Photo Courtesy of Knoebels
By Dimitri John Diekewicz
For Harrisburg Magazine
In this 21st Century high-tech world of entertainment, where special effects and gadgetry must be updated on what seems to be a weekly basis to hold the interest of its target audience, a place exists where play and pastime were not only perfected long ago, but continue to be put into practice, with very little change, to this day. This is Knoebels Amusement Resort.
Opened in 1926 by Henry Knoebel in Elysburg, PA, on the boulevard that also bears his family name, (it is still owned and operated by the Knoebels), the resort is an exciting site carved out of a tranquil, mountainous landscape. Upon approaching the main entrance on a warm summer day, visitors will quickly realize that this amusement park is unlike most others. The large sign situated over the main entrance proudly proclaims, “America’s Largest Free-Admission Amusement Resort.” This assertion, coupled with the fact that no parking fee is charged, indicates that this is a unique family- and economically-friendly environment. Ride tickets can be purchased for any dollar amount with kiddie rides starting at $1.50 going up to $4 for some thrill rides. A $20 book of tickets should get a rider on to 7-9 rides.
Entering the park to the left, wooden picnic pavilions greet guests. Many people are gathered, enjoying the day with one of the truest expressions of summer — a cookout. The scent of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers not only delights, but awakens pleasant memories. This is true comfort food enjoyed in a classic picnic setting.
Past the picnic pavilions and onto the midway, a production of sights, sounds and aromas stimulate the senses, creating a kinetic connection to all the fellow visitors. Each face sports a similar expression — wide-eyed with anticipation.
The thrill rides cut unique configurations along metal tracks, plunging through cascading water, and soaring through mid-air, high above, all to the tune of bells and whistles that punctuate the proceedings.
“Kozmo,” a cartoon chipmunk, is Knoebels official mascot, and will serve as the tour guide throughout the park. His image is emblazoned on signs that not only direct visitors to various attractions, but also illustrate the proper height children must be in order to board some of the rides.
The park grounds are well-maintained, from the beautifully arranged petunias and geraniums to the fresh paint that adorns the various buildings that house thrill rides, food concessions, museums, live entertainment pavilions, and gift shops. These structures, composed of wood, stone and plaster, look as though they have been lifted from the canvas of an expressionist painting. They are dreamlike designs, where right angles and scrolled curves blend to create a whimsical world that is both fun and functional. Among the buildings, an outdoor dining area is housed under a giant birthday cake supported by candy cane pillars, both splendid and surreal.
Coursing through the middle of the park is a creek that is home to ducks and geese, adding an even greater natural dimension to Knoebels’ ambience. Several bridges span this waterway and connect to other areas of the park. Placards affixed on trees and posts at several locations indicate the maximum water height during the several floods that have submerged a large portion of the park through the years. The endurance of these structures is testimony to their superior construction and maintenance. Preservation and care by the park personnel is apparent throughout the grounds.
A few rides currently in operation were rescued from other parks. One such ride is the “Phoenix,” a classic wooden roller coaster that began its life thrilling passengers as the “Rocket” at an amusement park in San Antonio, Texas. Brought to Knoebels and renamed the “Phoenix,” this premier coaster has been delivering a shock to the senses of park patrons since 1985. Though a map of the park guides visitors to the attractions, it isn’t necessary to search for the “Phoenix.” The screams and shouts of the passengers on this rolling thunder of a ride will serve as the guide.
As visitors approach the “Phoenix,” the countless wooden supports and adjoining cross members create an almost hypnotic woven pattern to its intricate construction. Traveling up the walkway with other eager riders, guests first stop at the ticket office, hand the collector the appropriate number of tickets, then continue up to the ride platform. While making this journey, periodically it’s possible to hear and feel the shudder of this massive structure as the coaster carries its human cargo to new heights, then suddenly drops them again. All of this is followed by a chorus of ever present screams — a mix of surprise, excitement, and fear. After a short wait on the platform, the “Phoenix” comes in for a landing. As it rolls to a stop, passengers look slightly disheveled, but thoroughly stimulated. After the safety bar is lowered for the next group of riders, a ride handler walks to each car, examining the bars to make certain that they are in their locked position. With an arm wave to the operator that all is secured, a lever is thrown, and the “Phoenix” begins its flight.
With the rattling of chains, gears and pulleys, the journey begins. As this “bird of fire” ascends and reaches its highest altitude, visitors should enjoy the view because it’s quickly over as the bottom of the world seems to drop out, gravity reasserts itself, and riders are sent plunging downward. The “Phoenix” determines where each body goes and when it stops. This is the fast track with no rest stops. For a few minutes, riders are completely at its mercy, reveling in the moment.
As the tour through the park continues, visitors might feel as though they are being watched. Plaster clowns and ghostly images have visitors in their gaze as they arrive at the next destination, The Haunted Mansion. The setting is a Victorian home with what appears to be a tranquil façade, but appearances can be deceiving. What lurks behind those walls is anything but comforting. This dark ride into the unknown must be left to the imagination until one takes it upon themselves to enter — at their own risk!
For those curious about the history of Knoebels, its amusement rides, and the surrounding area, three museums in the park offer unique exhibits, each on an exclusive topic.
This is coal mining country and the Mining Museum chronicles the region’s deep exploration and harvesting of black gold. The Carousel Museum consists of an incredible collection of hand-carved carousel horses, many of them crafted in Coney Island, New York, by newly arrived European artisans. The fact that most of these artifacts were saved from demolition again highlights the preservation mindset of the Knoebels family.
