Planning Western PA coaster trip... need help!

Thursday, September 18, 2003 6:56 AM
To prove that its never too early to start thinking about next season's first coaster trip, I am trying to gather information about parks in Western PA for a spring trip next year (I live in northern NJ). I pretty much know all of the "hard statistics" on the parks out there, I just need advice from some people on what the crowds are like, what traffic is like, what hotels are good and what ones need to be avoided... stuff like that.

This is what I would LIKE to do:

Williams Grove- never been, heard its run-down but still has two decent coasters... would probably stop by for a couple of hours and move on

Idlewild- heard its beautiful but primariy a kiddie park... again, I would guess its good for a few hours, a place to stop by before moving on

Kennywood- been there many years ago, but not since Exterminator and PR... whole day, right?

Conneaut- if it opens, probably a few hours, as its fairly close to Waldameer?

Waldameer- another "few hours" park? Any word on whether or not they're having success with the new wooden coaster for 2004?

Lakemont- looks like a half-day park, maybe on the way back to NJ.

Anyone have any info on these parks that they are willing to share? I'm just gathering ideas and advice right now...

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:08 AM
I've been to all of the parks except Waldameer. I don't know about their new coaster, but that they've been getting it for years now. All of the parks are small parks except Kennywood, which isn't a bad park. Williams Grove, though is pretty much a waste of time and extremely dirty. Conneaut doesn't have much but the Blue Streak is an excellent coaster. Make sure you go to Lakemont and ride the Leap the Dips. As for hotels, there's not that many around, but each of these parks are a couple of hours apart, so I don't know where you would want to stay.
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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:19 AM
I don't know... I was thinking about a 3 or 4 day trip. The first day, I would drive out from NJ, maybe stop at Williams Grove and Idlewild and spend the night somewhere, do Kennywood the next day and spend the night somewhere, hit Waldameer and Conenaut the next day, spend the night somewhere, and then drive back and hit Lakemont on the final day.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:31 AM
Williamsgrove: calling it run-down is giving this park credit. It's 20 minutes from where I live, and unless they get a new coaster (as they did with Wildcat recently), I don't really plan on returning. Crowds can be light to heavy (if you are there during a company picnic). Closed Monday's. Best bet for Hotels would be in the Harrisburg or Carisle areas as there isn't really all that much near Williamsgrove. A few hours is all you need.

Lakemont: A few hours is all you need on a weekend (would imagine even less crowded during the week). Lots of unique (or at least hard to find anymore) flats... love that Octopus ride.

Idlewild: Again, a few hours is all that you will probably need... unless you have little kids... then plan longer. Unusual Schmeck coaster in Rollo Coaster.

For what it is worth, last summer I drove from York PA (near Harrisburg) to Idlewild (spent two hours) then to Lakemont (2 hr visit... only for the coasters as I was there for the flats two years earlier) and then a few hours at DelGrosso's just up the road and home... 6am to 8pm trip on a staturday.

Kennywood: Enough is said on this by others. All I will add is... plan on an all day visit. While some can do it in a few hours (coasters only), in two visits I couldn't get away with anything less than 7 hours. As for Hotels: I think it is Monroesville (just east of Pittsburg)... we stayed at a pretty nice Hampton Inn (with an Outback attached to it that doubled as Room Service).

Conneaut Lake: A few hours (if during the week and if it is actually open). We were there for 3 or 4 hours... took our time... did alot of the flats... and 11 rides on Blue Streak.

Waldamere: Again, a few hours are all that are needed if you don't do the water park. Even with only 1 coaster (Comet, a Schmeck Junior), I can't complain about this park (1 Shmeck coaster, 1 dark ride, 1 dark walk through, 1 log flume).

Conneaut Lake and Waldamere could both easily be done in one day. My wife and I drove from Erie to Astabula OH (to see the light house), then back to Erie (visiting Presque Isle Light), visited Waldamere and then Conneaut Lake, and then drove to Monroesville (for Kennywood) in one day with more than enough time at Waldamere and Conneaut Lake.

If travelling the PA turnpike between Breezewood and Carlisle, don't forget to look around for signs of the old abandoned turnpike.

Were I doing this trip from Northern NJ, I would follow the following route:

Day 1: Drive from NJ to Williamsgrove using I78, I81, US 15 as your major routes. Spend a few hours at Williamsgrove, and then drive the rest of the way to Erie (either by the Turnpike to I79, or by US15 to US322 to I80 to I79.

