We recently took Daphne to Idlewild and SoakZone. Chances are, if you grew up in the Pittsburgh area, you’ve been to Idlewild a few times. Located in scenic Ligonier off US-30, Idlewild is a cute amusement park specifically designed for kids. It’s the oldest theme park in Pennsylvania and the third-oldest park in the entire United States.
I have happy memories of going to Idlewild as a kid, so I was looking forward to taking Daphne there while Alan and I were on vacation. Overall, we had a nice day and enjoyed many things about the park.
All of the staff members we encountered during our visit were friendly and helpful. I frequently saw the staff interacting with kids and trying to create a nice experience for everyone.
I thought the food choices throughout the park were great (especially the Taco Stand in Hootin’ Holler). For lunch, we ordered from both the Potato Patch and the Taco Stand. Alan’s chicken quesadilla was fantastic. It was made-to-order with fresh ingredients and served steaming hot. Definitely not what you’d expect for “amusement park food.”
Later in the day, after SoakZone, we stopped at Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand to get a pretzel and a lemonade. It was exactly what we needed after a few hours of swimming.
My favorite place in the park was definitely Old Idlewild. Daphne was too little for the carnival-style rides in this area, but we still enjoyed the vintage theme park charm.
Despite all these nice things, we encountered a few not-so-great surprises during our visit, too. I debated on leaving this section out of the post, but I’m trying to be honest with my reviews, so I decided to include it.
Idlewild experiences ride closures pretty regularly. After reading some other reviews, I think this could be due to understaffing throughout the park, but I can’t be sure. In particular, the closure of one of the Serpentine Slides in SoakZone was disappointing. It caused the line for the one operating slide to become so long that we didn’t have time to ride it.
No Shade in SoakZone
SoakZone was clean and fun, but be aware that there is no shade unless you reserve a pricey cabana before they sell out. It would’ve been really nice to have a place to get out of the sun for a while. Not only is the lack of shade uncomfortable (it was 90 degrees on the day of our visit), I think it could potentially be a health concern.
Neglected Storybook Forest
Perhaps most disappointingly, Storybook Forest is really beginning to show its age. This was a bummer because it was the part I was looking forward to most.
Many of the older storybook homes had a wet-basement smell, mossy rooftops and peeling paint. The “Old Woman in a Shoe” display actually had holes in it. A little TLC and landscaping would make a big difference.
Daphne had a blast walking around and exploring the park, but she couldn’t ride much, even if I wanted to ride with her. When you’re planning your trip, keep in mind that if your child is less than 36” tall, there aren’t many ride options for them. Daphne was able to ride the turtles, the carousel, and the Loyalhanna Limited train, and she loved them all. The Jumpin’ Jungle area also has a few nice attractions for little ones (the huge ball pit is a big hit).
Ok, back to the positive stuff! It’s pretty easy to save money at Idlewild, which is great. Throughout the summer, they have several “Smart Days” where visitors can save $17.00 per ticket. There are still 3 days left in the summer to get this discount: July 30, August 13, and September 2. These tickets must be purchased by midnight the night before your trip. Be advised that the park was very crowded when we visited on a Smart Day. To be honest, I’m not sure I would do that again.
If you don’t want to go the Smart Day route, they also have 7-day advance discount tickets, Groupons, Giant Eagle ticket discounts, and Family Fun Day admissions. Basically, there’s no reason to pay full price! Click here to visit Idlewild’s discount page for more information.
Idlewild is also a very “cooler friendly” park. It seems like they welcome people bringing their own food and drinks. This can be a huge money saver, especially if you have a large family.
We were able to get water refills in our reusable bottles all day long, free of charge. See what I mean about the nice staff? This saved us money and reduced our need to buy disposable plastic bottles.
Our experience at Idlewild was mostly good, with a few hiccups along the way. We made a some great new family memories and overall I’m glad we went. Have you ever been to Idlewild? What are your favorite rides? Leave some comments below!
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