America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park
Founded as a recreational playground far away from the hustle, bustle and smog of Downtown, the idyllic site overlooking the Monongahela River has transformed over the past 12 decades into one of the world’s great amusement parks, featuring rides and attractions fit for all ages. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, you’ll find three roller coasters that date back to the 1920s, each as fun as the day they opened nearly a century ago. Alongside those classic coasters come modern thrillers like Phantom’s Revenge, Exterminator and Sky Rocket. And opening Summer 2018, don’t miss Thomas Town™ at Kennywood. The second-largest permanent Thomas & Friends™ attraction in North America brings five new rides themed to the beloved children’s brand, plus live shows, an indoor play zone, and more.
Whether it’s your first visit or you’re a lifelong Season Passholder, a trip to Kennywood promises unforgettable family fun. Conveniently located about 20 minutes outside of Downtown Pittsburgh, Kennywood is one of Pennsylvania’s best entertainment options for families. Great deals on Kennywood tickets can be found for any budget, and our Group Sales Department is here to help plan an unforgettably fun visit for parties for anywhere from 15 to 15,000 people!
Visiting Kennywood from out of town? Our Lodging Page has great rates on nearby hotels. We also offer special combination packages with our sister parks, Sandcastle Waterpark and Idlewild & SoakZone , and can pair Kennywood tickets with several other popular Pittsburgh destinations for people visiting us from out of state. Contact us today for more details on Kennywood packages for out-of-state residents.
A brief tour through 120 years of fun at Kennywood Park
Founded in 1898 as a small trolley park near Pittsburgh (then known as Pittsburg), the Monongahela Street Railway Company created Kennywood as a diversion for mill workers and their families. Today’s Kennywood still contains two major buildings that date back to the 19th century – a carousel pavilion, now a Johnny Rockets restaurant, and the Parkside Café, which was initially called the Casino. No gambling – Casino was commonly used for eateries and gathering places in that era!
Rowboats on the Lagoon, athletic competition, pony rides and finding a date in the Dance Hall ranked among the most popular diversions – a far cry from modern theme and amusement parks.
At the turn of the century, Kennywood was engaged in a fierce battle for survival with about a dozen other trolley parks and amusement resorts in Western Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh (the H was restored to the city’s name in 1910) Street Railway Company wanted to get out of the amusement park business in 1902, so it subleased the park to several different operators until in 1906 it found two businessmen, A.S. McSwigan and F.W. Henninger, whose families would run Kennywood for the next century.
In these early days, Kennywood added and removed several roller coasters, and in 1901, opened The Old Mill (pictured). Though it’s changed greatly, it is the world’s oldest continuously operating dark water ride, more than 115 years old!
Though the Great Depression in the midst of this period put a damper on the growth of Kennywood and other American leisure activities, the Roaring Twenties saw the construction of three of Kennywood’s most iconic attractions, the Jack Rabbit (1920, pictured), Pippin (1924, later converted into Thunderbolt) and Racer (1927). All three have been named Landmark rides by the American Coaster Enthusiasts..
Kennywood also opened a swimming pool in 1925 that was one of the world’s largest at the time. The Dance Hall and swing bands remained incredibly popular, and Kennywood introduced three attractions that are now nearly impossible to find anywhere else: the Tumble Bug (now the Turtle), Auto Race, and the iconic walkthrough funhouse, Noah’s Ark.
Thanks to the postwar Baby Boom, school picnics grew by leaps and bounds in the 1950s. The park added many new rides, including the Hurricane, Looper, Rotor (the first ride imported from Europe), the Wild Mouse and the Octopus.
The ‘60s and ‘70s brought competition from Disneyland and other national theme parks. Kennywood stepped up to the plate by adding signature rides like the Thunderbolt roller coaster dubbed King of Coasters by the New York Times in 1974 and in 1975, the Log Jammer, the park’s first million-dollar ride. Later that summer, the Ghost Ship, a dark ride operating out of the former Dance Hall, burned to the ground. Despite firefighters battling the blaze that destroyed or damaged several other rides and buildings, the park continued operations!
While Kennywood moved into the future in this era by adding its first steel roller coasters, highlighted by the Steel Phantom (converted into the Phantom’s Revenge in 2001), the park cemented its legacy by being named a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Kennywood is one of only two amusement parks to be honored with the highest-level historic designation offered in the United States.
The expansion of Lost Kennywood in 1995 added a themed area you’d only find in Kennywood, presenting rides and architecture of days gone by. In the new millennium, the local families that had operated the park for more than 100 years sold Kennywood and its sister parks, which are now ran by one of the world’s largest leisure park operators.
As Kennywood moves through the 21st century, it continues to keep a balance of change and preservation of tradition which has always been important to its success. From revamping traditional favorites to the introduction of the new Thomas Town™ attraction in 2018, Kennywood remains America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park. BUY TICKETS
Take a deep dive into the history of the world’s favorite amusement ride at one of the world’s most historic amusement park!
1900 to 1921
Designer: Frederick Ingersoll
Later renamed Whirly Whirl and then Gee Whiz Dip the Dips, the Figure Eight was the most common early layout for roller coasters. It was located where the Sky Rocket sits today. Built by native Pittsburgher Frederick Ingersoll, a Kennywood promotional brochure for 1902 called the coaster “the strongest attraction ever offered to park patrons.”
