Saturday, December 11, 2021

Kennywood Memories

Kennywood is my home park, and I visited once a month with the season pass I won this year. Since I recently visited the park's Holiday Lights event for the first time in six years, I thought it would be a good opportunity to also post a few pictures from my other visits this summer.
Kennywood's 1930 Auto Race is always fun, even if it does run a bit slow. Two of the best things about the ride are the animated neon sign and the hedges running all the way along its wooden track.
The cars were changed in the 1950s to be more streamlined.
Another 1930 addition was the art deco refreshment stand below, known as the "Lucky."
Turn around and you'll see Noah's Ark, all decked out for Christmas in this picture. The glowing light red on the left is the entrance to the Ark through a whale's mouth.
Kennywood is no stranger to eccentricity... where else can you find a mushroom water fountain?
I try to avoid the fence where the Bayern Kurve used to be as much as possible. :-( I'm excited for the return of the Kangaroo next year, but I'm guessing this was planned to make the loss of the other three rides hurt less. The Kangaroo always seemed like one of Kennywood's untouchable rides, but I can't think of another theme park corporation reversing its decision to remove a 60-year-old ride, so the Kangaroo's comeback is still a great success.
Kennywood was only open until 8:00 most days this summer, so Holiday Lights gives the park's neon a chance in the spotlight.
My favorite roller coaster at Kennywood is the dual-track Racer, built in 1927. These pictures were taken in the summer. The circle above the exit and the railing along the track are lit with flashing "chaser" lights. 
The Racer's long turnarounds gave me the opportunity to snap a few photos from the other train.
It's hard to explain it here, but the Racer is intertwined so that its track is one long loop, meaning you only cover half of the single continuous track with every ride. This puts each train on the opposite side relative to where it started when it returns to the station, always confusing first-timers.
I'm really excited that Kennywood is painting all three of its wooden coasters for next year. 
The Thunderbolt in particular desperately needed a coat of white paint. Here's a picture I took last summer of its wonderful 1958 trains. 
The Pagoda refreshment stand was constructed in 1987. It was a different era in Kennywood management, when the park was talking direct inspiration from Tivoli Gardens. On the left is the Parkside Cafe, one of the two original buildings that opened with the park in 1899.
I can never leave Kennywood without riding the carousel. For Christmas, they change the orange and green Halloween colors to red, green, and white.
In my opinion, the best seat on any carousel is on the inside row, right next to the band organ. And if there's no band organ, there's no point. ;-)
Until next year, Kennywood. It's going to be a wild ride!

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Dutch Wonderland

Dutch Wonderland is a small kids' park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Opened in 1963, the park has remained true to its kiddie park roots over the years. Today it's owned by Palace Entertainment, which also operates Kennywood and Idlewild in Pennsylvania. Of course, Lancaster is home to many cheesy tourist attractions based around the Amish, who live in the area, and Dutch Wonderland is definitely one of them. 

The park is located on Route 30, the main commercial strip in Lancaster.  Just keep driving west on this road, and you'll arrive at Idlewild Park! The monorail is one of the original 1963 rides, still running today.
With its small parking lot and entrance through this fanciful gift shop, Dutch Wonderland feels more like a roadside attraction than a true theme park.
The park's largest attraction is the yellow roller coaster, known as Merlin's Mayhem. Added in 2018, it's nicely integrated into the center of the park, with the Sky Ride going narrowly through its structure.
It's pretty impressive that they put a support column right between the Sky Ride cables. Merlin's Mayhem was actually delayed more than a year while they worked to get clearance approval.
The back of the park is quite charming, as it's on an island. Circling the perimeter are the Sunoco Turnpike and the Gondola Cruise, two classic Arrow Dynamics rides! 
Despite being on a busy highway, there is still plenty of Eastern PA farmland around the park.
One of the park's most distinctive rides is the Dutch Wonder House. You crowd into a tiny room on a little bench, and then something special happens. You can see what that is at the beginning of the video clip below

Being in the heart of PA Dutch Country, Dutch Wonderland makes sure to pay tribute to the region's rich culture, like with this giant soft pretzel... 
There're also some wonderful animated dioramas. Press the button, and you'll see the figures move and hear what sounds like a natural conversation. 
Holiday World has the Turkey Whirl, but Dutch Wonderland has the Turtle Whirl! I especially like the signs done in the same style as that of a normal Tilt-A-Whirl.
"Bubba Bear and the Badlands Band" is a newer animatronic show, but it's maintained well. 
Note the Dutch Wonder House.
Here's a view from the Monorail!
Pennsylvania is lucky to have a wide variety of amusement parks, with lots of unique attractions. But with the exception of one park, they all have at least one wooden coaster. (Get on it, Delgrosso's... you've had 112 years.) Dutch Wonderland has the blue and purple Kingdom Coaster.
Opened in 1992, it was originally called the Sky Princess but was renamed in 2006, apparently to appeal more to boys. It's the best ride at the park, a perfect starter coaster with even some gentle airtime.
I'm glad I got to visit Dutch Wonderland. It really is charming.

Is the grey background better or worse? Do you like the bigger images?

