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Kennywood - 8/16/2020


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On our recent weekend coaster road trip, Kennywood was the final park before the drive home. While Jess and I have visited Kennywood previously, this was Madelyn and Gwen’s first visit, and they were really excited for this park. Madelyn had been talking about riding the indoor spinning wild mouse for weeks, and Gwen was excited to visit Thomas Town.

 

We arrived at the park around 10am on Sunday. Kennywood offers both paid and free parking, although the free parking is a bit of a hike. We were early and had time, so we choose the free option. The free lot is on the top of a big hill, but there is an escalator and a ski lift to help you get down to park level. Unfortunately, both of these options were broken, and have been for quite some time, so we had to walk from the parking lot to the park.

The park did not open until 10:30, but people were starting to queue up outside the main gate when we arrived. After a short wait, the park opened up, and after passing the COVID temperature screening we made our way through the front gate. The entry plaza at kennywood is on one side of the road, and then you need to walk through a tunnel to enter the park itself, located on the other side of the park. The tunnel is a unique way to enter the park, and it fits the parks personality well.

 

While the park opened at 10:30, we soon discovered that the rides did not open until 11. It would have been nice if the park was upfront about this when they posted their operating hours on the website, as the kids were not particularly happy to have to wait 30 minutes to get in line for anything, but the delayed opening gave us some time to get a bit of footage of rides testing, so it all worked out pretty well.

When the rides opened up, we immediately entered the queue for Exterminator, the parks indoor wild mouse. We knew that this ride has terrible capacity, and wanted to get it in before lines formed.

Exterminator has always been my favorite wild mouse coaster, and delivered a great ride. The indoor setting and theming provide a unique twist to a common ride model, and I wish more parks would add attractions like exterminator.

After a few laps on exterminator, we took a spin on the whip. Kennywood is all about history, the park has historical markers everywhere, and it really goes out of its way to keep its older classic attractions in operation. In the 1920’s, the whip was a common attraction at parks throughout the country, but today, Kennywood’s whip is the only 16 car version of this ride still in operation. Kennywood commitment to preserving their history has persevered the whip, as well as other classics such as Turtle, Auto Race, and Bayern Kurve. If you a fan of historical flats, kennywood is a park that you really need to experience.

 

After enjoying rides on the whip and turtle, we made our way to Thunderbolt, one of the parks  three Ace Landmark Coasters.

Thunderbolt first opened in 1924 as Pippin, and was renamed Thunderbolt in 1968 when it received a track expansion. This Woodie features buzz bar restraints, and, since it does not have seat dividers, it is required that two passengers ride in each seat. Before Covid-19, if you were a single rider, a ride op would match you with another single rider, or hop in the seat next to you and take the ride with you. Unfortunately, social distancing means that you need to bring a friend to ride thunderbolt in 2020. Thunderbolt is still a great ride, delivering a smooth ride with nice laterals and a few pops of decent airtime. We took several laps on Thunderbolt before heading to the attraction that kennywood is most famous for!

No, I am not talking about phantoms revenge, everyone knows that kennywood is best known for its potato patch fries! These delicious fries are coated in cheese and bacon, and while eating them probably takes a few years off your life, I, for one, and wiling to take that risk.  Our visit to the potato patch did introduce us to the first disappointment off the day, that being kennywoods terrible food service operations. Between insufficient staffing, slow food preparation processes, and a general lack of a sense of urgency from the staff, every food and drink experience we had at kennywood this visit was an exercise in frustration. Even though there were only 2 people in front of us in the potato patch line, it was almost 30 minutes from when we entered the line to when we received our food. This trend would repeat itself again latter in the day at the cheese steak shop and the lemonade stand. It was actually very difficult to stay hydrated on a hot day, as every option to purchase drinks had a 20-minute line, and due to covid the water fountains were turned off. Kennywood does a lot of things right, but food service operations is one area where they desperately need to improve.

 

After the potato patch fries, we took a rides on the phantoms revenge and skyrocket. The phantoms revenge is a one of a kind mix of Arrow and Morgan, and deserves every bit of the praise it receives. The ride is smooth and forceful, and delivers some absolutely epic airtime. The dive under thunderbolt is always the highlight of a ride on phantom for me, but the ride is solid from start to finish, and easily earns a spot on my all time favorite coaters list.

Skyrocket was a new credit for me, as it was down on my previous visit to kennywood. Much to my delight, Madelyn said she wanted to earn to earn her first vertical drop credit with me today, so we took our first ride together. Skyrocket has a fun launch, great airtime on the top hat, several fun inversions, and is glass smooth throughout. Madelyn and I both loved it, and as soon as we got back into the station, we parent swapped, and Madelyn and Jess took a ride together on skyrocket as well. Skyrocket is a perfect step up coaster for kids who have  graduated beyond family coasters, and are ready to experience their first launches and inversions, and I really wish more parks would add coasters of this type to their lineup.

