Lakemont Park - Photo Journal
Altoona, Pennsylvania – Thursday, July 12th, 2012
Lakemont Park is one of many historically significant (or simply old) amusement parks in Pennsylvania. Their biggest claim to fame is the world's oldest operating roller coaster, but there's enough else to do here that it's worth at least a quick stop on a drive across the state, especially as it's an easy stop along the highway one would take from Kennywood to Knoebels.
One thing that photo trip reports never convey is just how mountainous the area around Altoona and Lakemont Park is. When the GPS announced had reached my exit I was slightly taken aback because that part of the highway cuts right through the middle of the Appalachian hills, and you can look down on the park from quite a distance away on the hillside. Yet once inside the trees seem to hide all the nearby mountains and the land is perfectly flat, giving the impression the park could be located in Iowa.
Another reason to like Lakemont is that they're probably the best value park in the nation, considering all that you get. $5.00 for all day Ride & Slide admission on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays? Even if that doesn't include the Leap-the-Dips and I'm only going to be there for two hours, that's still a great deal.
Here's a not very visually helpful map showing all the rides and attractions there are to do at Lakemont.
Lakemont is a very laid-back, green park. The complexity of the landscaping is reflective of the $5.00 admission price, but it generally seems to be run by people who care for the park and want to make it a good place for families on a summer afternoon.
If you hook left upon entering the park, this will probably be the first major ride you'll come across.
The Sky Diver is Chance Ride's white-knuckle take on the Ferris Wheel.
Not an elaborate presentation but I'd still like to give it a ride.
You're given a wheel to determine if your gondola stays right-side up or down, but at the vertical points of the wheel's circumference there's no way to avoid feeling some pretty extreme forces.
Unfortunately there was a no single rider policy for the Sky Diver, and I didn't feel like trying to bum a ride off of some other random spectator, so I had to move on.
Custom artwork on the Swinging Chairs showing off scenes around Lakemont and Altoona (presumably)
This isn't even worthy of a "BENCH: The Ride" subtitle...
The backside of Lakemont wasn't seeing too many crowds on this hot July Thursday afternoon.
I don't care about the quality, any park that takes the time to hand paint their own murals for an attraction or building is better than one that just copies generic graphic designs.
The entrance for Leap the Dips, the world's oldest operating roller coaster, opened in 1902. (For comparison, the world's second oldest operating roller coaster opened ten years later in 1912, and the second oldest in North America is the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood, which opened in 1920.)
This side-friction coaster car would make for a good museum piece, if there wasn't a nearly identical one a few feet away that I'll get to ride on in a few moments.
It seems to suggest we can thank ACE for being able to ride the Leap the Dips today. Too bad that historic ride preservation has seemingly become passe in today's enthusiast culture.
Some historical info on Leap the Dips (with light glare).
Click to view the Leap the Dips POV. The flimsy wooden construction, restraint-less seats, and lack of upstop wheels can make it a rather harrowing experience at times. Note at 0:55 my car quite literally leaped a dip! I like how the brakes are naked plywood boards rubbing underneath the cars, and then the operator grabbing onto your car to bring it to a final halt.
Leap the Dips car. No seatbelts, seat dividers, or lowering lapbars.
Just a leather loveseat and a handlebar two feet in front of you.