Places We Love: Story Book Forest

The blessedly unchanged Story Book Forest, one of the marquee attractions at Idlewild & SoakZone, has offered children whimsy, hidden details and charm for nearly 70 years.
Mother Goose Jun23


Idlewild, the oldest theme park in Pennsylvania — and third-oldest in the United States — feels like it grew organically out of the forest.

Even as the park has expanded throughout recent decades, the feeling that Idlewild is a hidden, wooded escape has persisted. Trees jut up between attractions and surround the park’s two roller coasters; the Loyalhanna Creek meanders straight through the middle of the park, making for a merging of excitement and relaxation not found at many amusement parks.

Hickory Dickory Clock Jun23

Nowhere is this more true than the park’s iconic Story Book Forest, which since 1956 has offered children encounters with favorite characters from traditional folk tales. Guests tall and small wander a winding path full of whimsy and hidden detail, encountering Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and many others; ultimately, guests will find Cinderella waiting in a picture-perfect castle, greeting friends near the Sword in the Stone.

It’s an area that has remained virtually unchanged for generations; many of the figurines found within, and most of the structures, are original to 1956.

Story Book Forest was a separate park until Kennywood purchased it and Idlewild in 1983, building two other areas — the climbable creations of Jumpin’ Jungle and the Old-West village Hootin’ Holler — to link the properties. Elsewhere in the park, guests will find thrill rides, the summer fun of SoakZone and even a few experiences they can’t get elsewhere (those still mourning Kennywood’s Log Jammer should ride Paul Bunyan’s Loggin’ Toboggan, a smaller version of the bygone flume ride). In Story Book Forest, however, visitors will find charm and magic.

Humpty Dumpty Jun23

For kids, it’s a world of discovery unlike anything they’ve seen — what other family attraction has maintained that mid-century charm? — while adult visitors will find the paths and surprises of Story Book Forest tucked away deep in memory.

Insider’s Tip.
Don’t make the drive only to be struck by sticker shock: The highest prices are those at the park gates. Buy your tickets online, where prices vary by demand but are always lower than the walk-up admission rate.

While You’re Here:
There are plenty of places to eat inside Idlewild — I’m planning on returning for a design-your-own mac-and-cheese bowl at the Mac Shack — but don’t miss a Pittsburgh favorite: Potato Patch Fries. The spuds are prepared with the same recipe found at Kennywood Park.

Categories: Places We Love