Up next after skyrocket was 2 of the parks dark rides, The Old Mill and Ghostwood Estate. The old mill is the oldest operating water based dark ride in the world. It has had many themes over the years, with most recent itineration being Garfields nightmare. This ride was rethemed back to the old Mill for the 2020 season.

Ghostwood estates is a standard haunted house attraction. Typically, this ride is a shooting ride, similar to the Boo Blasters rides at many Cedar Fair parks, but for some reason the blasters have been removed, and you simply sit in the car as it drives through the attraction.

I may get some hate for this, because I know some people love these rides, but honestly, I was not impressed with either. The scenery was basic by any standard, and neither told a compelling story. Maybe I am a ride snob, but I was really hoping for a more immersive experience out of each of these dark rides. While it was closed on this visit, we have gone through the Noahs ark walkthrough before, and I personally enjoyed it much more than the old mill or Ghostwood Estate.

 

After the dark rides, it was time to move onto Jackrabbit. This classic coaster is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and is the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in the world. Jackrabbit is just as fun today as it was in 1920, delivering a smooth ride, and a moment of incredible airtime on the rides signature doubledown. Jackrabbit has been very well maintained, and really is the heart of Kennywoods collection of classic coasters. It is obvious to me that the park and the Pittsburgh community as a whole really care about this coaster, and I hope it continues to operate for another 100 years.

Our next big disappointment of the day was that steel curtain was not operating. When we visited Kennywood last year, steel curtains delayed opening prevented us from riding it, and on this visit, the ride was down again for unknown reasons. I would be lying if I said I was not upset to miss out on steel curtain yet again, but I suppose that gives me a reason to come back to Kennywood again next year.

It was starting to get late in the day, and we had two kids who wanted to do different things, so we decided it was time to split up to make sure everyone left the park happy. Jess and Gwen went off to visit Kiddie Land and Thomas Town, and Madelyn and I went off to ride The Racer.

Kennwood has a great kids area. The Kiddieland is the primary kids area, with a great variety of children's rides. Gwen loved going from ride to ride, with her favorite being the mini Farris wheel. The parks kiddie coaster, little phantom, is located in this section, but was not running the day of our visit.

The Thomas town section is small, but was very well done. This area is very well themed, and features a roundhouse with all of the kids favorite trains in it. This area is obviously home to the parks train ride, with the engine being themed to look like Thomas himself.

A strong children's area is a critical part of a regional park like kennywood, and we were impressed with what Kiddieland and Thomastown had to offer. Gwen really enjoyed it, and was upset when it was time to leave.

Madelyn is just now starting to ride larger coasters, and she was nervous when she boarded The Racer. Skyrocket may have been more intense, but the jungle of wood and loose restraints was way more intimidating to her. As the buzz bar restraints locked down, she looked at me and said “Dada, I think I made a mistake getting on this ride”. Before she could chicken out, the train dispatched, and we were on our way. As we rounded the turn and headed to the lift, Madelyn was visibly afraid, but then she saw it – the other train. Immediately her competitive side took over, and she completely forgot that she was afraid. Going up the lift, she demanded that we trash talk the competition. I taunted them with my nerdiest trash talk, telling them that “You are going down! And then back up! And then down again! Because that is how a roller coaster works!”. Madelyn loved it, and as we raced through the course, she completely forgot that she was afraid, and was smiling ear to ear. She laughed and cheered throughout the ride, and when we got off, was riding high on the thrill of concurring coaster that she was previously afraid of. Of course, she immediately wanted to ride again.

 

We had a great time at Kennywood. Make no mistake, Kennywood is not a perfect park, but I truly feel it is one of the better hometown parks I have visited. Kennywood offers a great mix of rides and attractions, with there being plenty to do for all age groups. The park retains its rich history while still providing a modern experience, and has a unique charm that you simply don’t find at the larger chain parks. Kennywood is woven into the fabric of Pittsburgh, and I have never met someone who grew up in this area who does not have fond memories of visiting Kennywood. While other parks certainly do certain things better than Kennywood does, the overall experience of this park is hard to beat.

 

For the TLDR crowd, here is a this trip report in Youtube format.

 

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4 hours ago, Rifleman said:

On our recent weekend coaster road trip, Kennywood was the final park before the drive home. While Jess and I have visited Kennywood previously, this was Madelyn and Gwen’s first visit, and they were really excited for this park. Madelyn had been talking about riding the indoor spinning wild mouse for weeks, and Gwen was excited to visit Thomas Town.

