I'm at the airport and have some time to burn so I'm going to try something ambitious, a trip report from my phone. After leaving Idlewild, I got to Kennywood around 5. The parking lot was relatively empty, which I figured would be great for lines. And it was! The downside was the park realized it too and planned to close a half hour early. 4.5 hours was plenty of time to get the rides in, but I wasn't able to time a night ride on Phantom since Kennywood closes their queues early, something I ran into back in 2011.
Kennywood is one of my favorite parks. I'm a sucker for classic theme parks that aren't afraid to keep up with modern times and that perfectly describes Kennywood. They have the old wooden coaster and flat ride collection you'd expect from a park nestled in the middle of a neighborhood, but there's something weird and awesome seeing an epic hyper towering over the decrepit buildings around the park.
I planned to hit Phantom first, but saw Sky Rocket had absolutely no line so I couldn't pass that up. While it's not as intense as the Sky Rocket II's, I prefer the expanded and unique layout. The ride is glass smooth and has a great first 2/3. The launch isn't super powerful but it's fun. The top hat gives great airtime and the weird holding brake results in abrupt air in the back. The first zero-G roll gives marvelous hangtime thanks to the lapbar only trains. The drop off the brake run gives fantastic ejector air in the back and the second zero-G roll is as good as the first.
The ride then just dies. It's like the Falcons in the Super Bowl (totally not biased
but I think that's the best Super Bowl ever). After the second zero-G roll, the ride crawls through a slow trick track section and two final hills so drawn out that they give no air. If the ride kept up the first 2/3, Sky Rocket would easily be a 9 or 10. Also why do the back rows on Sky Rocket have way less space than the other rows or the back rows on the other Sky Rocket II's? I loved the back but found the fit very tight. 8 out of 10
Sky Rocket could only distract me so long. It was time for Phantom's Revenge! I only got one ride on it in an abridged visit last year so I was hoping to marathon it. Unfortunately I quickly found out the park pulled a Boulder Dash and was only running one train. I regretfully skipped the very front since it had double the wait of other rows, but I waited about 20 minutes for each of my 3 rides (2 in the 2nd row, 1 in the back). One of my favorite things about Phantom is the restraints. There's a seatbelt and a lap bar like most hypers, but because of how the weird lap bars come from the side, there's an inch or two gap between you and the bar.
That meant airtime heaven. The first drop gives good laterals and builds good speed. The second drop is legendary. The view of the factory over the ravine is quite imposing and that tiny little passage below the Thunderbolt looks too small to fit a coaster train. This drop gives a great pop of ejector air in the back and goes on for what seems like forever. The following overbank is fast and forceful and that's followed by the finale. Yes Phantom's Revenge is short. But the finale consists of 5 or so insane pops of ejector air. I forget if there's a double up, double down, or both but the main takeaway is that there's no way your butt will be on that seat.
I remember Phantom being a great coaster, but it absolutely blew me away this visit and it shot into my top 5. I preferred the front due to the stronger air during the finale but the back is great too thanks to that 2nd drop. I would love to get a ride on this in total darkness someday, but my last ride was around sunset. I got off only to find the line closed off. 10 out of 10
Thunderbolt is my favorite of the three woodies. Like most rides at Kennywood it's unconventional. Unfortunately the ride did add seat-belts this year which took away some of the air, but the drops into the ravine all still did provide decent air. Then again, airtime isn't Thunderbolt's primary goal. It's all about sitting next to someone and being forced against your will into the side of the train with those laterals. 8 out of 10
I also had the most Kennywood of rides on Thunderbolt at the end of the day. When Phantom closed early, I decided to finish on the classic woodie. As I hinted at the beginning, Kennywood isn't in the nicest of neighborhoods and that's putting it mildly. For those familiar with Thunderbolt, you know it has a separate load and unload area. After the incoming train unloaded, an army of 13 teens (seems too specific to be true but I counted, more on that later) hurdled over the queue and filled up half the train. The staff turned their eye at the stampede but the ride was empty so they didn't end up cutting anyone. Being a single rider, I had to wait for a partner to ride. When I noticed an odd number enter the train, I knew someone needed a partner. I made a new friend. And for those who remember my Clementon report, you know I have bad luck with new friends.
