Kennywood Memories May Change, But They Still Last a Lifetime
People in Pittsburgh know they have a few constants to look forward to when the weather warms up each year, including Pirates baseball games at PNC Park, biking, boating and fireworks in and along the rivers and the opening of "America's Favorite Traditional Amusement Park."
As one of the city's newer residents, I don't have the pleasure of recalling childhood memories at Kennywood. No first ride on the Jack Rabbit after finally being tall enough for roller coasters. No pre-kindergarten Potato Patch fries topped with cheddar cheese and bacon. And no walks through the popular attraction known as Noah's Ark, which you may have heard has now been redesigned to celebrate its 80th anniversary.
It wasn't until I started dating a Pittsburgh girl more than a decade ago that I had my chance to make up for lost time. I made sure to experience all five roller coasters (a sixth has since been added), get a little (or a lot) wet on the Raging Rapids and oh yes, I got my fill of food as well. At the end of the day, I had an appreciation of the park's history and an understanding of its appeal.
I returned to Kennywood several times in the years that followed, always making sure to hit as many thrill rides as possible. For me, no attraction is too fast, too dizzying or too upside down for my liking. But since becoming a dad in 2014, my trips to the park have changed and taken on a new meaning.
I now get my thrills watching my two-year-old daughter spin on the Turtle Chase. I delight in watching her wave to me as she passes by where I'm standing while on the Elephant Parade. And I enjoy witnessing her eyes light up as we approach the colorful horses attached to the Merry-Go-Round.
Prior to visiting the park as the patriarch of a family, I don't think I had ever stepped foot in the Kiddieland portion of Kennywood unless I was able to use it as a shortcut to get from one section of high adrenaline excitement to another. But I now find that it's my favorite place to be, and I can certainly see why residents of Pittsburgh consider it such a strong source of nostalgia.
I may not have my own fond memories of traveling to West Mifflin as a child, but I'm glad that I can help create some for others...while eating plenty of Potato Patch fries in the process.
Some additional highlights to enjoy during a day at the park:
- While The Jack Rabbit, Thunderbolt and Racer are the roller coasters with the most history, an indoor ride on The Exterminator won't soon be forgotten.
- The SwingShot may be a bit underrated, but it's certainly not lacking in intensity. Riders are sent high into the sky before they plummet facedown toward the ground at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour.
- The Whip is Kennywood's oldest flat ride and is exhilarating enough to be enjoyed by adults but not too intense to prevent younger children from loving it as well.
- The Potato Patch is the park's most well-known (and rightfully so) place to grab a bite between rides, but the chocolate dipped, peanut or sprinkle-covered vanilla ice cream available at the Golden Nugget is a treat that shouldn't be missed.