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at the park around 10am on Sunday. Kennywood offers both paid and free parking, although the free parking is a bit of a hike. We were early and had time, so we choose the free option. The free lot is on the top of a big hill, but there is an escalator and a ski lift to help you get down to park level. Unfortunately, both of these options were broken, and have been for quite some time, so we had to walk from the parking lot to the park.

 

 

The park did not open until 10:30, but people were starting to queue up outside the main gate when we arrived. After a short wait, the park opened up, and after passing the COVID temperature screening we made our way through the front gate. The entry plaza at kennywood is on one side of the road, and then you need to walk through a tunnel to enter the park itself, located on the other side of the park. The tunnel is a unique way to enter the park, and it fits the parks personality well.

 

 

 

 

 

While the park opened at 10:30, we soon discovered that the rides did not open until 11. It would have been nice if the park was upfront about this when they posted their operating hours on the website, as the kids were not particularly happy to have to wait 30 minutes to get in line for anything, but the delayed opening gave us some time to get a bit of footage of rides testing, so it all worked out pretty well.

 

 

When the rides opened up, we immediately entered the queue for Exterminator, the parks indoor wild mouse. We knew that this ride has terrible capacity, and wanted to get it in before lines formed.

 

 

Exterminator has always been my favorite wild mouse coaster, and delivered a great ride. The indoor setting and theming provide a unique twist to a common ride model, and I wish more parks would add attractions like exterminator.

 

 

After a few laps on exterminator, we took a spin on the whip. Kennywood is all about history, the park has historical markers everywhere, and it really goes out of its way to keep its older classic attractions in operation. In the 1920’s, the whip was a common attraction at parks throughout the country, but today, Kennywood’s whip is the only 16 car version of this ride still in operation. Kennywood commitment to preserving their history has persevered the whip, as well as other classics such as Turtle, Auto Race, and Bayern Kurve. If you a fan of historical flats, kennywood is a park that you really need to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

After enjoying rides on the whip and turtle, we made our way to Thunderbolt, one of the parks  three Ace Landmark Coasters.

 

 

Thunderbolt first opened in 1924 as Pippin, and was renamed Thunderbolt in 1968 when it received a track expansion. This Woodie features buzz bar restraints, and, since it does not have seat dividers, it is required that two passengers ride in each seat. Before Covid-19, if you were a single rider, a ride op would match you with another single rider, or hop in the seat next to you and take the ride with you. Unfortunately, social distancing means that you need to bring a friend to ride thunderbolt in 2020. Thunderbolt is still a great ride, delivering a smooth ride with nice laterals and a few pops of decent airtime. We took several laps on Thunderbolt before heading to the attraction that kennywood is most famous for!

 

 

No, I am not talking about phantoms revenge, everyone knows that kennywood is best known for its potato patch fries! These delicious fries are coated in cheese and bacon, and while eating them probably takes a few years off your life, I, for one, and wiling to take that risk.  Our visit to the potato patch did introduce us to the first disappointment off the day, that being kennywoods terrible food service operations. Between insufficient staffing, slow food preparation processes, and a general lack of a sense of urgency from the staff, every food and drink experience we had at kennywood this visit was an exercise in frustration. Even though there were only 2 people in front of us in the potato patch line, it was almost 30 minutes from when we entered the line to when we received our food. This trend would repeat itself again latter in the day at the cheese steak shop and the lemonade stand. It was actually very difficult to stay hydrated on a hot day, as every option to purchase drinks had a 20-minute line, and due to covid the water fountains were turned off. Kennywood does a lot of things right, but food service operations is one area where they desperately need to improve.

 

 

 

 

 

After the potato patch fries, we took a rides on the phantoms revenge and skyrocket. The phantoms revenge is a one of a kind mix of Arrow and Morgan, and deserves every bit of the praise it receives. The ride is smooth and forceful, and delivers some absolutely epic airtime. The dive under thunderbolt is always the highlight of a ride on phantom for me, but the ride is solid from start to finish, and easily earns a spot on my all time favorite coaters list.

 

 

Skyrocket was a new credit for me, as it was down on my previous visit to kennywood. Much to my delight, Madelyn said she wanted to earn to earn her first vertical drop credit with me today, so we took our first ride together. Skyrocket has a fun launch, great airtime on the top hat, several fun inversions, and is glass smooth throughout. Madelyn and I both loved it, and as soon as we got back into the station, we parent swapped, and Madelyn and Jess took a ride together on skyrocket as well. Skyrocket is a perfect step up coaster for kids who have  graduated beyond family coasters, and are ready to experience their first launches and inversions, and I really wish more parks would add coasters of this type to their lineup.

