Idlewild and SoakZone - Amusement Park and Rides
Last summer I took my kids (ages 5, 6, and 9 years at the time) and my mother to Idlewild and SoakZone (http://www.idlewild.com/) for a mini-vacation. However, we didn’t bother with the water park since we have tons of those locally and it seemed like a waste of our time. To save money on the trip I booked a package deal with a hotel close to the park. The package included 4 preview passes (bought 5th additional), 4 full-day tickets (bought 5th additional again) and one room overnight with two queen beds. After our first day at Idlewild we ended up purchasing the package again and staying a second night for a total of 2 days at the park. Otherwise we knew we’d never get to see and do everything we wanted.
Luckily I live close enough to Pennsylvania that I was able to drive the entire way in less than 3 hours. On our trip through Pennsylvania we saw road signs detouring traffic off the expressway due to bridge demolition. That sounded very interesting so we pulled over to a McDonald’s rest area, propped open the back of my truck and waited to see the show – along with hundreds of other people. We waited about 20 minutes before we heard a rapid series of blasts and saw giant puffs of black smoke roll across the sky. I’ll admit the detonation didn’t live up to my expectations of what I’d seen blown up on television but the sound of the still gave me the chills. An hour later we crept back onto the expressway and continued our journey to Ligonier, PA and Idlewild.
Story Book Forest
Once in Ligonier, we stopped at the hotel and dropper off our clothes. We also picked up our preview passes for the day. We moseyed on down a mountainous road and 10 minutes later entered the park. We went straight to Story Book Forest. We walked through a giant story book and entered an imaginary land of fairy tales. Actors and actresses were dressed up to play some of the fairy tale characters, the kids got to walk on the Goodship Lollipop, they got to try their hands at pulling out the sword in the stone, and they ambled through several little storybook houses. All three ages had a blast, even though my youngest was afraid of Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf – he was sleeping in Grandma’s bed. At the end of Story Book Forest we came to a small cottage and guess who was inside. Yup, Santa Claus! It was Christmas in July so the girls got photos taken and were then handed lollipops from Santa in his shorts.
From Story Book Forest we moved out into a giant playground area with Bigfoot’s Mudslide and a huge ball pit. The kids loved it and I even went down the giant slide with them. We spent over an hour exploring the huge playground climbing nets, swinging on ropes, crossing swamps, and playing the giant jungle instrument. The neatest part of the playground, in my opinion, was the three story Tree House but the girls loved the giant slide.
After the playground we were more than ready for some rides. We ventured overto Raccoon Lagoon where all the rides and attractions are geared towards children ages 2 – 6. Thankfully my oldest was very petite for her age and she was able to enjoy the rides with her little sisters. At just over 9 acres, Raccoon Lagoon is one of the largest Kiddie Lands in the United States. The kids rode mini-bumper cars, a tiny caterpillar roller coaster, circling speed boats, more little cars than you could imagine and took a pony ride (which did cost extra put it was worth it).
Out in the larger part of the park were the rides you’d find in any typical amusement park. There were only two rides my little two couldn’t ride even with an adult, the wild mouse and the bumper cars. Other than those two rides my children were able to ride anything else they wanted so long as each little one had an adult rider. My three daughters, my mother, and I spent a great deal of time on the carousel and a smaller roller coaster called the Rollo Coaster. Even in July, at peak vacation time, the lines were reasonable for all the rides. More often than not we were able to get off a ride and be back on it within 10 minutes – if not immediately. We also rode The Spider, The Scrambler, a giant Ferris wheel, teacups, tilt-a-whirl, swings, hot air balloons and airplanes.
When we were ready for a small break from rides we took a train, the Loyalhanna Limited Railroad, to get from one end of the park to the other. We then visited Mister Roger’s Neighborhood of Make-Believe - THE best part of the entire park. I was most excited to share this part of Idlewild with my daughters so they could experience a fond memory from my childhood. We rode a trolley through The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, heard a story and interacted with robotic characters. The girls had a great time but I wasn’t able to talk them into taking the trip twice. Can you guess where they all three wanted to go? You betcha – back to the rides!
I think I chose the perfect age range during which to take my daughters to Idlewild. If I would have waited any longer my oldest would have been too old to appreciate and enjoy some of the younger aspects. Likewise, if I would have gone sooner my youngest would have been too small to enjoy many of the rides or attractions to their fullest.