If you live in Pittsburgh (or even plan to visit) and are looking for things to do with kids this summer, don't forget to plan to spend a day at Kennywood Park!
Kennywood is America’s Finest Traditional Amusement Park! The Pittsburgh-area park offers modern thrills and classic rides, including eight roller coasters, a 14-ride Kiddieland, lands themed to Thomas & Friends™ and the Pittsburgh Steelers, highlighted by the record-setting Steel Curtain coaster. Kennywood’s three wooden coasters have been designated Landmark rides by the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), joining several other rides as unique Kennywood experiences. Founded as a trolley park in 1898 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the Kennywood experience goes well beyond the rides. Guests enjoy homemade fudge, Deep Fried Oreos, and Kennywood’s world-famous Potato Patch fries!
My family went to Kennywood on Father’s Day and had an absolute blast! There were still a few rides closed, but WAY more open than last year when we went during COVID. Even though there were a ton of cars in the parking lot, I swear people must’ve been hiding because the lines were not long at all. We rode all the roller coasters at least once, and half of them twice. We might’ve even ridden the Exterminator three times….
I know that going to amusement parks with kids can seem overwhelming, but we have some tips to help you get the most out of taking your kids to Kennywood, that you can apply to almost any amusement park out there. I promise you, a little preparation goes a LONG way when taking your family to an amusement park. I swear, my husband rolls his eyes exhaustively at me while I'm getting ready for a day at Kennywood, but at the end of the day, it never fails....
When we are walking out, he looks at me and says, "Ok. You were right about needing to bring such and such. I couldn't have imagined the day without it. Good call."
Macaroni Mama Tips to taking kids to Kennywood Park
☑️ Let's Talk Tickets - If possible, never buy your tickets at the gate, as you are sure to pay top dollar. For your best deal, call your local Parks & Rec to see if they are selling tickets. You can usually find them here for $30. A second option would be purchasing tickets online. You can find any current promos at kennywood.com/discounts. Kennywood usually offers a Family Fun Pack special at a discount. No current promos? Most school districts in the Pittsburgh area offer discounted Kennywood tickets (at a price cheaper than Kennywood deals) for their school picnic day that can usually be used on any operating day during the season (make sure you read the fine print). If you aren't privy to your school district's email blasts yet, you can usually find the discounted tickets at kennywood.com/yourcity or new to 2022, just enter your district name in the discount tab when it comes time to check out.
☑️ Transportation - Be smart, comfortable, and confident in your mode of transportation through the park. Consider a potential 4-10 hours of amusement park fun, depending on the ages of your kids. If you have toddlers, a stroller or wagon is a must. Even if your kids are out of a stroller, consider bringing a wagon for when they need a break or for lugging around a cooler or any stuffed animal prizes you find yourself adopting throughout the day. You can rent strollers, wagons wheelchairs, and electric scooters for the day at the park entrance. Have older kids? While flip-flops and Crocs sound like an easy pick, I'm a fan of wearing socks and tennis shoes for whomever is going to be on their feet most of the day. But that's where YOU have to be confident and comfortable in what you decide.
☑️ Dress for Success - on summer days, lightweight, moisture wicking clothes are key. Hats and sunglasses are the only accessories I'd consider wearing, as long as you have somewhere to safely store them while you are on rides. My son usually wears his bathing suit shorts and shirt there and will just change into his dry clothes after the water rides. My daughter wears her bathing suit under her shorts and does the same thing. As cute as rompers and dresses are, unless you are planning to bring a full change of clothes after a water ride, I wouldn't suggest these. Last time we went, my daughter wore her bathing suit under a romper, thinking she could just wear her bathing suit on the ride. The ride attendant told her she had to wear shorts, so she had to wear her romper folded down, but then didn't have a dry set of clothes since she was planning on putting that on over her dry undergarments. #momfail I'm also a fan of dressing the fam all in the same color or bright colors to be easily identified in a crowd.
☑️ Keep the Kids Dry - Just because we don't wear the Crocs and flops to the park, doesn't mean we leave them home. I pack a small bag for the kids with their flops or crocs (along with a change of underwear and socks) and have them change their footwear before getting on any water rides.
