Find Amusement for Your Family at Knoebels Category:Life Views:
Summer time is filled with various fun traditions that aim to capture the joys of the season and turn them into photo album memories. Whether it is the family pool, a trip to a beach, or a night camping outdoors, many priceless snapshots of childhood and family are taken from these vacation staples. Perhaps one of the most popular and flexible offerings for fun is the amusement park. Whether one is a thrill seeker chasing a rush of adrenaline on a high-speed coaster or a one who enjoys the view from atop a large Ferris wheel, the amusement park tends to have a little something for everyone. But this often proves to be the most expensive venture for families as corporately-owned amusement parks become the norm and admission prices per person climbs and climbs. While season passes might make the deal a little sweeter, the modernizing of amusement parks with the latest and greatest in terrifying and body-spinning attractions can sort of rob the nostalgic magic of the classic amusement park. But fear not, there are still some remnants of the classic family-friendly amusement park remaining.
For those who live in or near the Delaware-Lehigh valley and are willing to make the long ride to the mountainous Elysburg, PA, Knoebels is a fantastic and varied option for a memorable family outing. Founded in 1926, Knoebels is still run by the Knoebel family and still carries a very “throwback” feel to it due to its isolated location.
First and foremost, the park’s appeal comes in its affordable admission. Park admission and parking in the vast, lush, grassy lot are both completely free. Yes, you heard that right – free. How can that be? Well, while most parks charge a fairly inflated admission rate per person, Knoebels instead charges per ride. Ah yes, that’s the catch, right? Well, not as much as you might expect. While state fairs and carnivals might charge as much as 4 dollars in tickets for most rides, Knoebels is considerably cheaper. The park’s most thrilling rides are well under 3 dollars a ride, and most in the park are well under 2 dollars. And if you plan to stick around all day, you can always purchase a pass to ride all day. This might rival admission to other parks, but here it’s merely a choice. Most families likely have that member who doesn’t particularly like riding the rides, and this is one place where you don’t have to shell out admission price for them anyway. I think you’ll find that you’ll quickly end up paying less per head at Knoebels than you will most anywhere else for a single day’s fun.
So how good are these rides? Well, while they aren’t typically your most cutting edge of steel contraptions that you might find at a Six Flags apartment, they are still plenty fun, with more than enough for all ages to stay entertained. There are all the park staples: plenty of kiddie rides, a Ferris wheel, two carousels (with rich history all their own), and a train ride. The latter is unique in that it takes rides out of the park and into the woods surrounding the park, where you get a glimpse of the vast campground the park also offers (more on that later). But the park isn’t short on the fun rides either. While they went nearly fifty years without a wooden roller coaster (at one time being the country’s largest park not to have one), in the ‘80’s, Knoebels made a risky transfer of a wooden coaster from another park down South. And so came The Phoenix, the most iconic of Knoebels rides and consistently rated among the Top 10 (and often the Top 3) wooden roller coasters in the country. The ride stands as one of the most consistent attractions of the park. Then in the late ‘90’s, Knoebels had another wooden coaster built on-site. While the Phoenix offered lots of hills and “airtime,” Twister would offer lots of thrilling twists and an overall more intense ride. The part also has several water slides, a log flume, and the Skloosh – a ride with a single drop that will absolutely drench you as it looks like you’re going through a waterfall (and if there is a spot on you left dry, stand on the bridge as the next boat comes down and you will get wetter than you did on the ride itself). Recent entries include the park’s tallest ride, Stratosfear, which features a sudden drop, and the indoor coaster-esque Black Diamond, a dark, haunted coal mine-themed ride. The park has also been working on a third wooden coaster since 2006, Knoebels Flying Turns. Plagued by delays and operation issues, the ride has kept visitors waiting and waiting. But word is that “finishing touches” are finally being put on the ride, and it could very well open very shortly. When it finally does open, it’d be the only wooden bobsled coaster in the country in current operation. And with so many other rides around every turn, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
In addition to all of this, there’s a large pool in the park. Like everything else, you pay per person. But if you’re making a vacation of it, it’s an excellent option for a day of fun. There are also several arcades in the park and lots of other little attractions to catch your eye. (ie the constantly icy “north pole” outside the Christmas shop.)
