Knoebels Amusement Resort – Elysburg, PA

Knoebels was a truly unusual place.  It bills itself as an amusement park and resort – they have campgrounds on property, a large pool, and waterslides in addition to the many rides, attractions, stores, and food stands.  There is no admission charge (or parking fee) – you pay by the ride, and each costs between 50 cents and $2.50 per person.  They do offer an unlimited ride wristband at certain times.  The park does not offer any front of line passes or other VIP-type experience, so make sure you go to the most popular rides at the very beginning or end of the day.

Roller Coasters
Phoenix – Joel has been talking about Phoenix since he was about six.  He loves the mythological creature, and he had read a lot about this coaster. It was spectacular – the best wooden coaster I have ever ridden (so far).  Smooth, fun, and for the first time, I really understood why coaster enthusiasts talk so much about “airtime”.  On other coasters, it doesn’t excite me, but here I felt like I was floating for half of the ride.  It was thrilling, beginning to end.

Twister – A wooden monster.  Joel and I found it a little rough and rocky, frequently pushing us into each other.  We got an amusing photo (below), but the ride wasn’t one of our favorites.

Black Diamond – This indoor ride was added in 2012 and is a very odd addition.  As the area has a mining history, they built this as a haunted mine ride (picture skeleton and zombie miners on a wild mouse coaster).  It was very odd – even stranger than Exterminator at Kennywood (although fortunately not as rough).

Kosmo’s Curves – This kid coaster is not particularly fun.  For some reason, the kid coasters are rougher than the adult ones – maybe they’re not as hard on the kids.  Joel hated it, and I can’t blame him.

Flying Turns – Knoebels has been working on this wooden roller coaster for years, and it has been fraught with problems.  They hope to open it in 2014.

Rides
Knoebels has many rides, but we only tried a few that looked unique.

Carousel – Knoebels has one of the most beautiful carousels (it won the Golden Ticket award for Best Carousel), and it’s one of the few left in the country where you grab a ring each time you go around, in hopes of grabbing the “brass ring”, which gives you a free ride.  It’s one of those rides that transports you 100 years back in time.

Haunted Mansion – Since Knoebels is a family-oriented park, I thought this dark ride would be campy fun, along the lines of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.  It’s more like a haunted house you would encounter during a “Fright Night” at a Six Flags or Cedar Fair park – filled with bloody, gory figures and monsters jumping out at you.  Joel closed his eyes five seconds into the ride and didn’t open them again until we were out, after which he declared that he hated the park.  Teens will likely enjoy this ride, adults will find it amusing, but be careful with younger kids.

Kosmotron – While Haunted Mansion was Joel’s idea of a nightmare, the Kosmotron was mine.  A classic “Himalaya” ride (often called “Music Express” at carnivals and parks), Kosmotron is indoors, playing music at 100+ decibels, with flashing disco lights.  Imagine the worst nightclub you have ever been to, but you’re speeding backwards, going up and down hills at 30 mph, then doing the same in the opposite direction.  I can’t remember ever being so happy to get off a ride.

Attractions
Shooting Galleries – Knoebels has two shooting galleries: an electronic one where each target triggers some kind of movement or sound, and an antique one where you fire BBs at targets (you have to wear protective goggles).  We are not gun people, but in this setting, it was great.

Carousel Museum – This small museum (and gift shop) has some beautiful antique animals from various carousels as well as artwork, photos, and other memorabilia.  Well worth a visit.

Mining Museum – Explores Knoebels’ history as a mining town and details the history of the park with some remnants of discontinued attractions.  It’s quite interesting and is an excellent way to escape the heat in the summer.

Fascination – Joel loved the Fascination parlor, where each player rolls balls down a ramp into holes, and the first person who gets five in a row wins tickets.  It’s like Bingo where you theoretically have more control over the outcome.  The games are fats, it’s highly addictive, and Joel would have spent hours there if we didn’t have to go.  Some of the women we played against obviously spend a lot of time and money on Fascination, and even though there is supposedly no good strategy, they frequently won.

Food at Knoebels
Knoebels is famous for its food and won the Golden Ticket Award for Best Food at any park in the world for 14 straight years (then narrowly lost to Dollywood in 2012).  Since I can’t eat dairy, I didn’t get to try the Bacon Cheeseburger Chowder, Chicken Pot Pie Soup, Perogies, or homemade desserts like fudge.  Of course, they were “famous” for two potato-based products: the Tri-Taters and their fries.  The Tri-Taters were like hash browns at Burger King (and not really any better), and the fries were very good (but not quite Potato Patch).  The park does have a wide variety of food available, from chicken sandwiches to gyros, and since the park doesn’t charge admission, local residents often come there for dinner.

Hotel
We opted for the Sleepy Hollow Bed & Breakfast, as it was one of the closest hotels to the park, and we thought this was the right environment for a B&B.  The hotel is in a lovely setting, run by a charming young couple.  Breakfast was delicious and made to order.  The rooms are heavily decorated by theme to the point of being kitschy.  The bed was comfortable, but the sofabed could benefit from better padding.  The B&B is adjacent to the farm, so we heard animal sounds throughout the night.  We found it fun and hilarious, but light sleepers might have trouble with it.  I do recommend re-confirming your reservation and/or getting an e-mail confirmation when you make it.

We had mixed feelings about Knoebels.  We loved the setting amongst the campgrounds, and with no admission charge, anyone can come enjoy the park.  Seeing people walking their dogs in the park gave it more of a community feel.  We loved the Phoenix Coaster, the carousel, the museums, and the shooting galleries, but didn’t like the other rides.  The many food stands reminded us of a county fair (in a good way), and we enjoyed perusing the many unusual stores.  As this trip was primarily about roller coasters, it was worth going just for the Phoenix, but the rest left us wanting.  Perhaps we will go back again someday and we have more time to wander and soak in Knoebels’ charms.

Knoebels Roller Coasters ridden: 4
Total for the tour after seven parks: 40

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