Category Archives: Kennywood Park

Kennywood Park nearing 125th anniversary

What began as a trolley park in the late 1800s is now one of America’s top amusement parks.

Nestled above the Monongahela River, Kennywood Park has remained a constant as the world around it in the Mon Valley — sometimes referred to as “the valley that built the world” — changed.

The park sits across the river from a still-in-operation steel mill — one of a few left in a region that prospered in its heyday of steel works that provided jobs and also polluted the region.

Most of the steel mills are gone, the cities dotting the region that flourished during the time now struggle, and the area’s population continues dwindling.

As the region around it changed, Kennywood Park solidified itself as Western Pennsylvania’s amusement park, with annual school picnics, celebrity guests, ethnic celebrations and thrills for everybody in the family.

In 2022, as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lifted and people navigated a new world, Kennywood Park management ushered in the start of a major celebration: The kickoff of the park’s 125th anniversary.

With it came word of the return of one of four rides the park removed, plus other park improvements — long overdue cosmetic enhancements to spruce up the park.

Sadly, with the great changes came a rollback in operating hours. The park, where legend has it that the coasters run faster at night, and where thousands of lights sparkle when the sun goes down, closed before the sun was even at the horizon, marking regular closings at 7 or 8 p.m.

It seems, more big changes are in the works in 2023 for the park’s 125th anniversary.

Kennywood is teasing at least one themed area improvement.

Little details are available but, apparently, aliens speak Pittsburghese!

The QR code takes fans to a site on Kennywood’s page.

Looking carefully at the site, these are some clues:

  • The site title says “UFOTracker.”
  • The image shows the number “1122,” which could mean the park might use Nov. 22 to reveal more information.
  • The image also shows “2023,” so that seems pretty obvious.

The Cosmic Chaos, which sits next to this area, was added to the park in 2007. It was manufactured by Zamperla, where the generic ride is called the Mega Disk’O.

The new ride is rumored to also be from Zamperla. Kennywood has some other Zamperla rides, including Aero 360 and SS Kenny (in Kiddieland).

Could any of these rides be coming to Kennywood in 2023? Hmm…

Of course, before then, the park will hold its Phantom Fall Fest (you know it as Phantom Fright Nights but now with daytime fun for everyone) and Holiday Lights!

My 2021 in 21 Instagram posts

While I spent much of the year navigating the pandemic, I still got to experience so many things. Every year is filled with love and loss and great memories. Here’s a slice of what my 2021 looked like.

Kicked off 2021 with … cold brew coffee

This was the first cold brew coffee of 2021. The first of many!

Presque Isle Lighthouse in snow

I don’t know if I had ever walked to the lakeshore side when there was snow on the ground.

I walked on (frozen) water

This was my first time walking on Presque Isle Bay from the Presque Isle side! I watched people ice fishing, playing hockey and doing other ice-related activities.

I got vaxxed

Doing the neighborly thing.

Visited the Erie Zoo!

This little baby orangutan is adorable!

I visited Wawa. (Twice)

We all make mistakes.

Saw the White House

Pennsylvania Avenue was closed, so this was the closest I could get.

Swam in this natural spring pool

My first visit to Bedford Springs! I had this pool to myself for at least 90 minutes.

Got to see this Gulf station!

Finally! I’d wanted to see this building ever since WQED’s Rick Sebak shared it on a history program.

Visited the United 93 crash site

I was here a week shy of the 20th anniversary.

Our beloved rescue Kaci died

❤️

Visited Ellicottville

Took a stroll to see old buildings, sites in Ellicottville

Selfied with world’s largest pickle

It’s a big dill.

Watched fireworks be lit off of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building

That had never been done before!

I got to see NYC decorated for Christmas

This was such a highlight of my life!

Saw Macy’s Christmas windows!

Hello, Tiptoe!

Saw the Rockettes!

What a great show!

Made new friends

Best NYC tour guide!

Saw old friends!

I love these guys.

Saw Erie history light up!

The Warner Theatre marquee had not been lit in more than 40 years.

Rode the Jack Rabbit on Christmas Eve

In the 101-year history of Kennywood Park’s Jack Rabbit, it had never operated in December. I got to ride it on Dec. 24! I also ate Potato Patch fries on Christmas Eve. Yinzplosion!

Kennywood’s Steel Curtain coaster packs thrills, frights, fun into ride

I don’t know if I’ve laughed as much and at the same time been as apprehensive as I was today taking my first ride on Kennywood Park’s record-breaking coaster, The Steel Curtain.

Kennywood offered a first look to media and some very important guests before the ride officially opens Saturday to the public.

Bobby.jpg

Special thanks to my friend Kristina Serafini for capturing this shot of me buckling in for the ride.

In a name that pays homage to the Pittsburgh Steelers and its thrilling run of the 1970s, The Steel Curtain is packed with inversions, corkscrews, speed and thrills that are only for the best football fans in the nation. (There was a woman in a Detroit Lions shirt and some guy in a Cleveland Browns shirt today and I have many questions.)

