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Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13

ray_p ray_p Profile

Posted:
7/1/13 at
3:41:52 PM

Place: Idlewild & Soak Zone (Ligonier, PA)
Date: Saturday June 29, 2013
Weather: Partly sunny with periods of rain, highs in the upper 70’s
Crowds: Minimal
Closed Rides: Wild Mouse
Rides gone since last visit: Dizzy Lizzy’s, Caterpillar

It was a great day this past Saturday as my good friend Jeff M and I visited Idlewild & Soak Zone for the first time since 2010. With the crowds being relatively small, we were able to take our time and enjoy the various attractions that the park has to offer. And while Idlewild is still a very nice park, it seems that there are some areas that could use a good sprucing up. I’m just going to throw some random thoughts out there regarding our visit, so forgive the rambling nature of this TR. 

Obviously the highlight of a trip to Idlewild for Jeff and I is a trip through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Added to Idlewild in 1989, guests ride in a life-size trolley that travels through the woods and makes stops at the various characters’ homes. Along the way we meet King Friday, Cornflake S. Pecially, Lady Elaine Fairchild, Dr. Bill and Elsie Jean Platypus, Prince Tuesday and Anna Platypus en route to King Friday’s “Castle Hug And Song” Party. If you’re an avid Mr. Rogers fan, you may have noticed that X The Owl and Henrietta Pussycat were left off the list. That’s because they were “on vacation”… i.e. their display was broke down. And that would be my main gripe with this otherwise fantastic attraction. It seems that upkeep on the Neighborhood is not a priority for the folks at Parques Reunidos/Palace Entertainment. King Friday does not move out of the castle anymore, he has a horrible case of lazy eye, and his glittery robe has a rather obvious grease stain near where his hand is. Corny’s house looks rather faded. The leaves on top of X and Henrietta’s Tree House are in sad shape. Lady Elaine’s Museum Go Round hasn’t turned in years. Dr. Bill Platypus remains idle while he speaks. Daniel Tiger is also stuck in place as he used to pop up from inside his clock. And the “Hug and Song” scene has all sorts of wires and framework exposed. I guess since most guests really have no clue as to who Mister Rogers is anymore, repairs aren’t high on the list… which is a shame as this is definitely one of the best non-Disney theme park rides ever created. Major props to trolley drivers Melissa and Nicole for doing a great job and keeping guests involved.

Speaking of the trolley drivers, I do have to wonder if the shorts that the female park employees wear are park issued. I haven’t seen shorts this short in quite some time.

Wild Mouse was testing all day but never opened. A sign at the entrance said that it will re-open in mid-to-late June. Jeff and I agreed we should both come back then to ride it. 

The former Caterpillar site is hardly even noticeable. If you didn’t know the ride once stood there, you’d never even realize it was gone. There is absolutely no trace of the ride. I do hope it is able to return, but this is not a good sign.

Back to rides that are open, we took a spin on Paul Bunyan’s Loggin’ Toboggan flume ride, which is home to one of the catchiest queue area songs ever. Anyone that has been on this ride probably has the “Paul Bunyan” song burned into their heads. And since you spend plenty of time in line, you’ll hear it over and over again! For such a short ride, the line barely moved. There were probably about 20 people ahead of us and it still took about 15 minutes to board. The ride was fun, don’t get me wrong (despite the murky brown water in the flume), but the loading process needs some help.

Idlewild’s Rollo Coaster was probably the surprise of the day. It appears that the ride had some trackwork done recently and as a result, the train was really hauling through the course and even offered a bit of airtime. Rollo Coaster has awesome classic trains with no seat belts and a stationary lap bar, and while it’s a short trip through the woods, it’s a great ride that packs a nice punch.

The Flying Aces was a fun ride also. I know many enthusiasts don’t like the Premier brand of Flying Scooters, but I got a kick out of them. The ride spins pretty fast, allowing you to catch some nice air and swing out rather far. The lone gripe here is the unload process as the ride op must come around and undo each seatbelt individually. Whose idea was that?

Idlewild’s Carousel is another area that needs some work. I told Jeff it looked like my horse had mange as the paint was chipped off on its mane and other areas. The boombox substituting for a band organ is also a disappointment as Idlewild’s machine could really be a gem.

We took a trip on the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad, which is always a nice ride. The train travels through the backwoods of Idlewild, which gives it a similar feel to that of Knoebels’ Pioneer Train. Near the end of the route, the train crosses over the Loyalhanna Creek, which looked awfully high and even had shut some low-lying roads down near the park.