Knoebels’ History Museum is a compelling compendium of photographs and retired attractions that showcase the park’s growth from its inception to the present day. The pictures and photographs that line the walls provide portals to the past that offer captured moments of merriment in the same fashion as today — proof that smiles and laughter can transcend space and time.
Each museum offers a rewarding glimpse of the past and its positive present-day application. These are true treasures that should not be missed.
For an even bigger trip back in time, visitors can test their driving skills with a spin in the Bumper Cars. According to the Knoebels’ website, they were introduced in 1947 as “Dodgems.” Selected as “Best Bumper Cars in America” by USA Today, this is in no small part because for many years the vintage cars were meticulously maintained and the ride overseen by longtime operator Jack Niedzwiecki, a.k.a.“Bumper Car Jack,” who was a legendary figure at Knoebels. His likeness is still depicted in a large painting prominently positioned on the pavilion back wall, admonishing drivers, “No Head-Ons!”
After passing through the wooden gate and onto the smooth metal plating of the track, drivers can scan the fleet of chrome-laden chariots that bear a striking resemblance to American automobiles of the 1950s. Drivers should quickly walk, but not run (another of Jack’s rules) and climb in the car of their dreams before anyone else can lay claim. After securing the safety belt, drivers pump the accelerator pedal (no braking during this drive) and with the ride operator’s flip of a switch, the car will be fueled through the electrified ceiling with which the commutator pole never loses contact. With each collision, riders are left jolted and jubilant. This is one ride where it is equally enjoyable being predator or prey.
Knoebels also offers a multitude of meal selections from pizza to pierogis and fast food to fine dining. There are numerous restaurants, stands and pavilions, which together have earned the “Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award” for best amusement park food in America for the past fourteen years. The decision as to which meal selection to choose may be difficult, but a mistake cannot be made.
With the coming of night, the park is illuminated with thousands of incandescent lights. The soft glow produced by these electric flames not only outlines and accentuates the structures, but bathes the entire area in an amber radiance that is timeless. The past is present and newly created memories shall remain, but soon enough the sights and sounds will beckon once again.
Knoebels Amusement Resort features classic roller coasters, kid-friendly rides, arcades, daily entertainment, swimming, camping, golf, and attractions for the whole family. Knoebels offers a welcome mix of vintage rides and newer attractions, including a log flume and the world’s only wooden bobsled coaster. Special themed events are also scheduled during the season. Located at 391 Knoebels Blvd., Elysburg, PA 17824, for additional information go to www.knoebels.com.
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Knoebels Amusement Park in Pennsylvania is one of the country’s best amusement parks. Located in both Columbia and Northumberland Counties, Knoebels is a free-admission park that offers great fun for the whole family.
Whether you love roller coasters, are looking for great rides for the kids, or just want to stroll through a beautiful park, Knoebels has something for everyone.
Knoebels first opened in 1926 with a restaurant and a carousel at a popular swimming hole. In the over 90 years since, it has grown to be the country’s largest free-admission amusement park. In addition to dozens of rides, Knoebels is home to a 500-site campground, cabins, and even an 18-hole golf course.
Knoebels rides are incredibly reasonably priced, the food wins awards year after year (and is pretty darn inexpensive), and there’s lots of free entertainment for the whole family. While it’s not the only free-admission amusement park in Pennsylvania (DelGrosso’s near Altoona and Conneaut Lake Park near Meadville being two others), it’s the largest and most awarded.
I recently had the chance to visit Knoebels Amusement Park with my wife and young children and despite not being a big fan of amusement parks, I had a fantastic time.
Here are my top tips for visiting Knoebels to make sure you get the most out of your visit to this great park.
What are the best things to do at Knoebels?
With only one day to experience Knoebels, it was impossible to see and do everything at the park. However, armed with a park map and a list of the rides that had won awards in recent years, we were ready to try and experience many of the best things to do at Knoebels Amusement Park.
There are more than five-dozen rides at Knoebels, which almost guarantees that you’ll find at least a few rides that you’ll enjoy. However, what makes Knoebels great is that since it’s a free admission park, even those members of the family that might not want to ride rides can simply enjoy strolling through the park without having to pay an admission charge.
For those that do enjoy rides (and if you’re reading this, you probably do), there are a ton of great Knoebels’ rides you’re sure to enjoy.
Knoebels is home to two classic wooden coasters, a wooden bobsled coaster, an indoor coaster, and a steel coaster.
The most famous of Knoebels’ roller coasters is the Phoenix. This wooden coaster was built in 1947 for an amusement park in Texas and brought to Pennsylvania in 1985. Since then, it has won numerous awards including recently being named the second best wooden roller coaster in the world. Sitting in the last row ensures you’ll catch a lot of air over the coaster’s hills.
In addition to the Phoenix, the park claims to have the only wooden bobsled coaster in the world, and their Black Diamond coaster was recently named the fifth best indoor roller coaster.
Of course, Knoebels doesn’t just have great roller coasters. They also have great rides for the whole family. One highlight is the Haunted Mansion which features a wide variety of scary scenes. It’s another award-winning ride, having recently been named the world’s fourth best indoor ride.
Another classic ride at Knoebels is their Grand Carousel. This 100-year-old ride features historic charm and fun music. It has been named the best carousel in the world every year the award has been given out.
There are also many great Knoebels rides for kids. My four-year-old son had a fantastic time riding rides, playing in the large bounce house and ball pit, and trying his hand at some of the kid-friendly arcade games.