The ride started as usual with the great drop out of the station. Then I was treated to the most violent ride of my life. Not bumpy but in this case I started witnessing a WWE wrestling melee between them. Pushing, slapping, choking using doo rags- I got everything. Meanwhile I threw my hands in the air pre-emptively in case the police were at the exit and becasue it's the right way to ride a coaster. Since a winner wasn't crowned in round 1, the ops (who either didn't care or didn't notice) started round 2 since we were the last train of the night. More of the same. Thank god they left me out of it. I don't think I'll ever witness anything like that again.
Jack Rabbit is a one trick pony (or is it rabbit in this case), but it's a great trick. I got a seat in the back car and that double down gave airtime stronger than Phantom's Revenge and the restraints are even more minimalistic. The rest of the ride is smooth and uses the ravine well but the double down is the whole ride. Much like how Mike Trout is the entire Angels team. 8 out of 10
Racer is often considered the worst of Kennywood's woodies but it's still a really good coaster. I was fortunate to get the back seat in the pick-a-seat free-for-all since a few of the drops give nice air in the back. The racing is a lot of fun and unlike a lot of other coasters, it genuinely seemed like a 50-50 which side would win. Like the other two woodies, Racer runs perfectly smooth too. For what it's worth, my side won. 8 out of 10
I wasn't planning on hitting Exterminator since that line was one of the slowest and worst I had ever been in. I didn't want to burn an hour on a day with limited time in that queue, but I checked in an hour before closing and lucked out. I only had to wait 15 minutes in the sweaty, overheated scream box of a queue. The ride itself has decent theming (just a step above Dark Knight) but the most critical thing is the darkness and narrow passageways really enhance the spinning. 7 out of 10
Time for the kiddie coaster portion of this report. Yes I rode Lil Phantom and of course I was the only adult on the train. It was pretty poor even by kiddie coaster standards. 1 out of 10
Kennywood has some fantastic flats. The one I was most looking forward to riding was Black Widow. I've never tried one of the Zamperla giant discoveries and was interested to see how they compared to Huss giant frisbees. While waiting for Phantom, I saw the ride was testing. The ride certainly looks impressive and appeared to have a super long cycle. When I went over to the ride, the employee removed the "Closed" sign so I felt lucky. I could only dream of that happening in my last visit to Dollywood. Well before we could board we were told to leave the queue and the ride didn't reopen or test the rest of the night. Bummer but maybe SFNE or SFGAdv will get one of these in the near future.
Of the flats, I rode SwingShot, Kangaroo, and the Whip. SwingShot is still my favorite Screamin' Swing. For whatever reason the air seems stronger on this one. Speaking of air, the unqiue Kangaroo ride gives exactly that in bunches and also makes that quirky sound every time a vehicle jumps. The Whip is about as well run as any whip other than Rye Playland's (that one is run sadistically fast so you crush your partner).
The park also has a great trifecta of water rides. I skipped the Raging Rapids and Pittsburg Plunge since I preferred not to be soaked to the bone. I did ride Log Jammer and it's still an above average flume. The final drop is pretty decent, but it's the first drop and the subsequent uphill section that's the real star. I've heard one rumor this ride could be removed for Kennywood's new coaster and I hope that's not true.
Kennywood also has 2 great dark rides in Noah's Ark and Ghostwood Estate. For those keeping score, I know Kennywood has 3 dark rides. The third one doesn't qualify as great nor average or even mediocre. Garfield is an embarassment of a ride that should be gutted. Noah's Ark is a rare, quirky walkthrough that I somehow forgot to take a picture of. Ghostwood Estate may look like your typical Sally shooter from the outside, but it has a Haunted Mansion-esque pre-show and the ride has detailed figures that react with each target. Much better than the cardboard targets on many of their other rides.
Even in a half day I was able to hit pretty much everything I wanted aside from the closed Black Widow. Phantom alone makes Kennywood worth visiting, so when you add in the classic woodies, a good launched coaster, great flats, solid water rides, and cool dark rides, you have a truly special park.