Idlewild Park & Soak Zone – Ligonier, PA

We found Idlewild Park to be absolutely charming.

We arrived at 10:30am to find an unusual system – you pay for (or redeem) your park tickets at the parking entrance (and parking is free), so you then drive in, park wherever you want, and enter from one of the many park entrances.  It feels more like admission to a national park – no turnstiles, no ticket takers, no handstamps.

We started the day off with a leisurely stroll through Storybook forest, where we were greeted by Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and other characters from fairy tales.  We also saw representations of various nursery rhymes, from Humpty Dumpty to the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe (which Snow White was guarding, for reasons she couldn’t quite explain).  It was a reminder of how morbid most of these stories are, but the path was quaint and scenic.

When the rides opened at 11:30, we headed straight to the Rollo Coaster, a wooden coaster built in 1938 from trees in the park (they built a saw mill in the park to create the structure).  Although it was short (only 900 feet), we enjoyed it.

Next stop was the “Mister Rogers’ Land of Make Believe ride”.  Fred Rogers grew up in nearby Latrobe and is revered in this part of the state.  He personally oversaw development of the ride and recorded most of the voices.  While the ride itself was rather cheesy, including some poor animatronics and a segment that was completely broken, seeing King Friday XIII and Lady Elaine Fairchild brought back fond memories of my childhood.  Actors from the original series, like “Mr. McFeely”, frequently come during the summer to greet guests, sign autographs, and pose for pictures.

Most of the rides in the park were either for very young kids or the carnival-type spinning or twirling rides we don’t like.  They do have a beautiful carousel dating back to the 1920s.  We did take the scenic train ride and rode the Paratrooper, but otherwise, the rides didn’t really appeal to us.

Joel and I liked Confusion Hill, a crooked house where balls roll uphill and water flows backwards.  Not for those with vertigo.  Joel found it very amusing and even volunteered to be part of the tour!

The park itself is beautiful – foliage everywhere, with a river running through the park.  There are many picnic areas, and you are allowed to bring your own food.  It has a welcoming feel, and Vivian declared it to be her favorite park so far.  In 2010, Idlewild took the “Best Children’s Park” crown from Legoland California.  I may be biased, but I greatly prefer Legoland, which we have visited many times and has greater appeal for teens and adults as well.  Joel would have loved this park when he was five, but since he was “double the age of a five-year-old” (his words), he was not impressed.

We had a few disappointments: the Dizzy Lizzy’s Saloon haunted swing has been permanently shuttered due to expensive maintenance costs, and the old rare Caterpillar ride was removed last summer.  The park’s second coaster, the Wild Mouse, is frequently out of service and will not open until later in June.  These things happen.

We moved on to Soak Zone, Idlewild’s water park.  Despite it being a warm Sunday in June, we encountered few lines, and Joel and I managed to do the all the major waterslides and a lap around their new lazy river in about an hour.  It’s a decent water park, with a wave pool and a large play structure with smaller slides.  Considering that admission is included with an Idlewild ticket, it’s a good deal.

We finished up the afternoon with salads, panini, and a hoagie at “Big Zack’s” (how could we not?), and as an added bonus, they had Potato Patch fries next door!  Kennywood and Idlewild are owned by the same company, and they were smart enough to bring Kennywood’s famous fries to Idlewild.  Made my day, especially since I was just lamenting how I might never have them again.

Our big revelation of the day?  The town is called “li-go-NEER”.  I tried to pronounce it at first as if it was French, and the locals looked at me like I was insane.

We left the park by 3:30pm, heading off to Lakemont Park in Altoona.

Idlewild Roller Coasters ridden: 1
Total for the tour after three parks: 22

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