Not too many amusement parks are also national historic districts, but Kennywood comes closer to the ειδος or ideal image of an amusement park than just about any other amusement park. It has been in a state of constant evolution since it opened in 1898, but it’s always Kennywood, always more the same than different.
“Pittsburg’s Lost Kennywood,” a sort of Victorian fantasy of an amusement park, is actually the newest section of the park, but it captures the nostalgic atmosphere very well.
The Phantom’s Revenge is a modern steel roller coaster that dominates the Kennywood skyline. It keeps the vulgus happy, while the real connoisseurs come from all over the country to ride the old wooden coasters.
The Pittsburgh Plunge is a very simple ride: you go up, turn around, and come down. It’s what happens at the bottom that makes it memorable.
The Thunderbolt, a revised version of the old Pippin, is pegged as one of the world’s greatest by connoisseurs of wooden roller coasters. Its wooden construction looks terrifyingly slapdash, but it’s actually a marvel of engineering.
And here’s the Thunderbolt’s big surprise. What you can’t see from the entrance is that it will plunge you into a steep ravine overlooking the Monongahela valley, making clever use of the irregular topography of the site.
And of course there’s a carousel, with a real Wurlitzer in the middle.