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Kennywood's general rides are not just to be ridden. They are to be savored, photographed, appreciated. For they are the crown jewels of the amusement park industry. Some of the greatest designers in history drew up these rides, and some of the greatest engineers assembled them. Certainly, brand new rides, using 2004 technology, can take us to greater heights, speeds and gyrations. Kennywood's collection was built with basic gears, axles and pulleys, and have been emulated very well by boys with Erector Sets. But they are in their second century, and, unlike antiques sitting in a museum corner, these still run precisely like they first did back in 1920, 30 or 40.

Kennywood has been landlocked for several decades, so has been desperately limited for space. Meanwhile, Cedar Point, Kings Island and others have grown much larger, and they advertise this extensively, trumpeting their larger number of rides and acreage. However, time spent at the various parks reveals a crucial truth. While Kennywood does indeed have fewer total rides, it has more rides we want to ride. It especially has more rides we want to ride multiple times.

Many of these rides are the only one of their type still in existence. Many are the largest, oldest, or in some other way unique. And many are merely the best ride in the category to be found anywhere. Kennywood has more number one rides than any other amusement park in the world. This says much about the instincts of park managers over a century about what to keep and what to discard. But it also says something about generations of gifted engineers and mechanics, who have lavished care on machines used four months a year that would have done justice to a classic car driven every day of the year. And part of the appeal of Kennywood locally is that grandparents can pass on parklore to children and grandchildren, talking about their first time on the ride or parents falling in love on it.
Turnpike. # 1. Dollywood is better themed and Busch Gardens has a neat course wandering down through the forested hillside, but Kennywood has the best cars and scenery and the longest ride. Most others roam in a large circle but by crossing over itself twice KW squeezes more distance and a longer time into a smaller space. Great landscaping and impressive CoGo gas station add flavor. The original 1960 cars were gasoline powered by Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engines, but in 1996 Kennywood replaced them with these electric motors. Parents have to squeeze a little to fit but kids fit fine and parents can let their legs dangle out onto the running boards, as seen above left. The hidden stars of this ride are the landscapers, who work four hours a day before the park opens to keep the dense bush and flower cover looking great, in order to conceal the congested layout and create the appearance of much larger territory.

Old Mill. Rethemed in 2004 as Garfield’s Nightmare. A boat ride through the dark with scenes. You wear three D glasses so painted backdrops appear to have depth. Nostalgia deteriorating into senility. Like your beloved grandmother with Alzheimer’s, KW keeps this ride around for what it represents, but it is more tacky than charming. Needs another retheming. Surely they can keep a 1900 feel with 21st century technology. True, the history of the ride demands one turn every time you enter the park. Over a hundred years old, the same ride in the same building using the same boats on the same course on the same piece of land. A sample of what people were riding back in 1900 and, amazingly, there is always a line to ride it now. However, most KW patrons preferred the Old Mill facade to Garfield theming. This ride cries out for a deal with Disney, allowing Kennywood to theme it based on the full length animated feature The Old Mill. The storm in the Maelstrom ride in Disney World shows how effective the storm in the film could be if programmed here. The boats carried beautiful dual dragon mastheads for 100 years but they were removed during the Garfield retheming. They now decorate the Pagoda over by the Park Terrace Restaurant.

This is an interesting ride from an engineering perspective. As your boat enters the building, you are pulled up an incline by a bumpy conveyor belt. From that point on, the water channel moves steadily downhill until it flushes you out the other end at the unloading dock. To test the ride, every Spring before the park opens for the season, before the water is pumped into the channel, the engineer releases a bowling ball at the peak of the incline and starts his stopwatch. He walks around to the unloading dock and waits. The bowling ball usually rolls back to him exactly 6:00 later.

Halfway through this ride the boats used to emerge into the daylight for a 60 second segment but that was removed in 2004.

