Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This past weekend, the family decided to make it a long weekend. My son's school ended early, due to construction on the local schools (building some, tearing down some), so we decided to take a couple of vacation days and get away before everyone else was out of school.

We used to live in Pittsburgh. Not for many years, but for a few years during our engagement and our early years of marriage. We had been to Kennywood a few times while we lived there and decided that would be a fun place to take the kids. We were able to get our tickets at a discount by purchasing them at the local Giant Eagle.

We packed an overnight bag, figuring that we could decide on the fly if we were going to stay in Pittsburgh or simply make the drive home. We packed up some sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinks to eat for lunch when we arrived at the park. This is a favorite amusement park money saving tip - make one of your meals a picnic before you go in (or come back out to the car for a break). Not only is it an economical option, it also helps make sure that you have one reasonably decent meal.

We climbed in the car and made the just over 2 hour drive to Kennywood. The main observations from the ride - tolls have gone up and Pittsburgh traffic is the same. to us, it seems that Pittsburgh is the only place where you routinely see people breaking going UP the hill.

Upon arriving at the park, we were glad to see that they still offered free parking to their guests. We found a space to park and set up in the back of the van for a quick picnic lunch. After lunch, everyone put on sunscreen and we put water bottles in our backpack to carry in to the park. Water bottles are another favorite money saving tip. By packing an insulated refillable water bottle, we have a ready supply of cold water while waiting in lines. Most amusement parks, in my experience, will provide free cups of ice water to their guests. We would get a number of them - drink a few and then fill the water bottle with the others (most places will not fill your bottle, but some will). This allows us to stay well hydrated all day, and not fill ourselves on the costly and sugary sodas.

Based on where we were able to park, we felt pretty good that the waits shouldn't be too bad, but as our luck would have it, the first line we waited in was F O R E V E R. As we stood in line, we learned that it was Kennywood Day at many local schools. That would explain the buses that we saw in the parking lot and the large number of kids in attendance at the park before Memorial Day. Our first ride was Garfield's Nightmare - a 3D dark boat ride. At first, my daughter was a little uneasy, but after a while realized that it wasn't actually scary.

One of the things that I like best about Kennywood are the classic amusement rides that they have. So many amusement parks have become so focused on the thrill rides, that they are left with thrill rides and the kiddie section - making them less appealing as the kids get older. They aren't tall enough, fearless enough to rid many of the thrill rides, but really seem to have outgrown the true kiddie rides. At Kennywood, they have a Kangaroo, or Flying Coaster. The last of it's kind, based on a text I received in line was purchase in 1962 for about $30,000. They also have a Turtle, which has been a favorite at the park since 1927. A Merry-Go-Round, the Paratrooper, Pirate Ship, Whip and the Swings, are other classic amusement rides that they still operate. They also have Noah's Ark. My daughter was not a big fan of this fun house style ride, although she really did enjoy the shaking bridge near the end of the attraction. Navigating the fun house features while carrying my daughter created quite a challenge - especially since we were the first one's off the elevator and had to lead the pack through the dark.

Of course, they do also have several thrill rides and coasters. We only rode a few of the coasters, missing out on trying the Skyrocket which we found closed for the day by the time that we went to ride and on Phantom's Revenge, a ride we know we enjoy but couldn't talk our son into riding. We rode the Jack Rabbit and the Exterminator as a family and my son and husband rode the Racer and Thunderbolt together. The Jack Rabbit was a hit with everyone, but the wild mouse of the Exterminator was not enjoyed by the kids.

For dinner, we shared a whole pizza. This is an economical option, in my opinion. We were able to feed the family for just over $20 and had more than enough food. We did allow the kids to each choose one treat to end the day. At first, my daughter wanted ice cream, but after seeing the make your own slushee blend that her brother was going to enjoy, quickly changed her mind.

It was a very enjoyable day, there was a little bit of rain while we were in line for a ride, but otherwise the weather was great. I think for me, one of the best parts is that we were able to ride most rides as a family. There was a vast selection of rides that were appropriate for all of us. They offer a parent swap, so for those rides that my daughter wasn't tall enough to ride, we could have chosen to both ride with my son, with only one wait through the line.