Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, USA
July 4, 2021
I had been invited to West Virginia by some close friends of mine for the weekend with the intention of surprising another friend whom I’d not seen in about a decade. About a week before, another friend of mine found himself in a position to join me, so I asked if my friends would mind if he came along. So on Saturday morning we woke up early and headed north. This would be Stefan’s first time visiting WV; I had told Jon & Michelle prior that I’d planned on going to Kennywood on Sunday since I’d be close and they decided they would have Michelle’s parents watch the kids and join us. Stefan was excited to go as he’d never been to the park.
The drive from NC to WV is nothing if not beautiful. We left early in the morning and arrived in Morgantown around 2 PM then checked into our hotel, which was conveniently located close to Jon & Michelle’s house. After getting to our room I called Michelle to let her know we were there and ask if Daniella & Josh had arrived yet as I wanted to surprise Daniella and get there before they did. Michelle let me know that they had cancelled about an hour before and wouldn’t be coming. I was disappointed, but ultimately, I knew spending time with the Klines would be just as fun. After freshening up we headed to their house.
We were immediately greeted by the kids who were excited to see me and meet Stefan. I introduced everyone and we sat in the kitchen for a bit talking. The Klines had ordered pizza to be picked up around 4 PM, so around 3:30 Jon, Stefan, and I left. Even though the restaurant was close, I wanted to show Stefan around Morgantown, as well as see it myself as it had been about 17 years since I’d really been there. It was nice driving around and seeing how much had changed. Morgantown is still a very charming town, and I had never seen it during the summer as I lived there during fall through spring. Eventually we made it back while picking up pizza on the way.
Saturday evening was super chill and relaxed. We ate pizza, salad, and wings, had some drinks, played cornhole, listened to a wide range of music and, once it was dark enough, set off fireworks that Jon & Michelle had gotten. But around 10 PM we were tired, so Stefan and I headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our early morning.
Sunday morning came early and was a bit hectic, but well worth it. We got up, got ready, and headed up to the Kline’s home. Then we packed up and headed to Michelle’s parent’s home to drop off the kids and grab breakfast at McDonald’s there. Eventually we were off and heading north, arriving at Kennywood just after opening.
Kennywood is one of my favorite parks. I wasn’t sure how busy it would be on July 4th, but I had hoped that because it was on a Sunday, the park wouldn’t be busy. We had stopped by Giant Eagle, but they no longer sold discount tickets, so we purchased tickets online as we headed to the park. When we arrived at the parking lot, I was happy to see that there was ample parking on what looked to be a not too busy day. In fact, we were able to park right beside the escalator on one of the upper levels.
The park opened at 10:30, but rides for the most part did not open until 11 AM. I thought it would be best to ride the Old Mill first as I know it can get very long lines but, after sitting near the closed entrance for a few minutes, realized that Sky Rocket, which was just beside us was already up and running. We headed over and got in line for Sky Rocket.
Sky Rocket-I forget how much I like this coaster. There was a very short wait and we ended up riding in the back. Rolling down to the launch track and then shooting up the top had provides so much great airtime. Then the slowed drop comes at you before heading into a mess of steel hills and inversions. I love the laterals in the cutback after the top hat. Then you fly up and over into the first inversion before your turn up into the midcourse brakes. Another steep drop and inversion follows before twists and turns, including trick track. The ride ends with several bunny hops with ample amounts of airtime. It really is a lot of fun.
I was the only one that had ridden Sky Rocket in our group. The rest of the group loved it as much as I do. By this point the park had opened the rides and the Old Mill was open, so we got in line for that next. I’d not been able to ride the Old Mill on my first visit, and I really didn’t care for the Garfield dark ride that replaced it. This new Old Mill, though, was well done and a lot of fun, even if the boats felt as if they were about to capsize at any second.
One of the things I love about Kennywood is how compact it is. Right near the Old Mill was our next destination, and I was excited to see how Michelle and Stefan would react to the ride’s best element. The line was pretty short. I told them about how it was the 4th oldest continuously operating coaster in the world, and how great it was. I also told them that during the ride, they have to keep their hands up the entire time. I didn’t tell them why, but that it wasn’t as fun if they didn’t. Pretty soon, we were on our way out of the station and around the corner.
