There are forty-five rides to enjoy, seven are thrilling coasters, but in many ways, the rides are the backdrop to the real story of Kennywood.

Some places are bigger than their physical location. Kennywood is a way of life, a rite of passage into adulthood and beyond.

In the Greater Pittsburgh area, the Kennywood memories start when you are very young. As you are riding in the car with your parents, the snow begins to melt, flowers begin to blossom, and bright yellow arrows on telephone poles show the way to the park. The Kennywood sign is as iconic as anything black and gold in the City of Pittsburgh. It’s a tradition that spans decades. At one time the signs were taken down during the winter months, but nowadays they remain up all year round.

As a young Pittsburgher, this is your first amusement park. A place of wonder and imagination that begins in Kiddieland. Here, you are eased into the culture with helicopters, motorcycles, and space ships. Images and sounds that are forever etched into your memory. And don’t forget Leo the Lion. If you ever wanted to teach a child about not littering, this is probably the best way to do it. He’s a fancy trash receptacle that talks and sucks the trash out of your hand and into his mouth. At the age of eight, there’s truly nothing better.

As you begin elementary school, the park takes on a new life with your annual Kennywood Day. This day signifies the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. It’s time for your parents to take you shopping for that perfect Kennywood outfit. This specially selected attire is a tradition that has spanned generations of Pittsburghers. This outfit might be unique or it might match all of your friends to show best friend solidarity.

Selecting a Kennywood partner is also very important to the enjoyment of the day. If you don’t pick someone that enjoys the same rides, then you may have a very difficult day deciding what to do. And most rides are best enjoyed with even numbers of people. The Racer isn’t the same if you can’t taunt a couple friends riding in the other train. And you need a minimum of two to ride the World Renowned Thunderbolt.

In middle school, it’s time to break away from the adults and venture out in packs of friends. There are usually four or more in these clans as you roam around the park, joining other clans for a quick stop at the Potato Patch to grab a bite of fresh pressed french fries, before heading off to the Phantom’s Revenge or the Black Widow. The day turns into evening, the lights come on, and the park transforms. The coasters travel a bit faster and rides like Garfield’s Revenge (also known as the Old Mill) are a bit more romantic if you have a special crush.

Once you have children of your own, the park takes on a whole new meaning. The nostalgia of times gone by are ever present as you take your kids to the same Kiddieland you enjoyed as a child. The joy in their eyes as they ride the Baby Whip or the Baby Swings is precious to you. You will look forward to taking off from work to take them to their annual Kennywood day in their Kennywood outfits, of course. When you show them the special aspects of the park, like sitting in the last car on the Jack Rabbit gives you a little more air when you go down the double dip. Or you buy them a chocolate dipped ice cream cone. Do you want jimmies or nuts on that? These days don’t last for long. Before you know it, they are off with their best friends, exploring and enjoying the park as you did a decade ago.

But the fun and games doesn’t end with your children’s passage into High School. Eventually, your children will get married and have families of their own. Then you can enjoy the park as a Grandparent. At this point, the many memories of Kennywood are woven into your mind, heart, and spirit. You don’t need to run around the park to enjoy it. You can find some shade near the lagoon or cool off in the air conditioned Parkside Café with pot roast and mashed potatoes. This cafeteria, located in the heart of the park, has been around since the very beginning, opening in 1899. The best part of being a Kennywood Grandparent is spoiling your grandkids with ice cream from the Golden Nugget. It’s a large vanilla ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate, rolled in nuts, and topped with a cherry on top. A sure Grandparenting win!

As the evening comes and the hot summer air cools, you can find a bench near the music of the Grand Carousel. The beloved Merry-Go-Round was built in 1926 and the music is provided by a 1916 Wurlitzer #153 Military Band Organ. It’s one of the oldest Wurlitzer’s in existence and it’s yours. Because Kennywood is more than just an amusement park. Kennywood has been part of your entire life. Kennywood is home.

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Jason Krysinski is a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania. He’s been in hotel management for 18 years. He’s passionate about writing, food, history, and travel. Writing for Pinpoint unifies all of his passions. He’s always looking to discover new and off the beaten path locations throughout the state. If you have any suggestions, email him at jason@pinpointpennsylvania.com