TR: Kennywood, 07-21-02

Associated parks:

I had promised my youngest son Cray, who is now 10 years old, that just he and I would be making a trip to Kennywood. Just Cray and dad as I'd done with his older brother a couple of times before, with the last time being about three or four years ago. I'd been promising this to Cray ever since my oldest son's last trip. I had told Cray that he needed to be 52 inches tall (to ride Thunderbolt) and that didn't happen until last year. Didn't make it last year but upon hearing about the 75th birthday party for the Turtle and Racer and $7.50 ACE discount (thanks Sarah W. and Scott and Carol). I decided on spur of the moment (5:40 a.m. on 7-21) to make the trip up and finally keep my promise to Cray.

Cray and I left our Eastern Kentucky home at 6:30 a.m. and drove the beautiful I-64 to I-79 up through the wonderful state of West Virginia. From Charleston W.V. to the Pennsylvania border, you've got continuous S curves all of the way. I pointed this out to Cray by saying while driving through the S curves "Tuuuuurn Riiight, Tuuuurn Leeeeeft, Tuuuuurn Riiight, Tuuuurn Leeeeeft, Tuuuuurn Riiight, Tuuuurn Leeeeeft, Tuuuuurn Riiight, Tuuuurn Leeeeeft. After a few miles Crayton politely asked me to stop this as it was really getting on his nerves. (I'm guessing reader's, your thinking...I know what he meant by that request) LOL

Prior to arriving at the entrance of the Fort Pitt Tunnel I told Cray that he was going to see something spectacular soon. While in the tunnel I gave into Crayton's pleading requests to blow my horn while driving through it. (I could almost hear, "Look at those Yokel's from Kentucky", being spoken in the PA. tagged cars that were passing us as I was blowing the horn while holding the right lane to make the ramp onto the Parkway 376 East.) Cray's eyes lit up as we exited the tunnel to the beautiful skyline of Pittsburgh. I've read somewhere that this has been rated as the most spectacular entrance into a US city. I told Cray to look to the left to see if he could see the new Pirates Stadium (Heinz Field) and he immediately said, "There it is daddy".

Made the ramp and headed to exit 7, didn’t this used to be exit 9? Blew our horn again in the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. This seemed to really make Crayton happy. I did notice that Pennsylvania has changed there Interstate Exit numbers to match the actual mile markers instead of chronologically numbered since the last time I was in the state. I like this change as it somehow makes me feel more at home (KY's always did it this way and to me its very helpful in gauging how far away you are from where your going, especially in a strange place).

Cray was in a stroller the last (and only) time he was at Kennywood. He would have been two or three years old. About the only thing he remembered about the park was Kenny Kangaroo. We've got video of that trip that Kenny was very nice to our family on that visit. Cray was upset upon hearing that Kenny had been replaced by Garfield (Is this still so, didn't see any costumed characters this day?). Crossing the Rankin Bridge, I pointed out the Phantom to Cray to the left. Upon arriving at the Park, I discovered that the paid parking area was quite a bit larger than during my last visit 3 or 4 years ago. We opted for the free parking on the near lower side. I had read that Kennywood was allowing only one $7.50 admission per ACE membership card so I was hoping that Cray would weigh 75 lb. He weighed 72 lb. the last time he tried to "Fool the Guesser" out at Adventureland (Iowa) a couple of months ago. Upon arriving at the ticket booth I asked if an ACE family membership allowed both of us to get RAD for $7.50. The nice gal asked a nicer gal this question and she said, "sure, why not." I was a little apprehensive upon going through the electronic security. This is due to the fact that on our last trip to Kennywood I was in fear of being arrested due to an overzealous, young staffer who was adamant that I had a weapon hidden somewhere. This was due to the fact that the dad blasted thing kept going off everytime I went through it. She had called for additional security and everything. Well, it went a lot better this time. All of the front gate personnel were very pleasant and helpful. Had no problems with any Kennywood staff. Ride ops were efficient and while no one was overly pleasant (Holiday World/Dollywood like) they were professional and non-intrusive.

A little history.

