Becky Dooley

It’s a hazy Saturday morning in the middle of July. No more service projects.  You went to the Arts Festival. You checked out the Regatta. You’ve been to a Pirates Game and seen the pierogies race. And you’re not feelin’ another lazy Saturday- you want some thrills! Well, you’re in luck because Kennywood’s open!

If this is your first year here in the burgh, your experience is not complete until you take a trip to Pittsburgh’s one and only amusement park. Kennywood has something for everyone; even if rides aren’t your thing- the opportunities for pure/ridiculous/old-time entertainment are endless. But if you live for those 20 seconds when you’re leaning back on the hot leather seat, gazing up to the clouds, watching your friends slowly become dots on the asphalt as your car chugs up the first hill, you will not be disappointed either! So right now, I’m going to do my best to summarize some of the most notable must-do things at Kennywood, rating them on their thrill level on a 1-10 scale where 1 is “Chillin” and 10 is “OMFG”. Here we gooo…

*Note: this is of course all from my personal experience so opinions will probably differ*

1.)  Games                                 thrill level: 2-lose/7-win

Starting on a more traditional note, who doesn’t love the old-time nostalgia that only comes from a good-ol’ carnival game? Well, at Kennywood, you can experience just that! Kennywood has all your typical games- throw the ball in/at/through the _____, shoot the targets, race the horse, and my personal favorite (and the only one I’ve ever won), roll the bowling ball over the hump hard enough so that it makes it over, but not too hard so that it doesn’t come rolling back. These games may seem silly/huge waste of money to some, but those are the people who have never won a prize. Prizes. The reason why we empty our wallets, and experience actual anger when our plastic horse comes in 4th place. Remember the pangs of jealousy you felt as a kid when you watched another kid strut by with an Elmo that was as big as him? Well, it’s not too late…

 2.)  Potato Patch                          thrill level: 1

After a long morning of rides/game playing/people watching, you’re hungry! Why not make a pit stop at the Potato Patch? Right next to The Turtle is Kennywood’s most famous eating destination. Don’t worry about the long line- it’s always busy but goes fast! The potato patch sells French fries- the fat, greasy kind with the skin still on them. I could try to explain why these fries are the best and most unique in Pittsburgh, but really, I don’t think they’re anything special- just the perfect food to compliment a day at Kennywood.

 3.)  Fashion Police                       thrill level: 3

While it’s not quite the place to see and be seen, Kennywood always showcases the best of Pittsburgh fashion (hello jorts and white tube socks!). Not in the mood to vom on the black widow with your friends? No prob! Find yourself a bench. Sit back and relax (with your shades on) and you’ll be sure to win your own game of spot 10 fannypacks/old ripped pirates/pens/steelers t-shirts.

 4.)  Noah’s Ark                             thrill level: 4

Put a fun house on a boat-shaped building and you’ve got Noah’s Ark. This is one of Kennywood’s oldest “rides” and definitely the most unique.  After waiting in line (which can get long- especially if it’s raining!) you’re allowed in groups to walk through the dark boat shaped structure. Shaky floors and staircases are some things you might find in the winding walkway. Eventually, you’ll make it to the boiler room, which simulates the boat sinking and will start to fill up with water. Ridiculous? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

 5.)  Raging Rapids                       thrill level: 5

 So it’s a hot summer afternoon and you need to cool off. Well, the Raging Rapids is the place to go! Basically, you’ll form a group with your friends and get into one of the huge circular tubes before the rapids will sweep you away. Throughout the ride, there are a series of waterfalls that, depending on where you’re sitting in the tube, will leave you soaked or not touch you at all. It’s totally possible for you to leave the rapids completely soaking wet while your friend who was sitting across from you is completely dry.

 6.)  Kangaroo                               thrill level: 4

This may seem like a kids ride to some, but it is not! A simple concept- cars go around on a circular track that turns into a hill that your car will seem to jump over.  Even though you know the jump is coming every time around-it still seems unexpected every time, which makes this ride many people’s favorites.

 7.)  Exterminator                          thrill level: 5

Another ride where the line is longer if it’s really hot or raining is the exterminator, an indoor coaster. Upon entering the dim-lit warehouse, you’re bombarded with dramatic sound effects matched by the powerplant-ish décor. When you reach the end of the line, you and your friends will pile into a car that will soon whip you around a bend up a steep hill—in complete darkness. No worries though- for all the hype, a few sharp turns/spins and a few very short plunges are the worst you can expect from this one.

 8.)  Pittsburgh Plunge                  thrill level: 5

So it’s a sweltering afternoon at Kennywood, and you’re ready to cool off! Well, take a ride on the Pittsburgh Plunge and you will not be disappointed. After just a short minute on the ride, you can pretty much guarantee to be soaking wet.  Basically, you head up a hill and then come speeding down in to the pond, creating a huge splash that will land on you (especially if you’re in the front of the boat). Not in the mood to ride but still need to cool off? No prob-just stand on the bridge over the lake and you’ll be sure to feel the splash.

 9.)  Racer                                     thrill level: 6

Of all the roller coasters at Kennywood, the racer is usually considered to be the “easiest” of them all. The idea is there are two coasters (one red and blue) that take off at the same time and “race” to the end on the wooden track. Although it’s called the racer, this rollercoaster doesn’t go too fast. A few hills and sharp turns are the extent of the thrills of this one.

10.)  Jack Rabbit                           thrill level: 7

Another wooden coaster is the Jack Rabbit. Though it is very similar to the Racer, the Jack Rabbit does boast one “double-dip” hill that will feel like you’re jumping out of your seat.

11.)  Phantom’s Revenge             thrill level: 8

After the fall of The Steel Phantom, The Phantom’s Revenge took its place. This steel coaster is the biggest in the park, twisting and turning all through the park in the 2 minute ride. After a long ride to the top of the first hill, the coaster twists down a very steep drop at speeds around 80mph. And if that hill isn’t enough, don’t worry, the second hill is even bigger than the first, sending you down 230 feet.

 12.)  Sky Rocket                          thrill level: 10

A new coaster, opened in 2010, the Sky Rocket is a fast, upside down adventure that is only for true thrill seekers. A few seconds after the shoulder bars lock into place, you will burst out of the starting gate and reach 50mph in less than 3 seconds, and almost immediately find yourself upside down. For the rest of the ride, you’ll be going so fast you won’t know when you’re upside down or right side up, and after just a minute you’ll be safely back where you started, either ready to hit up the bumper cars or ready for another ride!!

13.)  Sky Coaster                          thrill level: 10++

Though I have never personally done this one (and don’t ever plan to), the Sky Coaster is probably as thrilling as you can get at Kennywood.  Basically, after you pay (around $30 I believe) you (and 1 or 2 friends if you like) get strapped in and pulled up by a cable 180 feet to the top of the launch tower. When you’re ready, you’ll pull a ripcord that will send you flying through the air at about 75mph.

Logistics: So, you’re ready to go? Regular admission tickets are $37.99, and if you go July 31st or August 10th, you can get a second ticket for free at Giant Eagle! Check out the website for more details:


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