Kennywood, June 16 - CPLady Style

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CPLady's avatar
Gordon was hired by Deana Martin to work with video and sound for her show during the Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville, Ohio, an hour outside Pittsburgh and Kennywood. Needless to say, there was no question about my tagging along for the weekend with the chance to visit a new park and add a few more coasters to my track record.

We made the trip on Friday, Gordon's free day. The original plan was to stay until dark, but as he had to meet with the other sound guy by 6 pm, the day would be cut short. Regardless, I knew the park was small enough we could get plenty of riding in and get a good feel for the park in the nearly 6 hours we'd be there.

I was especially interested in riding Racer and Jack Rabbit, two coasters designed by John Miller. I have an affinity for John Miller coasters as some of my first coasters were designed by him. And, of course, I wanted to get in as many of the nostalgic rides, such as the Carousel, Miniature Train, Turtle, Whip, and Kangaroo (at least nostalgic to me as I rode some of those rides as a child more than 40 years ago).

We arrived shortly after the park opened at 10:30 am after a stop at the local Giant Eagle to purchase our discounted tickets for $19 each. We opted to pay $5 for premier parking. Well worth the cost, in our opinion, to have the truck close, and we were just outside the entrance.

The first thing I noticed was the abundance of trees. I didn't notice anything as "wooded" as Frontier Trail is at Cedar Point, but the tall trees clumped in various places along the midways made it feel more wooded. The park certainly had that "old" feel to it with old pavement, but was clean.

After getting suggestions from members of Coasterbuzz (thank you!), we turned left to make Exterminator our first ride of the day. We walked past Phantom's Revenge and their swing ride, Swingshot, which is similar to Cedar Point's Skyhawk, but it didn't appear the ride was going to open anytime soon. In fact, it didn't open until we were leaving the park.

Exterminator would be my first spinning mouse coaster. The theme as a factory that is overrun by mice, with animatronic "exterminators" shooting at the rat themed cars was complete with the exterminator's truck outside the entrance. At first, the cars ran like a normal wild mouse, with hairpin turns and hills, but partway through the ride they begin spinning...and fast. In the darkness, the sense of space and direction gets completely lost. What a trip! I loved it, but I doubt I could ride it twice in a row without getting sick. In fact, both Gordon and I felt completely disoriented for a good ten minutes after riding.

We walked back towards Phantom's Revenge. Although it wasn't opened yet, they were testing, so I opted to wait in the gathering line, seeing they were only running one train. While waiting, I snagged a picture of Gordon and the Pirate Ship.

I loved the the theme of the Pirate Ship with the palm trees and pirates with water guns that squirted out onto the midway. I could see this being a popular place when the temperatures heat up during the day.

Phantom's Revenge. I wish I'd had the chance to ride Steel Phantom just for comparison. I was told we'd be in for some violent airtime, ala Magnum at Cedar Point, so we opted to sit near the front of the train, but the much larger, padded lap bars sat closer to the hips than thighs and provided much more cushioning than Magnum's lap bars. We were treated to a very fast, smooth and, yes, airtime filled ride. Of course, being used to the same kind of ride on Magnum, both Gordon and I had the impression the ride was short, even with a 3200 foot track length. But the turning drop and that second drop into the valley with Thunderbolt providing the headchopper effect was neat.

We decided, since the park didn't appear to be especially busy, to just work our way around clockwise instead of walking back to the other side of the park to ride Racer and Jack Rabbit, which proved to be a slightly unwise decision later on. Gordon wasn't interested in King Kahuna, which surprised me a bit since he loved Tomb Raider. I guess seeing the ride in action, and the number of flips it made, changed his mind. I also took a pass at Volcano.

Our next stop was Noah's Ark. I certainly did not expect the "elevator", especially considering this walk through ride was originally built in 1936! I assume it was an attempt to "update" the ride to attract more people, especially those who don't really appreciate the nostalgia factor of such rides. (I still miss the funhouse at Cedar Point). Elevator aside, it certainly did take us back to the days of old fashioned fun houses with little "surprises" here and there. I suspect there was once a moving floor or air floor in it at one time as I noticed wooden panels covering two areas that could have held such options in the past.

I think Gordon was a bit surprised I wanted to ride the Turtle, considering it more a kiddie ride, although he was very good natured about it.

After two tame rides, it was time to ride Thunderbolt. Again, going on advice I'd received from coaster friends, I expected a Mean Streak type of ride...rough with lots of laterals. Of course, Gordon and I like Mean Streak, having learned to lean forward, relax and let the roughness flow through us instead of leaning back and going against it. Thunderbolt doesn't look like much from the midway, but I knew the best part of the ride was hidden from view.