Day 2: A few hours at Waldamere, then down I79 to Conneaut Lake and a few hours there, then continue down I79 to the Pittsburgh area

Day 3: Kennywood

Day 4: US 30 from the Pittsburgh area to Idlewild. Spend a few hours at Idlewild. Then to Lakemont (I forget the route number, but it goes from Ligonier PA to Johnstown PA, and then US22 into Altoona and Lakemont. Spend a few hours at Lakemont. Then I99 to US 322 to I81 to I78 and back to northern NJ.

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Half of the people surveyed agree, half disagree and another half are unsure.
*** This post was edited by SLFAKE 9/18/2003 11:39:37 AM ***

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:37 AM
If you're going to Lakemont, why not also hit Delgrosso's?

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Sue Barry
CoasterSue@aol.com

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:55 AM
Rob - here are my thoughts...

Williams Grove - My only attempt to visit the park failed in finding it open [it was a Friday in mid-June]. I have a friend in NYC who's attempted to visit three times but has only been successful once. But I can't fathom that more than a few hours is needed there. BTW, make sure you have a good map and use the direction on their website only as a guide, not your only resource.

Idlewild - It is *huge* and beautiful park and is primarily a family/kiddie park. That being said I totally enjoyed the half day I spent there in 2001. Storybook Land is like walking into a time machine and worth a walk. This is the perfect park to have a nice, relaxing day at walking around, taking in the sights, riding a few rides. Other than the coasters don't miss the Catepillar and the unique Huss [or is it Schwarzkopf?] Trinado. Also, if you plan on doing Mr. Rogers Trolley do that first...lines get VERY long.

Kennywood - yes, entire day, heck...I spent two and was never bored. 'Nuf said.

Conneaut/Waldameer - I'm combining these because I have a suggestion, based on a trip I did in 2001. I assume you're visiting Kennywood the day before, then driving north? [That's what we did.] I suggest you hit Waldameer at opening and spend a few hours there, then do back south to Conneaut for the evening. I highly recommend their "Steak on the Lake" dinner at the historic Conneaut Hotel.

As for the two parks, Waldameer has two great dark attractions [one ride, one walk-thru] a good flume, and the views atop the ferris wheel are awesome; Conneaut has the best Tumble Bug in operation and is a very quirky park in nature [and I mean that in a good way].

Lakemont - on that same trip in 2001 I did Idlewild, Lakemont, and Del Grosso's easily in the same day. Start with Idlewild opening until 3-ish, then after a hit-and-run credit whore stop at Del Grosso's drive back to Altoona and finish the night at Lakemont.

If you need any other tips email me...I'll be happy to help ;)

mOOSH

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 7:58 AM
You beat me to it Sue, I was going to say the same thing.

I would leave a full day for Kennywood. If you can't leave a full day for KW, I would go to Idlewild in the morning and KW later in the day. Idlewild closes earlier than KW. Waldameer and Conneaut can be done in one day. Lakemont and DelGrosso's could be done in one day. Never been to Williams Grove, but from what I've heard, a couple hours should be sufficient.

Living in the area, I've never had to stay at a hotel. There is a Holiday Inn in Monroeville that ACE uses for events at KW.

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 8:02 AM
Sue: I was thinking of Delgrosso's but didn't know where it was... I gather that its fairly close to Lakemont, and I guess it won't be too hard to squeeze in. I know that they had mentioned a wooden coaster a few years ago, but I guess that isn't happening, at least for 2004. Oh well...

SLFAKE: Thank you VERY much for all of the advice. You got me even more excited about the idea of this trip, and that's saying a lot. Aside from one day at Kennywood (back in '94 or '95, I believe), I have never been out to western PA, and considering the fact that I love traditional parks and wooden coasters, I know that I should get myself out there (especially if Conneaut disappears in the future.)

You pretty much planned the trip as I would have, with a few exceptions:

I had always thought that Waldameer and Conneaut were north of Kennywood... are you suggesting that I travel up north to those parks on the second day, and then drive back down south for Kennywood on the third? Or does it not matter? The only reason I ask is because this would most likely be a T-F-S-S (four day weekend) trip, and I would assume that Kennywood would be better on a Friday than a Saturday? Or does Kennywood get crowded, regardless?

Sue reminded me of Delgrosso's, which I gather is close to Lakemont. You sugguested that I hit Idlewild on the way home... should I perhaps hit Idlewild on the first day or the Waldameer/Conneaut day so that I can hit Delgrossos and Lakemont on the way back to NJ?