 

 

Up next after skyrocket was 2 of the parks dark rides, The Old Mill and Ghostwood Estate. The old mill is the oldest operating water based dark ride in the world. It has had many themes over the years, with most recent itineration being Garfields nightmare. This ride was rethemed back to the old Mill for the 2020 season.

 

 

Ghostwood estates is a standard haunted house attraction. Typically, this ride is a shooting ride, similar to the Boo Blasters rides at many Cedar Fair parks, but for some reason the blasters have been removed, and you simply sit in the car as it drives through the attraction.

 

 

I may get some hate for this, because I know some people love these rides, but honestly, I was not impressed with either. The scenery was basic by any standard, and neither told a compelling story. Maybe I am a ride snob, but I was really hoping for a more immersive experience out of each of these dark rides. While it was closed on this visit, we have gone through the Noahs ark walkthrough before, and I personally enjoyed it much more than the old mill or Ghostwood Estate.

 

 

 

 

 

After the dark rides, it was time to move onto Jackrabbit. This classic coaster is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and is the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in the world. Jackrabbit is just as fun today as it was in 1920, delivering a smooth ride, and a moment of incredible airtime on the rides signature doubledown. Jackrabbit has been very well maintained, and really is the heart of Kennywoods collection of classic coasters. It is obvious to me that the park and the Pittsburgh community as a whole really care about this coaster, and I hope it continues to operate for another 100 years.

 

 

Our next big disappointment of the day was that steel curtain was not operating. When we visited Kennywood last year, steel curtains delayed opening prevented us from riding it, and on this visit, the ride was down again for unknown reasons. I would be lying if I said I was not upset to miss out on steel curtain yet again, but I suppose that gives me a reason to come back to Kennywood again next year.

 

 

It was starting to get late in the day, and we had two kids who wanted to do different things, so we decided it was time to split up to make sure everyone left the park happy. Jess and Gwen went off to visit Kiddie Land and Thomas Town, and Madelyn and I went off to ride The Racer.

 

 

Kennwood has a great kids area. The Kiddieland is the primary kids area, with a great variety of children's rides. Gwen loved going from ride to ride, with her favorite being the mini Farris wheel. The parks kiddie coaster, little phantom, is located in this section, but was not running the day of our visit.

 

 

The Thomas town section is small, but was very well done. This area is very well themed, and features a roundhouse with all of the kids favorite trains in it. This area is obviously home to the parks train ride, with the engine being themed to look like Thomas himself.

 

 

A strong children's area is a critical part of a regional park like kennywood, and we were impressed with what Kiddieland and Thomastown had to offer. Gwen really enjoyed it, and was upset when it was time to leave.

 

 

Madelyn is just now starting to ride larger coasters, and she was nervous when she boarded The Racer. Skyrocket may have been more intense, but the jungle of wood and loose restraints was way more intimidating to her. As the buzz bar restraints locked down, she looked at me and said “Dada, I think I made a mistake getting on this ride”. Before she could chicken out, the train dispatched, and we were on our way. As we rounded the turn and headed to the lift, Madelyn was visibly afraid, but then she saw it – the other train. Immediately her competitive side took over, and she completely forgot that she was afraid. Going up the lift, she demanded that we trash talk the competition. I taunted them with my nerdiest trash talk, telling them that “You are going down! And then back up! And then down again! Because that is how a roller coaster works!”. Madelyn loved it, and as we raced through the course, she completely forgot that she was afraid, and was smiling ear to ear. She laughed and cheered throughout the ride, and when we got off, was riding high on the thrill of concurring coaster that she was previously afraid of. Of course, she immediately wanted to ride again.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a great time at Kennywood. Make no mistake, Kennywood is not a perfect park, but I truly feel it is one of the better hometown parks I have visited. Kennywood offers a great mix of rides and attractions, with there being plenty to do for all age groups. The park retains its rich history while still providing a modern experience, and has a unique charm that you simply don’t find at the larger chain parks. Kennywood is woven into the fabric of Pittsburgh, and I have never met someone who grew up in this area who does not have fond memories of visiting Kennywood. While other parks certainly do certain things better than Kennywood does, the overall experience of this park is hard to beat.

 

 

 

 

For the TLDR crowd, here is a this trip report in Youtube format.

 

The park has been waiting for a part from S and S for a while on Steel Curtain.  At this point, the season ends in 10 days, so even if the park receives and installs it, there isn't any time to test and get it certified to open.  

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