This profile of Kennywood is part of our Travel Thursday series.
Kennywood is an old-fashioned amusement park just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. We have heard about Kennywood for years and seen signs as driving east to visit family on the eastern side of the state. This year, we decided to fit in a trip to Kennywood while we visited family.
Kennywood features several roller coasters, thrill rides, and plenty of classic amusement rides. One thing we noticed missing was wait times outside of rides. We found several rides that we thought had short lines only to find there was a second indoor queue making our wait longer than initially thought.
New for 2018 – Thomas Town
For 2018, Kennywood is opening Thomas Town. This Thomas themed land will include a ride on their classic train now pulled by Thomas, several other rides like Harold’s Helicopter Tour and Cranky’s Drop Tower. Thomas Town is scheduled to open on July 27.
Rides at Kennywood
There are several roller coasters at Kennywood. We started our day in line for Phantom’s Revenge, one of the two big steel coasters at Kennywood. The unique thing about Phantom’s Revenge is that the second drop is larger than the first drop.
Our next coaster was the wooden Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt requires two riders per row, so as a family of 3, my daughter got to ride twice once with Dad then with Mom. The ride wasn’t crowded, so I was able to wait for my daughter to finish her first ride and come back from the exit to join me. The ride has a drop right out of the gate and its biggest plunge at the end.
Sky Rocket is their most adventurous coaster. It is a launch coaster and offers 3 inversions, the only coaster in the park that goes upside down.
Exterminator is an indoor mouse-style ride in the dark. Be warned that there is a second indoor queue. After the outdoor queue, we still waited about 20 minutes.
Their Racer ride is really cool. It offers side-by-side coasters, but they actually share a track. You’ll start on the right and end on the left (or vice-versa). With 3 of us, we split up to ride across from each other.
We skipped Jack Rabbit since it had a pretty long line each time we went past.
Other Thrill Rides
Other thrill rides that we enjoyed were Black Widow and Aero 360. Black Widow is like Cedar Point’s Max Air. Riders sit facing outside of a circle. The ride then swings back and forth eventually going inverted as it rotates around the circle. We have been on several rides like Black Widow over the years and it is one of my daughter’s favorite rides.
Aero 360 isn’t like any other ride that we’ve been on. At the end of the Kennywood Arrow, riders end up rotating upside down swinging in the opposite direction of the other arrow. It was a great ride!
Kennywood is known for their Dark Rides, but with minimal thrills, they aren’t always an easy sell to my family. My husband insisted on Ghostwood Estates, their haunted house. In Ghostwood Estates, riders try to shoot targets throughout the house with blasters.
I also was able to convince my family to ride Garfield’s Nightmare, a 3D boat ride. The Garfield Theme is a 2004 overlay on The Old Mill ride that was first built in 1901 and reconstructed in 1926. While I wasn’t impressed with the Garfield overlay, it was very neat to be in a ride that was originally over 100 years old (and 90 years old after reconstruction). The ride isn’t very scary, most of Garfield’s nightmares are food related.
Kennywood has a number of “classic” rides that have been around for years. I had trouble convincing my family of thrill riders to try some of these.
We did enjoy the Kangaroo which bounces you off a hill like a kangaroo’s leap. I also enjoyed riding Volcano with my daughter. In Volcano, you sit in cars that are around the circumference of a circle. You race around the circle as the circle is gradually raised from parallel to the ground to perpendicular. I loved rides like that when I was younger.
My husband and daughter enjoyed the Gran Prix bumper cars. Personally, I’m not a bumper car fan, so I skipped the ride.
I would have loved to try the Turtle or Whip.
Food at Kennywood
We had both lunch and dinner at Kennywood. You will find mostly fast-food style burgers, pizza, chicken tenders, etc. We ate lunch at Parkside Cafe and dinner at Pizza Warehouse.
Our meals were nothing spectacular especially when compared to parks like Busch Gardens, Knoebels, or even Cedar Point. There were no restaurants offering table service although at least Parkside Cafe and Johnny Rockets had air-conditioned indoor seating.
For a snack, we stopped at Rita’s Ice for water ice. We loved our Rita’s, but did find it fairly pricey (and more expensive than we paid at King’s Dominion in April).
Kennywood is just east of Pittsburgh, about a 4.5 hour drive from Ann Arbor. And not far from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For our trip, we decided to leave on Wednesday after work, visit Kennywood on Thursday, and reach family on Friday at lunchtime. On Wednesday we left around 6p and stayed in Youngstown, OH. From Youngstown, it was approximately a 90 minute drive to Kennywood.
Leaving Kennywood, we drove about 90 minutes east to stay in Bedford, PA along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This allowed us to reach family in the Reading, PA area around lunchtime.
Kennywood has free parking. They also offer premium parking for $7. We decided to pay the $7 and park near the entrance instead of having to walk to the free parking.
I definitely recommend buying your tickets for Kennywood in advance. Tickets prices depend on height with a 46″ height for the adult ticket classification and junior tickets for those under 46″. Regular prices are $42.99 Adults/$28.99 Junior. Discounts are available for buying 7 or 4 days in advance, weekday tickets, or family packs (4 tickets). We didn’t buy tickets in advance since we were waiting to make sure the weather would be nice. A 4 pack of tickets for $99 would be a great buy for a family of 4, and one I almost bought for our family of 3.
Then, I found discount tickets available for $32.99 each that included a 2017 Admission in May or June. Even if we don’t use the spring tickets, they were the cheapest tickets we found. There were also $32.99 deals that included their Phantom Fright Nights or Holiday Lights Admission. I thought we were most likely to use the spring tickets, so opted for those tickets.
Kennywood listed their opening as 10:30a on the day we visited. We arrived about 10:35a and proceeded to enter the park. Surprisingly there was no activity on any of the rides. It turns out that the gates open at 10:30a and the rides start running at 11a. Lines were forming outside of the most popular rides, so I do still recommend arriving close to the time the gates open.