Even better, there are some free things for kids to do at Knoebels. My son loved the whimsical playground, and there are also several live shows each day geared towards children, as well as a bald eagle habitat.
Knoebels rides aren’t just geared towards kids or thrill seekers. There’s a bit of something for everyone including a log flume, a ski lift, and a water park with a pool and several slides.
Museums at Knoebels
There are three museums on the grounds of Knoebels. While they are small, there is no charge to visit them, making them great pit stops to both learn something educational and to get a break from the summer heat.
The Anthracite Museum building is home to both a museum on coal mining in the region as well as the Knoebels History Museum. They both offer high-quality displays and do an excellent showcasing the history. The Anthracite Museum isn’t nearly as in-depth as the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, but is a great stop given the free admission.
The third museum is the Knoebels Carousel Museum. This museum showcases historic carousel horses and other animals from around the world. There are more than 50 pieces on display, some of which date back to the 1800s.
While it’s not a museum per say, don’t miss the historic Laurence L. Knoebel Covered Bridge while exploring the park. This bridge was built in 1875 and is one of many historic covered bridges in Columbia County, PA.
What are the best things to eat at Knoebels?
Knoebels is known for its great food. In fact, they have won the award for best amusement park food nearly every year since the award was created. During my visit, I was incredibly impressed with both the quality of the Knoebels food that I tried, as well as the prices.
Probably the best thing I ate during my visit was the pizza from Cesari’s Pizza. I tried both their regular and Sicilian slices and was impressed at the quality of the pizza that they offered. I also had a chance to try their fresh-cut fries which were quite delicious.
Honestly, every restaurant or food stand that I saw smelled amazing and the food prices were not astronomically high like you usually find at amusement parks.
Whether you want a quick snack or a meal at a sit-down restaurant, there’s something for everyone here. (They also have picnic pavilions for those that prefer to pack their own food.)
What are Knoebels’ ticket prices?
Knoebels is a free-admission park. Visitors can park for free, stroll through the park, and enjoy live entertainment and the museums without paying a penny.
The park features dozens of rides that do have a small cost, however. Most kid’s rides at Knoebels cost less than $2 per ride. Rides for older kids and adults mostly cost between $2 and $3, with the most popular roller coasters costing $3 per ride.
Tickets for rides are sold in increments of 25 cents, and you can purchase any amount that you would like. On weekdays, Knoebels offers a 10% discount for books of tickets ($5 of tickets for $4.50, $10 for $9, and $20 for $18).
If you’re planning a big day at the park, you can also purchase Ride All Day Passes for Knoebels. These passes are good on weekdays and cost $43 for adults and $25 for kids under four feet tall.
If you are looking for discount tickets for Knoebels, purchase them online before your visit and you will save $5 per ticket. There are also Knoebels’ discounts available if you purchase tickets for select spring dates.
When does Knoebels open and close?
Knoebels opens for the season in late April and is open daily from late May through Labor Day. The park is then open most weekends through the end of October.
The park typically opens at 11am daily, though some days at the beginning and end of the season it opens as early as 10am or as late as noon. The closing times varies throughout the year. During the summer, the park is open until 10pm, except on Sundays when it closes at 9pm.
The park’s schedule can be found here.
When should I visit Knoebels?
If possible, visit Knoebels on a weekday. Not only are they the only days on which you can purchase all-day passes, but ticket books are also discounted. Even better, the crowds are a lot lighter on weekdays, even during the summer.
During a recent Friday in July visit, it was possible to walk onto nearly every ride in the park, with only the big roller coasters having a short wait.
This made for a great experience and a lot of fun for the whole family.
Other things to do near Knoebels Amusement Park
If you’re looking for things to do near Knoebels Amusement Park, you’re in luck, as there are a lot of fun things to do nearby.
Those that love historic structures will enjoy the 21 covered bridges in Columbia County and the four covered bridges in Northumberland County. Several of these bridges are located just minutes from the park, so they make a great stop while in the area.
Other attractions worth exploring nearby include the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine, Centralia, and Bill’s Bike Barn. And, if you have kids, check out Idlewild and SoakZone and Waldameer Park in western PA.
Looking for somewhere to stay near Knoebels? Check hotel current hotel rates in nearby Bloomsburg.
Knoebels Amuseument Park
Address: 391 Knoebels Blvd
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Jim Cheney is the creator of UncoveringPA.com. Based in the state capital of Harrisburg, Jim frequently travels around Pennsylvania and has visited, written about, and photographed all 67 counties in the state. He has also traveled to more than 30 different countries around the world.
From Bloomsburg: US Route 11 South to Catawissa exit. PA Route 42 South thru Catawissa. Cross bridge and watch for Route 487 South to bear right up incline. PA Route 487 South for 6 miles. Campers continue to the top of the hill and turn left into the park. All others turn left at the light into Knoebels. From Danville: PA Route 54 East thru Danville, just across the river, PA Route 54 turns left to Elysburg. Left on PA Route 487 North at the light. Campers bear right into the park, all other park traffic should enter at the light. From Mt. Carmel: PA Route 61 North thru Mt. Carmel, cross bridge, 1 mile to signals. Right on Route 54 West to Elysburg. Right on PA Route 487 North at the light. Campers bear right into the park, all other park traffic should enter at the light. From Sunbury: PA Route 61 South from Sunbury to Paxinos, 12 miles. At light, left onto PA Route 487 North thru Elysburg. Campers bear right into the park, all other park traffic should enter at the light. Route Shamokin: PA Route 61 North to Paxinos. At light turn right onto PA Route 487 North thru Elysburg. Campers bear right into the park, all other park traffic should enter at the light. From I-80 West: Any of 3 Bloomsburg Exits 232, 236, 241. With a trailer, we suggest Exit 232, Buckhorn, PA 42 South to Catawissa. Cross bridge and watch for Route 487 South to bear right up incline. PA Route 487 South for 6 miles. Campers continue to the top of the hill and turn left into the park. All others turn left at the light into Knoebels. From I-80 East: Danville Exit 224, follow Danville directions. From I-81 South: Near Hazleton, take I-80 and I-81 junction. Follow I-80 West. (See I-80 west directions.) From I-81 North: Minersville Exit 116. Turn left onto Route 901 north to PA Route 54 West. Right on PA Route 487 North at the light. Campers bear right into the park, all other park traffic should enter at the light.
Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort boasts free parking and admission with attractions that are pay-per-use. There is shopping, dining, shows and demonstrations, miniature golf, games, a museum and also a mini water park (with 900k gallons of mountain stream water). The little guests in your party will find plenty of attractions too. Visitors may bring their own food or choose from a vast assortment of quality offerings throughout the park.
Three Must-See Attractions at Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Ride Flying Turns, the world's only wooden bobsled where your car actually leaves the rails promising a new experience every time. The Haunted Mansion ride is a spooky good time with its old-fashioned haunted house appeal. Let the kids determine the speed of their own ride as they crank the retro style Hand Cars down the track.
Where to stay near Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Bring your tent, RV or rent a cabin at one of the two resort campgrounds: Knoebles Park and Lake Glory Campgrounds. Skip the hotels and stay close in one of Knoeble's cottages. They range from traditional style to a covered wagon or even a schoolhouse, all reasonably priced. Latorre House Bed & Breakfast is located near the park entrance, and as a bonus for staying in one of their rooms or efficiency apartments, guests get free admission to Knoebel's Crystal Pool.
Best and Worst Time to Visit Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Late July brings artisans from all over the country to display their talents and handmade treasures at the Summer Craft Fair. It's a great opportunity to pick up unique items. If you have to go on a weekend, Saturday is the busiest day.
Discounts at Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Group, and large group and discounts are available. Military discounts are available once per season. There are also discounted plans for evening visits on certain days of the week and occasional BOGO events.
Food at Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Food options range from full service dining to counter service. Enjoy the eggplant parmigiana with salad and a roll got $9 to $11 at The Alamo. Dexter's Deli offers a salad, pasta and a slice of garlic toast ($4 to $8). It's worth it to check the website for the food specials offered during your visit. Sometimes they have steak night or all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinners.
Parking at Knoebels Amusement Park & Resort
Parking is free and abundant. Guests enjoy free shuttle service between parking lots and the park.
Author's bio: Edie Schmidt is a freelance writer from Kentucky. She enjoys sharing her favorite places with you. Check out her other interests here.
Amusement park knoebels
Guide to Knoebels Amusement Park
With its Fascination parlor, generous collection of classic spinning rides, dizzying array of colored lights, and other retro touches, Knoebels transports guests to a bygone era. To add to its status as a classic amusement park, Knoebels is one of the few remaining free-admission, pay-per-ride parks. It's family-owned and -operated, which is a rarity these days as well. In fact, the Knoebel family has been running the property since 1926, and its personal touch and pride is evident throughout the park.
Knoebels takes special pride in its two wooden coasters, Twister and Phoenix. Both of the rides were resurrected from other parks, and both are adored by coaster fans. The Knoebels folks like to tackle projects in-house and designed and built the Haunted Mansion, a classic dark ride that opened to great acclaim in 1973 (and not to be confused with Disney’s Haunted Mansion). The park also built the Flying Turns, a bobsled-style coaster that uses a wooden trough and is an ode to a 1930s-era ride.
In 2015, the park opened Impulse, a steel roller coaster that soars up and down a 98-foot vertical lift hill and first drop and includes inverted elements such as a loop and an in-line twist. Other park highlights include Black Diamond, an indoor/outdoor coaster that features a mining theme. Previously located at a park in New Jersey, it is another repurposed ride. It is also another example of Knoebels’ home-grown, hands-on design work. Its own staff developed the coaster’s indoor special effects.
Classic spinning rides include the Grand Carousel, which is over 100 years old, a Tilt-A-Whirl, and rides that date back many decades, including Roto Jets, Bumper Cars, and the Whipper. The park also offers Scenic Skyway, a skyride up the mountain.
Knoebels does not offer a full-fledged water park, but it does include a couple of water slides and a pool as well a watery activity area for younger kids. The park gets high marks for its food, which includes a sit-down, full-service restaurant. Located deep in the Pennsylvania woods, Knoebels is well worth the ride.
What’s New at Knoebels?
- For the 2021 season, Knoebels will open Tornado, a spinning ride. Tornado features eight cars that each holds four passengers. The ride platform spins and revs up to speed. It then tilts 20 degrees and lifts the cars up 15 feet into the air. The ride was supposed to open for the 2020 season, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In 2019, the park introduced Tumbling Timbers, a family thrill ride. Accommodating 16 passengers, both the ride vehicles and the ride platform spin, creating a disorienting experience.
What's to Eat?
The park is renowned for its tasty, reasonably priced food. The Alamo is a full-service restaurant with complete dinners available. The pizza at Cesari’s has a great reputation. Park standbys include kettle corn, funnel cakes, and french fries. Among the more quirky items available are fried pickles, potato cakes, and Polish platters.
