Expedition '02 : Idlewild

Associated parks:

Thursday, July 25, 2002 6:01 PM
Any of you interested in seeing the next Holiday World should drop by Idlewild on one of your cross country trips. It's between Hershey and Kennywood. Most members of this community are coaster enthusiasts, and since Idlewild lacks a major coaster, it gets ignored, just like HW did until they put in Raven and Legend. But consider ...

IW covers more acres than HW, SFKK or BGW; offers more noncoaster rides than HW or BGW; has more and better shows than KW, HW or KK; serves better food than anyplace but BGW and KW; and has possibly the most beautiful setting of any park, with a large lake, beautiful wide creek and densely forested hills all around.

If you're 18, IW won't have that much appeal. But if you're married and accompanied by a wife and kids, you could spend two days here. It has a full sized golf course, miniature golf course, water park, world class fishing in Loyalhanna Creek, Story Book Forest, the best age 1-6 Kiddieland anywhere, a daily concert and a circus type show (right now it's a Russian acrobatic troupe), and various arts and crafts tents and booths with leather, wood, weaving, etc. If you come in late July or early August any summer, you can also spend an afternoon watching the Pittsburgh Steelers at their training camp.

Access. Reasonable. Turn off the Pennsylvania Turnpike onto Route 30 and go east about 30 minutes. From Pittsburgh, take Route 30 from the Parkway East and figure about 60 - 90 minutes depending on traffic.

Lodging. Wingate, Mountain Inn and Holiday Inn Express are a few miles west, camping and cabins are further east along Route 30.

Parking. Included in park admission. We suggest Lot F, back by the Old Idlewild and water park entrance. But if you have kids and want to hit Storybook Forest and Jungle Gym first, park in A or B.

Rollo Coaster will be the first ride you see coming in from Lot F. It's a great little ride, built in 1938 from timber cut and fitted right on the site. This is a classic junior woodie, and we like it better than Beastie or Ghoster, which most people think are the top two in this class. Rollo might be considered the first true Terrain Woodie, weaving between the trees and following undulations of the ridge between the lake and the parking lot. They've meticulously maintained this coaster, with new upholstery and a smooth ride.

Wild Mouse. We're in the middle of a midsummer park tour, and we have made sure to ride the other top rodent coasters, ranging from various mice to the two Ricochets to CP's Wildcat. This is still the best operating Mouse in the country. It should be renamed the Squirrel, scampering above the treetops, ducking down through the branches, and occasionally coming to ground level. You can never see all of this ride, not when riding it and not when taking photos from the ground. It is longer, faster, with more switchbacks, more dips and a far more scenic location. I had always been told this was the model formerly at KW, but today I was told by someone in the know that it actually came from England. They've upgraded the old in line two seat car to modern four seat side by side models, and they are much more comfortable. Coaster lovers like to talk about cross beam headchoppers, but you get the same effect here from branches above and to the sides. Major coaster lovers do not yet have a reason to come to Idlewild, but if you're a big rodent coaster fan, this should be a stop on your next big trip.

Tornado. This is a ride not seen much anymore, but it's smooth, gives plenty of Gs, and here at Idlewild you7 get a long cycle.

Caterpillar. This ride was sent over from Kennywood and is one of the all time top date rides. It is basically a Bayern Kurve with a convertible top that slides over each car one minute into the cycle, so you're basically riding in semidarkness. There are only a few of these still operating, and this one is in great shape.

Carousel. This one was the last model built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It's not quite as impressive as the ones at Kennywood and a few other major parks, but it's definitely worth a ride or a photo. It was totally restored in 1985.

Scrambler. A nice ride but the cars need attention and the gravel base should be paved. Smooth and a long cycle.

Balloons. This is a better version of this ride than the ones at CP and CW. A really nice classic.

Whip. This is the only full sized Whip I've ever seen with no roof. It has a shorter run and tighter turns than most. Instead of the classic cars with upholstered seats and metal fittings, these are molded plastic. But it's still a good ride.

TiltaWhirl. A mixed review. I don't like these cars. They've been pieced together from tops and bottoms and decks from other cars. They're not comfortable. However, a TiltaWhirl is basically a hinged deck gliding over an undulating frame, and the angles of the frame pieces determine the frequency, speed and duration of the cars' spin. A 5 degree increase in frame angle tremendously impacts the performance of the ride. The only other park with frame angles equal to Idlewild's is Beech Bend in Bowling Green, Ky. Therefore, we enjoyed a truly great ride.

