TR: Kennywood Holiday Lights (11/26/2016)
Place: Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA)
Being a long-time fan of visiting places with Christmas light displays, I decided to bring the wife along for her first-ever visit to Kennywood for the park's Holiday Lights event. It was my first time seeing the lights and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the event. For a small park, Kennywood really went all out.
After dining at a small bar on the "south shore" near downtown called Winghart's (highly recommended for their burgers and fries), we made the trek over to Kennywood. The GPS led us down some rather dark roads and at times had me wondering where in the heck we were. But we made it safely and I was all excited as I was able to get a glimpse of the park's 90-foot tall "Christmas Tree" from the parking area.
As we entered the park, I was quite surprised at the amount of lights. A neat light canopy hung near Garfield's Nightmare featured changing colors and light patterns. The park's landmark windmill was decked out in white lights. And as we approached the Kennywood lagoon, I was blown away. The whole lagoon area was beautiful with strings of lights, animated light displays, The Racer station was converted to a Santa meet and greet (complete with a custom sign replacing the Racer letters usually up), and of course, the 90-foot tall "tree", billed as Pennsylvania's tallest. I use quotation marks since it's basically a giant cone of lights, but even though it's not a real tree, it looks stunning. And every half hour, music would start up and the lights around the lagoon would dance in time with the music. Very cool!
Since only a handful of rides are open during the event, lines were rather long, and with no VIP passes available, we decided to suck it up and give Ghostwood Estate a try. I hadn't ridden this since it first opened and I wasn't exactly thrilled with it then. This time however, I got a kick out of the Christmas "overlay". The pre-show is changed, the skeletons inside have Santa hats on, Christmas trees and lights are placed throughout the estate... it was good old-fashioned goofy fun. My wife got a kick out of trying to shoot things and was even caught off guard when one of the targets she hit triggered a skeleton to leap towards the car. A good time was had by all!
As we exited, I caught my first glimpse of Noah's Ark, which was covered in Christmas lights and looked incredible. There was a illuminated Santa's sleigh on the lift hill of the Thunderbolt, a fire pit located near the Lost Kennywood entrance (that area is closed during Holiday Lights), and for those misguided Pittsburghers, the Potato Patch was open serving its "world-famous" fries (sorry y'inz, I have had far better fries at other parks and restaurants. I don't get all of the love for them).
With Noah's Ark getting a complete refurb for 2016, we decided to give it a go. We only waited about 15 minutes and managed to be first in the group to go in through the new whale's mouth entrance. The squishy tongue was a neat throwback to the Ark's past, but I seem to recall the old tongue being a lot squishier than this one. The rest of the Ark was FAR better than during its "Elevator/Boiler Room" era which I believe started in 1997. There are lots of animal gags (including a flatulence scene which was sort of funny), Christmas Trees were placed throughout the attraction, the old shaking floors are still there as is the rocking ship room. At the very end, you have a choice of going the "easy way" or the "thrilling way". We of course took the thrilling option and it ended up leading to a typical haunted house vortex tunnel. I honestly felt the rocking ship room was more effective at disorienting us than the vortex tunnel, but that's just me. We both enjoyed the Ark and I was very glad to see the park return the attraction to its funhouse roots rather than a dark maze with a show that never worked at the end.
The park also offers a miniature train display inside the Parkside Cafe, a Gingerbread Village inside the Penny Arcade, and as for rides, a 4-D Polar Express movie, the Kennywood Railroad, Auto Race, Carousel, some kids rides and the classic Kangaroo were all open. I bought my wife a Christmas Light Necklace since those seemed to be all the rage, then we bought some fudge from the candy shop and called it a night as it was a little cooler than we had anticipated.
If you live in the region and have never seen Kennywood during Holiday Lights, I can't recommend it enough, even if all of the coasters and thrill rides are not operating. This event is aimed at families, and based on the crowds, it is succeeding in attracting that demographic.
Thanks for reading even though I haven't been around in quite a while. :)
I asked myself that same question many times this year Mike. :)
While nothing earth shattering, I took a header into my driveway earlier this year and suffered a concussion. Then back in June when I went to Canada's Wonderland, I re-aggravated it by riding Time Warp (definitely a lousy choice on my part!). The Doctor told me to avoid rides where I might strike my head against anything, so I kind of took it easy this year.
Glad to see some familiar faces like you and frontrow are still hanging around!