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Amusement Park News
Amusement Park News
Knoebels Amusement Park: The Largest Free-Admission Park in the Country
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
  • Rides 4U - New & Used Rides
  • Rides 4U - New & Used Rides

Entering its 92nd season, historic Knoebels Amusement Park is well-known as the largest free-admission park in the U.S. And last fall, the family-owned resort in Elysburg, PA., also received accolades as “favorite traditional amusement park” for the fifth year running by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. The Travel Channel also rated Knoebels one of their Top 10 Family Friendly Amusement Parks in the United States. And, Knoebels is one of the top winners of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards. The park won first place for Best Carousel with its Grand Carousel – an award it’s received annually since the awards event began; and the park took second place for best wooden roller coaster in the world with its Phoenix coaster ride.

And the high rankings don’t stop there: Knoebels also took second place honors for its food, and with a wide range of tasty offerings appearing for the 2018 season, the park may just receive an even higher ranking for dining options this year.

The 45-acre park is serving up tasty treats such as chicken and waffles at The Alamo restaurant, replete with creamy gravy. Four different flavors of the amusement park favorite Dole Whip are on hand, including raspberry and pineapple. And chocolate cheesecake on a stick may just top the list of unique cold sweets in the park. Possibly the most unusual dining choice on Knoebels’ menu are its alligator bites. The fried “tastes like chicken” meat can be dipped in a spicy sauce or enjoyed on its own, crisp and savory.

According to park spokesman Stacy Ososkie, the food fun doesn’t stop there. “We have craft soda at our Twister stand now with some really great flavors, as well as a Texas-size BLT.” She says the park’s tri-taters – essentially a multi-baked, stuffed potato – are another popular food choice, and the park is adding another flavor of the potato treat for the 2018 season. “This year we are going to be offering a loaded tri-tater with bacon, cheese, and sour cream,” she attests.

Knoebels’ food and beverage director Tony Rodriguez adds that the park has 12 different flavor options for those craft sodas, and additional dining options such as stuffed pierogis, fish tacos, and tasty lattes, are also a part of the park’s growing menu of unique tastes and teats. And when it comes to that jumbo BLT, he describes it as using “Thick-cut bacon from our barbecue stand and mounds of tomatoes and lettuce on thick Texas toast.” In short, it’s a mouthful.

Of course, as a long-beloved amusement park, Knoebels offers more than just fun food and a top-rated carousel.

Ososkie notes that the park now offers guests a diverse group of over 60 rides, 26 midway games, and the 900,000-gallon Crystal Pool, which makes the perfect spot to make a splash or take a swim. The park has grown exponentially she says since it officially opened in 1926. Back then, Knoebels featured a large pool, a restaurant, and a steam-powered carousel.

As the park expanded, so did the scope of its rides, but by 1980 Knoebels still had a distinction that park owners wanted to rectify – it was then the largest amusement park without a roller coaster. Enter the Phoenix, which came with its own history.

The rapid ride offers upwards acceleration and what is known as a “double out and back” layout. Originally, the ride was known as the Rocket roller coaster, and it was built in 1947 in San Antonio, Texas. The Phoenix was the largest roller coaster ever moved from one park to another, and despite naysayers doubting such a move would be a success, it was. And today this wooden roller coaster remains a big hit for the park, even as many more rides, including thrilling coasters, are added to the line-up at Knoebels.

The park’s tallest coaster, at just over 101 feet, is Twister, which plummets riders through twists and turns along this wooden coaster’s tracks. Based on the famous Mister Twister ride, the tangled tracks here were created right at Knoebels. Riders go at top speeds of 51.5 mph through track configurations that include long curves, a double helix shape, steep hills, and through a dark tunnel.

Aside from coasters, another big attraction at the park is the classic Haunted Mansion. Located at the park for 45 years, this ride has been offering chills and thrills for decades.

The Flying Turns ride is a classic the park felt was missing too long from the amusement park scene. The legendary coaster design was reconstructed from scratch at Knoebels, where designers had little to go on but memories. Now, the revamped traditional design lets guests go freewheeling, swooping and swerving through hairpin turns on the world’s only wooden bobsled coaster. The unique design allows each car to leave the rails for a time, controlled just with gravity and momentum. Essentially, it’s a trackless coaster, but because the ride is controlled to some extent by gravity itself, each ride offers a different experience for guests every time they climb on board.

The most recent addition came to Knoebels last year with Over the Top. This ride serves as a throwback to the park’s original Flying Cages attraction that entertained park guests from 1964 to 1985. The ride positions guests so that they are standing side by side as it moves both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Another new Knoebels’ attraction is the Lazer Maze. It’s a thriller of a laser tag arena, styled after Mission Impossible as it challenges players to sneak through, around, and past lasers without touching them, or in an alternate version of the game, by touching as many of the lasers as possible.

From satisfying classic rides to tasty eats, the park is a mainstay of the amusement park industry in central Pennsylvania.

"We have the opportunity to put a lot of smiles on people's faces…to make a lot of memories for people…" park owner and manager Brian Knoebel says.
In short, Knoebels knows how to dish out the fun – with rides for thrill seekers and families, fun food, and a first-rate swimming pool to help guests beat the summer heat.

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