This weekend I went on a girls getaway with my high school friends. What a blast from the past it was to spend time together again, reminiscing and reconnecting.
At the persuasion of a friend who vacationed there as a child, and being Philly rats, we decided to head up the PA Turnpike and explore the beautiful hills of Elysburg, PA and its shining gem, Knoebels.
I remember being a kid and my dad talking about the amusement park where “every ride’s a dollar”. Compared to the price gouging at the Jersey Shore, that price was downright foreign. We never did make the 2.5 hour trek from the city up to Elysburg so I jumped at the chance to go as an adult.
Elysburg is nestled in the hills of upstate PA, settled around the major attraction, Knoebels. Knoebels is the self-declared “largest free-admission amusement park” in the country, and perhaps one of the oldest. This charming village feels like a less doctored up version of Busch Gardens, which I actually preferred. For families, this struck me as the spot to plan a memorable, affordable vacation.
Keep on reading for my 8 reasons why Knoebels makes for a great spot for families of all kinds (including your family of friends):
- Knoebels has no admission fee! You can buy a ride band or books of tickets, like a carnival. So grandma can totally come along for the memories and avoid paying just to get in. All are welcome to use the luncheon pavilions, watch the live entertainment, and take photos at the historic sites.
- The rides are super affordable! They may not all be a dollar a ride anymore but they average less than $2 per attraction. If you have a group, do the math and figure out if you’ll need more than $150 in tickets. You can buy them all together and receive up to 15% off! There are always special deals happening too, like 90 cent Sundays and $12 Fridays so plan your trip around the online calendar.
- There are over 2 dozen eateries in the park! From novelties like candy floss and apple cider slushies to pizza, grilled chicken sandwiches and walking tacos, there is something to suit every palette. Even the food was affordable with a generous burger averaging $3.75 and a large pizza at $12.
- If eating at the park isn’t for you (saving money, picky eaters, food allergies), that’s ok too! You can bring in a cooler and use the covered lunch pavilions just the same. Since there is no admission fee, there’s no place to check in and no rules on carrying in water, food, or lactation products.
- There’s way more than just rides! Live music, magicians, shops, story time and a pool round out this vacation spot. Best yet, the live entertainment is always free and a pool pass can be purchased for less than $10. There are even two free museums on the premises.
- Knoebels has a lot of cool, old-fashioned rides. There were so many unique, war-era coasters and attractions. The intensity level is lower than Great Adventure and was more on par with Disney so even scaredy cats like myself could get in on the fun.
- Knoebels offers free parking! They also have a tram car that comes around the huge lot to get you right up to the park without having to walk (also free).
- You can stay here too! Tent out, rent a cottage or stay in a cabin- it’s up to you! But all accommodations are connected to or within a ten minute shuttle ride of the park (and yes, the shuttle is also free).
So now that I have you all, “Oh my gosh, we need to plan a trip here. How much does this fabulous place cost?!” here is the price breakdown for a four person trip for a weekend (2 days, one night):
- 250 miles round trip
- $20 in gas and tolls
- Average of $1.75 per ride
- Average 15 rides completed in 2 day period
- $105 in tickets
- Pack simple breakfast food, snacks and water
- Lunch: Adult meals average $9, kids average $7
- Dinner: Pizza, $12
- Snack: Ice cream, $4 per cone
- Total: $92
- Tent site with water, electric and shared bathhouse: $48 per night
- Cabin for 6 with water, electric and shared bathhouse: $140 per night
- Cabin for 6 with water, electric, private bath and kitchenette: $235 per night
Leave money for souvenirs at the gift shop and to take home some fresh fudge or caramel corn and you can make this trip happen for about $450 for a family of 4 (in the highest priced cabin)!
PS: Is Knoebels your family vay-kay of choice? Tell me your favorite Knoebels memory in the comments below.