1904/1905 - 1910
Designer: John A. Miller & Fred Ingersoll
A side friction coaster with small hills and dips. Its most unusual feature was that its track passed through a building several times.
1910 to 1926
Designer: John A. Miller & Fred Ingersoll
Kennywood’s first racing coaster cost nearly $50,000 and was the largest racing coaster in the world when built. Also known as The Aerial Racer was removed in 1926 to make room for Kiddieland, and introduce a more modern racing coaster.
1911 to 1923
Designer: John A. Miller & Fred Ingersoll
The Speed-O-Plane replaced the Scenic Railway at a cost of $30,000. The trains had three-seat cars and could hold up to 18 people. This was Kennywood’s final side friction coaster, all of which were limited in intensity to ensure the trains did not come off the tracks.
1921 to Present
Designer: John A. Miller & Harry Baker
In 1920, Kennywood introduced what would become perhaps its most enduring ride, the Jack Rabbit. Designed by the father of the modern roller coaster, John A. Miller, Jack Rabbit was one of the first “under-friction” coasters, using an additional set of wheels underneath the track to hold the coaster trains safely in place. This feature enabled coasters to go faster and make sharper turns and steeper drops without risking the lives of passengers. Nearly 100 years later, this technology remains a constant on roller coasters. The 70-foot double dip remains a highlight that promises the Jack Rabbit will keep hopping for another century to come!
1924 to 1967
Designer: John A. Miller
After the great success of Jack Rabbit, Kennywood brought Miller back to build the Pippin. Miller again maximized the natural ravines in Kennywood’s land to create intense drops on a budget. National Amusement Device Trains from the Pippin are still in use today on its successor, the Thunderbolt.
1927 to ?
Designer: The Mangels Company
Most knowledge of this ride has been lost to history. A coaster for children, it was located in Kiddieland.
1927 to Present
Designer: John A. Miller
Miller returned for the final piece of his triumphant coaster trilogy. Unlike the previous two rides, Miller did not as effectively utilize the topography, leading to much higher building costs. But he successfully delivered on the park’s requests for a “snappy ride that wasn’t too much for mothers and children to ride.” This single-track racing coasters has long mystified riders who begin on one side of the loading platform and finish on the opposite end. And the entrance façade is original to 1927, serving as one of Kennywood’s most iconic photo opportunities.
1935 to 1947
Designer: Herb Schmeck, Philadelphia Toboggan Company
This Kiddie Coaster was identical to one designed for Coney Island in Cincinnati, and used more than 21,100 board feet of lumber.
1948 to 1984
Designer, Andy Vettel, Kennywood
The Dipper took Teddy Bear’s place as an introductory coaster for riders not ready for Jack Rabbit, Racer or Pippin. It was removed after the 1984 season to make way for the Raging Rapids.
1968 to Present
Designer: Andy Vettel, Kennywood
Taking the ravine portion of the Pippin, Vettel added a super structure including two hills with such lateral force that the park soon required riders to have a partner for safety purposes. In 1974, the New York Times named it the King of Coasters, sparking a renewed interest in roller coasters after decades of decline.
1980 to 1990
Kennywood’s first steel coaster was also its first with a loop. Though its time at the park was short-lived, it remains one of longtime parkgoers’ favorite nostalgic memories.
1991 to 2000
Designer: Harry Henninger & Arrow Dynamics
Initially conceived of in a dream by then-owner Harry Henninger, the Steel Phantom opened in 1991 as the fastest roller coaster in the world, with the steepest drop to boot. Henninger’s solution to a lack of space for a new, major coaster was to take advantage of the same hillside property navigated by the Thunderbolt. After adding in four inversions to all that height and speed, Kennywood had one of the most intense rides in history – one they would soon discover was too intense for most guests.
1996 to Present
Designer: Molina & Sons
Capitalizing on the hype of its namesake, this junior coaster swooped into Kiddieland for the 1996 season. While nowhere near as intense as its grown-up counterpart, kids constantly clamor for a second spin around the track!
1999 to Present
This variant on a standard Wild Mouse is certainly wild! A speeding, spinning coaster located entirely indoors, riders play the role of rats (in themed coaster cars) evading exterminators. Not wild enough? The entire ride takes places in the dark!
2001 to Present
Designer: Morgan Manufacturing
After 10 years of terror, the Phantom once again descended on Kennywood, remaking his namesake ride. Removing the four fierce inversions and replacing them with hard turns and bouncy bunny hops, the Phantom’s Revenge retained the same track as the original Steel Phantom through its first two hills. The second, unique drop through the Thunderbolt’s structure was extended slightly, making it a 232-foot fall with top speeds up to 85 miles per hour. Though, since the addition of new trains in 2014, rumors are the Phantom flies even faster than that.
2010 to Present
Designer: Premier Rides
This launch coaster from Premier Rides marked the return of inversions to Kennywood’s roller coaster lineup, but the thrills go beyond going upside down: Sky Rocket also goes from 0 to 50 miles per hour in a mere 1.8 seconds! Passengers can also choose to hear virtual reality headsets while riding for a truly out-of-this-world experience!