Central Pennsylvania is a wooded wonderland, with many sites for hiking, fishing, and camping, but the area is not just good for experiencing nature. Nestled in a verdant valley about three hours drive from Philadelphia, Knoebels Amusement Park is one of the largest free admission amusement parks in the United States.
Knoebels Amusement Park was founded in 1926. Known as Knoebels Grove, the area was already a popular swimming hole before the park opened. Visitors would come on day-trips to swim in a creek and jump from a covered bridge into the water below. Henry Knoebel, then the owner of Knoebels Grove, began to charge visitors for concessions and to build and rent cottages by the creek (some of the cottages still exist in the Knoebels Campground). Knoebels Amusement Park is still owned and operated by the Knoebel family.
The first attractions built at Knoebels Grove were a large swimming pool, the Crystal Pool, and a carousel. The much-expanded Crystal Pool (now Pennsylvania's largest swimming pool) is still a popular attraction, but Knoebels Amusement Park has developed considerably since its inception and now features over 50 rides, including three wooden roller coasters and two antique carousels. Many of these rides were purchased from other amusement parks and lovingly restored. This includes the world-class Phoenix roller coaster, which was transferred from its home in Texas in the 1980s. With its focus on historic rides and traditional fairground amusements, Knoebels is just as much a part of Pennsylvania history as Philadelphia's Liberty Bell or Independence Hall.
There is no fee for admission to Knoebels Amusement Park. Instead, visitors pay by the ride at prices ranging from 70 cents to $2. Discounted ticket booklets are also available, as are all-day passes for about $30. Admission to the Crystal Pool is about $5 a day; rides on the water slides are extra.
The fun does not have to stop at the end of the day at Knoebels. Knoebels Campground straddles the amusement park, featuring 500 sites and several cabins available for rent. Knoebels Campground is an ideal destination for a Pennsylvania camping vacation. The site will appeal to kids because of its proximity to the amusement park. There are also activities for all ages in the area, including a tour of Pennsylvania's famous covered bridges, many hiking trails, and the Joseph Priestley House, a museum dedicated to the discoverer of oxygen and one of the first scientists in North America.
Rates for Knoebels Campground start at about $35 a night ($200 for a week), including electrical hook-up. Cabins begin at about $100 a night. Reservations are necessary for some sites and cabins, especially on holiday weekends.