I had viewed Kennywood Memories on our local PBS station the winter prior to Crayton's only previous visit to Kennywood. I had been blown away by the fact that a park still existed with three coasters from the 1920's. We (I) had planned our summer vacation (1994?) around a trip to Kennywood. I hadn't been sure what to expect. I didn't know if the park would live up to the expectations that I had been given by the film. A lot of the footage had been really old and I feared that this might have turned out to be a park that had fallen into disrepair. I hadn't a clue as to the existence of Steel Phantom. Heck, We'd never even heard of Kennywood prior to having seen this film. Prior to Kennywood, I'd only been to our home parks, Kings Island and Camden Park. I'd always liked parks and rides but weren’t an enthusiast by any means.

My first Kennywood visit changed all of that. I was in heaven during that first visit. Not just the rides, but the entire park. The smells, the food, the landscaping, the history. That visit awoke in myself a love of Amusement Parks that has grown each year since. I now pretty much view all parks by using Kennywood as the benchmark. I know that this isn't fair to other parks but I'm always looking for other ones that make me feel like Kennywood did that first visit back in 1994. I have succeeded, at this though. Parks like Indiana Beach, Adventureland (Iowa) and Knoebel's have that Kennywood magical feel to them.

Back to the TR.

Cray and I made our way through the tunnel at 12:20. This was a Sunday and I had to be at work at 8:00 a.m. the next day. Unfortunately, this had kind of given me a rushed feeling on the drive all the way up to Kennywood. That rushed feeling left after exiting the tunnel for some reason.

I had always told Cray, upon promising to take him to Kennywood, that "We'll go to Kennywood and ride the Jackrabbit." Well, the line was the shortest I'd ever seen it on my three previous visits to this park and we got in line. Got seat 1.2 and was absolutely stood up going down the double dip. Cray screamed with delight with this ride. We ended up riding this coaster the most of all rides throughout the day. I absolutely love the Jackrabbit. It's the funnest coaster; I've ever been on.

We went on over to Racer. They were still giving out pieces of cake from the 12:00 p.m. birthday party for this ride. The queues were full for this ride and they only had two trains running so we opted to return latter. We did return later and got one ride on the Racer. I feel that this ride is vastly underrated as it gives some good pops of air and like the Jackrabbit, is very fun to ride.

We rode Goldrusher and the spider that came down from the ceiling sincerely frightened Cray. Noah's Ark was a short wait. Was disappointed that the final water stunt wasn't working on our trip through. Was surprised that the crowd on this day wasn't large. It was really hot, 90's all day, and I suspect that many locals had opted for Sandcastle or just to stay inside under the air conditioner. I had forgotten how fast the cars were on the Auto Race. I love this ride. It's beautiful and a one of a kind. Harry Traver's lives on at Kennywood. Crayton loved Thunderbolt. He got in first so as not to be crushed under the weight of size 2Xlarge dad during the lateral G's.

Ventured into Lost Kennywood. The absence of the pavilion over the Whip ride loomed as a sad reminder of the tragedy that had occurred earlier this season. Got into line for the Exterminator. This ride was built the year after mine and my oldest sons last visit to Kennywood. I knew that this was a "spinning" mouse ride and was just a little worried about riding, as I had some problems with motion sickness on spinning rides. This turned out to be the longest line of the day (45 minutes). This wait was made shorter by talking with an enthusiast from Lancaster (Pa.) I thought it was interesting that he'd never been to Dutch Wonderland. He'd been about everywhere else, however, and it was enjoyable talking with him. My biggest surprise of this visit was how much I enjoyed Exterminator. It has much wider cars than a typical mouse. Really liked the theming and the Rat cars. I even liked the spinning effect and it was not enough to kick in my motion sickness.

I was happy that the first two drops were kept on the Phantom upon deciding to change it. It doesn't look nearly as intimidating to me as it did back in 1994. Steel Phantom had been the first megacoaster I'd ever seen and ridden. Let me tell you what, though, that 2nd drop is still as wicked as ever. The new section seems a little short with the elements coming too abrupt to allow the kind of negative G's I like, the floating kind. You get air but the transitions are so quick that you are slammed down, HARD, back into your seat. I do like the new Phantom much better than the old one though.

