We make an annual trek to Kennywood Park, located outside of Pittsburgh, PA. It’s the amusement park I grew up going to, and it holds so many great memories from my childhood. I wanted my kids to have the same experience.
I thought Kennywood would be a hard sell given that my kids spent the first years of their lives living 45 minutes from Disney World. They went all the time. It’s hard to top the Mouse, but they have fallen in love with Kennywood in much the same way that I did.
First stop was the Ride Information Center, where we officially measure the kids again – this is such a fantastic thing amusement parks are doing! – and got Vivi’s accessibility pass. Click here for details on getting it (MUCH less paperwork and processing than Six Flags), but here is a picture of it.
Getting the pass is done before you enter the park, which is nice because once you do get through security, you’re all set to go with no additional stops!
If you’ve been to Kennywood, you know that the only way to enter and exit the park is through an underground tunnel, painted black and yellow. It successfully sets the mood for anticipation every time we go.
First ride inside the park? For the big kids, it was the Jack Rabbit. It’s an appropriate name – it feels like it’s going to leap the tracks every time you go down a hill! For the big kids (and adults), it’s fantastic. We took Vivi on it last year and it was too much for her so she and her younger cousin headed to Kiddieland for some of their own kind of fun.
The park opens at 10:30 but the rides and snack places don’t open until 11. It’s kind of odd. So it looks like the park was deserted in the above picture, but it had really been open for 20 minutes.
Viv is obsessed with the swings. Loves them. Can’t get enough. So that was the one she wanted to ride first.
Pure joy, right? You can see in the picture that her feet didn’t touch the ground (which is true even with adults riding on the adult swing ride), but she doesn’t have the strength to lift herself into the seat. The workers were a huge help.
The workers helped getting the kids on and off all of the other rides too. We have been in other parks where it was assumed that the parents would do all of the work, and I am much more comfortable with the workers doing it. They’re trained and they know what to do. The Kiddieland workers at Kennywood all took great care with our kids.
While in Kiddieland, we hit some other rides too. Steel City Choppers gave the girls a chance to ride a motorcycle on a track – and look at something really interesting behind them?
Elephant Parade is modeled after Dumbo at DisneyWorld and once the girls figured out how to make the elephant fly, there was a lot of fun screaming! Up until that point, there was just a lot of screaming from the adults on the ground about “Grab the stick!” and “Push the stick!” and “Make it fly!” You know, any phrases you can say that you think a five-year-old and a three-year-old can hear, absorb, and act on in the 2.3 seconds they’re within earshot as they’re flying around in a circle.
Lil’ Phantom gave the kids a taste of what it’s like to ride The Phantom’s Revenge, a huge steel roller coaster in the park.
The Kiddie Ferris Wheel was pretty much the same as a regular Ferris Wheel. A lot of time to load, a little time to ride.
The older kids in our group did a great job of riding with the littler ones when they could, and the Dizzy Dynamo ended up being a great one that they could all ride together. It gave our nine-year-old a chance to act like an adult with his little sister and his little cousin.
The Crazy Trolley is a favorite because it reminds the kids of the trolley from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, also a Pittsburgh product.
The Orbiter is not so much about space, which I would have assumed from the name, but about flying helicopters.
And finally the Bounce Pounce. It moves up and down, randomly raising and dropping the kids. They loved it, as you can tell from Micah’s face.
Although it seems like it, we didn’t spend our whole day in Kiddieland. We did see the rest of the park too! This was the first year that our oldest was height-eligible to ride everything in the park> Hallelujah! When you have kids, sometimes you’re sad to notice how quickly they’re growing up and sometimes you just want them to grow up now. Amusement parks definitely bring out the “now” side of those feelings!
For my entire childhood, I listened to my dad talk about how great the Thunderbolt was. It’s a wooden roller coaster that opened in 1968 but was built using elements of the “Pippin” coaster, which originally opened in 1924. My father espoused the value of the wooden roller coaster over steel and taught each of his kids to love the Thunderbolt in particular, with its initial drop right out of the gate and its big one at the end of the ride. And now we’re passing on that love and appreciation to our kids. It was only fitting that Micah got to ride it for his first time with his grandfather.
I’m proud to say that Micah – and his grandfather – loved it!
So even though I was taught to love the wooden roller coaster, we love the steel ones too. They have their own kind of magic. The older boys rode the Phantom’s Revenge, which opened in 2001 after the original Steel Phantom was redesigned and reworked. The boys loved it so much, they rode it twice, including once in the back car of the coaster just to get some extra thrills.
We could all “ride” (it’s really a walk-through attraction) the iconic Noah’s Ark, which lets you walk through an imagined version of Noah’s Ark with the animatronic animals and narrow passageways. The park added a little bit of thrill by lowering the lights so that it’s pretty dark inside, portions of the floor shake and shimmy, and the whole structure tilts and tips. The kids went through twice, they thought it was so much fun.
What I loved about it this year was seeing that they have two different routes you can take.
I loved this. Noah’s Ark is another iconic Kennywood ride, and the fact that our daughter might struggle through it, need to be carried, or might not be ale to ride it at all if she would need to be in a wheelchair was discouraging. But the attraction gave us a path that allowed her and other mobility-challenged people to still enjoy it. Kudos, Kennywood!
We stopped for lunch and a mid-afternoon snack while we were at the park. Our lunch was at Johnny Rockets, a 50’s-style sit-down diner that was inside and air-conditioned. Perfect for the warm day! You can read our review here, but we were please with the choices, the portions, and the cost. Our snack was Rita’s, which doesn’t disappoint no matter where you get it.
The park has two Rita’s locations, and the one we were at happened to be right next to the Pittsburgh Plunge. This water ride is unique in that it’s only for those who just want to get wet. There’s really not much of a ride. You get on, go up a hill, cross to another hill, and go down it, shooting up a huge wall of water that not only soaks the people on the ride, but also all of the people watching it from a patio area that directly overlooks it.
Our eight-year-old had to get in on that action. He’s the blond in the black outfit about to get soaked – and then spend the next hour complaining about how he really didn’t want to get wet. What??
The Plunge is right next to the Whip, another ride that’s been around forever. It was built in 1918 so it’s just short of 100 years old! Its current form isn’t much newer, dating back all the way to 1926. It’s been beloved by generations. Such a simple ride, and yet so much fun. Riders sit in a car and go around in an oval, speeding up around the curved ends. We all loved it.
We had a blast at Kennywood. We really did. It’s becoming more and more fun as the kids get older, and the park truly never disappoints. Thank you, Kennywood, for a great visit and great new memories!