Exploring Idlewild Park in Ligonier

Exploring Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.

Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County is Pennsylvania’s longest-operating amusement park!

Idlewild Park is the oldest operating amusement park in Pennsylvania.
Idlewild Park is the oldest operating amusement park in Pennsylvania.

In fact, many of the beautiful structures at Idlewild are well over 100 years old and still in use to this very day.

The Auditorium at Idlewild Park is well over 100 years old.
The Auditorium at Idlewild Park is well over 100 years old.

Located 50 miles east of Pittsburgh along the historic Lincoln Highway (AKA Route 30), a trip to Idlewild has been a summer tradition for me since the early 1970’s.

Car ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania in 1974.
The author driving a 1910 Model T at Idlewild Park in 1974.

So I feel fully qualified to share with you some of the best things to see and do at Idlewild Park in Ligonier!

Soak Zone at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Soak Zone at Idlewild Park.

Things to Know Before You Go

The first thing you should know about Idlewild Park is that while parking is free, admission is not.

The Shoe House at Storybook Forest in Westmoreland County PA.
The “Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe” house in Storybook Forest.

Unlike DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in central PA or Knoebels Amusement Park in eastern PA, which offer free parking AND free admission, no one gets into Idlewild Park without paying the full fee, even if you don’t want to ride the rides or use the water park.

Balloon Race ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Balloon Race ride.

The best deal is to buy tickets online before visiting, as you’ll save 10 bucks per ticket versus buying them at the gate.

Adult handcars in Raccoon Lagoon at Idlewild Park.
Adult handcars in Raccoon Lagoon.

You CAN take you own food and drinks into the park, and there are plenty of picnic areas throughout to eat at.

Hillside Grill at Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.
Hillside Grill and outdoor seating.

Of course there are also a variety of concession stands selling all sorts of good food (and even beer in 2022!), but you should know that Idlewild has gone cashless, so bring a credit/debit card.

Funnel cakes and Cyclone cones at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Funnel cakes and Cyclone cones

Attractions at Idlewild Park

Idlewild Park is nestled in a wooded setting along both banks of Loyalhanna Creek, with different areas of the park geared towards different age groups and interests.

Ricky's Racers ride in Raccoon Lagoon at Idlewild Park.
Ricky’s Racers ride in Raccoon Lagoon.

Raccoon Lagoon

Raccoon Lagoon is where you’ll find the “kiddie rides” at Idlewild.

Entrance to Raccoon Lagoon at Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.
Entrance to Raccoon Lagoon.

From little boats to little cars to little airplanes – there are all sorts of great attractions for toddlers in this portion of the Idlewild Park, one of the reasons it has been named the World’s Best Children’s Park numerous times by the amusement industry magazine Amusement Today.

Pollywog Regatta boat ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Pollywog Regatta boat ride.

I can vouch for the sea-worthiness of the little boats – they were one of my favorite rides there in the 70s and I’m glad to see them still in use.

Riding the boats at Idlewild Park in Ligonier PA in 1974.
The author riding the little boats at Idlewild Park in 1974.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a trolley ride you take through a wooded setting, making numerous stops along the route where passengers interact with animatronic characters from the hit children’s TV series.

Riding the trolley through Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood at Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.
Riding the trolley through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Naturally at the end of the trolley ride you meet Daniel Tiger, and all is well with the world.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

There’s a even a Daniel Tiger Stage where you can watch an interactive costumed performance several times during the day.

Daniel Tiger on stage at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Daniel Tiger on stage.

Story Book Forest

Story Book Forest is my favorite part of Idlewild Park, probably because it feels the most “retro” and I like things that are old and unchanged.

Welcome to Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Welcome to Story Book Forest.

Story Book Forest allows you to literally step through the pages of your favorite storybook. 

Entrance to Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Entrance to Story Book Forest.

Castles, pirate ships, and all sorts of whimsical structures can be found along the wooded path leading through Story Book Forest.

Enchanted Castle inside Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park.
Enchanted Castle inside Story Book Forest.

Old King Cole, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the 7 Dwarves – they’re all here as well.

Old King Cole at Storybook Forest in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Old King Cole.

Even my jaded teenage daughter had to admit meeting Mother Goose was fun.

Meeting Mother Goose in Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park.
Meeting Mother Goose in Story Book Forest.

Hootin’ Holler

Hootin’ Holler is a replica of a old western town, and features numerous rides and food stands as well as a country music show at various times throughout the day.

Country music show in Hootin' Holler at Idlewild Park.
Country music show in Hootin’ Holler.

This is also one of the places where you can catch the Loyalhanna Limited train, for a scenic ride through the park and across Loyalhanna Creek to Raccoon Lagoon and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Loyalhanna Limited train ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Loyalhanna Limited train ride.

Jumpin’ Jungle

Jumpin’ Jungle is an interactive play area with a jungle theme.

Jumpin' Jungle at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Entrance to Jumpin’ Jungle.

The area includes numerous “jungle-like” attractions such as climbing nets, giant slides, and a suspension bridge.

Net Climb in Jumpin' Jungle at Idlewild Park.
Climbing net in the Jumpin’ Jungle.

And if you’re wondering if adults can climb the netting, the answer is yes!

View from the top of the Net Climb at Idlewild Park.
View from the top of the Net Climb.

Olde Idlewild

Olde Idlewild contains many of the park’s traditional amusement park rides.

The carousel at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
The 48-horse carousel at Idlewild.

The historic carousel dates back to 1931.

History of the carousel at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
History of the carousel at Idlewild Park.