Note that the park does offer picnic facilities and allow visitors to bring in their own food. It does not sell alcohol or permit guests to consume alcohol on its property.
Since admission is free at Knoebels, the rides are individually priced, and tickets can be purchased a la carte. Discounted ticket books are available. Knoebels also offers pay-one-price options. Discounted prices are available for children (under 48 inches) and for arrival after 5 p.m. Group rates are available. See the park’s official site for discounts and promotions.
In addition to free admission, the parking is free. And since nobody is paying to get into the park, the entertainment, which includes music, magic, and puppet shows, are all free.
Location and Hotel Info
Knoebels is located in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. The physical address is 391 Knoebels Blvd.
- From I-80 West: Bloomsburg Exit 232 to Buckhorn, PA 42 south to Catawissa. Cross bridge and take PA 487 south for 6 miles to park.
- From I-80 East: Danville Exit 224, to PA 54 E thru Danville. Across the river, PA 54 turns left to Elysburg. Left on PA 487 N at the light to park.
- From I-81 South: Near Hazleton, take I-80 and I-81 junction. Follow I-80 West directions above.
- From I-81 North: Minersville Exit 116. Left onto 901 west to PA 54 west. Right on PA 487 north at the light to park.
Knoebels operates its own onsite campground and offers cottages that sleep up to 10 guests.
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Knoebels Amusement Resort
Knoebels Amusement Resort () is a family-owned and operated amusement park, picnic grove, and campground in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. Opened in 1926, it is America's largest free-admission park. The park has more than 60 rides including three wooden roller coasters, three steel roller coasters, a 1913 carousel, and a haunted housedark ride.
The amusement park is owned and operated by the Knoebel (pronounced kuh-NO-bel) family, who also operate a lumber yard next to the park. The park's name has traditionally been spelled "Knoebels" without the apostrophe, and appears that way on all official park advertising and correspondence.
The park straddles the line between Northumberland and Columbia Counties. The complex is mainly in the Columbia County townships of Cleveland and Franklin and is in Ralpho Township on the Northumberland County side of the South Branch Roaring Creek.
The park and its rides have won awards from organizations such as Amusement Today, American Coaster Enthusiasts, and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. In 2014, Travel Channel rated Knoebels one of their Top 10 Family Friendly Amusement Parks in the United States.
Knoebels is located in a small wooded valley in central Pennsylvania. The valley, originally known as "Peggy's Farm", with its creek-fed swimming hole, was a popular picnic destination in the early 20th century, attracting Sunday travelers and horse-drawn hayride wagons. Henry Knoebel, who farmed in the area, tended the horses and later sold soft drinks, ice cream, and snacks to the visitors. As the popularity of "Knoebels Grove" grew, Knoebel leased plots of land along the creeks for use as summer cottage sites. Some of these privately owned cottages, as well as cottages Knoebel built and rented, still exist in the park.
In 1926, Knoebel added a restaurant, a steam-powered Philadelphia Toboggan Companycarousel, and a few simple games to his grove, marking the beginning of Knoebels Amusement Park. On July 4, 1926, he opened a large concrete swimming pool on the site of the old swimming hole. Featuring a filtration system that provided clean water instead of muddy creek water, the pool was named "The Crystal Pool". Since then, the park has developed around the pool, adding 50 rides, assorted games, concession stands, and other attractions. A campground with six sites opened behind the amusement park in 1962, and as of 2004, the campground covered 160 acres (65 ha) with 500 sites.
On June 22, 1972, the creeks that run through Knoebels, swollen with heavy rains from Hurricane Agnes, rose 6 feet (1.8 m) over their banks. The flood destroyed six cottages and damaged many other buildings, including 24 of 25 rides and the park's roller rink. The roller rink building was re-floored and used as a skating rink until the mid-1980s, when it was converted into the "Roaring Creek Saloon", which now contains a concession stand, an arcade, the XD Theater, and performances. A new building constructed after the flood became the Haunted Mansion, where the Haunted Mansion dark ride opened in 1973. The ride has been recognized as one of America's best dark rides by organizations such as Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts and the National Amusement Park Historical Association.
The park again suffered major flooding in 1975, 1996, 2004, 2006, and 2011. Each caused substantial damage, but the 1975 and 1996 floods occurred during the off-season. Although the January 1996 flood left substantial damage, the worst occurred after the waters receded, when everything froze, making cleanup and repair throughout the amusement park difficult. The September 2004 flood, caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, was only a half-day affair and Knoebels staff had the amusement park partially reopened by mid-afternoon.
On June 28, 2006, a flood second only to the Agnes flood struck Knoebels. About 90 percent of the amusement park was under water just prior to the July 4th weekend. As the waters began to recede, Knoebels staff was able to reopen over 60 percent of its attractions within two days and 90 percent within four days. Because over 100 tons of mud had to be dug out of the Crystal Pool, it required 10 days to be operational. The last ride to return to operation was the Kiddie Panther Cars, whose repairs took almost three weeks.
In 2008, the park’s dark ride was the subject of a one-hour documentary, "Laff In The Dark’s Behind The Scenes At Knoebel’s Haunted House".
On September 7, 2011, Knoebels experienced its most recent flood, caused by Tropical Storm Lee. Water levels neared those of the flood of 1972 and damages exceeded that flood. The majority of the park reopened the following weekend, having missed only two days of operation.
For the 2013 season, Knoebels added StratosFear, the park's tallest ride at 148 feet (45 m), which quickly became a top thrill for everyone. In 2015 a new roller coaster opened, named the "Impulse", that replaced two former rides, the bumper boats and boat tag, both of which had been losing popularity, while maintenance costs became increasingly high.