Food-wise, Idlewild doesn’t win any points in my book. We ate lunch at the Potato Patch and the fries were good. I had chicken fingers with mine and all I can say is they were rather nasty. I seem to recall Idlewild using real chicken breast meat in their tenders. Now, they are using the mechanically-separated variety, resulting in a much less appealing meal. Our second order of fries later in the day tasted like they weren’t even cooked. And to top it all off, the park’s ice cream easily ranks as some of the worst I have had.

And finally, Story Book Forest continues to delight families with its old-school nursery rhyme displays and live characters that interact with guests. Mother Goose greets guests as they enter through a giant storybook (that could also use a bit of TLC) and tells us that we should visit the pirate ship to find some treasure. When we made our way over there, I wasn’t sure if the treasure was the exceptionally attractive girl who was playing the pirate, or if it was the basket of Saf-T-Pop lollipops. :) There was also a girl dressed as Snow White and another older woman that I believe was Old Mother Hubbard. They were all pleasant and told us to have a good day. Story Book Forest is a unique and fun attraction and is one of only a handful still in operation. And like Mr. Rogers, many areas here could use a good coat of paint and some touching up.

Overall, Idlewild is a very nice park with gorgeous landscaping and an atmosphere that is definitely different in the amusement industry. Its selection of rides is definitely geared towards families with young children, so thrill seekers need not apply. As I mentioned numerous times, my lone wish is for them to spruce up some of the areas that could use it. Idlewild has some real treasures on their hands and it would be a shame for them to just fall into disrepair.

Video attached- mostly it’s the journey through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, so if you’re not a fan, don’t watch!

Thanks for reading!

Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by LoneStar LoneStar Profile at 7/1/13 3:52:10 PM
This is the Vekoma wild mouse with the tilted lift hill, right? Looks pretty cool as it weaves through the trees. How is it?

- Pat-O

Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by CoasterFanatic CoasterFanatic Profile at 7/1/13 5:19:26 PM
Actually Ray, Those aren't the Larson/Premier Flying scooters, Only the tubs. This is the only one of the recreations of the Ten Tub Bisch Rocco model out there and they are capable of all the snappage of Carowinds (Former KI's) and others.

Of course its been 2007? since I've been there and I don't remember the super Roundup or wisdom tornado. Hope they get that mouse running soon. Its a fun one.

Hope they keep the park up. Its a nice and unusual one. Probably why I like it!

* This post was modified at 7/1/13 5:20:38 PM *

Charles Nungester 323 coasters and holding for two years now LOL Last coaster ride. HWN 2011
Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by ray_p ray_p Profile at 7/1/13 6:24:54 PM
LoneStar said:

This is the Vekoma wild mouse with the tilted lift hill, right? Looks pretty cool as it weaves through the trees. How is it?

Pat-O, while the Mouse was down, we have ridden it numerous times in the past and to me, it ranks as one of the best Wild Mouse rides out there. I remember riding back in 2010 and coming off bruised as the turns were taken at a really high speed. Good stuff, tilted lift and all!

And Chuck, who built the base of the Scooters themselves? Was it an in house project? Just curious, as I like to know my flat ride manufacturers!

Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by CoasterFanatic CoasterFanatic Profile at 7/1/13 6:44:27 PM
ray_p said:

LoneStar said:

This is the Vekoma wild mouse with the tilted lift hill, right? Looks pretty cool as it weaves through the trees. How is it?

Pat-O, while the Mouse was down, we have ridden it numerous times in the past and to me, it ranks as one of the best Wild Mouse rides out there. I remember riding back in 2010 and coming off bruised as the turns were taken at a really high speed. Good stuff, tilted lift and all!

And Chuck, who built the base of the Scooters themselves? Was it an in house project? Just curious, as I like to know my flat ride manufacturers!

I think Larson did it as well. Just its the only one they did on the original ten tub multi cable system. The eight tub model don't look nothing like the original 8 tub Bich Roccos and instead of motor/transmission to turning, They run off of what looks like two starter motors connected directly to the shaft.

I know Larson came out and took all the dimentions of Kings Islands (Now at Carowinds) but what they came out with at Hershey and other parks was a 8 tub different design. Flying Aces is the only one they've built. That I know of that matches the original ten tubs. Idlewild did let you snap em like crazy first year but they've stopped that. I think to keep from scaring kids. Or the Parents of Kids as the rides perfectly capable of snapping on its own.

