If Orlando is the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” Pennsylvania might as well be its cousin. The state offers a wide variety of amusement parks (with water parks), from one-of-a-kind establishments like Hersheypark and Sesame Place, to little, family-owned favorites, such as Knoebels and DelGrosso”s (operated by the same people who make the tomato sauce).
Written by Amanda Geronikos
Knoebels (kuh-no-bulls) is one of the best-loved amusement parks in Pennsylvania, and the U.S. The small, family-owned park has been operating in the backwoods of Elysburg since 1926. It features a free-admission policy, which means you don"t actually have to pay to enter the park; you pay per ride -- a major savings for families. Another savings -- families have the option to bring food and grills into the park. Knoebels offers a fantastic mix of thrill, family and kiddie rides, with the most popular rides including the Phoenix, an iconic wooden roller coaster, and Impulse, a steel looping roller coaster that debuted in 2015.
Hersheypark is a bucket list destination for any family, with 13 roller coasters -- including the newly added Laff Trakk -- family rides, kiddie rides and water rides at the park"s Boardwalk. Visits to Hersheypark include interactions with your favorite characters (well, candies), along with the opportunity to see a concert at nearby Hersheypark Stadium, visit your favorite animals at ZooAmerica and of course, sample chocolates at Hershey"s Chocolate World.
Owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, Dorney Park brings the same thrills and spills to Pennsylvania as Cedar Point -- also owned by CFEC -- does in Ohio. Roller coasters include Steel Force, which features a 205-foot drop; Talon, an inverted ride with sky-lift style seating; and Hydra, the only floorless coaster in the state. Located in Allentown, the park also caters to youngsters with Planet Snoopy, where they can ride roller coasters just their size. When it"s time to cool off, head over to adjacent Wildwater Kingdom.
Just one hour from Philadelphia, Sesame Place is the only amusement park of its kind in the world, and one that shouldn"t be missed with young kids. It offers tame rides, such as Snuffy"s Slides and Sunny Day Carousel. Cookie"s Monster Land, added in 2014, includes themed rides such as Oscar"s Rotten Rusty Rockets, Monster Mix-Up and Flying Cookie Jars. Kids also enjoy interactive shows, games, parades and meet-and-greet experiences with characters; you can even arrange to have a meal with Elmo or The Count!
Located in Lancaster (Amish Country), Dutch Wonderland is designed for young children, with rides just for kids and attractions the whole family can enjoy. The park also features Exploration Island, with animatronic, life-like dinosaurs, along with shows, parades and games. If you need to cool off from all the fun (and the heat), check out Duke"s Lagoon.
Yes, DelGrosso"s Amusement Park is owned by the same family who makes the famous sauces! The family purchased the park in 1946, welcoming other families to enjoy its rides and, of course, spaghetti and other favorites. The park runs the gamut of traditional rides, such as the Scrambler, Yo-Yo and X-Scream Tower. It also offers Kid"s Kingdom, with a boat ride, carousel, and mini-Corvettes. The park"s water park, which features three waterslides, will expand in 2016.
Just outside of Pittsburgh, IdleWild and Soak Zone is designed for youngsters with activities (â€œAdventuresâ€) that include Story Book Forest, Alligator Swamp, Safari Hut, Daniel Tiger"s Neighborhood and Bubbling Springs. Rides include a scrambler, merry-go-round and Ferris wheel. Next to IdleWild is Soak Zone, a water park with several places to cool off, including the Wowabunga Family Wave Pool and Pipeline Plunge.
Thrill-seekers, rejoice: Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania features 14 thrill rides, including the Black Widow, a new scream-inducing swing ride. The park also features some â€œdarkâ€ attractions, such as Garfield"s Nightmare and Ghostwood Estate. Young kids love the Whippersnapper and Crazy Trolley, along with Log Jammer, Pittsburg* Plunge and Raging Rapids -- three water rides that are guaranteed to get you soaked!