Jack Rabbit-The first drop is always fun. I love rounding the corner, heading down the straight away, and then just dropping down. Then you round the curve through the tunnel, drop again, and finally make it to the first lift hill. I knew what came afterwards, and had told everyone to put their hands up just before the first drop. Then you hit that amazing, incredible double-down. After the initial drop I was excited to see how Michelle and Stefan reacted. Michelle grabbed on to me for dear life and Stefan yelled out pretty loudly as our behinds left the seats. This is what we mean when we talk about ejector airtime. After that you round another corner and drop down then up into the station. I just love Jack Rabbit.
So far we had ridden 3 rides and it wasn’t even noon yet. The entrance to Steeler Country and, of course, the park’s newest major attraction was close. We skipped over Racer for now and headed towards the black & gold. The sky was ominous. There was a sign at Steel Curtain letting everyone know that there was only one train operating and that the wait was about an hour. I figured it would be better to get it out of the way now rather than wait and let the line get longer. The wait wasn’t terrible, even though it did rain quite a bit. But the ride never shut down for rain and before long, we were sitting in the train.
Steel Curtain (430)-For the park’s second hyper coaster, you start up a rather steep lift hill. At the top, instead of just dropping down over the other side, Steel Curtain dips down a few feet then inverts before dropping down to the ground. And what a first drop it was! Then you fly through a straight away and up into the next inversion. This ride was super smooth. Coming out of that inversion you hit an airtime hill with great airtime and then head up into the next inversion, a sea-serpent followed by a slightly twisted airtime hill and up into a dive loop. Then comes one of the ride’s best elements, a zero-g stall over the midway. Then you fly up another hill and, at the top, fly over the trick in a corkscrew before a cutback inversion and then hop up into the final brake run. Wow. I wasn’t expecting to like the ride as much as I did, but it was really great, with great negative Gs and lateral forces.
We decided to take a quick break and grab a quick bite of pizza. Stefan got a Bites & Pints pass so we could sample some food & drinks throughout the day. After our break we headed over to the other side of the park to ride one of my faves. It never disappoints, and I was excited for Michelle & Stefan to ride.
Steel Phantom-My only problem with this ride is that its about 1500 feet too short. Otherwise it does so much so well in such a short amount of track. We sat in the back, of course. I’m not sure what all else I can say about this ride. The first drop is fun. The second drop into the ravine is amazing. The overbanked turn is fantastic. And the rest of the ride is a succession of violently wild bunny hops with major ejector airtime. And I love it just as much as I did the first time I rode it.
After getting off of Phantom we headed over to ride one of my favorite classic flat rides, the Whip. I love Kennywood’s Whip, it gives a very long cycle. I wish there were more of these at more parks, but they’re becoming more and more a rarity to find.
One ride that I enjoy but is usually uncomfortable to fit in are S&S Screamin’ Swings, but I wanted everyone to try the one at Kennywood out, especially since Black Widow was down. The line was short and before long we were on. The ride was fun as usual, and we got some great airtime on the up swings, with hang time on the other side. But when the ride came to a stop, everyone got off…except Michelle. She couldn’t get her seat belt unbuckled. Jon tried. Then Stefan tried. Then I tried. Then the ride ops came over and tried. Michelle had a mini freak out and wanted to be let out. Before too long, a maintenance man came and tried, but he couldn’t get it to unbuckle either. Then a whole crew of maintenance men came. We got Michelle calmed down and after a couple of attempts, one of the maintenance men took out a knife and cut the strap, immediately freeing Michelle. The crowd in line clapped and cheered and off we were. That was a first for me.