This sounds like a lot of driving, which is no problem for me, as I love to drive. Plus I'll have my friend with me to keep me awake (she'll probably have no desire to drive but will occupy me with conversation during the long stretches of open road). Definitely more economical than flying somewhere (have to save that for the summer.) It would be cool to check out the abandoned turnpike, which, ironically, had nothing to do with me thinking about this trip :)

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 8:09 AM
well for the second half of the trip, i would do kennywood one day, then conneaut and waldameer the next as they are all right off 79.

/ --------------------------------------
http://www.eightdotthree.net

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 8:11 AM
Yes, Lakemont and Delgrosso's are very close. Maybe about 12 miles or so?

Delgrosso's Zyklon is great, especially in the back seat! They also serve some of the best park pizza I've ever had. Although I don't eat potato salad, I know they're famous for that as well.

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Sue Barry
CoasterSue@aol.com

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 8:16 AM
mOOSH- Thank you for your detailed advice as well... you must have responded while I was responding to Sue and SLFAKE. I will definitely e-mail you when it comes time to plan this next year (I'll wait to see all the park hours as well as see if Conneaut is even going to open!). The Steak on the Lake dinner sounds good to me!

I would definitely save 1 whole day for Kennywood, as that is going to be the main reason for the trip. I remember the place being beautiful, and with PR and Exterminator, I can only imagine it being even better now.

With Delgrossos being so close to Lakemont, how could I pass it by? For some reason, I always thought that it was closer to me (in Eastern PA).

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 8:22 AM
Waldamere is in the north west corner of the state in Erie, Pittsburgh (kennywood) is not quite in the corner, but it is in the south west section of the state. Draw a line between the two and you have basically I79. Conneaut Lake sits about a quarter of the way down on I79. As for Delgrosso's and Lakemont... about 10 miles apart.

It doesn't really matter in what order you it the parks... just keep in mind that because of geography some parks are easy to group together... Waldamere/Conneaut... Kennywood... Idlewild/Lakemont/DelGrosso's... Williamsgrove.

My earlier suggestion would take you in a big counter clockwise circle around the state.

Basically you would be traveling like this... NJ west to Williamsgrove then northwest to Waldamere then south to Conneaut Lake then south to Kennywood then east to Idlewild and Lakemont (and DelGrosso's) then east back to NJ.

I wasn't sure of the days you were considering . Since your days 1 and 2 are Thrusday and Friday, I would make the adjustment as you said...

Day 1 (T): NJ to Delgrosso's/Lakemont/Idlewild

Day 2 (F): Kennywood

Day 3 (Sat): Conneaut Lake and Waldamere

Day 4 (Sun): Williamsgrove and back to NJ
*** This post was edited by SLFAKE 9/18/2003 12:23:38 PM ***

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Thursday, September 18, 2003 9:46 AM
I was just kicking around the idea of a T-F-S-S trip, although it could just as easily be a S-S-M-T one, so Kennywood could fall on the third day. I was just wondering if there was a reason why you originally suggested that I hit the Waldameer/Conneaut combo before Kennywood, or if it was merely out of driving convenience. I assume that Kennywood is best avoided on a weekend if at all possible?

I appreciate all of your help, you've helped me answer a lot of questions that would have taken me much longer to answer had I researched elsewhere. When we go, I'll be sure to post my experiences!

But enough about that... right now, PPP and a trip to Orlando is coming up in October :)

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Friday, September 19, 2003 6:34 AM
I would hit Williams Grove on the way out there. It is relatively close to the other three parks in the sense that is in the southern part of the state. Hitting all four of those parks before you even get to Kennywood would probably be better. Then you can go up 79, get the other two parks, and going back on 80 might be better than traveling the dreaded turnpike, plus less back-tracking. Maybe even hitting Knoebel's on the way back might be an idea since you'd be in the northern part of the state. By the way, you don't have to drive all the way out to Monroeville to stay at a hotel for Kennywood. There are several hotels about a ten minute drive from Kennywood in West Mifflin. I could even give you exact directions if you want them...
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Friday, September 19, 2003 8:06 AM
Williams Grove is pretty close to Hershey, correct? (I don't have my trusty atlas in from of me)

I was actually thinking of hitting Knoebels on the way back, but I usually get there once a year (in addition to the PPP, of course), and if it means adding another day to the trip, I'll pass and instead just drive out there on a Saturday. Then again, if there are a few hours to spare as we pass by the exit on Route 80, then I may reconsider getting home early :)

Are the hotels around Kennywood decent? I'm not looking for four-star, valet-parking places, but I would rather spend a few more $$$ a night for something respectable. I'd love directions... the more I can plan now, the less I have to plan later on!