Aero 360. Round and round and upside down. Packages the inversions of a steel coaster without the rest. Made in Italy by Zamperla. Installed in 1960. This has proven to be a hugely popular ride, almost always attracting long lines. The combination of Zamperla design and precise manufacturing, and the always impressive Kennywood engineering and maintenance, have combined to keep this ride running smoothly and comfortably. The seats are plush and considering the fact that you're upside down half the time, the ride length is about as long as most people can tolerate. Riders are seated back to back, so the ride runs one direction for a while, then reverses, so everyone has the chance to face forward. No matter how much you like inversions, it is not a good idea to ride this for about 30 minutes after eating, as some pretty hard core veterans have lost it on Aero. Expect some meticulous harness checking before starting.
Noah’s Ark. # 1. The only one left in America. Historic dark walk through a rocking ship balanced atop Mt. Ararat. Interesting for first time patrons but most longtime KW visitors think the ride was better before million dollar renovation of the late nineties. Unique as it seems, there used to be several of these across the East. Thanks to modern liability concerns, most of the really great stunts and challenges have been removed, so this ride is not nearly as much fun as it once was. The only other one in the world is at Blackpool, England. There ought to be some way to resolve the liability concerns so the rotating barrel, moving floors, slide, disorienting mirrors, maze and other 1950s gimmicks can be reinstalled. Oldtimers can remember being totally befuddled by that maze, and the barrel was probably the funniest experience any Pittsburgh high school student ever had, especially if you got to go through it with a few cheerleaders.

Pittsburgh Plunge #1 (tie). Kennywood and Cedar Point have the two best drops in the country. They're higher and drop faster. Whether you like the outward lean of Cedar Point's or find it uncomfortable will determine which one you like best. The Kennywood version is especially scenic, looking west or north over the cliff into the Mon Valley, east over all of the park, or down onto the water show of Lost Kennywood. So while you're climbing the column and waiting for the release, you can enjoy the view. These rides have earned a bad reputation because of accidents at other parks, but Kennywood's record is spotless and there are some design differences between this and the ones where cables have snapped.

Kangaroo. # 1. The only one left. A great ride. For coaster lovers, they’ve packaged airtime without the rest. Deceptive. While riding, you think you’re dropping a huge distance coming over each descent, but watching from the sideline you realize the distance is much less. As on a roller coaster, for maximum effect it should be ridden with arms high overhead. If adults take children on, the adults should sit to the outside, because with each leap everybody is thrown outward, and if the kid sits outside, he'll be squashed. There is often as much of a line to watch as there is to ride, because seeing everybody lifted a foot out of their seats repeatedly is one of the most entertaining shows in the park. For most adults, this is just a lot of fun, but for kids or those with uneasy stomachs, it can be a thrill ride as it provides moments of weightlessness without the frightening descents or dizzying rotations. The cars have been meticulously maintained, with their plush leather seats and enamel paint. Very smooth and tight. This is one of the greatest rides in the park for taking photos of others in your party, since you can stand very close to and ahead of the action spots and all you have to do is push the shutter when the wheel leaves the lift. Not to be missed.

Carousel. # 1. It has four rows instead of the usual three, more horses moving, three levels of intricately carved and painted sculpting instead of the usual one, a historic building over it, a 1916 Wurlitzer 153 band organ, and a longer ride. This was built for the World’s Fair, and was the last one built by Carousel giant Dentzel. This is one of the oldest surviving examples of the Wurlitzer 153, and it puts out a deep, rich tone, far superior to the usual tinny tone on most carousels. The trombone pipes are eight feet long. This is the greatest carousel still operating in America. Bring your camera.

Whip. # 1. The largest Whip still operating in the world. The cars are fully upholstered with full metal fittings. The framework is in great shape. This Whip has a longer straightaway and wider turns than its brothers. KW gives you a longer ride. But the roof that was blown off by tornadic winds in June 2003 has never been replaced, and we worry about the weather exposure for the 16 beautifully maintained cars.

Paratrooper. #1 tied with Indiana Beach. 10 metal umbrellas with a bench seat dangling below it. These seats are more comfortable. The structure is in better shape. It runs smoother. Kennywood runs it fast, which gives you that stomach flutter on the upswing. A long ride. Your feet are brushing the treetops on every cycle. This is a 1958 ride that always attracts long lines in the 21st Century. While riding it you feel stable at all times but from the ground you're amazed to see how people's feet are above their heads and their bodies are almost inverted. The specs claim the rim only climbs to a 45 degree angle but from the ground (see photo at left) it sure seems steeper than that. Kids can ride this with parents but sit them next to you and have them keep both hands on the cross bar. This ride is a classic example of how 1950s technology using simple physical principles like centrifugal force could create great thrill rides. There are only 12 of these left in operation, and this is one of the two best.

