I’m not sure how I managed to live in the Lehigh Valley for 32 years without visiting Knoebels. For one, it’s a fairly well-known park not too far from my home; it took me less than 90 minutes to drive there, and it was a lovely drive. Additionally, I spent the last eight years–and will likely spend the next several more–teaching middle school. And, up until a few years ago, a Knoebels field trip was a right of passage for every ‘graduating’ 8th grade class. Now that I have experienced Knoebels, I understand why–it’s a great place for a large gathering. Heck, it’s a great place for a small gathering.
In fact, it’s generally an all-around great place. Here are some of the many reasons why…
Knoebels is Flat and Shady
After walking around Knoebels for a few hours, I realized something–I was neither exhausted nor sunburned. I credit its flat, tree-speckled geography for this fact.
Yes, Disney World is mostly flat too, and that’s great. It makes it accessible for almost everyone and even completely mobile, stroller-free people like myself appreciate the lack of hills. But if you’ve ever been to any other theme parks–my local theme park, for example, Dorney Park, you’ll know that hills come with the territory–especially here in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, the tree cover did more than just provide much-needed shade–it broke up the sight lines and made the whole place feel more like a park and less like a carnival. Knoebels is not grand, but thanks to the wooded nature of the site, it is most definitely quaint and charming.
Knoebels has Good Food
You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘great food’. That’s because there’s no such thing as great amusement park food–yes, even in Disney. But I have to admit, the food choices were not only extremely diverse, but the little bit that I sampled was pretty good.
Shortly after arriving, we visited the International Food Pavilion (I’m not sure if it is called a pavilion, but it was a picnic pavilion so I’m going to call it that!) This pavilion had three different serving areas–one for American food, one for international, and one for Mexican. Don’t ask me why Mexican isn’t included in international, but it isn’t. Whatever. Of course I went with the seemingly least popular option–as I typically do–and lined up to order an enchilada.
To be fair, this enchilada was not, in fact, an enchilada. It was more like a cross between a cheesesteak wrap and a chimichanga. But come on–doesn’t that sound good in and of itself? The sauce was less spicy than you’d expect (though hot sauce packets were provided and used liberally by yours truly), the meat was chipped steak (in true Pennsylvania fashion) and the entire thing was deep fried, chimichanga-style. The result–a damn good meal for the low, low discount price of $4.75. I’d be hard pressed to find a better, cheaper lunch anywhere. Oh–and they sold frozen whoopie pies, too. And yes, I ordered one. Wouldn’t you?
As we enjoyed the park throughout the day, we passed several other food stands and I continued to be shocked by the sheer variety of food offered. I could sincerely visit Knoebels and just walk around and eat all day. Perhaps some day this summer I will do just that. Which brings me to my next point…
Knoebels is Dog Friendly
I’m not sure if it was the time of year or just our good luck, but it seemed that we visited Knoebels on an unannounced national take-your-puppy-to-the-amusement-park day. There were families with dogs everywhere, and I’d say maybe half of them were of the super-cute puppy variety. And if there’s one thing that makes a day at an amusement park more adorable, it’s a bunch of puppies.
It has become more and more difficult to find fun things to do with your pooch in tow, so now that I know Knoebels is an option, I’d put money on the fact that I return one day this summer, dog in hand, ready to chow down on some serious carnival food. Maybe I’ll even share part of my funnel cake–powdered sugar is safe for dogs, right?
Knoebels is Free–Well, Sort-of Free
There’s no formal entrance gate to Knoebels because there’s no need–you just walk right in. If you’ve arrived on a motorcycle, you don’t even have to loop around to access the parking lot–there are motorcycle spots right off the main road, and then you can wander in from the side. No fences, no gates, no turnstiles. It was a bit of a shock to me at first, having spent more than my share of time in line for bag check at Disney World.
Instead of charging admission, Knoebels sells ride tickets; you can buy ticket books in different increments ranging from $5 to $20, and rides cost between $1 and $3. On off-season days and weekends it is possible to purchase a ride-all-day wristband as well, which would be useful for ride-crazy kids and teenagers (and, ok, adults. We know you are out there!) Personally, I thought the ticket thing would be annoying, but it turned out to be kind of ideal. Here’s why: when you have to pay for each ride, you are far less likely to just get in line for anything. You think about what you want to ride and ride only that. And by ‘you’ I mean ‘most everyone there’. This results in one of my favorite things–short lines! Sure, the lines for the big ticket attractions–like the coasters and this one mine ride that I didn’t really understand–were still pretty long. But if you want to ride the teacups or the swings, you can practically walk right on.
Additionally, if you are a non-rider or, say, have come to Knoebels just to hang out with your dog and eat funnel cake, you won’t pay a single cent for admission. Which is perfect, because it leaves you with more money to spend on frozen whoopie pies. Or honey-stung chicken. Or not-really-an-enchilada enchiladas.
Sure, it may be a bit rough around the edges and yes, the font on the Ladies room sign may be a bit dated. And no, there are no costumed characters walking around or opening show (sorry Melissa Sue, but not every park has a ‘rope drop ceremony’!) And yeah, there’s really no theme going on. But that’s ok, because Knoebels isn’t a theme park–it’s an amusement park. And I, for one, was amused.
If this hasn’t been asked this week already–do you have any favorite local amusement parks that you frequent? Tell us about them. We might just make a trip there for our next non-Disney outing!