☑️ Keep the Adults Dry - If I know I have to go on a water ride with my kids, I pack flip-flops for myself and my husband to preserve our own shoes. I also pack clear ponchos from the Dollar Tree and am the envy of all the parents who are drenched in dirty water from the Pittsburgh Plunge! 🤣
☑️ Prep a Park Bag - whether you are bringing a diaper bag to clip to your stroller or a backpack (don't forget your clip), some random park essentials I always pack are the clothes, extra shoes and ponchos mentioned above. Baby wipes, a few band-aids, sunscreen, ponytail holders, a pen (for writing on the park map), Sharpie (for labeling drinks, cotton candy bags, etc.), and foldable sunglasses case. Diapers, bottles, formula and binkies for when the kids were babies.
☑️ Save your money for the good stuff - If you are looking for some ways to save some money, pack a lunch, drinks and snacks. Kennywood is one of the few amusement parks that still allows you to bring in outside food and beverages and has ample picnic table seating for you to eat lunch. We usually buy Hawaiian buns to pre-make a bunch of sandwiches, make a fruit salad, bring some chips and a TON of bottled water. That menu is perfect for lunch and/or snacking throughout the day. By packing a lunch and drinks, I don’t feel bad splurging on a few games for the kids or the ice cream, funnel cakes, and cotton candy that we HAVE to get from the park ;) Don't forget the paper plates and napkins.
☑️ Lock up the goods - Bring a bike lock if you want to secure your cooler to a picnic table while you are riding rides.
☑️ Know your limits - Print out a copy of Kennywood's Ride Height and Restrictions, so you know in advance what rides your kids can and cannot ride. This will give you an idea of where you might want to start in the park, and also help manage realistic expectations for your littles. We like to use this list to check off the rides as we ride them and rate how much we liked them.
☑️ I don't care if you are using GPS to navigate, you can't underestimate the excitement that comes from spotting those yellow Kennywood signs as you get closer and closer to West Mifflin. As you pull into the parking lot, Kennywood offers both free AND paid parking in the lower lot and free parking in the upper lot. If you are traveling with a large group, need a handicap accessible route, or just want an easy route for your stroller, there is a lot where you can drop off and pick up right near the ramp at the front entrance.
☑️ Slip a business card in your kid's pocket or shoe with your contact information on it in the event you get separated. Even if they know your number, it’s good for them to have in case of an emergency.
☑️ The Early Bird Gets the Worm - I'm a get there when the park opens kind of mom (which is odd because I am SO not a morning person). On Kennywood day though, getting there early is worth it's weight in gold. The mornings are cooler, you can usually get on your favorite ride without a wait, and you’re more likely to get an afternoon nap out of your littles after a fun filled morning. Plus, the park opens half an hour before the rides do, giving you plenty of time to get situated without feeling like you have to rush to get in line.
☑️ Before entering the park, have your children measured at Guest Services to receive a wristband. This is SO helpful when you have a kiddo who is right in between height requirements. You avoid any discrepancies that might occur from irregular measurements taken prior to getting on a ride by showing your wristband.
☑️ Claim a Home Base - we did this as kids, and it has always stuck with me wherever we go (the pool, park, etc.). As soon as we get through security, we head towards the pavilions to claim a table as a home base where we leave our cooler for the day. We explain to the kids that in the event we get separated, we will come back to this spot and wait for them. We write the name of the pavilion or lot number on the business card that we put back in their pocket. Going to Kennywood year after year, we try to make a habit of staying in the same area, so our kids know where to find it.
☑️ If it's your first time visiting Kennywood, get a map from guest services and find out times for any show and the 4-D Theater (these are usually printed right on the map). Except for getting on your favorite ride or roller coaster as soon as you claim your table, work your way from the back of the park to the front, or chunk it off in sections. It makes it easier to navigate, leave in a timely manner, and prevents you from walking in circles throughout the day.
☑️ When we are looking for a break to cool down from the hot summer sun, our favorite things are watching a 4-D show (in air conditioning), heading to Kennywood Station to ride Thomas the Train alongside the Monongahela River and playing in the water misters located next to the entrance to Lost Kennywood.
☑️ Everyone wins at the Fish Pond. Adults know those skill games require more than just skill, but try explaining that to my 9 and 5-year-old who just want to win SOMETHING. If your kids want to be winners, take them fishing, where everyone leaves with at least a small prize!
☑️ Bring a waterproof case for your phone to snap lots of photos, maybe even a battery pack. Enjoy the memories you will make with your family at America's favorite amusement park and smile knowing you were prepared for the day!
While this list actually turned out longer than I expected, I'm sure there are things that I am missing. Do you have any tips on how to rock out Kennywood park with kids? I'd love to hear them! email@example.com. Use any of these tips? Tag us on social media at #pghmackid and let us know how they worked!