When Pennsylvanians think of amusement parks in the state, huge places like Six Flags or Hershey come to mind. If you’re one of these people, and aren’t ready to spend that kind of money, you’ll be glad to know there is an alternative. Knoebel’s Amusement Resort near Elysburg in central Pennsylvania is a great choice for family fun. Though not as massive as “those other parks,” you will find lots to do here that will keep you (and your little ones) happy and excited. The setting itself is lovely; rides, restaurants, and games are tucked in the mountains and the shade trees make for a great walk around the grounds.
Knoebel’s best feature is its admission-free policy. Unlike other amusement resorts that charge an arm and a leg to get in (and then have you spending more on food, rides and entertainment) Knoebel’s is a friendly operation that lets you park for free. If you park too far out in the field, you can wait for a trolley to come and take you to the entrance of the park.
For the rides, visitors can either buy tickets or get a hand stamp for unlimited riding. Remember to check ahead for days and times when there are special prices for the hand stamps.
Let’s start with the rides. For the smallest children, you will find bumper cars, a calming boat ride, rides that fly up high, and a ferris wheel. Of course, with many children, the merry-go-rounds are always a hit. I must admit that even when I was much past the age of carousels, I still enjoyed going for a spin. There’s a kid in all of us; maybe you want to accompany your child and rediscover the excitement of your past! You’ll have to remember that some rides may be too scary for little kids. If you have older children or want some adult rides, there are many to consider.
The Haunted Mansion is a must-see for those who like adventure. A dark and spooky cart ride takes you through mystery unseen. Very small children probably won’t appreciate the sudden scares; unless they like to be terrified, it might not be the best choice. Many older kids, however, will think it is neat. For a tamer attraction, visit the antique cars. While many people might call this a boring ride, I believe it is one of the best because it winds under the Phoenix roller coaster at numerous places.
The Sklooosh is a great summer ride; even if you’re only a bystander. I still enjoy waiting by the wall for the huge passenger boat to come down the ramp; if you’re within a few feet of the splash, you *will* get wet. Those daring enough to stand up on the closer platform are really asking for the soaking they will receive! On a hot steamy day, this is a great feeling, but if your kids are planning to do this, I suggest dry clothing.
The train excursion is a calming attraction that both kids and parents will approve of. The train winds its way through peaceful woodland where you can almost always see squirrels partaking of the corn cobs they’ve been provided. Kids will enjoy watching for squirrels and other wildlife.
Now onto the food. Knoebel’s has no shortage of great park food. From ice cream to pizza to a sit-down meal in a Mexican restaurant, it’s available here. Knoebel’s pizza has won awards, and little wonder! There are neat alcoves and benches on which to sit while you eat. In one restaurant you will find tree trunks placed right in the walls; you could see a lot of action from here but it was still secluded enough to enjoy your meal. Beside the water-wheel you can find a great ice cream parlor with many choices.
And games! Knoebel’s has plenty of these at their game rooms. You can win tickets to purchase baubles, stuffed animals, special collectibles, and (if you have about a bajillion tickets) something you might actually consider sitting around your home! Even if you don’t rack up a ton of tickets, kids and adults will have fun playing all kinds of arcade, racing and skill games.
Don’t forget to see if there is any entertainment scheduled for the day you plan to visit. You can often catch shows and musical specials at Knoebel’s. I’ve seen magic shows and musical performances, just to name a few. These shows are good for at least half an hour without the dreaded “I’m bored.”