Knoebels, Elysburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Hello everyone! I can't believe it's been so many years since I've made a trip report here. Anyway, I'm doing well and just moved back to PA after living in NY the past couple of years. On Friday I was craving Knoebels food and a Phoenix ride, so I made the solo drive to the park for lunch. This was my first visit to Knoebels since April 2015 when Impulse opened... that is just too much time to spend away from Knoebels. Driving into the park, past kiddyland, the whip, and under the skyride almost made me cry tears of happiness. Oh how I've miss you, Knoebels!
The parking lot was only about 25% full, not quite back to the 2nd tram station... pretty dead for a Friday in July, but that was to be expected. Everyone was wearing masks, and there was a very good presence of security guards around the park, much moreso than I ever remembered there being in the past. I only once saw security have to remind a guest to put their mask on, and they did it very politely and respectfully.
I was most excited to reride Phoenix, the #1 ranked wooden coaster in the world. Knoebels did a lot of work on the station and queue since I saw it last. The entrance was moved much further to the right, like only a few feet away from the bathrooms between Phoenix and The Flume. Inside the entrance is now a small queue maze that can hold a hundred or so (or a dozen if socially distanced) people. I wondered why the ramp that goes up to the station next to the tunnel was so narrow, and then I saw the new automatic gates and green railing in the station. Also, it looked like they are working on making a fancy new sign on the top front of the station. It's green, yellow, and orange and has a "Flying Turns" type look to it. It wasn't finished, the center part where the name Phoenix will likely be was empty. I took a picture, so I'll try to get a picture of it online when I can. Now the ride... epic as always. I waited about 15 minutes because it was single train operation and obviously only every other row was being used. I rode in row 6 which provided nice floater air on the turnaround hills, and beautiful ejector air on the out and backs. I think they retracked and/or slightly reprofiled the double up/double down since I've ridden it last, because it was very smooth. Overall, what an amazing ride. It's definitely deserving of all it's awards, so well maintained, so classic, so much airtime.
I got lunch at the international food court, which was quite busy. I can't ever pass up a Polish platter with kielbasa, halushki, and potato pancakes. So good! Knoebels also deserves every award they have won for their food. Quick, very affordable, great selection, and great quality and portions.
After eating I had a walk-on at Black Diamond. In fact, I was the only person on the ride. Since it's so hidden behind the international food court, I wonder if people don't even know it's there? This was only my second time I believe riding it. I can't believe how much theming they pack into the building and how long the ride is. It isn't too scary, but had a few jumpy/startling gimmicks that made me flinch a bit. I also loved the part where there is a projected image of a ghost miner(?) who's warning you to get out of the mine, a neat modern touch inside of a nostalgic ride. I'd like to ride it in the very back instead of the front next time. Some of the scenes and props didn't move or activate until the train was already partly past them. Very cool ride. And like with Phoenix, I'm very thankful Knoebels relocated and preserved this gem (err, nugget, coal lump?)
With the other dark ride being just a short walk away, I made my way to the Haunted Mansion. No wait, walked right on. I can't explain how much I love this haunted house ride. It's just so well maintained and has so much attention paid to every little detail. I also noticed a lot of new 'things' inside that I hadn't seen before. I won't explain them because I don't want to ruin it! I will say though, the timing of all the scares seemed perfect. (That dang green snake/lizard/monster thing that jumps out of the clock still makes me jump and yell!) Whoever is the current caretaker of the house is doing a fantastic job. Just as I mentioned with Phoenix, and Knoebel's food, Haunted Mansion also deserves every award it's ever won. This ride scared the crap out of me as a kid, and it still does as an adult!
Then I grabbed a slice of sicilian pizza at the #1 food stand, Ceasari's Pizza. So gooey, thick, delicious, well deserving of it's awards. I walked around the park for awhile then, just taking in all the sights and sounds. Unfortunately a lot of rides and stands are closed, but overall I admire Knoebels for getting the park open safely, even if only half the rides are open. Closed rides that I can remember were Impulse, Italian Trapeze, Satellite, Balloon Race, Downdraft, Power Surge, Fandango, the other flat ride by Fandango, Tumbling Timbers, Roundup, Flying Turns, and a bunch of kiddy rides.
I got a lap on Twister after about a 15 minute wait. This ride is aging very well. Knoebels has retracked the entrance to the helix and believe most of the first and second hills. It's not smooth, but it's not rough. It's an amazing out-of-control feeling. It definitely is running faster than I remember. Two nice pops of airtime that I hadn't felt before were on the hill after the 2nd helix, and the hills buried in the structure before the tunnel. After the train exited the tunnel at the end of the ride and made the turn into the breaks, it seemed like we were absolutely hauling butt. Also the banked turn to the right under the 2nd hill was crazy positive Gs! Twister was always one of my favorites, but I think it might be starting to work it's way back up my wood coaster rankings. (Still not ahead of Phoenix or El Toro though!) I noticed too they put a big steel support column in the middle of the turn after the main lift hill. I wonder if the lateral forces of the train before the first drop were becoming too much for the original structure?
I was going to ride the Skooter Bumper cars before leaving, but they were closed for disinfecting. I assume they do this every so many cycles so they can clean the steering wheels, seats and belts. So I went into the playland arcade and blew some money playing a few games. After I left the arcade I went to check in at Skooters again, which had just reopened, but the line was spilling out of the queue, so I passed. I was tired and hot, and just grabbed an ice tea slushy at the stand by the Italian Trapeze and then left.
I was there only about 2 hours, but I was honestly just glad to be able to go and see Knoebels again. Wearing a mask was no problem. While it was hot and not exactly super comfortable to wear outside, it didn't bother me, nor did it seem to bother anyone else too much. Also Knoebels staff are very well trained to clean. While at the International food court I saw workers literally watching tables and wiping them down after anyone left them. Same also at some food stands and ride, I saw workers wiping railings, counters, etc. regularly.
This was just a solo trip, later this year I'd like to return and get an all-day ride pass if Impulse and Flying Turns do reopen. Knoebels is so charming. I'm so fortunate to live so close to it once again. If you've never been to Knoebels, but you keep seeing and hearing of all it's awards, come see why. You won't be disappointed!
(I also plan to visit SFGAdv and/or Hershey later this summer. TRs to follow).
Awesome report. I'm missing coasters and parks so much this year, hopefully Phoenix Phall Phunfest is still happening this year, as I'm planning on going! I appreciate your praise of Twister; it often rates higher on my list than Phoenix, but it's a close margin. Whichever is running smoother takes the cake for me.
Twister has one of the most custom structures if you get close and examine it. With my background in engineering, it's fascinating to get close and look at all the extra micro-structures and supports they have in that structure. Makes me think the other wood coasters companies need to examine that, and meet with the guy who designed Twister, John Fetterman. For what that ride does, it runs very well!
Sounds like Knoebels really have their covid operations down, and with out much trouble. Very nice!
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