Hi folks.. this trip report is very late since I went back in April, but I am having technically difficulties with my photo files. I’ve been holding it (and all my other posts) until I could get the photos put in but I’m not sure when that will be. So here is a photo-less (for now) trip report of Opening Day at Knobels. Dutch Wonderland and Hersheypark will follow shortly.
Saturday I made the trek to Knoebels for the first time since 2011. (You can read about that trip here.) This actually was my first trip visiting Knoebels by myself and I found it kind of lonely. I have so many family memories with this park that it seemed kinda wrong to be there by myself. That didn’t stop me from having a good time, but it did change things a little bit. I don’t know that I will go back by myself again.
First of all, if you are not familiar with the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) or the Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts (DAFE) clubs and you like amusement parks, you really need to check them out. These groups organize the most amazing events at parks across the globe and membership with them earns you lots of special attention (like being able to attend Media Day at Cedar Point to ride Gatekeeper before it opens to the general public! No, I’m not going. It isn’t in PA.) One of the neatest things about these groups is called ERT (Extended Ride Time). ERT means you and the other DAFE and/or ACE members get exclusive ride time on certain popular rides. You can ride again and again and again. This year we had ERT on the Haunted Mansion and the Black Diamond. Pretty cool stuff.
So after what seemed an incredibly long drive (I went a different way than usual) and a brief drive by hello to my family buried in OddFellows cemetery in Shamokin (don’t ask…) I made it to Knoebles around 10:30am. The park opened at noon and we were to check in at Pavilion L at 11 to get our credentials.
Since Knoebels is a free entry park, the park is never really closed. I took this opportunity to walk around and get lots of ride photos without people in them – everybody but DAFE folks were waiting in line for the Buy One Get One free wristbands the park offers on opening weekend. This is a good deal and one many, many people take advantage of. Little did I know when I saw the lines that I’d be waiting in one of them. More on that later.
I noticed a lot of upgrades and new paint since I’d last visited and I took pics to record all of that. To my delight I could smell potato pancakes cooking and put that on my to-do list for later. In 2011 the pancake place was closed.
Around 11 I went over, signed in and got my name tag. Sadly this year Knoebels did not give out our ride wristbands/stamps when we checked in. They did that in 2011 which saved us so much time but this year we had to wait in line like everybody else. I think I would have planned my day differently if I had known about that. We’d be reporting back to the pavilion at 3:30 for our meal, door prizes and the auction of several bumper cars Knoebels was offering to the group. Both ACE and DAFE are non-profits dedicated to supporting amusement parks and amusement park causes.
So, now that I knew I had to wait in line I just toured the park and took my photos. I wanted to create an ABC photo gallery for the website so that took a little time. I had a morning snack of a hot dog ($2) – I brought my own Cokes from home. Knoebels is a Pepsi park and that just is not my preference. The open food policy is something I LOVE about Knoebels. We have food allergies in our family and it is wonderful knowing my husband and son will have safe things to eat. I also had my old standby of a baked potato. Totally goes with a hotdog.
To finish it off (and to eat way more than I had planned) I had a hot fudge sundae from Mill Stream. I forgot how big their sundaes were at Knoebels, not at all like Hersheypark. We’re talking 3 scoops of ice cream in a big bowl filled with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. I passed on the chopped peanuts and cherries.
Well, I was wondering how I was going to eat again at 3:30, but I walk off a lot of that food touring the park around and around and around taking pictures and noticing things. I wasn’t *really* hungry by 3:30 but I did OK.
At 1pm I bit the bullet and stood in line for my wristband. I had a few rides I wanted to do and I needed that wristband. 45 minutes later I had my wristband and my tickets for the Haunted Mansion and the Black Diamond. I high-tailed it to Ole’ Smokey Train for my first ride. This was a huge mistake. This train does not hold many and it has a longish track with only one train. Even though the line was fairly short it took 5 passes and nearly 40 min for me to get my ride in.
It did teach me something though about the possibility of buying tickets versus a wrist band. On busy days at Knoebels, unless you are riding kiddie rides you won’t get more than 2-3 rides in an hour. If one of those rides is a coaster, 1 an hour is going to be it. If you are an adult you MAY be better off getting tickets. In fact, if you visit during the summer on Saturday or Sunday that is your only option.
So after that long wait I went to the Pioneer Train, my favorite ride in the park. They had 3 trains running (the most I’ve ever seen) and we still had a 20 minute wait. This track goes through the woods and is delightfully shady and cool on a hot day. You also travel through the supports of The Twister roller coaster which means if your timing is good you can get some really neat coaster photos.
I had a little time before 3:30 after that so I went to my car (free parking and a shuttle….) and got my laptop to empty my cameras just in case something happened. I also used my laptop to charge my cell phone. Knoebels does NOT have wifi in the park. You can get a signal, but it is protected, or was when I tried it.
