Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.
Knoebels Amusement Park
Knoebels Amusement Park is America's largest free-admission park. It is a sprawling amusement resort, catering to those who love amusement parks, camping, or both. It is a perfect place for the entire family, young and old.
Did I mention it is free to get in? That's right: To park and enter Knoebels, it is absolutely free. To save even more money, you can bring your own food and drinks to the park. Can't beat that, right? You do have to pay to get on the rides or to eat their food, but compared to some other amusement parks, you won't spend an astronomical amount of money. For families these days, it is very refreshing to have a great time without breaking the bank.
Knoebels strives to provide its visitors the best experience possible, so you'll find that the park and its amenities are very clean and well taken care of. The pride of the owners and staff of Knoebels is evident in how well they maintain the park!
As a child, I visited Knoebels with my family quite often. Even today, my family and I visit Knoebels about five times every summer. Every time we visit, we have a great time without spending a ton of cash.
To learn more about Knoebels' history, rides, entertainment, and camping, read below.
Knoebels Amusement Resort History
Knoebels wasn't always an amusement park. Here's a summary of the history of the park:
- 1775: John Salter purchases the land from Governor Penn and calls it 'Peggy's Farm'
- 1828: Reverend Henry Hartman Knoebel bought the land, still using it as farmland
- Early 1900s: The land, owned by Rev. Knoebel's grandson Henry, was visited by multitudes of people who would visit the farm via hayrides to enjoy picnicking and swimming. Henry asked for money from those who visited to care for their horses or to eventually feed them snacks and drinks. People who enjoyed the area began leasing some land from Henry to build small cottages. People began camping in the 1920s.
- 1926: The first 'Crystal Pool' was constructed and opened. The first carousel, a steam-powered one, was purchased and opened. The first restaurant was opened.
- 1963: The first official campground was established.
- 1972: Flooding from Hurricane Agnes devastated much of the park and cottages.
- 1973: Knoebels bounced back from flooding and introduced Haunted Mansion.
- 1977: The first roller coaster, the Jet Star, was purchased and built.
- 1985: The Phoenix, originally built in Texas in 1947, was rebuilt in the park.
- 1990: The Flume, a water ride, was built.
- 1993: The Whirlwind was built to replace the Jet Star roller coaster.
- 1999: The Twister roller coaster was built.
- 2001: Knoebels celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
- 2006 and 2011: Knoebels sustains damage from flooding, but bounces back each time.
- 2012: The first indoor roller coaster, the Black Diamond, is opened.
- 2015: New roller coaster, Impulse, is opened.
For more details of the history, visit the Knoebels website.
Rides at Knoebels
Knoebels has a lot of rides, ranging from the kid-friendly to the shriek-inducing thrill rides families love.
Here are some of our favorite rides, most that we ride every time we visit the park:
- Fandango: Spin in flying seats; thrill ride.
- Paratrooper: Enjoy a carousel in the sky going at fast speeds.
- Phoenix: Scream on this awesome wooden roller coaster.
- Train: Enjoy a slow ride that circles much of the park; great for kids.
- Skloosh: Be prepared to get wet on this soaking water ride.
- Flume: Ride in a log in this water ride.
- Cosmotron: Go backward and forward in this indoor spinning ride with music and lights.
- Italian Trapeze: Spin high above the crowds in swings.
- Tea Cups: Spin in rotating seats; great for families.
- Motor Boats: Steer your own boat through the course.
- Grand Carousel: Ride on wooden horses and try to grab the brass rings.
- Skyslide: Climb to the top of the tower and ride down the slide.
- Tilt-a-Whirl: Spin as fast as you can in cars going around in a circle.
- Giant Ferris Wheel: Get a great view of the park and surroundings from the top.
- Antique Cart: Take a ride in an antique car that you 'drive' under the Phoenix.
- Whipper: Whip around its fast turns.
- Merry Mixer: Mix around in your car as others mix by you.
There are many more rides to enjoy, like the classic Haunted Mansion, or the new indoor roller coaster, the Black Diamond. If you're brave, try them both!
