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Kennywood is the hardest major park to drive to. If you're coming east from Ohio or west from Philadelphia, follow I-70 to Washington (Pa.). Then take I-79 north to Carnegie, and the Penn Lincoln Parkway to downtown Pittsburgh. If you're coming south from Erie, or north from West Virginia, stay on I-79 to Carnegie and take the Parkway to downtown.This brings you in through the greatest entrance to any American city. The Parkway will drop into Saw Mill Run (local for 'creek") Valley, with tree covered hills on three sides, then enter a tunnel. Once the Saw Mill Run Boulevard traffic turns off to the right, try to move to the right lane as you enter the tunnel. When you emerge from the tunnel, you're immediately crossing an eight lane bridge, seeing the city as shown at right. You're on the bridge seen at right in the photo above. To your left is the scene shown above left. If you're not already in the far right lane, move over as soon as possible. This allows you to swing right coming off the Point Park Bridge. Pull onto the exit ramp and look for signs pointing across the river to Station Square, South Side, McCardle Boulevard and Carson Street. So you're really doing a giant U-turn, crossing the river as you come out of the tunnel, driving a long block along the river, then recrossing the river.
As you come off the bridge onto the South Side, turn left (east). You'll travel one block. As you come under the trolley bridge, there will be traffic lanes bearing sharp right and gradual right up the hill. Avoid those. You want to bear half left onto Carson Street. Follow Carson Street through the South Side, a three mile long strip of Federalist buildings filled with restaurants, night clubs and stores. This is the greatest remaining authentic Federalist street in the nation (shown at left), and Hollywood filmakers have begun using it for turn of the century movies. You may think you're seeing Chicago, New York or another major city, but in all likelihood you're seeing this street. At the eastern end, you'll come to a brand new development which includes a Joseph Beth Book Store, an FBI building and the University of Pittsburgh football practice facility, all on your left. These replaced the old South Side Works, a steel mill two miles long. As the railroad tracks swing in alongside you on both the right and left, begin looking for signs to Homestead and Sandcastle. The main route goes straight ahead into the South Hills, but you want to turn off, circle around, and head into Homestead.
This was once one of America's most productive steel towns. The Homestead Grays, a famous baseball team, played here back when they were the best professional franchise in the world. Homestead was one of the richest towns anywhere, as is still evident by some of the impressive buildings. But the mills are long gone, jobs sent to Asia, and the town is in serious distress, its schools closed, its people leaving. Homestead was one of the manufacturing centers that helped win two world wars. In 1960 it had 40,000, in1970 it had 20,000, and now it has 3500. Shown at right is 8th Avenue, the main street you'll be driving down. This photo makes it look pretty impressive, but in fact you'll pass many empty storefronts. However, Homestead is fighting back. Highly specialized steel companies have built new mills here, much smaller than the former giants, but still employing people and adding to the tax base. Kennywood has built Sandcastle, its water park, along the west riverfront, employing several hundred people from May through September. And to your left you'll pass several entrances to The Waterfront, a two mile long development which employs several thousand residents in restaurants, retail stores, a movieplex and major hotel. We cover The Waterfront on our Lodging and Restaurants pages.
To get to Kennywood, keep driving along 8th Avenue through Homestead, keep to the right as lanes turn left onto the Homestead Grays Bridge to Braddock, Rankin and Swissvale, and then climb the hill. At the top, stay in the right lane as you see the park appear to the left. You will probably want to make the first right turn into the Free Parking gate. This will take you up the hill to one of several large lots looking down on the park (as shown at left). You will take either a chairlift or escalator down to the entrance. If you prefer, there is paid parking much closer. You would ignore the first right turn and take the second one into the paid lot. If you're bringing a picnic basket and want to "pitch camp" in one of the roofed picnic shelters for the day, just continue along Kennywood Boulevard and turn left. You can drop off your passengers and baskets, coolers or carriers, then come back up to the parking gates. Kennywood is still a place where families or groups can claim a picnic table by setting their baskets and coolers on it, then leave for several hours knowing no one will bother anything. This honor system has worked well for 100 years.
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