In 2016, Knoebels celebrated its 90th anniversary and opened The Nickle Plate Bar and Grill at Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Club.
On July 23, 2018, Knoebels was flooded when a creek overflowed and flooded the park. About 150 employees were at the park cleaning up. The park then flooded again on July 25, 2018. The park reopened on July 27, 2018.
The park offers free admission, free parking, and free entertainment. Visitors are able to ride the park's attractions by purchasing either pay-one-price, all-day/unlimited-access wristbands (which are not usually available on weekends, except near the beginning and end of each season), limited-access hand stamps or books of tickets, with hand stamp costs varying depending on the height of the rider. Knoebels has several hand stamp options, such as "Sundown Plan" and "Bargain Nights", when the park offers discounts on regular ride passes. Knoebels all-day passes do not include the Haunted Mansion or the Crystal Pool, which are additional fees. The "Scenic Skyway", Black Diamond, and the Flying Turns were also an additional fee when opened, but they have since been included in most pay-one-price plans.
Rides and attractions
Knoebels has six operating roller coasters. Knoebels' two main wooden roller coasters are well known, with Phoenix consistently rated in the top ten lists and Twister ranking high as well.
|High Speed Thrill Coaster||2008||A steel roller coaster that had operated since 1955, believed to be the last remaining Overland coaster in the world. Although it was designed to be a children's coaster, it was very popular among adults due to its air-time on the ride's bunny hills. Kozmo's Kurves (see below) was designed with this appeal in mind, and the ride opened on Aug. 1, 2009.|
|Jet Star||1992||A standard production model Schwarzkopf Jet Star, removed from Knoebels after the 1992 season. |
This ride was purchased from Schwarzkopf, originally owned by an independent operator who fell on hard times. After being removed from Knoebels, the Jet Star was relocated to Morey's Piers, where it also operated under the name Jet Star. The coaster was then sold to a traveling showman in France. A regular stop for this show is Parc d'attractions Luna Park, in la Palmyre.
|Phoenix||Operating||A relocated and restored Herb Schmeck (Philadelphia Toboggan Company) design. According to the Golden Ticket Awards, this coaster has consistently been rated as one of the top ten wooden roller coasters, never falling below 10th place and has not fallen below 5th place since 1999. Winner of GTA in 2018 and 2019. |
This ride was built in 1947, and was purchased from the Playland amusement park in San Antonio, Texas. It operated under the name Rocket before being moved to Knoebels in 1985. Uses Buzz bars.
|Whirlwind||2004||A Vekoma Whirlwind double corkscrew roller coaster, removed from Knoebels after the 2004 season. |
This ride was purchased from the Playland amusement park in New York, where it operated under the name of Whirlwind before being moved to Knoebels. After the 2004 operating season the ride was moved to Parque de Diversiones Dr. Roberto Ortiz Brenes in San José, Costa Rica and operates under the name Bocaraca.
|Twister||Operating||A wooden coaster heavily inspired by "Mister Twister," a 1964 John Allen design.|
|Flying Turns||Operating||A wooden bobsled roller coaster modeled after a 1920s John Norman Bartlett and John A. Miller design. The coaster was completed in 2007, but its opening was pushed back numerous times due to problems with cars navigating the mostly-trackless course. It opened on October 5, 2013 on the site of the former Whirlwind (and Jet Star before that) roller coasters. It won the Golden Ticket Award for "Best New Ride (Amusement Park)" in 2014.|
|Kozmo's Kurves||Operating||A steel roller coaster that opened on Aug. 1, 2009. This is a successor to the High Speed Thrill Coaster, which operated on the site through the end of 2008. Kozmo's Kurves was designed to have the same appeal to all ages that the High Speed Thrill Coaster did, as well as incorporate elements the former ride did not have.|
|Black Diamond||Operating||A steel indoor roller coaster formerly known as the Golden Nugget at Morey's Piers. The ride's track and cars were purchased by Knoebels after it was deemed irreparable by Morey's and dismantled. The ride was built on the former site of the newly relocated Bald Eagle Habitat. The name change to "Black Diamond" is in recognition of the anthracite coal industry. The Black Diamond opened for the three weekends in October 2011 for their Hallo-Fun Nights program.|
|Impulse||Operating||A Zierer steel coaster, built new for 2015. It has a high-hat initial rise to 98 feet (30 m), and also has a cobra roll, a vertical inversion and a zero g roll. It replaced Bumper Boats and Boat Tag.|
Knoebels has two carousels: one small merry-go-round in Kiddieland (added in 1976) which was built by Stein & Goldstein in 1910; and the Grand Carousel, a 1913 carousel built by Kremer's Carousel Works in Long Island City, with a frame by Charles I. D. Looff, (1852–1918), and 63 hand-carved horses by Charles Carmel (1869–1931). It was purchased on January 26, 1942, from Riverside Park in Piscataway Township, New Jersey, for $4,000 (equal to $63,356 today) and relocated to Knoebels. Today, the Knoebels Grand Carousel is one of the largest carousels in the world, with 63 horses and 3 chariots. It is one of the few carousels remaining with a working ring dispenser, allowing riders on the outside row of horses to reach out and grab steel rings as they pass. The rider who grabs the brass ring receives the cost of the ride in tickets, making the ride free. Three band or fairground organs provide music for the riders. The largest, "the Frati," was built in Germany in 1888 by Frati & Co. Berlin, and was converted to artisan roles in the 1920s. The smaller, outside organ is "the Berni," a 1910 Gebruder Bruder, style 107, sold in the US by the August Berni Organ Company in New York. The Frati and Berni have operated at Knoebels since its purchase in 1942. The smallest one is a Wilhem Bruder organ, model 79, converted to a Wurlitzer 125 duplex roll system, and restored in 1996. The Grand Carousel has always been voted the best carousel in the Golden Ticket Awards competition held by Amusement Today since 2007. Today, the Grand Carousel is the second-oldest ride in the park. The S&G Carousel is the oldest at 108 years old in the 2018 season.