Read More from WanderWisdom
The Phoenix at Knoebels
Amusement Park for Toddlers: Kiddieland and Other Kid Rides
Planes go in a circle
Kids manuever cars on a track
Animals, vehicles that go in a circle
Firetrucks go in a circle; ring the bells
Bouncing on an inflated balloon
Play in ball pit
Planes fly in circle
Ride bounces up and down
Kids ride on the backs of lady bugs
Amusement Park Activities
Aside from rides, there are many other activities at Knoebels:
- At the bandshell, there are a variety of shows. Oftentimes, there are musical acts, magic acts, or dance acts.
- The XD theater hosts both 4D and 3D shows.
- Enjoy mini-golf in the middle of the park, or if you prefer actual golf, there is a course adjacent to the park.
- If your kids enjoy stories and fairy tales, there is a Storytime Theater where kids can be a part of the show.
- For those who love to play games, there are various arcades and skill games.
- If you want to learn something new, visit the Carousel Museum, the Coal Mining Museum, or the History of Knoebels Museum.
- Knoebels believes in conservation; that is why the park is full of trees! They also host a Bald Eagle Habitat where you visit a male and female couple.
Food at Knoebels
Knoebels offers free picnic sites or pavilions that you can rent for a party or reunion. You can bring your own food and beverages or have the event catered by Knoebels, and then enjoy your stay at the park.
If you'd rather eat some of their fabulous park food, then you have many options. There are many food stands throughout the park serving snacks and treats. There is also a selection of restaurants if you prefer a sit-down meal.
Snack Food and Treats
- Cotton candy
- Roasted nuts
- Candy apples
- Ice cream
- The Alamo
- The Wharf and Roaring Creek Saloon
- The International Food Court
If you'd rather more of a sit-down meal, you can visit one of the various restaurants around the park, like the Alamo or the Wharf and Roaring Creek Saloon. My family and I like to visit the International Food Court to find a variety of foods (Italian, Mexican, American, or World) and sit under the pavilion next to the Flume.
Anywhere you go, you are going to enjoy the food and the reasonable prices. What I like to do to save some money is to bring my own water or juice, pack a picnic lunch, and then buy the food at the park for dinner or for a snack.
Camping at Knoebels
Camping at Knoebels has been a tradition since the 1920s. Set in the middle of a vast amount of trees and near water, Knoebels is a great place to camp AND enjoy an amusement park! There are both tent sites and cabins available, plus parking for RVs. Most sites have electricity hookups. There is a campground store for those who may need to stock up on goods.
If you'd prefer, you can camp in the Knoebels campground that is adjacent to the amusement park, as described above. If you'd rather camp near the park but not so close, you have a few other options:
- J & D Campground: 1 mile away
- Mossy Point Campground: 1.5 miles away
- Knoebels Lake Glory Campground: 1 mile away (shuttle offered to park)
Wherever you decide to camp, it will be a good time to be had by all!
Campgrounds Near Knoebels
- Campgrounds Near Knoebels in Pennsylvania | Travel Tips - USAToday.com
The Knoebels Amusement Resort, situated in central Pennsylvania in the town of Elysburg, consists of an amusement park and an adjacent campground.
WVIA Day at Knoebels
Did you know that if you have a membership with WVIA, the PBS television station, you get free handstamps for WVIA Day at Knoebels? Every year in May, WVIA hosts all of its members at Knoebels for a day of fun with the family. Depending on your membership level, you can get up to six free handstamps that day!
In 2012, Miss Rosa from PBS Kids visited Knoebels. She held storytimes every few hours, encouraging the kids in the audience to stand near the stage and join her in telling the story. Afterward, she held a meet and greet for the kids, autographing pictures for the kids and taking pictures for them. It was really great for the kids to meet a 'celebrity' like that at Knoebels!
Knoebels Is a Great Park for Everyone!
We always have a great time at Knoebels, and we look forward to many more visits to the park each year! If you've been there, tell me about your favorite part or ride in the comments below. Thanks!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.