Attraction Review: Kennywood Park

Image of Phantoms Revenge Roller Coaster Kennywood
Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania was one of my most anticipated parks of our US 2019 Road Trip. The amusement park, which opened in 1899 (!!) is one of the US's oldest operating parks and is chock full of both classic rides, including many only-of-its-kind attractions, alongside some newer must-ride attractions like Phantom's Revenge and the new for 2019 S&S madness Steel Curtain. It actually contains so many classic rides and historic buildings that the entire park is dedicated as a National Historic Landmark.

Despite us remaining optimistic, we were pretty certain that Steel Curtain would sadly not be operating for us during our visit and those fears were confirmed a few days before we were due to arrive. What made this particularly gutting was just how imposing the damn thing is as you make your way through West Mifflin to approach the park and see it looming there on the side of the hill. It's absolutely astounding looking and anybody looking for a reason to visit Kennywood (as if all the fab classicness wasn't enough) then this is it, and I can confidently say that despite not riding it - it honestly looks that good!

Image of Kennywood Park Entrance

Image of Kennywood Park Sign

The park just oozes charm from the offset - the giant yellow arrow pointing you firmly in the direction of the adorable classic park entrance just screams Americana and the whole entrance plaza is littered with amusement park knick knacks like log flume boats and carousel horses. The park is kind of in the woodland too - something I completely wasn't expecting having tried my best not to look into parks I plan on visiting too much so things are a nice surprise for when I do finally get myself to them. But yes, very cute and quaint, a lovely classic amusement park vibe in the air as soon as you set foot on site which is a lovely thing to experience in America when you're used to the giant coasters-on-concrete park chains.

Image of Steel Curtain Roller Coaster Construction

Image of Steel Curtain Roller Coaster Construction
We started our day (alongside gawping at the imposing Steel Curtain structure) with a ride on the park's 1927 wooden coaster - racer. It's a mobius loop affair and given its opening date you can get a great idea for just how close these coasters get to one another for the racing elements! Completely old school in every way, there's nothing like the rush of feeling your train zoom on ahead along the track and overtake the other train. For me these kinds of coasters are just good old fashioned fun, although if I'm honest I don't remember too much of the coaster experience itself, which I'm going to take as a good thing given how notorious the UK's Racer counterpart Grand National is for giving its riders a rough rider!

Jack Rabbit was up next. The oldest coaster in the park having opened in 1920, do not let the age of this thing fool you - it's an absolute beast with some absolutely insane out-of control airtime moments. I don't know how the park have done it, but the majority of this coaster's layout is actually quite hidden so unless you've watched POVs to within an inch of their life you'll have no idea what's coming and if you're anything like us will be crying with laughter by the time you pull into the brake run. The standout moment of this coaster is the double-down - we were sent absolutely flying from our seats in this crazy moment and all gasped and yelled between ourselves because we were so blown away by what an insane element this moment was. Awesome, awesome coaster, especially for something that opened almost 100 years ago.

Image of Phantoms Revenge Roller Coaster

Image of Phantoms Revenge Roller Coaster
Finally with some of the classics out of the way it was time for us to check out my main reason for wanting to come to this park - the infamous Phantom's Revenge. Having been heavily modified in the early 2000s due to being too extreme a ride, I was gagged to finally give this bad boy a go for myself to see if it lived up to the madness. Having heard the legendary status of the airtime on this thing, we opted for a back row ride to try and maximise the out-of-seat moments. And fuck yeah did this coaster deliver! I'll be honest, with the first drop I was a little bit disheartened and wondered what all the fuss was about, but what most people won't tell you is that the true joy comes post-second drop. Utter insanity from the moment you dive down the side of the hill to the very last manic bunny hills into the station. I was desperately trying to find something to hold onto as my body flailed all over the place due to the forces and airtime combines and came off the coaster with a huge smile on my face.

And...this is the part where things started to go a little downhill for us (due to no fault of the park, as I'll explain!) As Conor and I sat on a bench at the exit I waited eagerly for Jack and Chris to get off of the coaster so I could share my joy and excitement for it, but I was greeted with sombre faces and shaking heads. How the hell did they not enjoy it?! Well, turns out they did love the coaster, but Chris was a tit and decided to take his phone on the ride, and due to the crazy layout and airtime it had not joined them back in the station when the train returned. Chris thought he knew roughly where his phone was so we decided to get back in the queue for another go to see if we could spot it, and in the meantime dark clouds drew over the park and as if timed on purpose the heavens opened precisely when our train was dispatched. We were absolutely drenched by the time we pulled back in to the station and suffice to say between trying not to drown and keeping ourselves in our seats because of the ridiculous airtime we did not spot Chris's phone.