The park operates two separate miniature railways:
- Old Smokey Train, a 16 in (406 mm) gauge,anthracite coal-fueled steam locomotive built in 1960 by Crown Metal Products meandering through part of the park. Old Smokey replaced the Nickel Plate, which had been installed in 1946. The train cars from the 1946 train are still in use as of today.
- Pioneer Train, a 16 in (406 mm) gauge,gasoline-powered 1/2 mile railroad installed in 1960 by Allan Herschell Company. The railroad continues to operate an Allan Herschell G-16 model locomotive and train, which resembles a classic streamlined diesel locomotive train, as well as a few other locomotives that resemble classic steam locomotives, such as the Allan Herschell S-16. The track travels from near the edge of the park, under Twister, and into a heavily wooded area where there are feeders for viewing the local wildlife. The local wildlife consists mainly of squirrels, birds, and deer.
Other rides and attractions
In addition to a 110-foot (34 m) Ferris wheel (Known as the Giant Wheel), a 55-foot-high (17 m) log flume, and a 50-foot-high (15 m) Chute-the-Chutes ride named "Sklooosh!" (after the sound wet sneakers make), the park maintains more than 63 rides, including:
- A William F. Mangels"Whip" ride from 1915 (purchased from Croop's Glen, Hunlock's Creek in 1948)
- A set of Lusse Auto Scooters (bumper cars)
- The "Flyer" (one of the fastest running Flying Scooters rides in operation)
- The "Satellite" (a Lee EyerlyRoll-O-Plane)
- A Kasper Klaus "Roto-Jet" ride from 1952
- A restored vintage Allan Herschell Looper flat ride
- Haunted Mansion, a 3-minute dark ride that is consistently rated as one of the best traditional haunted houses.
- One of the last remaining Fascination parlors in the United States
- A completely enclosed Himalaya-style ride in the dark called the "Cosmotron"
- Tea Cups, PTC Crazy Daisy
- A 14-minute ski-lift-style ride called the "Scenic Skyride", which climbs a hillside beside the park
- A Downdraft ride by Dartron (replaced in the 2019 season with a brand new one)
- A sidewinder by Moser named "Fandango"
- An Antique Car ride partially steered by passengers built into the support structure of The Phoenix ( powered by Kohler and Honda lawnmower engines) The original cars were purchased at an auction for Rocky Glen Park in Moosic, Pennsylvania after it closed in 1987.
- A ride called Panther Cars similar to Antique cars
- A Garbrick Merry Mixer ride
- A PowerSurge ride which is made by Zamperla
- Galleon, a pirate ship ride by Zamperla
- StratosFear, a 148-foot (45 m) drop tower, the tallest ride at Knoebels.
- Crazy Sub, a submarine-styled ride that operates like 1001 Nachts.
- The Sky Slide, a slide that winds around the outside of a rocket ship. This is an American version of a popular UK funfair attraction called a helter skelter.
- Tumbling Timbers, a spinning ride replacing "Over The Top"
- Giant Flume, a water ride where you travel in a log through a river-like setting getting splashed around a bit before the big drop at the end.
- A Paratrooper ride.
- Sklooosh, a modern "Shoot the Chute" ride that is 50 feet tall and has an observation area, aside from the usual bridge on these types of rides on which you can get wet without riding.
- Super Round-Up, a ride in which you are stuck to the wall in a big wheel from centrifugal force as the ride slowly tilts upward.
- A 110-foot tall ferris wheel.
- The Italian Trapeze swing ride.
- A Zamperla Rockin' Tug ride.
- Wisdom Tornado ride (new for 2020).
- 1001 Nacht, Huss/Weber 1001 Nights
- Axis, Zamperla Mixer
- Boat Tag
- Bumper Boats
- Eli Ferris Wheel
- Flying Cages
- Fire Ball
- Frog Hopper
- German Carousel
- Hey Dey, a combination of whip and tilt-a-whirl, removed by 1930
- High Speed Thrill Coaster, Overland kiddie coaster
- Jet Star, Schwarzkopf portable Jet Star roller coaster
- Kiddie Carousel, Allan Herschell aluminum ponies, replaced by the S&G Carousel
- Kiddie Cars, Allan Herschell aluminum casts
- Kiddie Planes
- Kiddie Wheel, possibly destroyed in 1972 flood
- Lindy Loop
- Merry-go-round, Gallagher model replaced by the Grand Carousel, sold to Toby Park and destroyed in hurricane
- Moon Rocker
- Space Ship, raised up and converted into Sky Slide
- Over The Top, SBF/Visa. Operated for only a few weeks in the 2018 season before being removed due to countless complications.
- Wipeout, which resembles the old ride Trabant. Removed following the 2020 season.