Here’s a shot of me riding this same carousel while rockin’ the plaid pants in 1974.

Riding the carousel at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania in 1974.
Riding the carousel at Idlewild Park in 1974.

Other familiar rides such as the Tilt-A-Whirl, Scrambler, and Round-Up can be found in Olde Idlewild as well.

The Round Up ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
The Round Up ride.

The Wild Mouse was operated in Staffordshire, England before being moved to Idlewild in 1993.

Wild Mouse ride at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Wild Mouse ride.

Soak Zone

Soak Zone is the waterpark portion of Idlewild Park.

Wowabunga wave pool at Idlewild Park's Soak Zone in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Wowabunga wave pool at Soak Zone.

When I was a kid, the “waterpark” at Idlewild consisted of feeding stale bread to ducks, so the Soak Zone is certainly an upgrade in that respect.

Feeding ducks at Idlewild Park in 1974.
The “waterpark” at Idlewild in 1974.

A wave pool, a lazy river, and various water slides are part of the draw to Soak Zone.

Water slides at Idlewild's Soak Zone in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Water slides at Idlewild’s Soak Zone.

During my most recent visit (June 2022), Soak Zone was by far the busiest part of Idlewild Park, so plan on getting there early if you want to secure a prime spot on the “beach”, or you can rent a cabana for an additional charge.

Float Away Bay lazy river at Idlewild's Soak Zone.
The “Float Away Bay” lazy river attraction in the Soak Zone.

The Idlewild Park Tradition

Growing up in western PA, a trip to Idlewild Park was was an a summer tradition, one that I’m glad I can continue with my own daughter.

Giant pumpkin in Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park.
Giant pumpkin in Storybook Forest.

The setting is beautiful.

Walking path between Soak Zone and Raccoon Lagoon at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Walking path between Soak Zone and Raccoon Lagoon.

The food is good (a bit pricey, but good).

Banana Splits at Idlewild Park in Ligonier Pennsylvania.
Banana Splits.

And many of the games, rides, and attractions are still familiar favorites.

Humpty Dumpty at Storybook Forest in Ligonier PA.
Humpty Dumpty in the Story Book Forest.

While you can’t get there by train anymore, you can find Idlewild Park at 2580 U.S. 30 Ligonier, PA 15658, on the western edge of Ligonier along the scenic Lincoln Highway.

Riding the Loyalhanna Limited at Idlewild Park in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.
Riding the Loyalhanna Limited train at Idlewild Park.

So start (or continue) your own family tradition by visiting Idlewild Park in Ligonier this summer!

Sword in the Stone in the Enchanted Castle at Story Book Forest at Idlewild State Park.
Sword in the Stone at the Enchanted Castle.

Knoebels Amusement Park near Elysburg, Pennsylvania is consistently ranked as one of the best amusement parks in the United States.

Exploring Knoebels the largest free-admission amusement park in Pennsylvania.

A big part of why Knoebels is so popular is that it offers free parking and free park admission.

The Impulse is one of the rollercoasters at Knoebels in Elysburg.
The Impulse roller coaster at Knoebels.

DelGrosso’s Amusement Park has been a central PA tradition for more than 100 years!

Enjoying a summer afternoon at DelGrosso's Amusement Park in Blair County.
Enjoying a summer afternoon at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Blair County.

Like Knoebels, parking and park admission are FREE at DelGrosso’s!

The Wacky Worm "kiddie coaster" at DelGrosso's Amusement Park in Blair County.
The Wacky Worm “kiddie coaster” at DelGrosso’s.

Hersheypark is PA’s largest and most-visited theme park!

Entrance to Hersheypark.
Entrance to Hersheypark.

Spanning more than 120 acres and containing more than 70 rides (including 14 roller coasters), Hersheypark also includes a zoo, a waterpark, and a plethora of dining and shopping options.

Exploring Hersheypark - PA's Sweetest Amusement Park

Nearby Attractions

Fort Ligonier was always another traditional summer destination for my family growing up, and it’s still going strong.

Fort Ligonier on a late summer morning.
Fort Ligonier on a late summer morning.

Fort Ligonier is a historically accurate reproduction of a British fort originally constructed in 1758 during what would become known as the French and Indian War.

Cannons at Fort Ligonier overlooking the town and Route 30 below.
Cannons at Fort Ligonier overlooking the town and Route 30 below.

The museum at Fort Ligonier contains one of the most complete collections of French and Indian War artifacts in existence, many excavated from the ruins of the original Fort Ligonier itself.

Weaponry on display inside Fort Ligonier museum.
Weaponry on display inside Fort Ligonier museum.

The Lincoln Highway Experience, located just a few miles west of Idlewild Park, is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental automobile route linking the east and west coasts of the United States.

A petroliana exhibit at the Lincoln Highway Experience in the PA Laurel Highlands.
A petroliana exhibit at the Lincoln Highway Experience near Idlewild Park.

Adam Falls is just one of the many extraordinary sights to see at nearby Linn Run State Park.

Looking down on Adams Falls at Linn Run State Park after heavy spring rains.
Looking down on Adam Falls at Linn Run State Park after heavy spring rains.

The abandoned hunting lodge at Linn Run State Park is a remarkable set of ruins from the early days of “retreat camping” in western Pennsylvania.

The abandoned McGinnis Rod and Gun CLub at Linn Run State Park.
Ruins of the abandoned hunting lodge at Linn Run State Park.

13 Must-See Attractions in Westmoreland County is your guide to even more great things to see and do near Idlewild Park.

Exploring Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County PA
Keystone State park in Westmoreland County.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.