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Friday, September 19, 2003 8:11 AM
Yes, Williams Grove is not very far from Hersheypark.

Not much for me to add, as everyone has pretty much covered everything. This is a good trip, not too different from one I have planned next year with some friends, spending a week or so hitting all the parks in PA. Have fun!

dt

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Friday, September 19, 2003 8:16 AM
I would assume that you're also hitting the "other" big ones that I'm avoiding because they are single-day trips for me- Knoebels, Hershey and Dorney?

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Friday, September 19, 2003 9:06 AM
I guess if you're really pressed for time and/or not much of a "full park experience" person you could do Idlewild in a few hours.

Personally, I find Idlewild requires a full day. It is a pretty large park and while it doesn't offer a lot of big, extreme rides, it does offer a wide range of activities. The park is simply amazing and I found myself strolling around just taking it all in. It stays open quite late too. I remember leaving at 10 and the place was still hopping without any signs of closing (I believe the posted closing time is 9pm). If you're at all interested in Storybook Forest, go there first. It opens before the rest of the park and closes early. There's a great collection of classic flats and be sure to visit the kiddie section and hop on the adult handcars (something I need to get for the backyard).

I also found myself spending a full day at Conneaut. The rides themselves can be experienced in a a few hours but there is much more to the Conneaut experience then rides. I arrived at the park late at night just as the park was closing up. I got an ice cream and wandered around the park as they shut the rides down. The park isn't fenced so can wander through at will. I stayed that night at the Hotel Conneaut which was a great experience. There aren't a lot of places like that left. Got up the next morning and enjoyed an extensive breakfast buffet at Steak-on-the-Lake and then wandered down the boardwalk, took a walk on the beach and strolled through the park and watched it come to life. Rides open at noon. The tumblebug was closed this year (I heard it needs $25,000 in repairs). Wouldn't count on it for next year as the park is really strapped for cash.

I'm a pretty hard core traditional park enthusiast and I find it hard to cut visits to these types of places short. Somebody a little less crazy then me might be able to do it.

Lakemont and Delgrosso's can easily be done in the same day. Go to Delgrosso's first as I think they open earlier. Stay for lunch - some of the best tasting and best value park food around. It is a beautiful little park with a pretty standard collection of traditional flats. Don't miss the Space Odyssey - it's an indoor caterpillar (which I heard was purchased from Lakemont in the 1970's). They also have a fantastic carousel

Oh, and while not a "western Pa park" The little known Bushkill Park is well worth a visit as well. No coaster to be found but you will be in a veritable time capsule of amusement park history.

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Ripple Rock Amusement Park

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Friday, September 19, 2003 9:37 AM
I'm not usually a "get in, ride, and get out" kind of person... I much prefer to take in everything that a park has to offer and appreciate all the little details and nuances. My problem is, I am trying to squeeze everything into a few days (gotta save some money and paid vacation days for other trips next year), and the only way for us to hit 6 or 7 parks in a few days is by spending a few hours at the smaller ones. Not exactly the way I would do it if time and money weren't issues, but, as with most things in this world, they are. The only park I am saving an entire day for is Kennywood because I remember it having a lot of rides, including quite a few that we'll want multiple rides on.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Friday, September 19, 2003 9:43 AM

Rob Ascough said:
Are the hotels around Kennywood decent? I'm not looking for four-star, valet-parking places, but I would rather spend a few more $$$ a night for something respectable. I'd love directions... the more I can plan now, the less I have to plan later on!

Good thinking. The closest hotel is probably this Holiday Inn. As a local I've never actually stayed there, though.

Outside of that, your possibilities actually open up -- once you're driving ANYWAY, you may as well look around a bit. Look for hotels in "Monroeville" (on Route 22 -- Radisson, Red Roof, and a number of others) or "West Mifflin" (on Lebanon Church Road -- Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, and Springhill Suites, if I'm remembering correctly) to start. There are some nice B&B's inside of Pittsburgh itself, and some nice hotels downtown or in Station Square (a Sheraton)

Once you narrow down where you might be staying, talk to some of us locals for directions to the park. :)

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--Greg, aka Oat Boy
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