Just along for the rides: Your guide to Pennsylvania amusement parks

By Brett Dworski, Tribune Brand Publishing

A family, a sense of anticipation that’s been building all week, a car packed with kids — and you don't get back home until dark. Your destination: a fun-filled amusement park where everyone spends the entire day being thrilled, getting splashed on, eating summertime treats and creating family memories that last a lifetime.

No matter where you live around Allentown, summer excitement isn't far away. Check out our list of Pennsylvania's many unique amusement parks that offer everything from high-speed roller coasters to laid-back picnicking. As an added bonus, all of these parks are easy to reach by car.

Parks vary in whether admission is charged and if admission includes rides. Some also offer discounts for online purchases, as well as other promotions, so call ahead before hitting the road.


Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
3830 Dorney Park Road, Allentown, Pennsylvania
(610) 395-3724
Established in 1884 by Solomon Dorney, this Allentown attraction is one of the state's more popular amusement parks. And no wonder: One minute, visitors can be riding one of the famous roller coasters; the next, they can be swooshing down a crazy waterslide. The fun doesn't stop with rides, as live music and dance performances are featured daily as well.

Max Curewitz, 19, a sports marketing student at Indiana University and resident of Yardley, Pennsylvania, has visited Dorney Park numerous times.

Curewitz says the summer camp where he works takes kids there every year. "I like the water park better than the roller coasters, but that’s because I've been on the roller coasters so many times."


100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania
(717) 534-3860
Recipient of the 2000 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Applause Award, Hersheypark also has been a fan favorite for years. A visit can get you a ride on the first looping roller coaster installed on the East Coast, live entertainment at the famous Hersheypark Amphitheater, quality dining and more.

Adam Baker, 21, a student at Indiana University and resident of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, has visited Hersheypark numerous times. He admires the park’s hospitality. "Hersheypark has awesome hotel packages," Baker says.


Knoebels Amusement Resort
391 Knoebels Blvd, Elysburg, Pennsylvania
(570) 672-2572
Just about everyone in Pennsylvania knows about Knoebels Amusement Resort, which has been family owned for nearly 90 years and is still going strong as America’s largest free-admission amusement park. With more than 60 rides and award-winning food, Knoebels is a favorite destination for many area residents.

David Lipnicky, public relations director for American Coaster Enthusiasts, knows the attractions of Knoebels well.

"It's my happy place," Lipnicky says. "It's a great family-owned park, which is very rare to find today. Their collection of roller coasters is great, too, with rides for thrill-seekers and families, as well."

Above all, Lipnicky praises the bumper cars. "They have the best in the nation, maybe even the world," he says. "Old-fashioned and still in great condition."


Sesame Place
100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
(866) 464-3566
Open since 1980, Sesame Place has the distinction of being America's only theme park entirely based on "Sesame Street." Every attraction brings back the joyous memories of watching one of the most successful children's television series of all time. You can spend time in Cookie Monster Land, Elmo's World, or even on Bert & Ernie's Slip & Slide.

Sesame Place is another park Adam Baker is familiar with — and he praises its marketing. "Sesame Place has great advertising," Baker says.

He's right. With websites, billboards and other marketing efforts making sure you see Cookie Monster or Elmo just about everywhere in the Langhorne area, it's hard not to get to Sesame Place.


Dutch Wonderland
2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
(866) 386-2839
A child's first trip to an amusement park is a memorable one. The bright lights, giant rides, cotton candy and overwhelming number of people all fuel a child's sense of wonder. Dutch Wonderland caters to families with children. Their theme is “Kingdom for Kids,” and young children can enjoy any of 34 rides, swim in the connecting water park, or even visit an island of animatronic dinosaurs.

Being a coaster enthusiast, it's no surprise that David Lipnicky is familiar with Dutch Wonderland.

"It's a very picturesque park that caters to families with young children," Lipnicky says. "Great rides for kids to first experience roller coasters."


Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark
309 Resort Drive, Tannersville, Pennsylvania
(570) 629-1661
With 37 waterslides watched over by 200 lifeguards and attendants, Camelbeach Mountain has bragging rights as Pennsylvania's largest outdoor water park. And if water isn’t your thing, Camelbeach has a climbing wall, zip lines and bungee jumps to get your adrenaline pumping.

New Jersey native Diane Nassy recently visited Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark with her husband and son. "We absolutely loved Pharaoh's Phortress," Nassy wrote on her blog. "Pharaoh’s Phortress is a massive four-story family water play structure that is sure to give you the grandest water park experience. We actually spent most of our time here."


Kennywood Amusement Park
4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
(412) 461-0500
Standing since 1898, Kennywood is one of the oldest amusement parks in America. Famous for its vintage wooden roller coasters, the park attracts enthusiasts of all ages.

"Kennywood is an absolutely beautiful park," says Lipnicky. "It has a great trio of wooden roller coasters that go way back, which is a very rare distinction. It’s one of the nation’s oldest and most beautiful parks."

In the "Favorite Parks" section of Theme Park Magazine's 2004 Reader's Choice Awards, Kennywood ranked second.


Waldameer Park & Water World
220 Peninsula Drive, Erie, Pennsylvania
(814) 838-3591
Waldameer Park & Waterworld was created in 1896 and stands today as the fourth-oldest park in Pennsylvania and the 10th-oldest in America. A visit to Waldameer can get the whole family on any of their 33 rides, which include roller coasters and water rides.

Originally designed a picnic area, Waldameer still has picnic buildings for friends and family to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the park when taking a break from thrill rides.

A major attraction at Waldameer, the Ravine Flyer II, was named Best New Ride in 2008 by Amusement Today magazine.


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