Idlewild Park & SoakZone

This amusement park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, has been a family favorite for generations. 

The Idlewild Park & SoakZone that visitors know today traces its beginnings to the spring of 1878 and property owner William Darlington’s arrangement with entrepreneur Thomas Mellon, who was permitted to “occupy [Darlington’s] land for picnic purposes or pleasure grounds.” 

Mellon, owner of the Ligonier Valley Railroad, formed a park around the tracks, building campgrounds on both sides of the rails and promoting it as a prime picnic spot for churches and families. In 1931, the amusement park element of the space began to take shape, and in 2012, it was recognized as the longest-operating theme park in the Pittsburgh area.

Today, Idlewild abounds with family-oriented thrills for children of all ages, including a robust lineup of rides and water attractions as well as walk-through exhibits. Little ones take to kid-friendly adventure sections of the park, such as Story Book Forest, Bigfoot’s Mudslide in Jumpin’ Jungle and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. 

For the older crowd, Idlewild offers a fun lineup of classic rides: the Paratrooper, the Scrambler and the Tilt-A-Whirl, to name a few, as well as rides that are specific to the park, such as Paul Bunyan’s Loggin’ Toboggan, a flume ride with a 125-foot ascent to a 30-foot tower, and Ricky’s Racers, a miniature car ride through the trees.

For extra fun in the sun, families gravitate toward the SoakZone, which offers activities for lazy-river dwellers and slide masters alike. The Little Squirts, Float Away Bay and Wowabunga Family Wave Pool areas are the best hubs for younger park-goers. When it comes to the daredevils of the group, popular spots include the Hydro Racers, a quartet of head-first racing slides; the Pipeline Plunge, a course of two twisting funnels with a 50-foot drop; and the Serpentine Slides, a twisting and turning chute with a big splash at the end. 2574 U.S. Route 30, Ligonier, Pennsylvania 15658, 724/238-3666, idlewild.com