Dear Diary,

Many moons ago, my family visited Kennywood, a Pittsburgh-based amusement park. Mother Nature rained on our parade. but my grandfather didn’t let the wet weather put a damper on our fun. He rode the merry-go-round over and over again with my sister and I and not once complained of boredom or dizziness. Years later, my father wanted to continue that tradition with my daughter. She visited the family-friendly attraction for the very first time last week. She saw a commercial on television and begged me to take her. Little did she know, Kennywood and Sandcastle topped our staycation itinerary. Before you embark on a similar adventure, here are tips for taking a toddler to an amusement park.

Kennywood Cowboy Joe

Start a Tradition

If you’re from Pittsburgh, then you’ve met Cowboy Joe before. He’s resided on this park bench for 55 years and welcomed guests to Kennywood. Almost everyone I know has taken a picture with this statue. My grandparents, parents and now my daughter have sat on Joe’s lap. I’m not exactly sure what snappin’ yarns means, but I do know I want to continue this tradition and snap shots together as Caitlynn grows up. Another tradition is carnival food! Caitlynn ate a corn dog, famous cheese fries, cotton candy and a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.

Kennywood Height requirement

Measure Up

Before standing in a long line for a roller coaster or ride, be sure your toddler meets the height requirement. This saves time and prevents tears. Kennywood features Kiddieland, a special section just for your little whippersnappers–that’s the name of Caitlynn’s favorite ride.  Watch me whip, whip!

Kennywood Games

Play a Game

Back in high school, the boys would impress the girls by spending their entire allowance playing games, in hopes of winning a super sized stuffed animal. They carried the prize around with great pride, and if they liked you a lot, they gifted the stuffed animal to you. Everyone likes to win, but some games don’t work in a toddlers favor. Chances are they’ll lose your money and lose the game. So, find a game that guarantees your little one will win something. Caitlynn fished ducks out of the pond and won a tiny toy.

Kennywood Kiddieland

Take a Camera

There are endless Kodak moments at amusement parks. I enjoyed capturing Caitlynn’s excitement on camera. No matter how many times the ride went around in a circle, she smiled and waved at us. Typically, everyone looks forward to riding the roller coaster and other thrill rides. But since this was Caitlynn’s first visit to Kennywood, my family lined up to take her throughout Kiddieland, a section of the park geared to toddlers. There are more than a dozen rides for children under 46,” a sand box with a dinosaur dig and games just for kids. Depending on the day, you can experience live performances, costume characters, magicians and parades. We stayed until closing time and checked out a laser show.

Hey DFTM Fam–Have you taken your little one to an amusement park yet? If so, where did you go, and what other tips would you add to our list?

Disclosure: Diary of a First Time Mom received a set of Kennywood tickets to help facilitate this blog post.


About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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