Turtle. # 1. Not many of these left. Six turtle shaped cars linked together into a train circle a series of hills and drops at high speed. Kind of a compact roller coaster. KW’s arrived in 1926, is in excellent condition, runs faster than the others, and gives a longer ride. Always has a long line. This particular Turtle is especially dynamic because Phantom and Thunderbolt trains are continually racing by just outside of arm's reach. One of the humorous aspects of a good Turtle ride is how the riders are thrown back and forth against each other as the cars rise and fall. It is thus much more fun to ride this in a group of six than with only two people. Trying the roller coaster trick of holding your hands above your head takes on a whole new meaning here, and most people can't do it. This is another great family ride, as younger kids can do fine with adults on both sides. Why isn’t someone still making these ?


Swings. Second to the magnificent swing ride at Holiday World. These seats are a problem. They’re designed for little kids. Adults 6-0 or taller cannot lean back or get comfortable. The thrill of the ride ought to come from the height, speed and rise and fall, not from feeling you might fall out of the seat at any time. KW should install at least a third of the seats with high backs and full armrests. The theming on this ride is far surpassed by HW’s Halloween artwork. But it’s still a great ride, especially for those shorter than 6-0 and narrow enough of butt to fit into the seats.


Scooters. # 1. KW now calls this The Grand Prix. These are the best Bumper Cars we’ve seen. The floor is bigger. The ceiling is in good shape so the current is consistent. The cars are fast, quick and in good shape. KW gives a long ride. The building is in great condition. The new round floors that some parks have adopted are great, but no park combines floor size, cars, current strength and long ride as well. One of the problems many of these rides incurs is too many cars, which results in traffic jams that take longer to unravel than the time involved in one ride cycle. Kennywood avoids this by only running a reasonable number of cars. KW was the first to use the double loop shoulder straps, which drivers can put on and off quickly, thus speeding up the loading and unloading times. Lines are usually long, but this oversized floor holds a lot of cars, so it rarely takes more than three ride cycles to get on. Kennywood long ago removed the center strip with tires on the ends, so drivers can steer at will back and forth across the floor to escape or seek out trouble.


Musik Express. # 1. Shown at left. Another high speed tilted circle ride, this one to loud music. Also smooth, comfortable, well maintained and a long ride. Several other parks have models of this same ride, but Kennywood maintenance wins out. Those others are rough, jolting, with hard plastic instead of upholstered seats, they show faded paint and rust or corrosion, and their ride cycles are shorter. Many also have scratchy music speakers, which rather destroys the effect. This is one of the greatest date rides ever invented, since the rider sitting to the inside inevitably ends up in the lap of the rider on the outside, and the ride seems to go on and on.


Pirate Ship. # 1. This is one of those simple classics which when watched from a distance does not seem impressive but when ridden delivers a powerful punch. The ride takes several swings to reach its full range and at the end slows down gradually, but during the middle of the ride, when the ship swings from one extreme to the other, it produces some surprising Gs. If you sit in the middle, within a row or two of the main mast, it is a little gentler, but sitting at the front or back of the ship guarantees you'll be scrambling to stay in your seat at each apex. The airtime at those apices is similar to a roller coaster or the Kangaroo. This version has been at KW in its present location for 37 years, but it feels brand new. The finish is well maintained, the swings are smooth and the peaks are high. There's none of that grinding or rubbing that slow the ships at other parks and keep them lower at each end of the swings. It's interesting to see the rides all around the Pirate Ship come and go while it remains, consistently drawing lines. Kennywood gives you a longer ride than its rival parks.
Huss Top Spin. # 1. Bizarre ride. KW calls it King Kahuna. Flips you upside down as it spins you in large circles and sprays water on you. This one is themed to a South Sea Island Volcanic imagery. KW maintenance keeps it smoother than its rivals, and they spin it fast and long. This is the same ride Kings Island calls Tomb Raider and runs inside a dark building. Here, people gather to take photos as their friends wait in line for the chance to strap themselves in, hang upside down and get soaking wet for two minutes. There are a lot of people who think this is the greatest ride at Kennywood and just as many who wouldn't ride it for a thousand dollars.
Volcano. Extravagantly themed version of this common ride. Usually called The Enterprise. A rim of 24 hanging cars loads and starts in a horizontal position down at the ground. Then as it picks up speed, the rim elevates to a vertical position so the cars go upside down in their rapid revolution. Kennywood themes this with a lava cone and vents. Steam continually hisses out the vents and at night reddish orange light illuminates the ride from down in the cone. More entertaining to watch than to ride.

