5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Next Trip to Kennywood

According to Kennywood veteran (and PM Editor) Sean Collier, most of it has to do with timing.
Racer Jason North


Recently, I saw a TikTok video containing a rapid-fire list of tips for making the most of a visit to Kennywood. (I’d link to it here, but trying to locate a TikTok video you saw a while ago is like trying to remember the name of a Pirates bench infielder from the early aughts.) The clip had both good and bad tips, but it opened with one piece of brilliant advice.

When the park opens and you enter through the gates, make a left.

For generations, everyone rushing in to make their annual quota of Kennywood memories begins the same way: Through the tunnel and straight ahead toward the lagoon, inevitably to queue up for either the Jack Rabbit or the Racer. Go against the grain, make a left and hit rides that have no line now and long lines later.

That’s solid advice. Inspired by this, let’s expand: Here are five recommendations to get the most out of your Kennywood visit.

  1. Arrive before opening. I know that every Kennywood trip has the intention of kicking off early. Then you forget something and have to turn around, or there’s traffic, or you just plain forget how long it takes to get there. (And if you have kids, good luck.) Whatever it takes: Make it happen. Right now, the gates are opening at 10:30 a.m. — and you should get in line by about 10. This is the only time of day you’re going to be able to stroll straight onto a marquee ride, and if you play your cards right, you might get two or three coasters in before the crowds arrive. Can you stay until the end of the day and make up for lost time when the crowds disperse? Maybe. But going the full day at Kennywood is always more exhausting than you think it’ll be, so you may lose your will by the time the sun sets. Get there early and knock out your must-ride choices immediately.
  2. Turn left as you enter the park. With a nod to the mystery TikTok creator, this is essential advice. If you ignore the natural flow toward the Jack Rabbit and instead hang a left as you enter, you can trek over to the Phantom’s Revenge or the Exterminator right off the bat. You can also cut across to the Thunderbolt or tear through a bunch of mid-tier rides, like the Wave Swinger, Pirate and Music Express. (This is pretty much the only way to make the Exterminator worth your time; by mid-day, this line gets too deep and too slow to bother with. If you can stroll right on, though, it’s still a worthy experience.)
  3. Skip breakfast and head to the Potato Patch early. After you get to your first few rides, go for an early lunch. By 1 p.m., the lines for fries are going to rival those for some coasters — and on a hot day, it’s a sweltering wait. Show up hungry. There’s no shame in hitting the cheese fries at 11:30.
  4. In the middle of the day, take it easy — but check the Phantom’s Revenge line. Somewhere around 2 p.m., things tend to get very crowded. The latecomers have made it into the park, and even the earliest early birds haven’t yet called it a day; everyone who is showing up on a given day is present, and they’re all trying to get on rides. This is a better time for a break. Play games, get something to eat and browse the gift shops. Kill some time in the Arcade. You’re going to lose so much time in any line that you might as well wait for better conditions. There’s one big exception, though: the Phantom’s Revenge. With the Steel Curtain and the two classic coasters around the lagoon taking the bulk of the crowds, there can be some short lines for the Phantom’s Revenge; I was in the park on a crowded Sunday and walked straight onto the ride. Check with the attendant at the entrance to see if there’s a long line. If not, you can probably ride a few times in a row — and you should. This coaster is still a gem; the turns through the hillside greenery are like nothing else.
  5. Bring dry socks. I know, this is particularly dull amusement park advice. But seriously: If you’re planning on riding the Raging Rapids, you need a change of socks. Everything above your ankles will eventually dry in the sun, but you’re going to be squishing around on increasingly pruned feet for the rest of the day — and then you’re going to be cranky and go home early. It’s a simple fix: Extra socks. (You can put your wallet and phone in them when you leave them at the gate on coasters, too, because who’s going to pick up someone else’s socks?)

Hoping for a tip on cutting down the wait for the Steel Curtain? Sorry — can’t help you there. The new, award-winning coaster is absolutely worth the time spent in line, so just accept that you’ll be there for a while and settle in. Come up with a game to play with your companions, or indulge in a time-tested Kennywood tradition: Harshly judging the attire of those in line around you.

You could always buy the V.I.P. pass, but failing that: Quietly joke about everyone else’s Kennywood outfits and eat some fudge.

Categories: Collier’s Weekly, Visitors Guide