The Round Up, Paratrooper and Spider are all standard versions, maintained very well and giving smooth rides with long cycles.

Ferris Wheel. This is one of the old classic swinging bench type wheels, and while it's showing its age, it gives a nice ride with a fine view of the midway. There aren't many of these old models still operating.

Skooters. A disappointment. The floor is much too small, the cars run too slow and erratically, and the ceiling, which transmits the electric current, has dead spots. This is Idlewild's weakest point.

Train. A nice ride through the forest and over the stream. In this magnificent setting, I would buy a real train like the ones at Disney, CP, PKI and BGW and extend the trackage all the way around the park so this could become a people mover.

Kiddieland. Hanna Barbera Land at PKI and Camp Snoopy at CP do a better job for teenyboppers (age 7-12), but no park in the country has a better Kiddieland for rugrats aged 1-6. If you have kids that age, make sure you take them for the trolley ride through Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. And save an hour to go back across the park and walk through Storybook Forest with your camera. You can photograph your kiddie with The Old Woman Who Lived in Her Shoe, Three Blind Mice, The Crooked Man Who Lived In His Crooked House, and two dozen other characters from their reading.

Waterpark. Offers the usual oversized pool, body slides, tube slides, and rafting run. Needs at least one megaride, like the Switchback or one of the five person tubing runs.

Food. The restaurant by the lake offers a varied menu of everything from salads to ravioli dinners for $5 or less. The food is tasty and plentiful. Other locations in the park offer other types of food. Idlewild, Kennywood and BGW have a definite edge in park food.

Conclusion. If they added a Big Bad Wolf, Mine Train and Legend, this would become a very hot park overnight. Idlewild has everything else, including unlimited room for expansion.

Thursday, July 25, 2002 6:21 PM
Great TR!

Im the #1 Canobie Lake Park Fan!!!These are my top 3 coasters:
1. S:RoS @ SFNE 2. Yankee Cannonball 3. Cyclone/B:TDK

Thursday, July 25, 2002 6:22 PM

Nice TR!

In 4 Days My 100th Coaster will be HyperSonic XLC

Friday, July 26, 2002 6:22 AM

Excellent report Trekker. I thought I'd add more than a one-line response!

Idlewild really is one of the most under-rated parks out there. The park is simply beautiful and features a nice variety of attractions for families. Personally, I loved Story Book Forest. It's one of the few remaining attractions of its kind and while it may be cheesy in may respects, a lot of fun can be had here.

Mister Rogers Neighborhood is quite possibly the greatest family attraction ever devised. I heard that Fred Rogers himself helped create the attraction and even visits the park each year since he lives in the area. Riding on board a giant "Neighborhood Trolley" and riding past all the characters from the "Neighborhood of Make Believe" was a treat for me.... even at age 32! "Come along, come along, to the Castle Hug And Song". Sure it's corny, but if you grew up watching the show (some found Mr. Rogers to be kind of creepy, though), this is a not-to-be-missed attraction.

The Trinado was a Huss Tri-Star which I believe originally operated at Kennywood for one season. It reminds me of a cross between an Enterprise, Troika, and Scrambler. It is a very cool ride and features some cool visuals. Very re-ridable!

Add in great food (the Potato Patch is every bit as good as their sister park Kennywood's), stunning landscaping, a clean water park, and plenty of other activities like a Tilt House and Haunted Swing, and you've got a one-of-a-kind park. I highly recommend a visit to Idlewild to anyone that's in the area. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

ray p.

Friday, July 26, 2002 8:07 AM

Is there an illusion in this pic, or are the Mouse cars tilted as they go up the lift hill?


He let the contents of the bottle do the thinking; can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.

Friday, July 26, 2002 9:14 AM

Yup, they're tilted.

I love Idlewild. I wouldn't mind seeing another thrill ride or two in all that space, but Idlewild already fills a niche perfectly, and I wouldn't blame them for NOT changing too much. If I ever find myself in the position where I have a family, this would become an annual destation. Even as a single guy, it's a good place to have fun.

"Are you justified in taking life to save life?" -- The Great Debate, Dream Theater
My page

*** This post was edited by GregLeg on 7/26/2002. ***

Friday, July 26, 2002 9:44 AM
Good TR.

Steel: 1)MF, 2)Goliath, 3)Magnum
Wood: 1)Villain, 2)Beast, 3)Roar(SFMW)


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