I'd planned to ride in the middle of the car so as not to be above the wheels, but Gordon wasn't concerned, so we climbed into the first car, third row. The old trains brought back memories of an old coaster I've ridden, maybe the Soul Train at Edgewater Park in Detroit or the Flying Dragon at Walled Lake. I was happy to see the single lap bar. The long drop out of the station, following the lay of the land and the even longer drop near the end is what made it unique from any other wooden coaster I've been on so far. Fast with laterals, I enjoyed it. If we'd had more time, I would have jumped on for a second ride.

It was time to lay back again, so we rode Gold Rusher, a cheesy, dark ride good for a laugh or two, and made our way to the Miniature Train.

I didn't expect the history lesson which was interesting. It was while on the train I noticed the Li'l Phantom and the Auto Race. Both Gordon and I marveled at how fast the cars were zipping along the track, so we decided to give it a shot. I was unsure Gordon's 6'5" frame would fit into the cars, but with me in front "driving", Gordon was able to squeeze into the back seat with his legs to the right of me. Again, if we'd had more time, I would have ridden again. Such a fun little ride!

Gordon, of course, laughed at me and sat out while I took a double spin on the Li'l Phantom (no, I'm not proud!) These small, steel coasters were not around when I was a little kid. If they had been, I suspect I would have been less afraid of my first coaster ride after working my way up. It was faster than I expected, and I'm sure great fun for the little ones.

It was time to take a break. Although I'd been told the french fries were a requirement, we opted for something light and planned to get the fries later. I had a fruit parfait for $2.50 which was a reasonable price to me considering the amount of fruit provided. It was healthy and refreshing. I wish Cedar Point offered something like this.

Aero360 was one of the thrill rides I wanted to ride, along with Swing Shot, but it was also down with the cars covered in a heavy tarp. *pout* Instead, we opted for Racer.

By this time, the crowds had picked up, and although the wait was a little more than 30 minutes (not bad, really), I realized we probably would have been better off to ride it in the morning considering our limited time at the park. Regardless, I enjoyed reading the history of the coaster while in line, and didn't realize the station had been changed and then brought back to it's original glory. Again, the station reminded me of another coaster, but I can't quite place it.

Not having done much homework, I was surprised to see the trains arriving in the station on opposite tracks from those they left from. One train was running much faster than the other, so we appeared to lose the "racing" effect into the ride, which was disappointing considering how close the tracks were in places. I think we were side by side only once for a brief moment before entering the station. This is another coaster I'd like the chance to ride again.

After the 30 minute wait for Racer, Gordon wasn't up for waiting what appeared to be another 30 minutes or more for Jack Rabbit, so he went off to do the souvenier shopping for me and to make a jaunt to the truck for some ice cold Monster while I waited. Again, another classic coaster, and this one stands out more for me than Racer does. The drop after the turnaround out of the station and up into the tunnel was a neat effect, and the nice double down on the second loop out were the elements I liked most. I didn't expect the trains to be painted lime green and pink, though!

I knew after I finished my ride, Gordon wasn't going to be much interested in the Carousel, but knowing it had a real working Wurlitzer Pipe organ, I had to ride it before heading out to the truck to retrieve Gordon for our next ride...Garfield's Nightmare.

The best part of the ride was waiting in the queue and getting a full history of it. Frankly, although brightly colored and themed well, it's less a "tunnel of love" ride than a kiddie one now. I would have loved to have ridden this back when it was themed more toward the Old Mill, and considering the long wait for it, I probably would have been better off to ride the Whip or Kangaroo instead.

As it was, by the time we'd finished the ride, it was 4 pm and we had to be on the road soon, so we opted to hit up the ATM so we could get a couple orders of those scrumptious fries I was told about. Unfortunately, the ATM we were directed to had a security guard in front who said it was out of money, although would be filled shortly. "Shortly" turned into 15 minutes, and we had to be on the road no later than 4:30 pm in order for Gordon to be back in time to meet with the sound fellow, so we didn't get the fries. But I did get a picture of me with Garfield!

Although I didn't ride everything I'd hoped to, we had a great time at the park and as Gordon said, we have a reason to come back again. The price was right and the atmosphere appealed to both of us. Next time we hope to stay until dark as I've heard the park is very prettily lit up at night.

If you are interested in pictures (I took quite few), you can visit my trip report on my website. (The link is below...then click Trip Reports from the menu).

I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead

Great trip report and pictures.
Noah's Ark does have moving floors but those are currently out-of-service. The entire ride was completely rebuild and redesigned in 1996.
What did you think of the Carousel? It's definitely the greatest Carousel I've ridden.

