Discover the cultural and industrial heritage of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Nominate new places or
revise information. Click Here!

Idlewild Park and Soak Zone


Idlewild Park and Soak Zone


Location Details

PHONE: 724-238-3666
ADDRESS: US 30 & Darlington Rd
Ligonier, PA 15658
HOURS: See website; seasonal calendar

Event Details

Highland Games


When William Darlington decided to sell a tract of land in Ligonier, he stipulated that the property be used for “picnic purposes or pleasure grounds.” On paper, those words were nothing more than a simple clause in a contract. In reality, however, they have served as the foundation of fun that has become Idlewild Park. On May 1, 1878, Judge Thomas Mellon agreed to Darlington’s terms and soon began developing the land, which happened to be a railroad right-of-way. He built campgrounds, a man-made lake, picnic areas, and a large hall on both sides of the tracks.

As the owner of the Ligonier Valley Railroad, he recognized the opportunity to not only create a destination, but also provide the primary means of getting there. Up until that time, the sole function of the Ligonier Valley Railroad was to move coal from the Fort Palmer mines (located five miles north of Ligonier) to Latrobe. With the addition of a stop at the newly created Idlewild Park, some of the trains were pressed into passenger service. As a result, city dwellers could travel from nearby Pittsburgh to Ligonier for a fun-filled day in the country.

Through the years, a bandstand, pavilions, and rides were introduced. The three-row Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel, the Whip, Skooters (bumper cars), and the Rollo Coaster still run today. Eventually, people started to find their own way to Idlewild via the automobile. So when the Ligonier Railroad made its final run in 1951, the park, under the new ownership of the Macdonald family, hardly missed a beat. Kennywood Park Corporation took over operations in 1983, and Idlewild kicked into high gear. Nowadays, Idlewild is home to Jumpin’ Jungle (a hands-on play area), Story Book Forest, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe, a nine-acre kiddie-land called Raccoon Lagoon, Hootin’ Holler (built to look like a mining town), Olde Idlewild, and the Soak Zone, which features 14 wet rides.

Rivers of Steel enewsletter sign up

Rivers of Steel enewsletter sign up