It’s been a minute since we were last at Knoebels (like, 4 year’s worth of minutes!) so I started hounding Henry about going there again, probably while we were on our way from Holiday World in August, ha! Look, I really like amusement parks, OK? Especially the small, quirky ones and Knoebels for sure fits that bill.
The last time we were there was for their Hallofun event thingie, similar to what so many other parks do anymore: make the park spooky and continue to grab that cash into autumn. But what I like about Knoebels is that they don’t go for the high tech animatronic tricks or the low-brow gore – they are old school, like the way your church decorated for Halloween in the 70s and 80s and as you’re strolling about the park’s perfectly-foliaged paths on a clear autumn day, you sort of feel like Laurie Strode walking home from school, except that Michael Myers isn’t watching from behind a hedge.
And you’re probably wearing normal jeans, too.
I’m doing that thing again, aren’t I. That thing where I ramble and make no sense because I’m so excited to share pictures of another fucking amusement park. Le sigh.
What I’m trying to say is that stepping into Knoebels is like stepping back in time. I mean, my phone barely works there so it’s REALLY taking it back to some other decade.
Another reason why I love this place is, obviously, THE RIDES. Two outstanding wooden coasters, one small steel coaster, one wooden bobsled coaster, two dark rides, one of the biggest carousel’s in the world, and a handful of carnival midway stomach-churners.
But back to those wooden coasters…The Phoenix in particular is what made me want to go back so badly, especially after visiting Holiday World and getting bit by that coaster bug. Because for as great as those coasters were, I just kept thinking about how much I missed the Phoenix. I could barely even remember what it was like to ride it, other than that it gave me the extreme giggles. And really, isn’t that all you need to remember?
So I made Henry leave the house around 7:30 Saturday morning, even though he argued that it only takes 3 and a half hours to get there and the park doesn’t open until 12. But I guess he forgot that he has to stop to piss every 30 minutes, and then took a wrong turn, so yeah, it was a little after noon when we rolled up in Elysburg, PA. My work friends kept asking me, “Where is Knoebels?” and I was like, “Um, that way” and probably pointed the wrong way. But then I looked at map finally because I had this great idea that we should also go to Philly the next day before coming home, because it’s “right by Philly and I want to go to Big Gay Ice Cream again” was my compelling argument, and Henry said, “KNOEBELS IS NOT ‘RIGHT NEAR’ PHILLY” and I was like, “Yes, it is, are you dum—-*looks at map*—-oh, it’s really not that close to Philly.”
I always forget that Pennsylvania has a northern part too.
Knoebels is one of the last free parks in America, which means any fucking Joe can waltz right on in and perhaps he only wants to take a whirl on the Paratroopers, he can just go up to one of the many ticket booths and buy whatever amount of tickets he needs. Rides range from like $1 to $3.50, I think? So if you know you’re not going to ride a lot, then skip the wristband and just get a book of tickets.
Henry LOVES this concept because it means he’s not a big fat waste of money like he normally is at amusement parks.
Another perk? DOGS ARE WELCOME. There were more dogs there on Saturday than babies probably and it was so goddamn precious, especially when they were in costume! Chooch wished he had more hands so he could pet more than 2 dogs at a time.
Chooch and I got wristbanded by an old man who asked me if my knuckle tattoos were prison tattoos and then looked at Chooch and said, “Did your mom kill a man?” What an early highlight!
Now that we had our wristbands, I ran straight to the Phoenix except that I couldn’t remember where it was because I hadn’t been there in five years, so a lot of zig-zagging was involved.
They turned the Phoenix’s tunnel into a jack o’ lantern! Chooch and I were endlessly excited about this!
We made it to the Phoenix before too much of a line had formed.Henry had us convinced that it was going to be SO CROWDED THERE and guess what? Well, it was, but not very many people were actually riding anything other than the train and antique cars so we never stood in line for more than 10 minutes except for the Flying Turns which was about 30 minutes because that’s still fairly new and a novelty.