Check out the stats for this beast:

  • Nine inversions (the most of any roller coaster in North America)
  • World’s tallest inversion at 197 feet high
  • Pennsylvania’s tallest roller coaster at 220 feet
  • Lift Angle: 50 degrees
  • Length: 4,000 feet
  • Duration: 2 minutes
  • Passengers: 24
  • Speed: 76 mph

Several current and former Steelers players had a chance to ride today, including Matt Feiler, whose first attempt didn’t go so smoothly. The 6-feet, 6-inch and 330-pound guy had to have ride staffers configure the seat for him, but it kept him from riding with fellow Steelers players.

In between his first attempt and his actual ride, I talked with him a bit. He told me he enjoys coasters, but it’s difficult to find ones he’s able to get on.

At the end of his ride, he told me The Steel Curtain was “awesome.”

Craig Wolfley, Cam Heyward and John Banaszak were among members of the Steelers family who took first rides.

No Steelers event is complete without “Renegade” blasting and a Terrible Towel wave. The song plays in short snippets as the train heads up the lift hill. And, of course, it was the lead song for today’s press conference and ribbon cutting ceremony for Steelers Country, which is a new themed area that ties two of Pittsburgh’s greatest institutions: the Steelers and Kennywood.

And Bill Hillgrove got the crowed amped with a Terrible Towel wave right before Kennywood Park officially opened Steelers Country’s big attraction, The Steel Curtain. (The park is finalizing other great experiences to be part of Steelers Country, and plan to use the area for a variety of events … some Super Bowl parties would be fun, *hint* *hint* get to the Super Bowl, Stillers *nudge* *nudge*.)

Oh, and, of course there were fireworks! What Pittsburgh celebration would be complete without fireworks? Even if it was like 10 in the morning.

OK, so what about the actual ride, you ask?

I tried to explain the experience in today’s edition of Inside Pittsburgh (which yinz should subscribe to!). But it’s hard to really put into words how incredible this coaster is.

The lift hill slowly pulls you up for as few moments before jutting you to the top. And from there, you’re just taken through the twists and turns of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the Steelers D line. (But for those wondering, it is a totally smooth ride!)

From my piece in today’s Inside Pittsburgh newsletter:

The Steelers-themed train offers no enclosure, so riders are left feeling vulnerable — which is part of the thrill. Only a seat belt and lap bar hold passengers in. When I looked to my left, I saw what had to have been the steepest set of stairs I’ve ever seen. The faint sounds of that Steelers amp-up song “Renegade” by the Styx only added to the excitement up the lifthill.

After that, the entire ride was as heart-pumping as the final seconds of a Steelers-Ravens clash, with twists, turns and inversions only fit for the toughest football fans in the nation. The zero-G inversion was thrilling, but there wasn’t much time to enjoy it as we roared into a set of corkscrews. Near the end of the ride is a bump akin to the bunny hops near the end of Phantom’s Revenge.

If you’re heading to the park this weekend or any time soon, hit me up: I’ve got a season pass and will be your ride partner on The Steel Curtain.

 

Kennywood Park at 120

This year marks Kennywood Park’s 120th anniversary.

I visited the venerable Pittsburgh area amusement park on Saturday as part of its Season Passholder Appreciation Weekend.

Among the major changes the park will see this year include a multi-million dollar Thomas the Train addition, dubbed Thomas Town. You can read more about that addition here.

Changes to the train (part of the Thomas Town addition) meant Laffin’ Sal — the somewhat creepy character who has cackled loudly for a few decades in front of the train — was relocated. She’s not part of any ride right now, but park goers will have easier access to selfies with Sal!

Of course, 2017 was the final year for the very popular Log Jammer log flume ride. It was the park’s first $1 million addition when it was built in the 1970s. The park has not yet announced what will be located in that corner of the park. But there is reason to believe that a roller coaster will be placed on and around the land. Hopefully we’ll know soon!

Along with the park’s 120th anniversary, they will honor the Thunderbolt, which is in its 50th year. Fun fact, the trains for Thunderbolt are from the original coaster on that site — Pippin!

And, get this … Exterminator is 20 years old this year. I’m now at the age where hearing things like that makes me feel old like a life expert.

Kennywood opens May 5 for weekends, and will open for daily summer operation later in May. Find all of the details at kennywood.com.

A playlist for Log Jammer’s final day

Face it. Log Jammer’s demise is difficult.

It’s like when your best friend tells you they broke up with their long time love interest and you’ll never see that person again.

How do you get over a heartbreak? With music!

So, here is the Log Jammer Final Farewell playlist.

And check out the video I posted of my final ride on Log Jammer.

We’ll start off with a tear-jerker to get you right in the feels.

We don’t want the water to run dry, Kennywood. 😦

This is the song I thought of as I rode Log Jammer yesterday.

Log Jammer certainly is irreplaceable.

It’s the end of the road, Jammer.

Breaking up is hard to do.

How are we supposed to live without you, Jammer?

Now you’re just some Jammer that I used to know.

Don’t speak, LJ. I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t need your reasons. Don’t tell me cause it hurts.

Thanks, J Timberlake for helping me remember L Jammer.

Our hearts will go on, Log Jammer. And onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.