Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016 – A Whale of a Time in Pittsburgh

First, a mistake.  Our family has attended Kennywood’s Holiday Lights event for five straight years on opening night.  So when I suggested skipping Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016 I was met with, “what do you mean?!? We have to go to Kennywood after Thanksgiving! It’s tradition!” So what’s a dad to do?  Well… you take the family to Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016. Continue reading for photos and what’s new for Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016, and click here for special discounted $10 tickets ($8.99 off the gate price) to attend Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016 with your own family.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

A host of Kennywood, Pittsburgh, and holiday characters, including Parker the Kennywood Arrow, were on hand to greet us as soon as we entered the park, right before nightfall.

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New for Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016 is a Gingerbread Village from chef and baker Jon Lovitch’s GingerBread Lane.  Jon creates elaborate Christmas villages with hundreds of houses, all out of gingerbread, on display not only in Pittsburgh, but also at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino and New York City’s New York Hall of Science.  Kennywood’s delicious village in the Penny Arcade features 189 houses consisting of 211 pounds of gingerbread, 750 pounds of icing, 280 pounds of candy and 720 candy canes.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

Following a quick stop to say Merry Christmas to Kenny Kangaroo, we worked our way around the Lagoon for the nightly tree lighting ceremony.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

Kennywood’s home to the tallest Christmas tree in Pennsylvania – 90 feet tall, plus a 10-foot tree-topper ornament, and each evening a local family turns on the ~250,000 LED lights that adorn the tree (no, it wasn’t us).

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My favorite part of the night is the Kennywood Holiday Lights show itself that takes place every half hour around the Lagoon.  The blinking lights choreographed to holiday songs is 10 minutes of frenetic wonder culminating with Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s classic rock version of “God Rest Ye’ Merry Gentleman.” See the video below for a glimpse of the finale extravaganza.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

If you need a minute to gather your senses after that display, stay put, and gaze out on the lights and reflections on the Lagoon.  Once our ears stopped ringing, it was time for some rides, and there was one in particular I wanted the family to experience.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

Noah’s Ark!  For the first time, Noah’s Ark was open for Kennywood Holiday Lights, and, after 20 years, the whale is back too!  I grew up entering Noah’s Ark through the mouth of the great blue whale, but it was removed two decades ago.  My kids had never experienced it, and, in fact, since we haven’t been back to Pittsburgh during the summer season – they had never been in Noah’s Ark at all.  Now was the time.

Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016

We stepped on the squishy tongue I remembered from my youth, and made our way through the whale’s gaping maw.  We worked through the classic 80 year old funhouse that dates back to 1936, bounced and jiggled on the wooden walkways, and kept our balance through the rotating barrel.  And what did my daughter think when we exited?  “Can we go through again!?!” she asked.  Why yes, yes we could.

As this was now our 6th year attending Kennywood Holiday Lights, we relaxed and enjoyed strolling the grounds and taking in the many, featured light displays.

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We made sure to grab a snack of Potato Patch fries, as well as some shakes from Johnny Rockets, and checked out The Polar Express – 4D Experience we had not previously seen.


And, before we knew it, the evening was over.

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Kennywood Holiday Lights 2016 runs from 5-9 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Friday, December 23, 2016.  At the gate admission costs $18.99 for ages 3 and older, but you can get special $10 tickets using this link.  On December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, and 23 there is also an all-you-can-eat dinner option with a visit from Santa.  While our family hasn’t experienced Dinner with Santa, it sounds like a GREAT deal at $29.99 for adults and $23.99 for kids ages 3 to 12.  That price not only includes early entrance to the park for dinner (and an audience with Santa), but also your admission to Holiday Lights.  You get dinner and an extra 90 minutes in the park for only $11 more.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.