When I heard about the all-new Thomas Town area opening this summer at Kennywood amusement park, located southeast of Pittsburgh in West Mifflin, Pa., I welcomed the chance to check out the kid-focused attraction. The park invited area media out to see Thomas Town, so on July 28, I packed up the family and headed to the “Island of Sodor.”
I must confess, my 2- and 4-year old sons have an appreciation of Thomas the Tank Engine, but they aren’t die-hard fans. They do, however, have a healthy obsession with all things transportation-related, so I knew the new section of the historic park (it opened in 1898!) would be a big hit.
Depending where you live in Northeast Ohio, Kenywood is an easy 2- to 3-hour drive away, which makes it a great day-long adventure. It’s a quaint park (with some modern rides and attractions added along the way, of course) and is a great, easy-to-navigate size for families with young children.
Thomas Town features five rides, a live stage show, an indoor play zone and entertainment center, and a well-stocked gift shop filled with Thomas-themed memorabilia. The rides are based on characters from the children’s program, including a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine traveling on the redesigned Olde Kennywood Railroad.
Cranky’s Drop Tower raises kids (and parents) high above Thomas Town, then drops you down. Harold’s Helicopter Tour lets kids can take control of their own Harold Helicopter and pilot him up and down as they spin around. Diesel Drivers lets kids Climb aboard Diesel, Iron Bert and other diesel engines for a fun ride. Flynn’s Fire Training, which interested my kids the most, turns children into junior firefighters, as they shoot water to extinguish flames on this unique, interactive ride. There’s also live shows throughout the day featuring Sir Topham Hatt and some of his engines.
For fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, a visit to Kennywood is a must. Because the attraction is brand new, aim to get there as early as possible — lines formed quickly when we visited. When it appeared that wait times would outlast our toddler’s patience, we headed next door to the Kiddieland area of Kennywood, which had about a dozen rides from which to choose, some carnival games, a giant sand pit, and great food options for lunch.
Our visit was complete after a couple rides on the Merry-Go-Round and two trips (yes, my older son insisted we go in twice) through Noah’s Ark, an animal-themed “fun house” with moving floors, special lighting and effects, and animatronic animals.
Kennywood is open daily throughout most of August from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (check the park’s calendar for details), and is open weekends in September and October for special events, including Phantom Fright Nights and Happy Hauntings. Visit kennywood.com for more information.