 
Looking like a bunch of drowned rats we thought what better than to drown the other rats in the park with a ride on Exterminator, the park's indoor themed spinning wild mouse coaster. Chris and Conor headed off to guest services in a bid to retrieve the spiteful phone but Jack and I had creds to get so we pressed on. As far as spinning wild mice go, I actually really loved this one! In terms of theming, Exterminator is very reminiscent of Raptor Attack, formerly known as Rat Ride at Lightwater Valley. The theming is very kitschy and silly but for me that only added to the enjoyment - so much so that once the boys returned with Chris's (now very smashed up) phone in hand I dragged everybody round again for round two.

Image of The Whip Kennywood
We also managed a ride on one of the park's classic flat rides here with The Whip. I've only ever been on the mini one of these at Adventure Island so it was fab to get a go on a bigger one - especially with the ground freshly moist from the aforementioned downpour.

At this point we were slightly bored of being wet so we jumped into one of the drying machines and sorted ourselves out slightly before jumping in the queue for Thunderbolt, our final cred of the day given Steel Curtain not being operational just yet, Sky Rocket being SBNO and none of us being arse to bother with the kiddie coaster given the day's events so far. Another coaster from the 20s, Thunderbolt is a wooden coaster that uses the natural landscaping of the Kennywood Park area to its advantage - sending riders out of the station and straight down the side of the hill. And for us, straight into ANOTHER DOWNPOUR! CAUGHT IN TORRENTIAL RAIN TWICE IN ONE DAY HOW?! WHY?! URGH! I was gutted to be honest because it meant that we really didn't get the chance to fully take in the experience of the coaster because riding in such conditions is so damn uncomfortable.

Image of Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Sign Kennywood

Image of Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Kennywood


Image of Kennywood Potato Patch Fries
It was clear at this point that the weather was only going to get worse, so once we'd nabbed this final cred we made a list of priorities of things we'd like to do in the park, so of course next up we grabbed the infamous Kennywood Park potato patch fries - freshly chipped and peeled potato fries topped with cheese, bacon, onions, gravy and god knows what else but oh so delicious. Stomachs full, we then jumped into the queue for Ghostwood Estate, which given its dilapidated spooky facade we mistook for a classic ghost train but were pleasantly surprised turned out to be an absolutely incredible shooting haunted house attraction! Seriously, this thing was nuts. The animatronics were genuinely distressing and scary and the targets did this amazing filament fizzle and pop when you got a shot in. Awesome stuff - definitely a highlight of the park for me.

Image of Kennywood Carousel

Image of Kennywood Carousel

Sadly with the sky darkening and the threat of rain not seeming to ease up any time soon, we only had time for a couple more attractions so we jumped on to the carousel which I was drawn to due to it having lion and tiger vehicles - something I had never seen on a carousel before! The attraction is absolutely stunning, easily the best I've ever seen of its kind and it was absolutely magical being able to ride such a treasure. The staff member hosting the ride even took the time out of his day to give us the interesting background story of the carousel, including how Kennywood came into possession of something so glorious and the estimated value of the thing today - I'm awful and have forgotten your name but if you're reading this, thank you so much for the information you shared with us, it only made us appreciate this beautiful piece of amusement park history more.

Image of Noahs Ark Kennywood
With attractions closing for the imminent horrendous weather all around us we made one last ditch attempt to get in one of our must-do attractions for Kennywood and found ourselves tumbling into a whale's mouth and into Noah's Ark, a classic amusement park attraction that you may remember from Blackpool Pleasure Beach if you were lucky enough to visit whilst it was still in operation. Having opened in 1936 (and interestingly built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company) this attraction is one of those things you really have to experience yourself to even begin to understand. Essentially it's exactly what you'd imagine a fun house built in the 30s to be like, but probably madder? And it rocks back and forth for extra weirdness, because why the hell not. I really hope the park have no plans to get rid of this fabulous piece of theme park history because it truly is a unique (if somewhat bizarre) experience.

And sadly with that, the wind picked up, the sky darkened even further and despite borrowing some bin bags to wear as a raincoat from a nearby coffee stall (thanks, baffled employee!) it was time for us to face the reality that our day at Kennywood was over. With impending storms forecast for the rest of the day, the park made the difficult decision to close the park early at 4PM so we decided to run back to our car and hit the road early to Cedar Point. And honestly, I don't think I've ever been more gutted to leave a park. There were still a ton of classic flat rides that we didn't get a chance to experience, we were not able to re-ride the classic wooden coasters (which honestly I could have spent all day re-riding) and obviously both Steel Curtain and Sky Rocket were not available for us to ride during our visit. But of course, the park can't control the weather and we had an absolutely incredible time regardless, so I'm definitely putting the stepping stones in place to get back to Kennywood Park at my next earliest convenience.


If you fancy a day out at the park, Kennywood Park have kindly provided me with a link for $17 off of a day ticket to the park!

I'd like to thank Kennywood Park again for their hospitality, I'm so gutted the weather meant we couldn't enjoy the park to its full potential but we will absolutely be back. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when!

Talk later xoxo,

CONVERSATION

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