Your best ticket deal isn't a ticket at all, it's an Idlewild Season Pass!
Idlewild Park came into existence when William Darlington, owner of the property, gave "the right and privilege to occupy his land for picnic purposes or pleasure grounds" to Judge Thomas Mellon, owner of the Ligonier Valley Railroad. The date was May 1, 1878. Today, Idlewild & SoakZone amusement park is recognized as the Best Children's Park by Amusement Today.
Prior to this time, the Ligonier Valley Railroad, accommodating narrow gauge trains, was used solely to move coal from the mines at Fort Palmer (five miles north of Ligonier) to Latrobe, where it would connect with the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. With the Darlington-Mellon agreement, development of the Park would include campgrounds on both sides of the railroad right-of-way, an artificial lake created for boating and fishing, picnic tables and a large hall. To promote the Park, Idlewild was advertised in the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas with special appeals to churches and schools. The Park continued its success as a picnic area, enticing city dwellers for a weekend in the country aboard the Ligonier Valley Railroad, which had a station at the Park.
Before 1931, attempts to commercialize America's most beautiful, purely recreational park had failed. During that year, C.C. Macdonald and Richard B. Mellon, son of Judge Thomas Mellon, became interested in Idlewild. They pooled their resources to improve the property and developed more amusements. As manager in this new partnership, C.C. Macdonald planned and supervised the construction of rides, pavilions, lunchrooms, bandstands, and many attractions which are still part of Idlewild today, including a 3-row Philadelphia Toboggan Co. carousel.
1952 saw the end of the Ligonier Valley Railroad. Although it had been a vital factor to the early success of Idlewild Park, its abandonment had little effect on the continued success of the Park. Under the new owners, the Macdonald Family, who purchased the Park from the Mellons in 1951, Idlewild Park continued to grow and improve. Story Book Forest was added in 1956.
Few changes were made at Idlewild Park until February, 1983 when Kennywood Park Corporation took ownership. During the first winter, major changes began to occur. Jumpin' Jungle, a children's area was added. Story Book Forest was no longer run as a separate operation and became, instead, one more attraction in the Idlewild Park entertainment complex. Historic Village, once located on the Ligonier side of Story Book Forest, was relocated to the center of the Park for the 1984 Season and was renamed Hootin' Holler'.
With the ever-growing popularity across the country in water parks and attractions, 1985 saw the creation of the H20hhh Zone and the addition of Little Squirts eight years later. 1989 provided expansion across the Loyalhanna Creek with the addition of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood of Make-Believe and a trip on the Neighborhood Trolley. This area was expanded in 1990 to feature a new kiddieland area, Raccoon Lagoon.
The 1990's began the wildest years yet as the Wild Mouse Coaster made its debut in Olde Idlewild. The 21st Century brought additions of state-of-the-art slides and other participatory water activities, doubling the water park's size and leading to a new name: Idlewild & SoakZone!
The future of Idlewild is one of growth and improvement. Yet despite this progress, the park will always maintain the natural beauty and romantic atmosphere that attracted families more than a century ago.
On October 6, 2012, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recognized Idlewild Park, and its long history, with a roadside marker. A fitting tribute to the longest-operating theme park near Pittsburgh, PA and the state as a whole, and third oldest in the entire country.
Idlewild & SoakZone has received the coveted Golden Ticket Award for Best Children's Park. Introduced in 1998, the Golden Tickets are the most prized awards in the industry and are awarded based on a poll of experienced and well-traveled amusement park fans worldwide in a survey conducted by Amusement Today. The 2014 poll was the eleventh for the category of Best Children's Park. Below is the placement of Idlewild & SoakZone each year: