Idlewild Park – Pittsburgh’s Finest Amusement Park for Children and Families
by Janet Jonus
Idlewild Park is a hidden gem tucked into the Laurel Highlands in between Latrobe and Ligonier Pennsylvania. Idlewild has been named “Best Children’s Amusement Park” by Amusement Today. In contrast to Kennywood, Idlewild is a smaller, quieter, calmer park with plenty of rides and attractions. It has a waterpark called Soak Zone and lots of green space.
Idlewild Park started as a campground along the Ligonier Valley Railroad run by Thomas Mellon. Pittsburghers flocked to the park to get away from the dirt and noise of the city. Throughout the years, the Mellon family expanded the park adding lakes for fishing and canoeing, and buildings including dining halls, dance halls, and an amphitheater. By 1890, the park was so popular that the trains arrived with people hanging off the outside and sitting on the tops.
Idlewild added a steam carousel in 1896. In 1931 electricity was brought to the park and electrical rides soon followed. The Park continued to expand even after the railroad closed in 1952 because the Lincoln Highway, America’s first coast-to-coast highway, went right past the front gate. New rides were added. Kiddieland opened in 1956. In 1983, Kennywood Park Corporation bought Idlewild and expanded it. Storybook Forest became a part of the Park. Jumpin’ Jungle and Hootin’Holler were built. A waterpark was added in 1985. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood opened in 1989 and Raccoon Lagoon, a new Kiddieland, opened in 1990.
Idlewild Park and Soak Zone meanders along Loyalhanna Creek. Storybook Forest is a fairy-tale land of life-size replicas from favorite fairytales, fables, and nursery rhymes. Babies and Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Kids are the target for StoryBook Forest. (FamilyFunMom loved playing in the cheese when she was a child. Storybook Forest has been around for a long time!)
Jumpin’ Jungle is a large play area for Preschoolers, Kids, and Tweens. There is a large ball pit, an even larger climbing net tower, a net tunnel, a giant slide, a pipe organ, and (the FamilyFunKid favorite) the floating balls. (The floating balls are pipes blasting air. Kids balance balls in the air stream. It is a simple idea and a lot of fun.)
Hootin’ Holler is themed as an Old-West village. There is a small, charming log flume ride, the Howler, and one of the stops to the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad. Confusion Hill is a hosted, walk-through with optical illusions galore. Hootin’ Holler is home to the Mineshaft Kitchen, the largest food area in the entire park. Mineshaft Kitchen serves Potato Patch French Fries, the Schwinery Barbeque, a taco stand, and a sandwich and salad stand.
Olde Idlewild is home to most of the main rides. The Wild Mouse and the Rollo Coaster are here as well as the classic Carousel. Other rides are the Balloon Race, the Paratrooper, the Ferris Wheel, bumper cars, the scrambler, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Super Round-Up, the Flying Aces, and the Spider. In case you get hungry, there is a burger, hot dog, and sandwich stand, an ice cream stand, a funnel cake stand, a pizza stand, and a small candy shop.
Raccoon Lagoon is the Kiddieland area, across the Loyalhanna Creek. There are 13 rides for little kids but the real highlight is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, based on the popular PBS children’s show by Fred Rogers Productions. There is a food stand here too. The Loyalhanna Railroad stops in Raccoon Lagoon.
Soak Zone is at the far end of the Park. This large waterpark has a wave pool, body slides, tube slides, a lazy river, a kid’s slide and spray area (best for kids and tweens), and a little kids pool and play area. There are hot, crowded changing rooms and even hotter family changing rooms. There is also a gift shop that carries bathing suits, swim gear, and sunscreen. A small food stand offers pizza, burgers, and fries. Many people come to Idlewild to spend the day at SoakZone until it closes at 600PM and then head into the park to ride for the last two hours.
Idlewild opens for its 142nd Season on May 18th and 19th (Soak Zone won’t open until May 25th).
Idlewild Park Celebrates Memorial Day May 25, 26, 27. Tour a Civil War encampment and watch a battle reenactment. Military members get in for free. Everyone else can save $6.00 per ticket by bringing a canned food item for a Food bank donation.
Run the Memorial Day 5K on May 27th. This FamilyFun 5K can be run (or walked) by the entire family. Strollers are welcome too.
June 16th is First Responders Day. See emergency vehicles on display. First Responders (with valid ID) get in for free and family members get a discount.
Celebrate Father’s Day with the Father’s Day Flop on June 16th. There will be special activities and discounts.
Meet Peg + Cat at the Hillside Theater all day long June 17-21. Peg + Cat from the hit PBS show will be at Idlewild all week long.
June 20 and 21 is the Antique and Classic Car Show. Cars will be on display in Parking Lot C. There is a nightly parade at 600PM.
June 24-30 is Idlewild’s Annual Showcase of Stars. Watch the area’s best performers in shows all day long at the Hillside Theater.
Play and swim all day and then stay for the Fireworks show at 930PM for Fourth of July.
It’s Daniel Tiger Days at Idlewild July 8-12. Meet Daniel Tiger and his Friends Katernia Kittycat, O the Owl, Miss Elaina , and Prince Wednesday from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Meet The Very Hungry Caterpillar July 15-19 all day long at the Hillside Theater.
July 17th is Twins Day. Everyone in the car with twins gets in on a BOGO plus there are twin activities at 200PM at the Hillside Theater.
It’s Christmas In July! Santa comes to Idlewild on July 19th.
Princesses in the Park is July 23-25. Meet and take pictures with your favorite Princesses all day long.
Jet Propulsion from Ready Jet Go! is at Idlewild Park on July 29-August 2 for meet and greets all day long.
Italian Day Festa is August 9th with food from La Cucina and fireworks at 930PM.
Close out the Summer Season at Idlewild during Daniel Tiger’s Fall Festival. Meet Daniel Tiger and his Friends Katernia Kittycat, O the Owl, Miss Elaina , and Prince Wednesday from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
The Fall brings the Annual Ligonier Highland Games on September 14th and 215th. The Park is closed but you can watch the Highland Clans compete in Scottish Games.
Enjoy Oktoberfest at Idlewild Park September 22 and 23.
Idlewild Park’s popular Halloween celebration HALLOWBOO runs October 5,6,12,13,19,20, and 26,27. Head out to Idlewild for this FamilyFunFavorite!
Idlewild Park and Soak Zone opens daily on May 31 through August 18th. The Park opens at 1030AM daily and closes at 800PM but there are progressives closures throughout the evening. Generally speaking, Storybook Forest will close at 500PM, Jumpin’ Jungle will close at 500 or 600PM, Hootin’ Holler will close at 700PM, and Olde Idlewild will close at 800PM. (Closing times may vary.) Soak Zone is open daily from Memorial Day through August 18th from 1130AM to 600PM. Idlewild and Soak Zone are open Labor Day Weekend. Idlewild but not Soak Zone is open September 7 and 8 for Daniel Tiger’s Fall Fest from 1130AM through 600PM with Limited Operations and availability of rides, food, and games. Idlewild and Soak Zone can have limited operations near the end of summer and on some weekdays when certain rides, food stands, and games open late depending on staffing levels.
Admission to Idlewild includes admission to Soak Zone (when it is open). Buy tickets online for a discount off of gate prices. All prices are base rate plus taxes and fees. Online prices are: Adult Funday (3-59) $44.99, Senior Funday (60+) $28.99, Military Funday (with valid ID) $27.99, Late Day Funday (after 300PM for everyone 3+) $23.99, Seven Day Advanced Purchase (age 3-59) $40.99. A Family Four Pack Funday is $146.99. Kids 2 and under are FREE.
Gate prices are Adults (3-59) are $44.99 weekdays and $46.99 weekends. Senior Gate prices (60+) are $32.99.
Season Passes are available. Idlewild has the “Any Buddy” Pass for $149.99. This Pass allows the Passholder to bring a Buddy with them any day of the season. The Pass includes the Summer Season, Fall Fest, and Hallowboo plus many perks. The Premium Pass is $99.99 and includes five Buddy Passes and entry during the Summer Season, Fall Fest, and Hallowboo plus extra perks. The Gold Pass ($79.99) includes entry during the Summer Season, Fall Fest, and Hallowboo plus perks. The Summer Pass includes entry to Idlewild’s Summer Season only. The Senior Pass (age 60+) costs $49.99 and includes entry for the Summer Season, Fall Fest, and Hallowboo plus some perks. The Mitiatry Pass (valid ID required) costs $49.99 and includes entry for the Summer Season, Fall Fest, and Hallowboo plus some perks. Some Season Passes are currently available for 3Pay. Spread your payments out over three months with a valid credit card. You can gain entry to Idlewild after the first payment is made.
Idlewild is also offering the PA Pass with admission through the end of 2019 for four PA Parks – Idlewild and Soak Zone, Sandcastle, Kennywood, and Dutch Wonderland. The Pass is $199.99 per person.
Idlewild also has the Summer Dining Pass. The Pass entitles the Passholder to two meals and one snack per visit. The Pass is only good for season passholders. It can only be used during the Summer Season. There are other restrictions. The Summer Dining Pass is $89.99 plus taxes and fees.
Idlewild Park is located on Route 30, about 50 miles outside of Pittsburgh between Latrobe and Ligonier. Admission is handled in your car upon entry. Admissions can get backed up on busy days. If you are using your season pass for the first time, you will be able to get into Idlewild but you will have to have your Pass processed at customer service in Hootin’ Holler after you enter the Park. Parking is Free and stretches the length of the Park. Most people park closest to their target location. If you are heading to Storybook Forest or Jumpin’ Jungle, parking areas A and B. Lots C and D are best for the rides. There is parking nearer to Soak Zone, past all of the other parking lots. Handicap Parking is in Lots A,C,D,E. One warning about Parking, entry to Idlewild is one-way. If you drive past your parking lot, you cannot go back to it.
Idlewild Park: 2574 Route 30, Ligonier PA 15658 / 724-238-3666 / https://www.idlewild.com/