Slingshot. Beautiful version of this new in 2006 ride. Basically a giant swing, which after several reversals builds up to an arc so high it goes above 180 degrees. If you like the the swings back at the playground, a good Tarzan grapevine out in the woods, or riding the Pirate Ship, you'll love this. Very smooth, with comfortable seats and harness yokes. Guaranteed to put your stomach in your throat during each descent and give you a burst of weightlessness at each apex. A classic of simplicity; they could have built this ride back in 1920 had anyone thought of it. The only drawback to this ride is its location. Your view is wasted on the parking lot and Kennywood Boulevard. If the Slingshot were situated over along the cliffline so you were looking down into the Monongahela Valley as you soared high in the air, this would be a truly mind blowing experience. However, the lines indicate it is already becoming one of Kennywood's most beloved attractions.

Sky Coaster. Standard ride. They crank you up to a high tower, then release you to swing down and across like a pendulum. Not notably different from all the others. However, setting it up on an island so riders swing back and forth across the water (and at the bottom of the swing not very far above the water) gives this one a special flavor. This is one of the few rides in the park not included in the admission price.
Wipeout. # 1. Meticulously maintained version of this classic. Looks brand new. Very smooth. Basically a rotating disk on an off center axis, so you go round and round and up and down. Kennywood runs this one extremely fast and gives you a long ride cycle. If you can handle rotation rides, this will quickly become one of your favorites. If you're the least bit sensitive to rotation, stay off.
Peddleboats. Kennywood filled in half the lake a while back, so this is not the great ride it used to be. You can't peddle under the bridges and past the Park Terrace anymore. But you can still peddle by the Jackrabbit, Racer, Shooting Gallery, Log Flume, Aero360, Carousel and Paratrooper, while looking up at the Skycoaster. After you've braved several intense rides in a row, this is a good way to relax, sit back, and catch your breath. Since you're pedalling your boat like a bicycle, these boats use no gasoline or oil, and there's no pollution. The water is clear and clean except for soft drink cups careless patrons toss in, and there's a guy continually picking those out.

Cosmic Chaos # 1 was the hot new ride for 2007. This is Kennywood's interpretation of Disco. It's a brilliant design, simple to operate and maintain, yet fun to ride and even fun to watch. Riders sit facing outward on a spinning disc, which rides back and forth on a curved track, climbing rather high in the air at both ends. It looks more dizzying than it actually is. Riding it, you move fairly slowly around the outside of the disc, and your rotation partiaally offsets the disc's movement along the track. The most breathtaking moments come when your rotation matches the downward motion of the disc along the track, so you get a double acceleration. This is definitely an adult ride, but young kids can ride it if they have a tolerance for other spinning and dropping rides, like the Pirate Ship, Swings and TiltaWhirl. Riders wanting a real challenge can try to keep both arms in the air, like on a roller coaster. This definitely adds to the sensation of speed and rotation. We've ridden several versions of these, including the ones with double dips, and we think this one is the smoothest, fastest and most comfortable, with the longest ride cycle. It has attracted its own cult, so sometimes lines can be very long.

Ghostwood Manor is the big ride for 2008 and Kennywood's latest entry in the dark ride genre it has always done so well with. This is a brilliant addition. You are called into a hallway by the long dead owner, who signs you up to help him rid his home of ghosts accumulated over two centuries. You ride a car through the mansion aiming at various targets. It sounds like a routine interpretation of the Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion interactive ride. But this takes that basic idea to a much higher level, beginning with high tech cars that do not run on tracks but instead on magnetic tape embedded in the floor. Each "room" in the mansion is a work of art, with long dead characters climbing out from behind boxes, sitting up from easy chairs or desks in the corners. Most riders we know go through a second time so they can skip the target practice and just admire the craftsmanship. This raises the ante and will probably force Kennywood to upgrade Noah's Ark and The Old Mill (Garfield's Nightmare).
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