Charles Nungester 323 coasters and holding for two years now LOL Last coaster ride. HWN 2011
Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by CoasterFanatic CoasterFanatic Profile at 7/1/13 6:46:38 PM
LoneStar said:

This is the Vekoma wild mouse with the tilted lift hill, right? Looks pretty cool as it weaves through the trees. How is it?


- Pat-O

Its got places on it that are braked, But overal its a solid ride, Some big drops, hairpin turns and its much bigger than say the Mack Mice and much more roomy in the cars as well. They always had a problem with braking on em. The first sign of sprinkles or rain it would shut down. Don't know if they've fixed that. The rides been closed for about four years.

Charles Nungester 323 coasters and holding for two years now LOL Last coaster ride. HWN 2011
Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by Coaster316 at 7/2/13 10:12:44 AM
Thanks for posting, Ray. I'll jump in with my thoughts as well.

ray_p said:

Obviously the highlight of a trip to Idlewild for Jeff and I is a trip through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

This cannot be overstated. Mister Rogers did so much good for children in our and other generations and a ride through the Neighborhood of Make Believe is like being able to live a childhood dream. Despite the various notes Ray listed, this is still a top notch attraction and I do wish the park would make a little more effort to keep it in better condition.


ray_p said:

Major props to trolley drivers Melissa and Nicole for doing a great job and keeping guests involved.

Their efforts inspired me to actually write to a park post-visit for the first time in probably more than a decade. I received a nice reply from the park this morning indicating that they would be recognized for their work. I hope they are.

ray_p said:

Back to rides that are open, we took a spin on Paul Bunyan’s Loggin’ Toboggan flume ride, which is home to one of the catchiest queue area songs ever. Anyone that has been on this ride probably has the “Paul Bunyan” song burned into their heads.

Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan!!!


ray_p said:

The Flying Aces was a fun ride also. I know many enthusiasts don’t like the Premier brand of Flying Scooters, but I got a kick out of them. The ride spins pretty fast, allowing you to catch some nice air and swing out rather far.

This was the surprise of the trip for me. Its probably been a few years since I've ridden Flyers and loved this. Great ride.


ray_p said:

We took a trip on the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad, which is always a nice ride. The train travels through the backwoods of Idlewild, which gives it a similar feel to that of Knoebels’ Pioneer Train. Near the end of the route, the train crosses over the Loyalhanna Creek, which looked awfully high and even had shut some low-lying roads down near the park.

This is another great part of this park. Every park, imo, should have a train ride of some kind. This one is excellent, ranking right up there with Knoebels as far as quiet, country experience goes.


ray_p said:

Overall, Idlewild is a very nice park with gorgeous landscaping and an atmosphere that is definitely different in the amusement industry. Its selection of rides is definitely geared towards families with young children, so thrill seekers need not apply. As I mentioned numerous times, my lone wish is for them to spruce up some of the areas that could use it. Idlewild has some real treasures on their hands and it would be a shame for them to just fall into disrepair.

I don't know why we always seem to go so fast through Storybook Forest, because I'd like to spend more time there next time. But, between that and Mr. Rogers, Idlewild has enough to make for a great day. A good blend of other rides, especially the train, flyers, rollo coaster, and even their small but nice waterpark just add to a great kid-friendly place.

Had a great time.

Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by MABrider MABrider Profile at 7/2/13 10:42:51 AM
It's a shame when ownership, new or otherwise, doesn't keep the "low tech" attractions at peak condition. I've never been to Idlewild, but have been aware of the Mr. Rogers attraction and it saddens me to read about current conditions.

I notice the Ferris Wheel is cable driven. Wow, that's an oldie! They must be keeping that maintained. The little amusement park in York Beach, Maine still has one like that.* It's the same Ferris Wheel I remember riding when I was a kid. I was afraid of heights (still am) so perhaps I didn't ride it until I was pre-teen or so. I'm 60 now, do the math for perspective on its age. The seats had no side screens then, of course.

For some reason it always seemed to rotate fast and when you were in that non-stop cycle the seats had a little "whoop-de-do with a nod downward" as they came out over the top.
I took a ride probably three years ago and it was the same! Looks rickety, the side cable draw makes it seem a bit off center, but it was fun.
Or was that scary thrilling...


So Ray, you've made me take a trip down memory lane (trying to control melancholia here).
I know I would enjoy a visit to Idlewild, and I could even bring Liz along, which as you know is a rare occurence in all my travels.

