Tuesday, September 1, 2009

'Making A New Memory' - Part 1

I hope you've enjoyed Sabrina's review of Idlewild Park as much as I have, (and hey I was even there for it!) but if you missed it check out the first part here!

Our crazy adventure provided us a great, albeit brief, visit to Idlewild Park, and from here it was just a short trip on a really windy road to our next destination: Kennywood Park!

I don't like to beat around the bush so let me get this out of the way: I love Kennywood! I really loved Kennywood Park. Sad but true, I was a KW virgin upon arrival at the park and looking back I could kick myself for living in the same state as this place and never going!

Talk about a parking lot view!

We actually got in a preview of the park during the evening hours, a fortuitous event indeed, because that meant night rides on everything! And they were even kind enough to keep the park open until 11 p.m. in our honor! (okay, okay, I know I made that up but let a boy dream...)

Being new to the park, I had no idea that the above admission area sits outside of the main amusement area. My obsession with aerials had me checking out all our parks prior to visiting, and I had to ask Sabrina how we got across that busy looking road! (a tunnel, duh) Not a very big deal, but I really love going to a new park knowing a little as possible - typically I plan these things to death but there's something to be said for having surprise after surprise take place.

The first thing that hits you when entering Kennywood is the atmosphere. It just sorta slams you in the face and screams "this is a traditional amusement park at its best!" and I have to agree. The place is just gorgeous, and I'm pretty sure it should be some sort of shrine for us park nerds.

Now that's a coaster entrance!

I have to pause before moving forward to say a big thank you Kennywood's own Public Relations Manager Jeff Filicko for taking us around the park and letting us chat with him. He was a most gracious host and also a wonderful provider of details... many of which you'll see in this review.

After taking the place in it was time to ride - first up was the Racer. Jeff pointed out that it is now the only single track racing coaster left in the U.S., something that was of much discussion between Sabrina and I the previous night.

It went something like this - Sabrina: "It's the only mobius racer in the Country." Me: "The only what?" Sabrina: "It's really only one continuous track." Me: "But it doesn't cross over itself." Sabina: "It doesn't have to." Me: "Uhhh."

Well after much thought and some research I get it, I really do! But aside from me having a dull moment, the Racer is really a lot of fun.

It was designed by John Miller and opened in 1927, replacing the park's former Racer coaster, which was located where Kiddieland is now. It's not super intense or wild, but it's genuinely a fun ride - and who doesn't love a coaster that you can slap other rider's hands on?

You can't see it easily, but beyond the brush is a massive drop off down to the river

Jeff was also kind enough to escort us to some secret areas (okay it's just behind the Racer) for some shots and information on some land recently purchased by the park. It's behind the Racer and flume ride, and goes all the way down into a deep ravine.

The photo above this one was taken at the red circle

^ Well, here it is. Jeff pointed out that the factory and office buildings down there used to be owned by the railroad, and that they just up and left them with papers and coffee mugs still on the desks. Creepy! How perfect for a Halloween attraction...

Just one drawback: that massive drop off hill. Thinking big ride? Yes, we were too, to that end Jeff had to say this, “If we do use it for a ride there’s just a lot of clearing the land and buildings... there’s a lot of planning left to do.”

If there's a will there's a way, right?

As exciting as those possibilities are, let's get back to riding. Thunderbolt was up next, and it had some of the largest, most frightening spiders in the station that I've ever seen. And the ride itself was just as intense!

Awesome station design - simple but effective

I love how you can tell the difference between the two sections of the ride. The first and last part, in the ravine, is dramatically different than the twisted bowl of track that is the middle section.

Hands up kiddies!

The remnants of the former Pippin coaster, which are the drops into the ravine, are really surprising. The one directly out of the station especially. And I fully understand why they have the bigger person (me) sit on the left side of the train! I would have killed poor Sabrina.

Here it comes, just a droppin' down that drop, singing doo a ditty ditty dum ditty AHHHHHH!

If only I had time to get Phantom's Revenge and Pitt Fall in this shot, too!

The laterals on the Thunderbolt may be sick, but let's not forget that there's some wicked air time on this bad boy as well. I guarantee the butts of the riders in the first two cars above are not on their seats.

The park's Auto Race ride was one of the biggest and best surprises that Kennywood had to offer me. First, I really didn't know it existed. Second, it's awesome. Why? Well, take a look at this:

If only all drivers concentrated that hard...

The ride dates back to 1930 and is the last of its kind. It was created by Harry Traver of Traver Engineering Company (Sabrina said there were lots of Traver rides on this trip!) and I can't say enough what fun it is. Hugely popular with families, I can only hope the ride sticks around for many future generations.

The Olde Kennywood Railroad is a wonderful way to relax for a bit on a hot day, and it was another scorcher during our visit.

The train takes its passengers on a journey out along the edge of the ravine and as of this season features wonderful signs detailing the history of the park. It previously featured local area history, and as for the reaction to the switch Jeff pointed out that its “better now for younger guests to ride with older guests because a lot of kids really don’t understand that some of the older rides ... have been here for generations and ... that grandma and grandpa went on them when they were in school.”

This kind of landscaping is usually found at a park's entrance, and this is just for the train!

I have to agree with Jeff, the signs are a welcome addition to any park for anyone interested in history - like myself.

What time is it? That can easily be answered by the park's famous floral clock, just one of the many non-ride landmarks scattered throughout the park.

Fountains seem to be a dying breed at parks (or maybe just my local one), and Kennywood has no shortage in that department. Didn't Cedar Point just get ride of one similar to this? Everyone has seen the park's Lost Kennywood fountains (and you will too again later in this report), but the park has lots of fountains and water features on its grounds. Again, the place is just brimming with atmosphere.

While on the subject of water, here's one attraction that we skipped while at the park. Raging Rapids is tucked away in the corner of the park near the Thunderbolt, and is awfully hard to photograph.

I did get this one shot, and am painfully aware that the raft is well off center. But it's all I got folks! Judging from the dripping, squishy shoe, wet under garments appearance of people coming off the Rapids, I think we made a good choice is passing on this one. (our cameras say thank you)

Coming soon - Part 2 of our trip to Kennywood.


KPBook04 said...

Wow! I always love to hear the comments of someone's very first trip to Kennywood. Obviously it left a very favorable first impression on you! Many locals take Kennywood 'for granted' and don't realize the gem that it truly is. Other lifelong Kennywood fans, like myself, just can't get enough of it! We're truly blessed in Western Pennsylvania to not only have a park like Kennywood as our home park, but we also have such great traditional parks like Idlewild, Lakemont, DelGrosso's, Waldameer, and even struggling Conneaut Lake Park within easy driving distance.

I'm glad that you and Sabrina are enjoying our end of the state so much! You have some great parks on your end too! (Hershey, Dorney, Knoebels, etc...)