- Whip, an 8-car model replaced by the 12-car Whipper
- Whirlwind, Vekoma portable Whirlwind roller coaster
Restaurants and food
Knoebels has restaurants throughout the park, both sit-down and counter service in nature. These eateries have contributed toward the park winning awards from organizations which judge amusement park food, including Amusement Today'sGolden Ticket Award for Best Food every year since 2000, until Dollywood narrowly edged Knoebels in 2012, and both parks tied for first place in 2013. Knoebels reclaimed the prize in 2015 and 2016. It lost again to Dollywood in 2017, but snatched the prize back in 2018.
The primary sit-down restaurant at the park is the Alamo. Counter service restaurants include Cesari's Pizza, Oasis Cafeteria, Phoenix Junction Steakhouse and the International Food Court. Food ranges from "Famous Fresh Cut French Fries", pierogi (a mashed potato filled East European dumpling) and potato cakes to Bison Burgers and Gator Bites to milkshakes and homemade fudge. The park also features novelty items like the pickle on a stick, caramel apple chips, and cheese on a stick.
The park's Cesari's Pizza and the International Food Court were featured on a Food Network special. The alligator bites served at the International Food Court were selected by Delish.com as one of the top seven daring amusement park foods.
The Nickle Plate Bar & Grill is a casual dining restaurant at Three Ponds Golf Course 
Three Ponds Golf Course
Knoebels Three Ponds Golf Course is located on Pennsylvania Route 487 roughly a quarter mile from the park and campground. It is a par 71 eighteen-hole golf course which provides two very different nine-hole layouts. The front nine holes are located on the side of the mountain which provides the golfer with numerous elevation changes from tee to green. The back nine holes are located in the valley. The back nine landscape is less dramatic but still offers numerous challenges such as water and various risk-reward approach shots. The prices for the course vary from $23 to $40, with reduced rates for 9-hole games. The park also offers discounted golf passes to guests at the Knoebels campsite.
In 1999, an attorney representing two girls who sustained injuries while riding the Speed Slide discovered 15 injuries had been reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards in recent years, including six other reports of injuries to riders' genital areas. Both girls underwent emergency surgery. The park was charged with negligence, failure to monitor the amount of force of the water and its effect on riders, failure to fix defects, and failure to provide adequate warnings to riders. Both of the plaintiffs fully recovered.
- Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2002.
- Deitz, Harry J. Knoebels: An Amusement Park with a Heart. Reading, Pennsylvania: Westlawn Graphic, 2001. (Now out of print)
- ^"Top 10 Amusement Parks". Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- ^"Knoebels Amusement Resort History". Knoebels.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^"Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts". dafe.org. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- ^Knoebels price page, then open "Pay One Price" tab Retrieved 2012-02-15
- ^"Wood Roller Coaster Poll 12 Year Results Table (1994–2005)". Ushsho.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^"Golden Ticket". Amusement Today. May 28, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^"Jet Star (Morey's Piers)". Rcdb.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^"Parc d'attractions Luna Park ŕ La Palmyre – Charente Maritime 17". Lunapark-lapalmyre.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^Beauge (May 19, 2011). "2 new rides at Knoebels Amusement Resort still need some work, park's co-owner says". Harrisburg Patriot-News. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
- ^"Knoebels". Screamscape.com. May 4, 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- ^Knoebels 2011 Hallo-Fun Nights brochureArchived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2011-09-26
- ^Marquette, John. "Brass Ring". youtube.com. YouTube. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- ^"Knoebels Carousel & Organ History". 2018-09-14.
- ^"All-time Winners By Category". The Golden Ticket Awards | Presented by Amusement Today. 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
- ^"Crown Locomotive Roster (15"-24" Gauge)". trainweb.org.
- ^"Railway Preservation News • View topic – Rough and Tumble Engineers . Home Built Shay Railroad Video". rypn.org.
- ^"Kasper Klaus Roto Jet". The Flat joint. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
- ^"An Alan Herschell Looper still operating at Knobels, USA". Amusement Ride Extravaganza. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
- ^"All-time Winners By Category". The Golden Ticket Awards | Presented by Amusement Today. 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
- ^"Amazing Amusement Park Food". delish.com. 17 August 2011.
- ^"The Nickle Plate Bar & Grill". knoebels.com. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
- ^"Daily Rates & Specials – Knoebels – Free-Admission Amusement Park in Central PA with Rollercoasters, Campgrounds, Pools, Golf Courses & More!". knoebels.com.
- ^"1999 Accident Reports and News". RideAccidents.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
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Knoebels Amusement Resort has announced a new four-wheeled reason to work there this summer.
The Elysburg amusement park will give away a 2021 Chevy Trailblazer to one of its current or future employees this year, provided they qualify for the drawing.
“We are excited to announce this newest incentive to be a part of Team Knoebels and look forward to one of our very deserving team members winning this 2021 Trailblazer,” said Dick Knoebel, Knoebels’ co-owner and president, in a press release.
Entrants to the giveaway must be at least 16 years old and work at least 250 hours at Knoebels over the course of the summer. An additional entry can be made for every 25 hours worked beyond that 250 hour goal.
The drawing will take place on Labor Day, giving current or prospective employees just over two months to try to reach the hourly goal.
The Trailblazer giveaway is from a partnership between the park and Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships, and the vehicle itself will be on display at the amusement park near the Alamo restaurant.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay in Knoebels’ annual job fair, and the park opened for this season in April with 500 fewer workers than desired. By late May, the numbers had increased, but the park still hoped to hire 200 additional employees.
The park topped the list of the National Amusement Park Historical Association’s best traditional amusement park this year, tying with Kennywood Park.
For more information on jobs at Knoebels, visit their official website.