Are you looking for a park that breathes history, upholds his classics and has a lot to offer for the whole family? All these qualities define Kennywood, a small but charming park near Pittsburgh. Kennywood isn’t very big but has a lot to love.
Kennywood was a family business for over 100 years since it opened in 1899. In 2007 the park was sold to Palace Entertainment, the American part of the Parques Reunidos park group, but Kennywood still breathes the love that the family has put in the park. In most big chain parks you get a copy & paste feeling, but you won’t experience that in Kennywood.
The thing that I love most about Kennywood is how they preserve their classic rides and maintain them to keep them. In very few parks you can find such historic rides. It’s not a surprise Kennywood is designated as a historic national landmark. And it’s only one of two theme parks who have been designated that status. That says a lot about Kennywood and how they embrace their history. Most parks replace their old stuff for newer and bigger rides, but Kennywood uses their historic value as a strong point.
Three of their seven roller coasters were opened before the Second World War! The oldest roller coaster Kennywood has to offer is the Jack Rabbit coaster. It opened back in 1920 and is known for its double down and is one of the eight coasters who are still operational until this day designed by the famous John A. Miller. One of the other eight operational John A. Miller coasters is also to be found in Kennywood: the Racer.
The Racer is pretty unique. It opened in 1927; seven years after Jack Rabbit opened, and is the only Mobius coaster in the United States that is still operational. And worldwide there are only six operational Mobius coasters to be found, however China’s Hot Go Dreamworld is building a new one. A Mobius coaster is a dueling or racing roller coaster that has been build with one continuous track. So when you enter in the left station, you’ll end up at the right station, only ridden one half of the ride.
The third classic roller coaster Kennywood has is the Thunderbolt. It opened in 1924, between the opening of the Jack Rabbit and the Racer roller coaster, and is also pretty unique. The ride starts with a big drop and the lift hill is placed halfway the ride. Also pretty special about the Thunderbolt is the fact you may not ride it alone. Because the way the coaster is designed, the two seats have to be filled to ride. Otherwise you’ll get thrown around in the train too much.
All these three classic roller coasters are pretty fun to ride and are appealing to the whole family. Everyone can and loves to ride these old wooden roller coasters, from your little nephew to your grandpa. But Kennywood has more to offer. There’s also the Exterminator, an indoor wild mouse roller coaster. Placing a standard wild mouse indoor gives the opportunity to put in some special effects and to distinguish the ride experience from the other wild mouses. Another fun ride for the whole family.
If you are a thrill seeker who’s asking himself if Kennywood has something more thrilling, they do! Sky Rocket may be a modest launch coaster from Premier Rides but it delivers. It has a short yet powerful launch, tophat and three inversions. Sky Rocket even has some good airtime moments to offer. Sky Rocket is the type of coaster you won’t add to your top 10 list but you will do multiple times when you are there.
The coaster that landmarks Kennywood the most between roller coaster enthusiasts are Phantom’s Revenge! This Arrow coaster opened in 1991 and featured four inversions. It was and still is famous for its second drop being much larger than its first drop. However Phantom’s Revenge underwent some big changes in 2000. The park hired Morgan to place the four inversions out of the coaster, the drop increased almost one meter /three feet and the trains were modified so the trains would feature lap restrains instead of over the shoulder restraints.
Phantom’s Revenge is an airtime machine! It is definitely one of the best roller coasters I’ve ridden. I even dare to say it is the best Arrow roller coaster on my coaster counter, though Morgan deserves credit too. If you are a roller coaster enthusiast, you want to ride this coaster. It is smooth and so much fun, the train is just trying to throw you out of your seat the whole ride. The first drop is really good and the following second drop is even more amazing, just as the view you have on there. Phantom’s Revenge is one of America’s best roller coasters and it deserves more recognition. And there’s a seventh roller coaster: Lil’ Phantom. That is for the smallest visitors but good news for roller coaster enthusiasts, Kennywood lets you ride it even if you don’t have a child with you.
There’s of course more than just roller coasters. Kennywood has a lot more to offer for everyone. Like dark rides, while those aren’t pretty common in small American theme parks Kennywood has two of them: Garfield’s nightmare and Ghostwood estate. There’s also Noah’s Ark, a fun walkthrough that has been in the park from 1936! As a European, I’ve never seen something quite like it in European theme parks, so I’d recommend doing it when visiting Kennywood.
Unfortunately Kennywood has only two water rides. They closed down their log flume Log Jammer in September last year. They now have a shoot the cute ride and a rapid river, Raging Rapids. My mood on doing water rides is different each day, the day I visited Kennywood I was in a good mood and decided to do the rapid river… and it is by far the wettest rapid river I have ever experienced! There’s no way you get out dry… Smart move from Kennywood to place a towel selling stall near the exit.
Kennywood has also numerous flat rides, some which are more thrill seeking like the giant Frisbee or the swing shot. Other more family friendly like bumper cars or a Disk’o coaster. Kennywood also has a Bayern kurve, just as with their roller coasters they honor the classics.
Overall you can feel the love the management has for their park and the history they successfully preserved. It is one of the most charming parks I’ve done and while it hasn’t such a big or impressive catalogue of rides and roller coasters, they still succeed in giving you the feeling of wanting to go back. I know I sure will do if I’m ever near Pittsburgh. They don’t give you the feeling that your just a walking bag of cash like some theme parks do, Kennywood is very friendly towards their visitors, having a free parking lot is a great prove of that. Just like they decided to close the park an hour later than planned when I visited because it was crowded, that’s something that truly shows how loveable Kennywood is.
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