Im so glad you didn't miss the Auto Race and a couple other classics you didn't list in your opening statments.

Heck, I've been there four times in the last five years and still haven't hit the Kangaroo even tho I rode Lesourdsville Lakes many times in the 70's.

Glad you liked the park and will be back, I love kennywoods atmosphere, rides and afordability, The strange thing is that beings it's so reasonable, I usually spend just as much as the corporates in food, drinks and souvineers.

Nice TR.

I also spend more inside the park at KW than I do at a Six Flags or other big chain park. Its for the same reason, good quality and reasonable prices. I wouldn't be surprised that some people go to KW, HW, KB, LC and some of the small traditional parks as opposed to other parks partly for that reason.

I believe that good, reasonably priced food and games that you can actually afford to play add measurably to the park experience. If Six Flags really wants to make the parks more family friendly, they should take a good look at the pricing inside the park. TGE and SFKK would be good places to start since they are relatively small. TGE is unbranded and already family oriented. This it a park that should emulate LC. Free drinks anyone? As for SFKK, the reason here is simple. Competition. A family friendly SFKK is going to have to go head-to-head with HW. If I had a family in Southern Indiana or Western Kentucy, you know very well where I would be heading with them. *** Edited 6/27/2006 12:24:22 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Exactly and you never realize it till you check your cash. Unlike the shocking 15 dollar parking fee, 5 dollar drink ect that your unlikely to buy.

Ive said for years the parks are shooting themselves in the foot.

Sure the old adage they'll charge what the market will bear is true to a point but charge less and people will buy more.

5 drinks at 1.50 vs one drink at 4.00 is more money no matter what way you slice it.

There are several things that the parks need to remember. First, the food is part of the experience and if it is poor quality or too expensive, that makes the park less enjoyable. Second, family friendly also means family budget friendly. Most parks aren't like Disney and Universal where the family might go there once or twice while the kids are growing up. These other parks depend upon regular visits, year after year. Third, parks compete with other entertainment, not just with other parks. If they don't offer good value, people might spend their enterteinment and recreation dollars someplace else.

Parks such as KW, HW, ctc have their food pricing right for parks of their size. Bigger parks such as CP should be able to charge a bit more but they should not get so high that people feel ripped-off. As for free drinks, that is best for the family oriented parks like HW and LC. Other parks that might find it worth considering are parks like Idlewild, Dutch Wonderland and (yes, Six Flags!) The Great Escape). *** Edited 6/27/2006 4:41:07 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Second, family friendly also means family budget friendly. Most parks aren't like Disney and Universal where the family might go there once or twice while the kids are growing up. These other parks depend upon regular visits, year after year.

Yet somehow the 'big' parks that charge high prices continue to blow away the attendance that the smaller parks do.

So maybe pricing isn't that much of a factor?

I think your 100% wrong Gonch.

HW has maintained a over 15 percent increase each and every year in the past several while the best CP, PKI and the corporates can do it 7percent and thats only if they build the biggest baddest and that's short lived.

IMHO corporate parks are stagnant in growth and the only way to increase income is to raise prices therebye actually stunting their growth by lack of people returning due to excessive cost.

Arthur is right, Almost no seasonal park is like a Disney or Universal. Those trips are planned for or made through travel agencies in a lot of cases therefore the cost is negligable and planned for.

I don't know if Kennywood is growing, maintaining or what, All I know is that each and ever time of my 7 visits in ten years I've had fun, Thought I was enjoying a very affordable park and left with the desire to come back.

IMHO thats success, Not getting 400 dollars out of someones wallet and not caring if they come back again.


Lord Gonchar's avatar
CPLady - sorry to hijack your TR like this :(


1. Stop and do the math. 15% increase at HW is something like 175,000 people, 7% increase at CP or PKI is around 240,000 people. Hmmm.

2. I do believe the biggest parks are probably at the threshold of the attendance they can drive in. I mean do you really want to visit a CP or SF with a yearly attendance or 4 or 5 million - that'd be sick. But it works for the smaller parks too. I'd hate a day at KW if they were bringing in 3 million guests a year. The growth at the smaller parks would have to level off at some point too.

3. Yes, Arthur is right - people plan for the trips to the big destination parks. I don't know what planning has to do with willingness to spend, however.

4. Affordibility doesn't equate fun. Fun equals fun. It is possible to spend a lot of money and have fun. It is possible to spend little money and not have fun.

What about the park that gets 400 dollars out of someone's pocket and shows them a good time? IMHO that's the biggest success of all.

