Ok so we all know Knoebels and what it makes it unique so I won’t go too much into that. This is the park that still has free admission with ticket books, gravel walkways, carnival rides, RCT-style food vendors, people walk their dogs there, etc. It’s also home to three famous coasters wooden coasters: Phoneix, Twister, and Flying Turns. Somehow (probably because of my general disdain for the northeast compared to the rest of the country) this was my first visit to this park ever so I was quite excited.
We got there and walked around a bit and the first ride of stature that we ran into was Impulse. Not really much to say about it, it was easily the worst coaster there but I guess its fine for a small park. We then walked through the park to the back and rode Phoenix. This was one of the rides I had been looking forward to most this year as I have been hearing for decades how amazing it is, so I was really pumped.
Now in full disclosure I have been pretty much every park in the country multiple times and by this point had ridden most of the new RMCs as well, so what constituted as amazing when I first started following coasters 25 years ago compared to what qualifies as amazing today is totally different, so I am sad to say the ride really wasn’t that great when compared to the really great coasters of today. No question it was very well maintained, looked great, and tracked great especially for a coaster from the 1940s. It had some air and maintained its speed enough to be a really fun wooden coaster. I’d put it over Raven but slightly under Viper at SFGAm…not quite up to that elite level. I give major props to Knoebels though for preserving and taking such good care of it.
Next up was Twister which I really wasn’t looking forward to that much. For some reason whenever I would think of Twister I would think of a ride like Wildcat at Hersheypark, a very twisty layout with not much else going on other than twist and turn after twist and turn while the ride shakes and rattles like hell. Well much to my surprise Twister was awesome. The helixes were intense, the ride was very quick and maintained its speed very well throughout the whole course, and there were many moments of solid airtime. It did have a bit of a vibration but considering how fast and old the coaster goes it was actually pretty smooth. I went in expecting to love Phoenix and not think too highly of Twister and ended up absolutely loving Twister and not being that impressed with Phoenix. If they can maintain Twister well enough to keep tracking like it was I would gladly go back to Knoebels just to ride these two coasters. One random fact of note: Twister does not have station gates but Phoneix does.
Next we rode the Haunted Mansion. I wouldn’t say I really liked it, but its very Knoebels, glad its still there, and glad we did it.
After that we walked around for an hour or so taking pictures. With its unique setting/look Knoebels is a very picturesque park and walking around just observing the way things are built and observing people is one of the great things about the park. Even though its mostly carnival rides and weird RCT style buildings the park has a vibe. We then ate lunch and the food was good although I will say it’s not cheap. Everyone loves to talk about how the food is cheap at Knoebels, and yes its cheaper than a corporate park, but I wouldn't call it cheap (like $5 for a slice of pizza).
After that we rode Black Diamond which honestly I don’t remember much about. It’s a coaster/dark ride combo about coal mining (which makes sense considering the parks location). From what I remember it was like Blazing Fury/Fire in the Hole on a cheaper budget (which was fine and to be expected). It was pretty good, no complaints here.
Next we went into the Carousel Museum which was really fantastic. The family that owns this park must have a thing for carousels because the animals were beautifully crafted and maintained and overall the little museum was really well done. The ornateness of everything, from the ceiling to the animals to even the little trinkets they sell was very impressive. They don’t have to go such great lengths to do things like this to be successful, but things like this really make Knoebels much more of a special place.
Next we rode the Flying Turns. Knowing the history I was really excited to finally ride this and I have to give Knoebels credit for sticking with it after so many years of issues. Of course the line was long because of the horrible capacity however they were running two trains so there wasn’t much they could do about it. For those not familiar with the load process of the ride, you actually have to be weighed before getting on and if the two people riding in your car weigh over 400 pounds combined it comes up on the screen saying you can’t ride together. Its just a very bizarre but funny situation they have going on in that station. The ride itself really surprised the hell out of me, it was great! It goes from “ok…this is very bizarre” and quickly turns into “OMFG this is absolutely terrifying!” It was much better than any of those old steel bobsled coasters I have ridden over the years
After that we rode two rides which I guess would be considered Knoebels classics: the carousel and the train. The carousel was a lot of fun: once again it was beautifully maintained, fast, and the fact that they encourage you to reach out and try to grab the rings and throw them off while you are moving at a good speed is something you don’t see anywhere else anymore. I grabbed a few of the rings and thought “Ow my arm,” and if I’m thinking that, you would think that other lawsuit hungry scammers would be thinking the same thing.
That’s something really unique and I/I’m sure most everyone else loves about this park. Even though something like that is (lets be honest) probably a bad idea, everyone seems to respect the rules because its Knoebels. Its kind of like the neighborhood resturaunt that everyone knows and hangs out at … it seems like no one complains about anything. That’s extremely rare in the world of the modern GP. I’m sure the fact that they let everyone in for free helps but still I feel like if someone hurt themselves on the Carousel and sued the local judge would be like “Dude its Knoebels” and throw the lawsuit out. Then you’d see the judge hanging out there with his grandkids the next day. Another funny thing like this was at Phoenix, there is a sign at the entrance that says people with wheelchairs can ride if the ride is running one train but can’t ride if it’s running two. I have no idea why this is but it was just really funny that a park can get away with that.
The train also was also really unique and one of my favorite rides in the park. It is a little mini toboggan style seating type train that hauls butt and takes you through the woods as well as around the park and under Twister.
We had a lot of fun at Knoebels, its definitely different and by far my favorite of the family owned parks in the USA. Parks like Fun Spot don’t really compare and while Holiday World is fun it just doesn’t seem to have the character or charm that Knoebels does (though Holiday World is out in the middle of empty grasslands whereas Knoebels is in the middle of the wooded mountains, which helps Knoebels a lot). The people working there reminded me of hanging out with the artsy people in college at the local coffe place, people in their 20s-40s with beards wearing sweatshirts and cargo shorts who just seemed really content. The park is just different and that’s what makes it fun.
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