About Idlewild & SoakZone

Idlewild & SoakZone is recognized as the Best Children's Park by Amusement Today

Golden Ticket Award Winner!

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 Best Children's Park category was transitioned into Best Family Park in 2019. Below is the placement of Idlewild & SoakZone each year:

  • 2021 - 3rd Place - Best Family Park
  • 2019 - 3rd Place - Best Family Park
  • 2018 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2017 – Winner – Best Children’s Park
  • 2016 – Winner – Best Children’s Park
  • 2015 - Winner - Best Children’s Park
  • 2014 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2013 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2012 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2011 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2010 - Winner - Best Children's Park
  • 2009 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park
  • 2008 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park
  • 2007 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park
  • 2006 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park
  • 2005 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park
  • 2004 - 2nd Place, Best Children's Park

The History of Idlewild

The Beginning: 1878

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.

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.

Historical photo of Idlewild area in 1878
Historical photo of Idlewild circa 1930


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.

Historical photo of Idlewild circa 1950
Historical photo of Idlewild water slide circa 1980


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!

Historical photo of Idlewild rollercoaster circa 1990
Idlewild historical commemoration plaque


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.

The future of Idlewild is one of growth and improvement

Despite this progress, the park will always maintain the natural beauty and romantic atmosphere that attracted families more than a century ago.

Rides and Attractions

With two Pittsburgh theme parks in one, this is what family fun is all about! Whether it's watching your child conquer their first roller coaster, venturing through Story Book Forest, or splashing and sliding at SoakZone, Idlewild & SoakZone's is a place full of smiles and long-lasting memories.

Kid's will enjoy our in-park adventures such as, Story Book Forest, Bigfoot's Mudslide in Jumpin' Jungle, and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. The more adventurous tots and children will love spinning, twirling and bouncing through our many in-park rides.

Great Food

Venturing through Idlewild & SoakZone's two parks in one can leave you hungry! Idlewild & SoakZone isn't just one of the best places to go in Pennsylvania for family fun, it's also one of the best places to find satisfying family-friendly dining. Whether you're in the mood for a casual meal, quick bite or sweet treat, you'll find just what you're looking for inside the park.

Birthday Parties

Idlewild & SoakZone hosts many birthday parties each summer, and with our unique birthday Party Packs, we make planning a birthday party a piece of cake. Choose a fun birthday Party Packs and let us help you plan the best birthday party of the summer!


There is so much fun stuff to do in Pittsburgh! Idlewild & SoakZone Single Day Tickets are the perfect way to enjoy a day of family-friendly rides, water park fun, and make long-lasting memories. Tickets can be purchased online and at the park gate.