Good TR. The wife and I love Kennywood's charm, selection of rides and value. We like to stop in on Phantom Fright Nights on our way to PPP every October.

P.S. You didn't miss much when you couldn't get the fries (over-rated imho)


CP has been experiencing slow growth recently because of the weak economy in northern Ohio and Michigan. They responded by lowering prices.

As for KW, their attendance has been stagnant recently but that is because of the difficulty out-of-towners have in finding the park. If that highway ever got built, KW would see attendance grow substantially as they add more attractions including 2 or 3 new coasters, an interactive darkride, several new flats, and an indoor waterpark. 1.7 to 2 million would not be out of the question. For now, however, that road is in doubt.

HW will continue to grow. As attendance increases we can expect even more coasters, interactive darkrides, water attractions, etc, from them.

One park that I have great expectations for is LC. One look at their location is the reason for this. It's a day trip from NYC and Boston. This park is where Kennycorp should expect their greatest growth. Thwy should keep adding rides and water attractions at a steady pace while preserving the character of the park. Growth of 100,000 a year is not unreasonable for this park which could bring attendance to over 1.5 million in about 10 years. Both Wildcat and Ghost Hunt can be modified to increase capacity and hours could be lengthened as the park draws more attendance.

*** Edited 6/27/2006 6:47:13 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

CPLady's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:
CPLady - sorry to hijack your TR like this :(

Hey, I don't mind. In fact, lower food/drink prices DO make a difference to me, which is why we rarely spend a lot of money in the park at CP or at MiA for that matter.

Holiday World, on the other hand, makes us feel like we are getting a deal because the free drinks and parking mean we have that much more to spend on other items.

I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead

Gonch, what about not being thirsty from not getting ripped off don't you understand? What about not going hungry without getting ripped off don't make sense?

I may be dumb or just overly concious but I can drink five pos durring the day at Kennywood for ten dollars or two at Cedar Point/SF ect.

I can eat lunch, dinner and a pretzel or something at Kennywood for $15. Honestly the only way Im paying them prices at a CP or SF is if I have too and thats usually the one meal a day I would limit myself to at those parks.

I do see affordability as a big factor in fun but it doesn't guarantee it. In that statement your correct. However I do see it as a significant step in increasing the chances a guest day would be more pleasing and vitually eliminate a feeling of getting ripped off or taken for a fool.

Face it, Twice retail is probably expected but some of these parks are now charging 300% over that. 15 bucks for a burger and fries 19 if you want the drink. Phooey! I can eat three times at HW for that and generally do and buy souvineers and stuff which are also decently priced at 9-14 for a tee shirt not 25.

Guess Im dumb prefering going to IB, KP, HW, BB even dollywood over this park with 11 coasters a half mile from the house. Put it this way, I can drive there, eat and buy souvineers and still get home on less than what it would cost to do that right next door at PKI.

Chuck, whos just glad CP lady had a good time and thats really all that matters in her TR thread :)

Lord Gonchar's avatar
I still think you guys are looking at it from the eyes of an enthusiast.

How many parks do you visit in a season?

I can tell you we've visited between 12 and 20 each of the last 5 years. At that rate, yes, you have to be budget conscious. If we just went and dropped $400 a day at these parks, that'd be between $5000 and $8000 a year on parks. That's just stupid. :)

But 99% of the people visiting any given park aren't going to hit another dozen or two parks. The $3 drinks aren't even a thought - it's just the cost of going to the park.

I think what you guys believe is that people go in knowing they have X number of dollars to spend and once that's gone, it's over. I think just the opposite. People want 5 drinks in a day and they're buying them regardless. Sure they may feel the prices are high, but I think most understand this going in and just roll with it.

I still have to look at attendance. If people were really so budget minded, the higher priced parks would be losing attendance at a mad rate. However, they're not. If people truly had a worse time because of prices, then higher priced parks would not get repeat business and attendance would drop. It's not.

You use PKI as an example. PKI just happened to be the most attended seasonal park last year doing an estimated 3.7 million people through the gate. That doesn't sound like people feeling ripped off to me.

If value was the main thing determining a park's popularity and ability to grow, then parks like Conneaut and LeSourdsville would be hotspots full of park going fun seekers and they'd be rolling in the dough, expanding and thriving. One of those parks is gone forever and the other needs donations and loans to stay alive.

Granted, this is an incredibly simplified point of view. There are a gazillion factors that go into the overall equation of why parks do the business that they do. But on the surface, there is no evidence (other than the budget minded approach of enthusiasts who visit parks all over the country every year) that says running a park with high prices forces people away.

