This weekend, we took advantage of the Idlewild park packages to take our 9 and 3 year old to Idlewild Park, near Ligonier in the western part of the state. Here's what we did--it is long, but I know that I always want the details when I read these kinds of reports.
The drive from the Gettysburg area was pleasant. We went to Blairsville first, where we had reserved at the Hampton Inn. The hotel was new and very clean. They had our park tickets ready for us, along with the directions to the park. We were surprised that they even had a room ready at 10:30 am!
We decided to visit the park on Sunday, even though they were calling for scattered storms. There is plenty of free parking, and you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks--a nice change from the Hershey parks. There were many groups in the shady pavilions for church picnics, company picnics, and so forth. A short walk from the parking lot found us right in the middle of the park.
Our overall impressions of the park were that it is very clean, well-maintained, and shady. Throughout the day, we had no trouble finding shady benches for resting and relaxing. The Loyalhanna Creek goes through the park, which is surrounded by green mountains. We ended up taking advantage of the next day pass ($14.95) to return Monday as well.
On Sunday, we did the dry areas of the park, leaving the water park for Monday. We didn't encounter many lines, probably because of the weather forecast. (It did rain a few times, but no thunderstorms) The Raccoon Lagoon is an area for kids 36-56 inches. Our three year old was reluctant to get on the rides by himself at first (our 9 year old is 57 inches--and they do measure!) but warmed up. There were the typical kids rides in this area, along with hand cars that you operate yourself. They also had a Mister Rogers Neighborhood Trolley attraction. This was a family ride on the trolley that took us to the Land of Make Believe, and had us interacting with the characters to invite them to a castle party. I wish we had watched the show a bit more before we had attended! It was the kind of ride that depends on the enthusiasm of the staff member leading it, and our staff member was great.
Our next stop was the Jumpin' Jungle, a big play area. I liked that it was geared to children 10 and under. While they allowed teens to participate, there were staff members about enforcing the rules and making sure that big kids weren't overtaking everything. Our 9 year old loved the climbing net, along with the swinging bridge and zip line.
The Storybook Forest is an older part of the park, and takes visitors on a winding path through the woods to see the Crooked House, Little Engine that Could, Snow White's house, and the Good Ship Lollipop. Our youngest liked this area, especially the live animals (chickens, goats, and rabbits).
Olde Idlewild and the Hootin' Holler are both in the middle part of the park. Here we found regular amusement park rides, including a flume, ferris wheel, carousel, and so forth. The Rollo Coaster and Wild Mouse were both lots of fun for our 9 year old.
We loved the stand with ice cream sundaes in homemade waffle cones...delicious. The Mineshaft Kitchen also had nice meals, with lots of variety. In general, all of the food in the park is reasonable and tasty. The souvenier mug is $4.60, with $1.85 refills...it was well worth it for our trip.
We returned on Monday to do the water park. We arrived about fifteen minutes after opening and had no problem finding chairs, although it did get more crowded over the day. Like the rest of the park, Soak Zone was clean and well-staffed. The pool is huge and lots of fun. Our littlest enjoyed the Little Squirts area, which had squirters and a small river-like attraction that you could walk through. Our older son enjoyed the water slides and the Captain Kidds Adventure Galley, which had small slides and interactive water features. The day was gorgeous with a high of only 80, which meant that it did get pretty chilly in the water. It seemed more crowded on Monday, and someone explained that it was a day when season pass holders could bring a guest. In the water park, a family meal of chicken fingers and four orders of fries was only $11.50, and ended up being more than we could eat.
Overall, it was a great short vacation. We really liked the Hampton Inn, and didn't mind the drive to the park. The indoor pool was a nice diversion after the park on Sunday evening. On the way home, we poked around a bit in Ligonier and found a nice toy store (The Toy Box) with great Thomas toys and Playmobil. We plan to return!