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Two Pennsylvania Amusement Parks - Dorney and Delgrosso's

Today's post is on two Pennsylvania parks - at opposite ends of the state - that I was able to visit for the first time this year. First up is Dorney Park in Allentown near Philadelphia. Dorney Park is one of the oldest amusement parks in America, with beginnings in 1884. It was fatefully purchased by Cedar Fair in 1992, who removed the majority of the park's historic attractions, including all of its darkrides. Today, Cedar Fair shows interest in honoring their parks’ histories, but it’s honestly too late for Dorney. That's not to say it isn't still a pleasant park to visit, though!
The ride seen below is the main reason I wanted to visit Dorney Park. Debuting at Cedar Point in 1983, Demon Drop was among the first drop towers ever opened.  Today, it's the last of its kind in America. Cars are lifted up an elevator, moved forward, and dropped down a track, which puts the cars (and as a result, the riders) on their backs when they level out. A funky mechanism then moves the cars back to the station level.
As you can see, Cedar Fair relocated the 26-year-old Demon Drop to Dorney Park in spite of the fact that the park already has a more modern drop tower. The other is driven by compressed air, however, so the experiences are completely different. Demon Drop is a pretty rough ride, but I wanted to make sure I got to experience one of its kind.
Thunder Creek Mountain is a really weird log flume - just look at that lift hill! The drop has a similar, gradual slope.
Here you can see some of the park's roller coasters: the giant Steel Force hypercoaster, the classic 1924 Thunderhawk, and Possessed, relocated from Geauga Lake.
Dorney Park has a long history with carousels, but their current ride came from Cedar Point in 1995. At Cedar Point, it was known as the Frontier Carousel and was one of four classic carousels in the park, so they were able to give it up.
The gift shop has lots of park historical pictures. I really appreciate this touch. Sadly the Whacky Shack is long gone.
That's it for Dorney Park. It was kind of a one-and-done for me.
Moving to Western Pennsylvania, I got the chance to visit Delgrosso’s Amusement Park in Altoona (Lakemont Park is just a few minutes down the road). Opened in 1909, Delgrosso’s has had a humble existence. Originally known as Bland’s Park, it was bought by the Delgrosso family - who run a well-known local tomato sauce company - in the 1940s, but they did not rename the park until 2000. Despite its former name, Delgrosso’s Park has some of the best amusement park food in the country.
I made sure to ride this Casino ride, as according to the park website, it came from Kings Island. I'm not sure if that's true, though, as when it was at Kings Island, it didn't have the decorative signage and perimeter lighting.
There are a bunch of classic carnival rides at Delgrosso's, including a Super Round-Up.
It's nice to see one of these original Tilt-A-Whirl signs.
The park is also home to a classic Herschell-Spillman carousel from 1924.
It's a wonderfully quaint machine with a great band organ.
The band organ is seen in the background of the below photo. The carousel is actually the highlight ride at Delgrosso's. Anyway, now that I've been here, I have only one park in Pennsylvania left to visit.

Next second Sunday and next post - November 13th!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Canobie Lake Park

One of my best trips of the summer was to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire. Since its start in 1902, Canobie Lake (pronounced can-a-bee) has become one of the best family-owned amusement parks in the country.
Right inside the entrance, you're greeted with a wonderful example of programmatic architecture. The color-coordinated trashcans don't go unnoticed by me. :-)
To get a look at Canobie Lake itself, you can ride the slow-moving miniature train or take a boat cruise.
The Yankee Cannonball was built in 1936 and is a perfect classic coaster. It provides great airtime moments and has a well-paced layout. It was definitely a highlight of the park for me.
The Rowdy Roosters is the most unique Flying Scooter ride I've ever seen. The distinctive shape of the car bodies is because of their former role as WWII "drop tanks," which are airplane fuel tanks that are dropped once they are empty.
The Canobie Corkscrew is a coaster that I have seen but will never ride. After sitting dormant for all of the 2021 season, it has been removed from the park map, pretty much confirming its removal.
Although I'm sure it didn't give an amazing ride experience, I still would've loved to have ridden this coaster because of its history. The ride began life at the failed Old Chicago indoor amusement park as the Chicago Loop and was one of the first four Corkscrew coasters Arrow Development built in 1975. It operated at the Alabama State Fairgrounds before coming to Canobie. If you look closely, you can see fresh welds on the track - likely for inspection purposes - so it's probable that 45 years of use and being relocated twice has caught up to it.
A happier subject is the Turkish Twist, one of two Rotor rides left in America! While this model's ride time was on the shorter side, it's still an absolute thrill sticking to the wall by centripetal force.
I was also excited to try out my first indoor Scrambler. Psycho Drome combines the disorienting ride with music and lights. Indoor Scramblers can surprisingly be found at many east coast parks.
One of my favorite rides was the Mine of Lost Souls, a 1980s darkride. I avoided spoilers and was amazed at its quality. The animatronics are the best you'll find at an independent park, and there's an awesome room where you zig-zag on a bridge over a large lake past multiple animatronics. 
The other disappointment of my visit was seeing the historic carousel closed for refurbishment. They do have one of the "Luminairesfrom the '64-'65 World's Fair, though! I don't know if it still works at night.
I've saved the main reason I wanted to visit Canobie Lake Park for last. The park is the last in America to feature an original Caterpillar ride... with a working canopy that covers riders!
The second-to-last American Caterpillar ride closed in 2012 at Idlewild, one of my local parks. That was the first year I visited Idlewild, and when I saw the ride was operating without its canopy, I decided to "wait until next year." Of course, this extremely rare ride was removed for good from that park the next season. This made making the trek to New Hampshire a must-do for me!
It's not a particularly thrilling ride by any means, but I'm glad to say I checked off something that was high on my bucket list.
Even with a few closed rides, Canobie Lake Park stands out as one of the best amusement parks I've ever visited. No detail goes unnoticed when it comes to guest service, and the mix of classic rides is top-notch.