If anything the numbers say just the opposite. Parks with these prices are the ones able to constantly expand, add new things to their line-ups and continue to draw guests at a ridiculous rate.

*** Edited 6/28/2006 1:37:52 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Well I honestly even though I probably am, Don't consider myself a enthusiast and particuarly not a coaster enthusiast.

At best I make one mulit park trip per year and this year I've done HWN, SFKK, Doing HW again next monday and strickers next tuesday and maybe i'll hit kennywood and IB before the season ends. No post season for me, I work weekends. I might even hit dollywood if my weight loss continues, I have to get that Thunderhead credit for my enthuisast factor to have any merit :)

Im just saying, I can have fun at the biggies, I can enjoy the small parks as well, Get a bunch of crazys on a dodgem, whip, flying scooters and Im having the time of my life no matter what park.

I don't see lines of people at them pop machines paying three dollars or even three fifty, Sure they sell or they wouldn't be there. But I sure don't see a majority of people walking with a drink in hand like I do at the afordable parks.

BTW CP lady, Im sure you would have enjoyed Old Mill much better the old way, Sure there wasn't much too it but it wasn't garfield shoved down your throat while the rest of the rides charm isn't enjoyed.

Acoustic Viscosity's avatar
I've heard my non-coaster friends comment frequently about how outrageous the food prices are. Whenever I've gone to parks with them, they pack lunches and don't buy anything in the park.

I agree a bit with Gonch's view though. When I used to go on family vacations as a kid, my dad would always say to get whatever we wanted. "We're on vacation. Don't worry about the money." So for families that can afford an expensive trip, they might have that attitude. But some families, such as one of my best friends' are large (8 kids) and have commented to me, "How do families afford to go to these places?" This family in particular has NEVER gone to a park for a family outing/trip. Certain members of the family have gone for church outings and trips with me, but as a family, they can't afford a big theme park.

AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf

Lord Gonchar's avatar
And that's the other half of the point I try to argue, Matt.

If it's too much, it's too much. It goes hand in hand with the "prices are what they are" thing.

Take that family of 8 you talk about. Going to a park is just too expensive. They don't look around for an alternative park with lower pricing and then travel there, they just know that a day at the park is out of their range.

Again, I think that's pretty much standard behavior. Enthusiasts (whether park enthusiasts or coaster enthusiasts) travel for their hobby. I'm guessing casual park visitors don't. I've said many times that I think the general population 'stays local' when it comes to park visits (shy of that big Orlando vacation :) )

And I'm also not saying that people don't budget for even a single day at the park, but when Matt's dad said, "Get whatever you want," it was because he knew the price of going to the park and had prepared accordingly.

I guess I'm arguing that I don't think people comparison shop for their day trip to the park. They either accept the way things are and do it or they know it's not worth it to them and they do something else.

People aren't (with the exception of Chuck ;) ) traveling to and fro looking for the best park value for their dollar. I don't think the small parks have that kind of pulling power.

Sure, an enthusiast might appreciate the woodies and the charm, but I'm also guessing that the casual park visitor sees a place with 11 big steelies as the better value. Which is the even more ironic side of the whole thing - I'd even say the parks that do have the ability to draw people from any sort of distance are the big chain parks that have the high prices or the destination parks that have even higher prices.

I see Gonch's point but The majority of moms at my work say they don't visit PKI anymore because they can't afford it. They'll take em to Coney or even Holiday world but won't step foot inside PKI. Some do get their kids passes for christmas or what not but as far as going as a family even the so called family park is only getting a small percentage of what is out there to be had.

Sure, If your trip is for SFOG or its a stop on your vacation, I can see a family splurging, Question is will they come back?

rollergator's avatar
I get to "stay local" AND have my Orlando vacation, so nyah! ;)

bill, desperately looking for flights OUT of Florida...but it's not the high PRICES driving me away, LOL...:)

Seriously though, many people who used to be able to (barely) afford a day at the park can no longer do so and that's a shame. By the same token, I guess SFI could no longer afford to have them there... :-/

*** Edited 6/28/2006 3:07:48 AM UTC by rollergator***

Lord Gonchar's avatar
Oh, I don't doubt that one bit, Chuck. Coney is still technically local. Comparison shopping is certainly a factor in markets where there is more than one 'local' park. (and 'local' is open to debate, I suppose)

Seriously though, many people who used to be able to (barely) afford a day at the park can no longer do so and that's a shame. By the same token, I guess SFI could no longer afford to have them there...

I hate the way you're so good at saying something that is earnest, makes a good observation, is twistedly humorous and succinct all at the same time. :)

*** Edited 6/28/2006 3:15:05 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

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