In good times and bad, budget-conscious travelers love to find good deals on attractions and amusements. You may have heard of Knoebels in Pennsylvania. But is Knoebels Amusement Park actually free?
Knoebels Amusement Park features free parking and free admission with à la carte pricing for attractions. Instead of paying one massive price for admission, guests at Knoebels pay for tickets for individual rides. You only have to pay for what you actually do!
So where is Knoebels? What is there to do at Knoebels? Can you bring your own food? What day is the least busy at Knoebels? Read on to learn the answers and to find out how to get the most from your visit.
Free Means Free
Many modern amusement parks charge hundreds of dollars a ticket for the privilege of walking through the gate, but Knoebels is different. Guests may enter Knoebels at no charge! Plus the parking is also free.
While admission is free, guests must buy tickets for the rides and attractions. Tickets for the various attractions are sold à la carte, so if you only want to ride the Black Diamond or the Cosmotron, you only have to pay for those rides. Guests must also pay for food and drink, although Knoebels does allow you to bring in your own food.
Guests can choose to pay as they go or purchase ticket books. The park accepts cash, all major credit cards, and debit cards. However, checks are not accepted at Knoebels.
The History of Knoebels
Knoebels Amusement Park is located in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles north of Harrisburg. The park is nestled in a charming valley and sits at the nexus of several cricks that form a natural swimming hole. Formerly known as Peggy’s Farm, the shady valley and delightful streams near the park have made this area a popular destination for hundreds of years.
In 1828, the land on which Knoebels sits was purchased by Reverend Henry Hartman Knoebel for the princely sum of $931. Knoebel mostly used the ground for everyday purposes: the family farmed, logged, and hunted on the land.
While the location was quite pleasant, the first Knoebel to envision the land in a new way was Mr. Knoebel’s grandson, also named Henry Hartman Knoebel but usually referred to as “H.H. Knoebel” or “Ole’ Hen.”
When he first inherited the land, H.H. Knoebel continued the family businesses, operating a sawmill and producing lumber from the land. A business-minded fellow, Knoebel began selling concessions and snacks to visitors and even leased parcels of land for people to build cottages. In 1926, Knoebel decided to expand his offerings.
On July 4, 1926, Knoebel formally opened Knoebels Amusement Resort. The park’s star attraction was the Crystal Pool, a large concrete pool with a filtration system that offered guests sparkling clear water in which to bathe, a pleasing contrast to the muddy waters of the cricks. Knoebel also operated several food stands and a merry-go-round to entertain his guests.
As time went on, Knoebel expanded his offerings. The park added several more rides, an arcade, and a campground. As technology has progressed, Knoebels has kept pace, building new attractions and retiring amusements that are less entertaining to a modern audience.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Before roller coasters carried people, they carried coal. The Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway was built in 1827 and used gravity to haul coal at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour before eventually being converted to a thrill ride.
What To Do at Knoebels
One of the most popular attractions at Knoebels is the Haunted Mansion (not to be confused with Disney’s Haunted Mansion). Knoebel’s Haunted Mansion is a classic suspense and surprise ride that has been a treasured part of the Knoebels experience since 1973. Even today, fifty years later, guests still love the Haunted Mansion.
Perhaps the most thrilling ride at Knoebels is Impulse. Impulse is an intense, thrilling roller coaster that features a 90-degree free fall and four upside-down twists!
While Impulse is a sleek steel roller coaster, many people love the feel of traditional wooden roller coasters. Those people will love Phoenix, Knoebel’s wooden roller coaster, which offers guests a delightful high-speed ride on the rails. Phoenix actually dates back to 1947, when it was built at the Playland Amusement Park in San Antonio, Texas.
Knoebels bought the ride and relocated it to Pennsylvania in 1985, renaming it Phoenix in honor of its new life. Don’t let its age fool you: Phoenix has been ranked among the top five wooden roller coasters in America every year since 1999.
Speaking of wooden roller coasters, you won’t want to miss Twister, Knoebels’ own original wooden coaster. This coaster takes riders on a thrilling ride that features a dark tunnel, multiple swooping curves, and a double-helix! The top of Twister is more than 100 feet above the ground, but you’ll only have a second to enjoy the view before the coaster drops, and the real fun begins.
Of course, not everybody likes thrill rides. Smaller children will enjoy motoring along in the Panther Cars or propelling themselves down the rails in the Hand Cars.
However, one of the most popular attractions is the Italian Trapeze. This beautiful and masterfully-crafted trapeze ride allows guests to enjoy a gentle ride through the air as the ride rises, tilts, and spins guests around on swing seats.
Some people come to Knoebels to enjoy the rides, and others come for the pool. The Crystal Pool still exists today, though it is larger and far more modern than the original Crystal Pool. There are waterslides for adventurous swimmers and a splash pad for the kiddos.
Can You Bring Food Into Knoebels?
Knoebels allows guests to bring food into the park. Guests are welcome to bring whatever picnic snacks they like. The only restriction is that guests may not bring alcohol into the park.
While you are allowed to bring food into Knoebels, most visitors find the on-site food to be both delicious and affordable.
The park’s concessions serve everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to barbecue, Polish food, pizza, roast beef, French fries, and more. So even the pickiest eater will find something to chow down on at Knoebels.
In addition, the park serves shakes, ice cream, funnel cakes, cookies, and nuts for visitors with a sweet tooth. And Knoebels’ food is highly rated: critics recommend trying the chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick or the gator bites.
What is the Least Busy Day at Knoebels?
The least busy days at Knoebels are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, which makes sense since most people work during the week. If you can get to Knoebels on a nice mid-week day, you’ll enjoy a less crowded experience.
As one might assume, the busiest days of the week at Knoebels are Saturday and Sunday. Holidays and long weekends are also very crowded. But the crowds speak for themselves: Knoebels is worth it!
Is There Camping at Knoebels?
If you enjoy camping and amusement parks, you’re in luck. Knoebels offers both campsites and cabins for rent.
The Knoebels Campground is located at the park and offers campsites and cabins. Campers can spend the night in anything from a pup tent to a Class A RV. Campsites include either a basic hookup for lights or a 50-amp plugin. Water connections are not available, but water stations are easily accessible by campers. In addition, there is a dump station available at no cost for overnight guests.
Glampers can rent Knoebels’ Log Cabins or Eagles Roost Park Cabins. Log Cabins offer electricity and bunks, though campers should bring their own bedding. Eagles Roost Park cabins have private bathrooms and kitchenettes.
If the Knoebels Campground is full, fear not. The Lake Glory Campground is just a short drive up the road from the park in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, and offers campsites and cabins in a more secluded environment.
For those who prefer more homey accommodations, the Latorre House Bed & Breakfast is less than a mile from the park and offers the opportunity to rent a single room, an apartment, or the whole building. The Bed & Breakfast is perfect for large parties, family reunions, or other functions.
Is Knoebels Open When it Rains?
We need rain, but not on our fun day out! Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. Knoebels does its best to keep the park open when it rains, but inclement weather occasionally requires them to suspend operations on some of their rides.
Guests who can’t ride a ride because of the weather should save their tickets, as they will still be usable when the ride reopens, even if they have to come back another day.
A Fun Way To Spend A Day
Ever since the early days, Knoebels has offered guests delicious food and plenty of amusements. Times may have changed since 1926, but the Knoebels experience has remained positive, fun, and economical.
The family-friendly atmosphere, modern thrill rides, and nostalgic appeal make Knoebels a great place to spend a day with the family. Best of all, Knoebels’ free admission and reasonable ride prices let you spend the day without spending a fortune.