We walked around the park some more and eventually got in line for the Auto Race. Stefan declined as he wanted to get some food on his pass. After we’d waited for a while, I noticed that the ride was running significantly slower, and that only 2 cars were on the track at a time. Thats a shame, because the ride used to run so much faster. So we got out of line and went to find more food. The Bites & Pints event was actually pretty well done. We were able to have several drinks and tried several different types of food. I had 2 drinks, 2 sandwiches, some of a crepe, pretzel sticks, and more. Food events at parks are always a welcome sight.
After some more food we headed over and went through Noah’s Ark. It was a lot of fun and very trippy, another classic dark ride I always enjoy. Stefan wanted to ride Aero360, so Jon and Stefan got in line as Michelle and I sat by and took photos and finished some drinks. Then we went to ride another coaster.
Racer-The line for Racer moved quicker than I was used to and eventually we were on the ride near the back. Racer has been a ride that I’ve been disappointed in in the past, but the last few rides I’ve had on it were a lot of fun. Everyone enjoyed it, even if we couldn’t get the other train to put their hands out for some hand slapping goodness.
So many of Kennywood’s flat rides have been removed since I first started going, and this year the (very fun) Kangaroo, Volcano, Paratrooper, and (most depressingly) Bayern Kurve ride pads were all empty. I try to ride the flats at Kennywood because they have some very fun rides, but the classics are all disappearing. One ride that I do enjoy riding is a Disk-O, and Kennywood has one, so we got in line for Chosmic Chaos next. The line wasn’t very long, and the ride was a lot of fun, as usual. This was the first time I’d ridden Kennywood’s version.
As we ate our way through the park we hit up Phantom once again. This time there was a small wait, though the line went quick, and disappeared later in the day. Since we were close, we headed over to Exterminator next. The line was long and the wait was…long.
Exterminator-This is one of the few mice that don't scare me, as the switch backs are all inside. Once the ride’s spinning mechanism clicked, though, Stefan and I had one of the spinniest rides I’d ever had. It was great. I loved it.
The day was getting long and we still had more food left on the pass, so we got a few more things to eat and drink before heading over to Thunderbolt. They were only running one train, and although the wait wasn’t super long, it could have went quickly had they had at least another train on the tracks. Regardless, I was excited to ride, and eventually we were sitting in the back.
Thunderbolt-Kennywood’s propensity to build coasters that drop off into a ravine, especially when that happens out of the station, has always been one of the reasons I’m attracted to the park. I love it. And I love the drop out of the station on Thunderbolt. Dropping into the ravine, then popping up, rounding the corner, and then back down in to the ravine is a great way to start a coaster. Then the lift hill comes. Then its that great, violent curved drop that goes up, down, then up and around, down, then up and around again by the midway. It was chaotic and violent and I loved it. Then its the next drop into the ravine, turn, and finale once again dropping into the ravine before popping up into the final brakes. It sometimes seems odd that some of these coasters are as old as they are to be so thrilling.
So we walked over to Steelers Country once again to see what the line for Steel Curtain was like, but decided not to wait. We got a crepe and I got another sandwich on the way out of the park, but it was after 7 PM and the park closed at 8. So we left to head towards the car.
We had wanted to eat at Red Robin, but they closed at 8 PM, as did most other restaurants in the area. So we ended up at Rock Bottom instead, and the food was great, even if they were super understaffed to handle the crowd coming in to the only restaurant open in the entertainment district.
We didn’t make it back to Morgantown by 10 PM as planned, but we did see fireworks going off all around us on the way home. Once we got back to the hotel I was exhausted and fell asleep quickly.
We stopped by the Kline’s home Monday morning to say our final goodbyes before heading south back to NC. I was excited to introduce Stefan to Tudor’s Biscuit World, but sadly I picked the worst one. Breakfast was…adequate. The drive home, while pretty, was long and I was tired. We stopped at the New River Gorge Bridge to show Stefan my home state's pride and joy. We walked down the overlook and back up after taking in the beauty and taking some pictures.
This trip, while not completely as planned, was a lot of fun. Things are slowly getting back to normal, assuming another strain of COVID doesn’t show up thats really resistant to the vaccine. It was nice seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while and visiting Morgantown with Stefan. As always, I leave Kennywood looking forward to my next visit.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
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