Oh shit, you guys. Chooch and I grabbed the backseat for our inaugural ride and as we cruised through that tunnel, I was instantly reminded why I love this ride. It is fucking CHARMING and somehow extremely entertaining in spite of its simplicity – there’s nothing fancy about this track but there are so many humps that deliver major giggle-inducing airtime. Plus, it’s a lot smoother than I remember!
And it won the Golden Ticket Award for the world’s best wooden coaster of 2018!
I wanted to get all the coasters ridden ASAP in case Henry’s baseless prediction of it “getting so crowded” came true. Flying Turns was supposedly a 45 minute wait but I wanted to just get it done since we were right there and who knows, the line could get even longer! However, they had all three cars running, so the line moved steadily and we ended up only waiting about 30 minutes, as previously spoiled. And miraculously, no one in line with us was annoying.
They have the area around the line all decorated creepy-cutely so that kept us entertained.
My genius son didn’t get this one:
So, because this ride relies on gravity, all riders need to get weighed prior to boarding because each seat can’t exceed 400 pounds. You and your riding partner stand on a big metal square and get weighed with little fanfare — no one can see the results but the ride operators so it’s not a big deal, but I remember 4 years ago, standing in that line and PANICKING because I didn’t want to get weighed. I was telling Chooch about that because he didn’t remember riding it and I mentioned that I was around 40 pounds heavier then, and he was like, “REALLY?!” and I stopped for a second to let that sink in, but yeah, I’m 35-40 pounds lighter now than I was in 2014 and that’s really hard for me to wrap my head around because in my mind, I’m forever-fat.
Anyway, this is the world’s ONLY wooden bobsled coaster and it’s ridiculously fun! Also, a little precarious and I imagine all those anti-science people out there will think it’s God’s Will that keeps the cars from flipping over and nothing that has anything to do with physics, but OK. The rest of us know what’s up.
Here’s a quick video from some theme park Youtuber to give you an idea of what a cool ride this is:
I highly recommend the trip to Knoebels if you’re a coaster aficionado or desperate to feel like a Winter Olympian without putting forth any effort whatsoever.
Next up was Twister! Which we got lost trying to find! Knoebels is not the easiest to navigate, but I kind of like that because it makes it feel like something new every time, like a labyrinth with moving walls.
Anyway, look at that burly beast back there. He is a beaut, that one. I love the walk up the ramp where dead bodies hang from the rafters – it reminds me so much of the way my mom used to decorate our front yard when I was a kid.
I mean, for Halloween.
Not for some witchy sacrificial offering. OR WAS IT.
(She did just text me about the Mon City Witch Festival, so….)
Look at the skeletons!
In theory, Twister should whip Phoenix’s ass because it’s so much bigger, but this is a classic example of how bigger ain’t always better, baby. Don’t get me wrong, this coaster is fucking faster and, you know, twisty, but it lacks the personality and flair that the smaller Phoenix has in spades. We actually only rode this twice that day, which is kind of bonkers when I think about it now, but we were so preoccupied on riding the Phoenix until our eyes popped out.
Waiting for last seat on Twister.
The ride operators kept screaming FORTNITE and that was annoying but Chooch felt like they were sending him a signal.
Yeah, for a Dork Club meeting.
The last coaster we had to scratch off the list was Impulse, which is the newish steel coaster that wasn’t there yet during our last trip. It’s similar to Kennywood’s Sky Rocket except it doesn’t have the powered launch.
Here, you can see part of it:
The ride operator there at that time was dressed like a mad scientist and he was so funny in a dad-joke way. I always appreciate a good, entertaining ride operator. Papa H took pictures of us being adorable on it:
Overall, I’d give it a 4/10. I’m just not that into steel coasters anymore and this one was only thrilling for that first drop, and then the rest was just upside-down bullshit, but the real slow kinds of corkscrews and rolls, you know? I don’t like that. So, we only went on this one once, but again, the wait time was only about 5 minutes.
I’ll be back with more Knoebels photos because they are a’plenty!
(PS I lied – there is also a kiddie coaster but it’s not amazing like the Wacky Worm so I easily forgot about it. #kiddiecoastersnob)