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“I’m writing about Kennywood” I told my husband, “what do you think I should title the article?” “You shouldn’t write about it” he said, “tell your editor you can’t write about it. The lines are pretty short right now, I don’t want more people going there.” My husband is understandably a little protective of one of our favorite family trip summer destinations.
Sitting just 20 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh, Kennywood is a great destination for all ages! You can probably tackle Kennywood in just one day, giving you plenty of time to check out other attractions in Pittsburgh.
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For the Thrill Seekers
Have a thrill seeker in your family? Then head straight for Kennywood’s newest rollercoaster, the Steel Curtain, a roller coaster with NINE inversions! That’s the most inversions in North America! The Steel Curtain roller coaster is located in Steelers Country in Kennywood, the first ever theme park area and coaster to be named after a professional sports franchise, specifically the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Three popular Kennywood rollercoasters, the Jack Rabbit, Pippin/Thunderbolt and Racer have operated since the Roaring Twneties and are named Landmark rides by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.
In fact, make sure you stop by the Jack Rabbit and wish it a Happy Birthday since it’s celebrating its 101st birthday in 2021!! Just a heads up about the Jack Rabbit though, it has a section that makes you feel like you are coming up out of your seat. I took one of my friends on it as her first-ever roller coaster when we were kids and that portion scared her off roller coasters for a while!
One of my favorite rides is The Racer, a roller coaster with two trains racing side by side! It’s actually one large track, not two separate tracks. You’ll notice that you switch sides at the end, if you start on the left, when you return to the station you’ll be on the right.
For The Sesame Street Set
There’s plenty of rides and attractions for the preschool set at Kennywood! There’s a large area with several rides devoted to Thomas the Tank Engine called Thomas Town. You can even ride Thomas himself while getting a great view of the Monongahela River below. There’s another area called Kiddieland, which is devoted to classic attractions for little ones like a merry-go-round. There are lots of shaded picnic areas around Kiddieland, it’s the perfect place to set up shop if you have little ones!
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And there are plenty of other things for toddlers to do scattered around the park. Noah’s Ark is a walk-through funhouse attraction that’s fun for everyone. (There are several exits if your little one gets spooked). Make sure you check out the Auto Race, built in 1930, it’s the only ride of its kind still standing!
Why Is It Called Kennywood?
Founded in 1898, the Monongahela Street Railway Company leased a popular picnic site, Kenny’s Grove, from Charles Kenny in order to open a trolley park to encourage people to use the company’s trolley cars. Railway shareholder Andrew Mellon named the park Kennywood in honor of the Kenny family and picnic area.
The Monongahela Street Railway Company turns Kennywood into an amusement playground for mill workers and their families. Visitor favorites included rowboats on the lagoon, athletic competitions, pony rides, and finding a date in the Dance Hall – a bit different from the theme and amusement parks of today.
For Grandma or Adults Who are Chickens
In 1987, Kennywood was designated a National Historic Landmark and features plenty of great historical rides to visit. The Old Mill, built in 1901, is the oldest operating dark water boat ride in the world! The Merry Go Round at Kennywood is almost 100 years old, the horses, tigers, and lions were handmade. There’s plenty of rides scattered throughout the park that are chicken-friendly. And if Grandma wants to come along, you can get her a discounted senior ticket.
My parents have been taking me to Kennywood since I was a kid. We love Kennywood! I rode my first coaster at Kennywood, I still remember my dad checking my height and accidentally banging me on the head with the bar. Kennywood is the kind of place that grows up with you, as I got older and braver we spent less time in Kiddieland and started spending more time riding coasters. Sorry Dad, I don’t think I’ll ever be old enough or brave enough to ride the Steel Curtain with you though.
Where to Eat
It’s practically a Pittsburgh tradition to get some Potato Patch Fries while in Kennywood. Try to get them during non-meal times, the line gets crazy at lunch! Most of the other food at Kennywood is standard theme park fare, from cotton candy to pizza, to cheeseburgers.
If you want to save some cash, or eat something that isn’t deep-fried, Kennywood is one of the few theme parks that will let you bring outside food into the park! So pack your cooler! You can bring in food and drinks. We usually bring some sandwiches and sodas. There are numerous picnic table pavilions in the park, and you can grab a table and leave your cooler there. Some people even bring tablecloths. I wouldn’t leave any valuables, but we’ve never had our cooler disappear.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay near the park, there is a Holiday Inn near Kennywood. The Hampton Inn Waterfront is also a great choice, and has an indoor pool, a perfect way to beat any rainy days on your trip! If you’d like to stay closer to downtown Pittsburgh, the Fairmount is arguably the nicest hotel in Pittsburgh, that’s actually where celebrities usually stay when they are in town filming movies! Tom Cruise even stayed there when he filmed Jack Reacher.
Check TripAdvisor for more reviews or click around on this interactive map with the dates you want to visit, to find accommodation options around Kennywood.
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