Cray and I ate corndogs, hamburgers, fries and watched the basketball-spinning guy. (2 shows as Crayton just had to see him spin 10 basketballs at the 5:30 show). We watched one of two musical shows.

We rode the Carousel, Kangaroo (another one of a kind) which I laughed like a 10-year-old every time we came off the ramp. We rode the Turtle and the train. Crayton wanted to know how they knew that was George Washington's bullet in the tree with the white paint circle around it. (Anybody got an answer for that one? LOL)

Met an enthusiast VACOASTERRIDER on the first day of his coaster trip in line for the Old Mill. Enjoyed talking with him about the parks he was going to attend, which were the Ohio parks. I kind of felt bad about mentioning gratitude for Kennywood allowing ACERS the discounted admission for this day, as he hadn't known this.

Kennywood has great souvenir shops. We ended up buying Kennywood bears, I've got an Amusement Park bear tree at my office, Kennywood Arrow hat pins, a wooden Kennywood Arrow Sign in miniature and Kennywood tee's. Kennywoods shops are much better than any others I've been to this summer, except Indiana Beach's, which I'd rate as equal.

Cray and I ended up leaving Kennywood at 6:30 p.m. The smaller than expected crowds had allowed us to have a full day of riding in a short amount of time (6 hours). My only regret is not seeing the park at night (this time) but that will give us reason to make a quicker return to the park. (Three years away from Kennywood is much too long) Maybe the whole family can return for the first fall event at Kennywood later on this year.

Took the detour through the Liberty Tunnel on the way out of Pittsburgh. That was my first time through that one. Does Pittsburgh have more tunnels than the three we went through today? I'm thinking we probably did them all. Couldn't find the Eat'n'Park in Clarksburg/Fairmont/Weston? WV that we'd ate at before. Crayton wanted BIG BOY but the only one we saw, in Washington, Pa. was too early to eat at. Ended up making a Subway 10 minutes before closing (9:50 p.m.) somewhere between Morgantown and Charleston WV.

Got home at 12:50 a.m. This was much earlier than I had actually expected to get home and it allowed me to return to work seven hours later, relaxed and contented after a wonderful day at the greatest place no one in my hometown has ever heard of. Or hadn't heard of until 1994 that is, LOL.


Jackrabbit, A+

Funnest coaster on earth. Why arn't

the double dips copied on other


Racer, A

One of a kind in the U.S. I've often

read or heard that Miller messed this

one up by not properly using the

terrain. Even a John Miller (messed

up coaster) will still out perform

most others anyday. Fun, Fun, Fun!

Thunderbolt, A

Missed riding this one at night.

Great lateral G's still exist.

Phantom's Revenge, B+

Great drops remain, especially

2nd one. Better finish than

the Phantom. Could be


Exterminator, A

This is the best (only) spinning and

indoor mouse I've ever been on. Best

mouse ride since the one at

Idlewild. Surprise of the trip for


Flats, A

The most unique lineup of flats in America.

Food, A

Affordable and of high quality. Corporate

parks should take a lesson from parks like


Gift shops, A

Affordable and great selection and



A top tier park that I

measure other parks by.


Excellent trip report. I am glad you and Cray had such a nice day, younger kids seem to really enjoy Kennywood. Last year I took my nephew and we had a blast; we will be going again in a few weeks.

You hit the three major tunnels in pittsburgh, but there are still a few more small tunnels around.

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kpjb's avatar

Well, Heinz Field is actually the Steelers' stadium, not the Pirates', but then again, who cares.

The only other major tunnels in the area are the Armstrong Tunnels. They're also the oldest of the ones you mentioned, and the only tunnels I know of that have a curve in them.

Kenny Kangaroo wasn't replaced by Garfield & Odie, usually all 3 of them appear at different times throughout the day. Obviously, they come out less often when it's in the 90's.

Glad you had a good time.

"When I was growing up, we were taught something called manners. You'd understand that if you weren't such an idiot." - Jack Handey

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