Idlewild Park, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, USA
I’ve not really posted on this site before, but I figured I’d throw up a trip report from my recent Idlewild visit in the case anyone’s interested. I was able to visit Idlewild, the country's 3rd oldest amusement park, on May 18th for its opening day. The park was offering a special $18.78 admission deal based on the year it opened. There were also special $1.42 food items at various concession stands. The deal was not published as widely as it could have been, so that resulted in very manageable crowds on a beautiful day! I think about Idlewild often, and I feel that today the park is more focused on a young demographic today than it has ever been, and the park has been somewhat suffering as a result. I’ll leave some more thoughts at the end if anyone cares. But I digress; let’s get on with the report!
Idlewild was operating on a “Limited Operation” schedule for its opening day, however, all attractions were operating aside from Wild Mouse. Bummer. The water park was also not open. Despite staffing issues the park has had in the past, everything seemed to be manned just fine. At park opening at 11:30, Story Book Forest was open, but the rest of the rides wouldn’t open until 12. I wandered around; Idlewild is a very peaceful park to walk through when it’s nearly silent – the wooded setting adds nice ambiance. Walking past the Rollo Coaster, I noticed a sign that said that it would not open until 3:00. At this point, I walked over the bridge across the Loyalhanna Creek (which was higher than normal) with the intention to ride Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Once across, we noticed that the train (Loyalhanna Limited) was running, so I hopped aboard and took a round trip.
Many park fans have heard of Idlewild’s trolley ride before. It opened in 1989 as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and was designed and voiced by Fred Rogers himself. The ride was/is a unique journey through the woods where you invite the various animated “neighbors” to a castle “Hug-n-Song” party. What a premise! The original attraction had good animation, lots of details, and some pretty impressive special effects. However, these fell into disrepair over time, and in 2013 the original ride closed. After being closed for two (2!) years, it reopened in 2015 as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Same storyline, same trolley, but a major dumbing-down was found in the new attraction. The new ride has very cheap-looking 2-D animations, and there is almost no decoration throughout, unlike the old ride. However, children today enjoy it tons more than the old attraction, so that’s good.
After this, I went back across the creek and into Story Book Forest. This is probably my favorite part of Idlewild – like the rest of the park, it was loads better a decade ago but still has a lot going for it, even if some buildings need a coat of paint and there’s less hand-painted signs. There was some okay new computer-made signage throughout. This area is pretty long for a storybook park, and it’s always fun seeing the various statues and live animals.
Next up was Confusion Hill, a tilt-house walk-though with all the usual gags. The entire attraction was being run by one person! Idlewild also used to have a Haunted Swing called Dizzy Lizzy’s, but that was closed in 2013. (It’s still there, just walled off.) With that, I headed over to Rollo Coaster. I was anxious to take a ride, as this would be my first ride with the new trains. The ride had an incident in 2016 where a boy was hurt, prompting its review. Instead of simply adding seatbelts to the existing trains, the park took two years to purchase all new PTC trains with tons of safety devices. Seriously, Phantom’s Revenge has less safety measures than these things! The train’s first car has two rows, and each car after that are individual pivoting units with one row apiece. I believe this is the only PTC train with this feature out there. Overall, the seatbelts and locking, individual lap bar didn’t affect the ride very much, but the obnoxious “wings” on the train really obstructed the view. Surprisingly, the ride was faster than I remember it! The new train is heavier, so that could be the reason; rides are weighed before boarding. Overall, I feel that Rollo Coaster could be an improved ride with the new trains (from a non-historical standpoint) if it wasn’t for those loud side pads.
From here, I took a spin on Idlewild’s flying scooters, called Flying Aces. There was a very large sign that said “No Snapping,” so I wasn’t willing to go too crazy. :) The park’s carousel is adjacent, and it does have an operational band organ. It’s a beautiful machine, but the horses could certainly use a cleaning up.
And that pretty much concluded my day at Idlewild. On the way out, I noticed the old Whip cars sitting in the back of the parking lot, rusting away. It’s a shame that this ride’s time is over… I know that Bushkill is planning to restore theirs; if they can, there’s no reason Idlewild can’t. Another note is that after a season out of commission, there was no sign of the Super-Round-Up returning this year. I certainly hope it comes back! Afterwards, I was able to stop at the Ligonier Valley Library for a time to see their historic photography show on Idlewild. Wow! It was truly amazing, with the walls filled with photos, old park artifacts, and various vintage souvenirs. Highly recommended if you’re in the area!
In conclusion, Idlewild is a park that I feel has so much potential, yet it often fails to realize those possibilities, likely due to cost-saving measures. (This can really be seen in their history of ride removal – Caterpillar, anyone?) I hope this is not because of the park’s owner, Parques Reunidos, but that is a likely case, as many of the degrading changes have occurred roughly in the last 10 years, which is around the time that corporate took charge. Oftentimes, I wish that I could go back to that idealistic Idlewild of the past, when the park was filled with hand-painted signs and various flourishes everywhere that showed that there were park artists who cared about people with an eye for design and amusement park history. Today’s park, on the other hand, seems to care most about appealing to the under-10 crowd as well as retaining its Golden Ticket as the “Best Kids’ Park in the World.” Don’t get me wrong, Idlewild has always wanted to mainly appeal to children, but it seems that they seem to be delivering less quality in the park’s attractions based on that very fact. I feel that children notice… and if extra details give something for the parents to enjoy too, then they should be included.
Thanks for the update. Rollo Coaster does indeed look strange, but I guess it's a sign of the times - could easily happen to any other coaster that closed and was revamped in the same circumstances.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
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