Kennywood Celebrates 125th Anniversary

The park is looking forward to its 2022 summer season with a variety of improvements.


Andrew McLaughlin

The entrance midway at Kennywood has been overhauled for the 2022 season.

Andrew McLaughlin, Staff Writer

As has been the case for the last few seasons, there is no new ride at Kennywood this year. However, the past winter has still been one of the park’s busiest off-seasons in recent history. New paint, upgraded events, and the return of an old ride are the park’s focus this year, all part of an ongoing celebration of Kennywood’s 125th anniversary.

Following a similar “rebrand” at sister park Lake Compounce in Connecticut, Kennywood has invested considerably in improving the overall aesthetics of the park, starting with the main entrance, which has been repainted in a bright yellow hue. The fountain has also been replaced with a flower bed holding a whimsical carousel horse.

The ramp to the Kennywood entrance has been covered with hand-painted tributes to the park’s history. (Andrew McLaughlin)

The most impressive alteration to the entrance experience is the refurbished tunnel underneath Kennywood Boulevard. The ramps approaching the tunnel have been covered with black-and-yellow icons of the park’s past and present. Completely hand painted by local artists, the tunnel’s design finally befits the memorable part of the Kennywood experience that it is.

Once inside the park, it may be difficult to recognize the familiar main midway. The Old Mill has a renovated facade, the windmill has a new photo-op in front, and the Kandy Kaleidoscope now has an elaborate sign. Banners of the same motifs painted in the tunnel line the sides of the entrance midway and continue around the rest of the park.

Roller coaster fans will be pleased that Kennywood’s oldest ride, the Jack Rabbit, received some long-needed attention. A fresh paint job, entry sign, and Kennywood history mural in the queue line have all been added to enhance the 102-year-old roller coaster.

The Midway refreshment stand was renovated with new neon lights. Note the Kangaroo’s backdrop rising in the background. (Andrew McLaughlin)

The refreshment stand across from the Jack Rabbit has been redone in a dark blue, and its neon lighting has also been completely replaced. The park deserves praise for ordering a complete replacement of expensive neon, when LED lighting–such as that which replaced the neon lights in the Jack Rabbit station a few years ago–would have been a much more cost-effective option.

The Thunderbolt also sports a vibrant new coat of white paint as well as an updated magnetic brake system. Notably, the new brakes required the park to invest in retrofitting the Thunderbolt’s vintage trains to be compatible with the modernized system. While other parks have removed any sense of “rider freedom” with more restrictive restraints on their wooden coasters, Kennywood remains the best park in America for experiencing antique wooden coasters as they were meant to be. (After all, the best part of the Jack Rabbit is having faith that your meager seat belt will keep you in your seat during the double dip!)

With new wooden track and paint, it’s hard to believe that this section of the Thunderbolt is 98 years old. (Andrew McLaughlin)

The much-publicized conversion of the Phantom’s Revenge to a stunning purple color scheme has also been completed, marking the first time in 20 years that the ride has been repainted. Incredibly, every part of all three repainted roller coasters–including the 200-foot tall Phantom’s Revenge–was hand-coated with paint rollers, ensuring longevity of the colors. 

The Kangaroo is by far the most notable improvement at Kennywood this year. Returning after a one-season absence, the ride was completely reconditioned by a Ohio-based ride manufacturer, ensuring its operation for the long term. The Kangaroo has become a focal point to the surrounding area, making it easy to forget that just a year ago its spot sat empty and abandoned. While the ride is 30 seconds shorter than it was in the past, fans of both Kennywood and amusement park history are pleased that the park chose to invest in this one-of-a-kind ride.

The grove of pine trees behind the Kangaro has been removed, but in its place is a dazzling new backdrop in the vintage spirit of the ride. (Andrew McLaughlin)

Due to labor challenges, Kennywood was unable to be open later than 9:00 during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. This year, however, the park is returning to its traditional summer schedule, with a 10:00 closing time seven days a week through July.  A new event, called Summer’s On, is set to take advantage of the park’s night time atmosphere. 

It is expected that Kennywood’s celebration will continue in just as much style next season, when the park officially celebrates 125 years of operation. So come visit Kennywood, whether that be for your first post-pandemic visit, the annual school picnic, or the performance of the North Allegheny Marching Band during Fall Fantasy Parades in August. With so many improvements, it’s sure to be a wonderful summer at Pittsburgh’s treasured amusement park.