About this time they announced the park would close at 7pm instead of 6pm. This is a regular occurance on busy days at Knoebels. Like Kennywood they do not have a set closing time but let it vary depending on crowd size.
At 3:30 the DAFE/ACE picnic began and we got our birch beer and our ham and chicken dinner. Back in 2011 we did pizza and I can say this cooked meal was a million times better. The baked beans reminded me of my grandma’s. <sigh> There were announements and many memorials to a fellow DAFE/ACE member who passed away. DAFE and ACE are both like large families and every park trip is a reunion. Those who were lost since last year are sorely missed.
I did not stay for the auction of the bumper cars though my daughter begged me to get the USMC one. Sadly it would not fit in my Honda.
Next up I did the Haunted Mansion which is voted number one year after year by DAFE members. There is nothing else like it out there, trust me folks. It IS scary. My daughter refuses to go on it again. She survived The Crucible at boot camp but will not do this ride. I do suggest if you have hearing aids you turn them off. It was a bit much for mine. Also if you ride it and get scared, close your eyes. Most of the effects go away that way. PLEASE think twice before allowing small children on this ride. They CAN ride it but I suggest you ride it yourself first. Another note about the Mansion, it requires a special ticket. You purchase them as you approach the entrace. This year’s price is $2.25 and yes, it is worth it.
It was on my way out of the Mansion when I spotted a Giant Great Dane that I began to notice the dog population was even larger than I remembered. Now I like dogs, but some people don’t. Some are allergic or afraid of them. Dogs on leashes are allowed in Knoebels and they can even ride the trains. If you do not like dogs, you need to prepare yourself to meet quite a lot of them.
By this time I was dragging and I needed a cup of coffee. Knoebels sells 8 O’Clock coffee which always reminds me of childhood shopping with my Mom at the A&P. I had them add some ice into the bottom so I’d be able to drink it sooner.
I visited the Knoebels and Mining Museum and was suprised to see in the gift shop that they had the Knoebels: An Amusement Park with a Heart book. I was approached by several people this year who had been told it was sold out. Not so – they checked inventory and they have at least 112 copies. So if you are wanting to get a copy of that book, call Knoebels main number and ask for the Gift Shop Office. They do ship these books if you can’t make it to the park. This is the SECOND edition of the book though, the first has been OOP for a long time. They actually need to do an update to this – I guess once Flying Turns is working would be a good time (I would LOVE to write the next edition if anyone out there is reading who can make that happen!) Figure it can’t hurt to pitch a plug, right?
I decided I wanted to try the Panther cars and they were really fun and old fashioned. I did *not* get the PINK Panther car and was a bit disappointed. The girl behind me wanted orange and she wasn’t happy either, but then again she was 5.
After that I tried Knoebels antique cars for the first time too. I had to wait about 30 min for this ride, but it was WORTH it. These are the best Antique Cars I’ve ever ridden on. Guess I have to start riding these at other parks too. Why are they great? 4 seaters with plenty of room, they are covered, the track is elevated, the track is long AND the track takes you through the Phoenix!
Then I did the Whipper which is a ride I have to be careful not to get thrown around too much on. Riding by myself makes that a lot easier. I love watching the mechanics of this ride and Knoebels has a bell (this boxing ring bell) they ring before they start and after the ride is over.
I did some shopping in some more shops and drooled over the Hello Kitty display but did not buy anything.
There is a new baby care area that was not there in 2011 which I thought was neat. Inside is a microwave if you need to heat up formula, changing table and a nice place to sit down. The door doesn’t say it, but you might want to knock before entering.
At 7pm we met at the Haunted Mansion. A car was sent through empty in rememberence of the lost club member and then we did a group photo. This is the first time in 5 events I’ve actually made it into a photo! After that we went over to the Black Diamond which also sent through an empty car.
This was the lowest point of my day. I made the trip to see the Black Diamond with my daughter who is now in California with the Marines. I was scared out of my mind and really wished she had been there to sit next to me (and protect me from all those dead miners!) But she reassured me by cell phone text that I would be OK and indeed I was. I do not like heights, darkness, fast moving things etc, etc, etc so this ride could have been a complete disaster. I mean it is an indoor haunted rollercoaster after all! But in reality it was just plain neat.
The roller coaster aspects of it were tame – the lift chain noise was the worst part. There were two minor drop hills but the rest of the movement inside is very much like Haunted Mansion. They made the most of the floor space they had in there.
Was it scary? Nope. BUT you have to understand I walked through the thing with lights on and had a first hand description of the effects from the designed. (Read more about that here.) This was ERT so I could have gotten right back on, but I had an hour and a half drive home in the dark so I decided not too. I regret that now. Oh well, there is always Phoenix Phunfest!