko rides. The aliens and sound effects surrounding the ride were hilarious.
Another Kennywood classic is the Turtle, the very rarely seen tumble bug flat ride. I didn’t have a chance to ride it, but it seemed to be a hit with those who did.
Along with Black Widow and Cosmic Chaos, Swing Shot is one of the park’s more modern flat rides, creating a healthy balance of old and new across the park.
The Auto Race ride was yet another example of the park’s collection of old-school rides.
Thunderbolt is one of the easier wooden coasters at Kennywood to photograph — this half of the coaster is, anyway.
I came very close to taking a splash on Pittsburg Plunge — it surprisingly had a very short wait.
But I refrained — I knew that although the soaking would be refreshing in the short term, walking around in wet shoes (and driving back to my hotel) wouldn’t be as enjoyable.
There’s a classic flat ride at every turn at Kennywood. The Whip was yet another that I had only seen in photos.
Black Widow replaced the park’s Pitt Fall drop tower.
It was the first Zamperla “Giant Discovery” model that I’ve seen in person and, wow, photos don’t do this ride any justice. It’s massive and a spectacle to watch.
One of my favorite things about Kennywood was the way some of the rides interact with each other — such as Thunderbolt and Phantom’s Revenge, the latter of which was built around (and under) the historic wooden coaster.
While the wooden coasters may be obscured from view, the first section of Phantom’s Revenge commands the Kennywood skyline.
But for those who prefer the classics, you don’t have to walk far before seeing a timeless flat such as the Bayern Kurve.
The Parkside Cafe opened with the park in 1899. It’s a cafeteria-style eatery now, serving sandwiches, salads and good ole homestyle meals.
While the interior has no doubt been updated, it still maintains a very turn-of-the-century vibe.
The Kiddieland area offers another selection of flat rides new and old but for a younger crowd.
Inside Kiddieland is the one coaster at the park that I wasn’t able to ride: Lil’ Phantom. Its line was too long, and I always feel somewhat uncomfortable riding these without accompanying a kid. I’m always looking for new credits, but I do have my limits.
I really liked how the Aero 360 design incorporates the Kennywood yellow arrow logo.
Racer’s no-standing sign is only slightly morbid.
As the day progressed, the temperatures rose. The Log Jammer maintained a lengthy line throughout the afternoon (this photo was taken in the morning before the long line formed). It looked like a longer than average flume, which is always a plus.
The Merry-Go-Round opened in 1927 and features 50 jumping and 14 stationary horses.
The park’s mascot, Kenny the Kangaroo, was likely inspired by the park’s Kangaroo flat ride.
I found this on the path to the picnic grove. If you know what it is, leave a comment below!
As a fan of the Lego Movie, I was bummed that I didn’t make it to the Lego 4D theater attraction.
Kennywood isn’t perfect by any means — the employees as a whole seemed to be phoning it in. Most of the rides had nearly all of their instructions and greetings prerecorded, so the ops had very little to say. The operations were hit-or-miss — some were slow while others (Phantom’s Revenge) were very efficient.
But overall, I was just happy and excited to be at such an iconic park. And overall, I had a great time. I can’t wait to come back.
Again, don’t miss my rankings of Kennywood’s six major roller coasters.
What are your thoughts about Kennywood? Share your experiences with the park in the comments section below.