Oh, wait.
You wrote "I do have to wonder if the shorts that the female park employees wear are park issued. I haven’t seen shorts this short in quite some time." Other than a very brief (pun intended) moment in the video, you then provide no photographic evidence? Shame on you!
;-)


* It's just over a mile from my (inherited) cottage, and was my first amusement park (my kids first, too). I haven't been by the park yet this year, so it's not confirmed if the Ferris Wheel is still operating. I will see for myself on the 4th.

Mike B.
Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by ray_p ray_p Profile at 7/2/13 2:09:57 PM
Comments on Jeff and Mike’s comments:

Jeff said:

This cannot be overstated. Mister Rogers did so much good for children in our and other generations and a ride through the Neighborhood of Make Believe is like being able to live a childhood dream. Despite the various notes Ray listed, this is still a top notch attraction and I do wish the park would make a little more effort to keep it in better condition.

Jeff and I discussed at length what a great man Mister Rogers was for children in our day. Very few programs made a child feel welcomed like Mr. Rogers did. He was talking directly to the viewer and never sounded condescending or “creepy”. He taught valuable life lessons and did it in a way that kids could understand. In my opinion, kid shows out there today just come across as forced and nowhere near as genuine as Mr. Rogers did. The world lost a great man when he passed several years ago.

I know I made some less than flattering remarks about the condition of the Idlewild attraction, and that’s simply because I have seen the Neighborhood at its best. To see it continue to slip in the maintenance department saddens me… but I am still a huge fan of the attraction and look forward to visiting the Neighborhood of Make-Believe again!

Jeff also said:

Their efforts inspired me to actually write to a park post-visit for the first time in probably more than a decade. I received a nice reply from the park this morning indicating that they would be recognized for their work. I hope they are.

Jeff sent me the response from the park and it was nice to see Idlewild actually respond so quickly to a compliment from one of its guests. Those two girls worked the entire day, eating their lunch in between trolley rides, and still managed to remain pleasant and engaging. It can’t be easy interacting with the residents of the Neighborhood over and over again, but they kept their game faces on and deserve all the compliments we can throw at them.

Jeff said:

This is another great part of this park. Every park, imo, should have a train ride of some kind. This one is excellent, ranking right up there with Knoebels as far as quiet, country experience goes.

Agree 100%. Train rides, regardless of size, are one of the best rides an amusement park can offer. As I mentioned on Saturday, I’m a sucker for the big train rides like those at the Busch Gardens parks, the Disneyland Railroad, Cedar Point’s excellent train, and of course the amazing coal-powered giant at Dollywood. I’m also a fan of the CP Huntington at Waldameer, Knoebels wonderful Pioneer Train and even the all-too-brief train ride at Seabreeze. They are great family rides that in many cases allow you to see parts of the park you normally don’t get to see.

And finally for Jeff:

I don't know why we always seem to go so fast through Storybook Forest, because I'd like to spend more time there next time.

Well you know me Jeff. Always taking charge and dictating where we go next. :)

And now for Mike, who said:

For some reason it always seemed to rotate fast and when you were in that non-stop cycle the seats had a little "whoop-de-do with a nod downward" as they came out over the top.

There was a cable-driven wheel at the now-defunct Erieview Park in Geneva On The Lake, OH that I rode once. That “whoop-de-do” scared the bejeezus out of me as that wheel ran crazy fast… which is why I rode it only once! Same goes for the Chance Sky Wheel. Those were definitely terrifying.

Mike also said:

Other than a very brief (pun intended) moment in the video, you then provide no photographic evidence? Shame on you!

Well Mike, we probably already looked suspicious enough riding the trolley several times throughout the day. Taking pictures of two girls in the 17-20 age range (I suck at guessing ages anymore) may have sent security over to have a chat with us! ;)

Thanks for the comments guys.

Re: Observations from Idlewild Park: 06/29/13 by MABrider MABrider Profile at 7/4/13 11:20:08 PM
MABrider said:

I notice the Ferris Wheel is cable driven. Wow, that's an oldie! The little amusement park in York Beach, Maine still has one like that.*

* I haven't been by the park yet this year, so it's not confirmed if the Ferris Wheel is still operating. I will see for myself on the 4th.

The Ferris Wheel in York Beach, Maine is still there, I rode it today. It's an original Eli Bridge wheel, 89 years old.

Mike B.