In terms of shopping, there are plenty of unique options. In addition to the obligatory “kid stores” and a store selling the typical kind of souvenirs with Knoebels logos, there’s the aforementioned Christmas store. Selling various kinds of Christmas collectables, the store is a great way to preview the holiday season and get in a little bit of early shopping. There’s also an on-site mill with various wood-based options from lawn ornaments to benches. As shopping goes, this park definitely can hold it’s own.
This brings us to the food – the award winning food. Yes, for 14 years straight, the park’s food was rated the best by the Golden Ticket awards, and with good reason. From the varied International Food Court, to the fast food of Phoenix Junction, to the cafeteria style Oasis Café, there are so many options for good food here. And of course, there are lots of dessert and snack stands, from kettle corn to funnel cakes. But none of this compares to the real gem of the park: a full-service sit-down restaurant. Yes, in the middle of an amusement park, you can have a nice restaurant-quality dinner. The Alamo is a great option for a hearty dinner in the midst of what would typically be greasy junk food. The food and prices here are about what you’d expect from a diner. The restaurant is air-conditioned and offers a nice, relaxing break from the rush of the park.
If you are planning to spend a few days, there is a vast campground owned by the park, with cabins and room for more traditional camping. There’s a mini-golf not far from the park. And not to mention the scenery is top-notch. Tucked away in a valley that sits on the border of Northumberland and Columbia counties in PA, you truly get a great look at the beauty of the Pennsylvania Mountains. After all of these years, there’s still so much more for me to see. I’ve yet to do even half of it yet, mainly due to time constraints.
If you’re looking for a more affordable vacation that is truly a getaway, Knoebels is one of the country’s best options. It’s consistently rated among the best family amusement parks in the country, and with good reason. With fun options for the whole family and an inviting, clear atmosphere, you’d be hard pressed to find a better vacation spot anywhere in the area.
Little Red Wagon Shows That Anybody Can Make A Difference
Little Red Wagon is a small little indie film that you probably haven’t heard of unless you happened to have stumbled upon it at your local Walmart (it’s apparently a “Walmart exclusive” even though it’s not advertised as such in the store) or at a digital movie rental of some sort, such as Amazon. Indeed, I had read a little bit about it during production but was surprised to find out earlier this year that it had quietly released with little fanfare. The movie is a wholesome and lighthearted option for families everywhere with a young protagonist demonstrating that even somebody from a humble background can make a difference in the lives of others.
Based on a true story, Little Red Wagon tells the story of young Zach Bonner, who began delivering essential goods to people left homeless by Hurricane Charlie. Not content to end his helpful endeavors here, Zach sets out to do more and winds up starting his own nonprofit charity foundation. Zach collects money to fill backpacks with food, toys, and basic hygienic supplies for homeless youth. Homeless youth become a personal cause for him, and he eventually gets the idea to start walking the nearly 300 mile trek from his home to the state capital for them to raise public awareness about the problem of child homelessness. (The movie also mentions how the real-life Zach did this and moved on to walking to Atlanta, to DC, and eventually across the county.)
The movie also follows the story of the recently widowed Margaret Craig and her son who quickly find themselves among the homeless. The movie interspaces their story with Zach’s and it sort of gives evidence to everything Zach is fighting to help. From having their belongings taken at a homeless shelter, to rummaging through garbage, to being forced to stealing food to survive, the audience gets a good look at the trials facing the homeless families. And due to the nature of the movie, it’s no surprise when one of Zach’s backpacks eventually reaches Margaret and her son and their fortunes soon begin to turn around. (Not necessarily due to the backpack, but receiving the backpack marks the point in which their luck begins to turn around.)
The movie keeps things fairly grounded throughout. There’s plenty of drama in both storylines, but the scales are much more balanced towards the positive. Zach is faced with some obstacles along the way such as the paperwork needed to start a charity and the challenges of meeting his financial goals for his projects, but these are resolved quickly and without too much drama. There’s more drama surrounding Zach’s mother and sister clashes at various points due to the impact of Zach’s cause on their lives. This sometimes feels like it gets a bit too much focus, but isn’t too much a presence to serve as a real foil to the movie.
Zach is played by Chandler Canterbury (Knowing, The Host) in what is a solid performance start to finish. The script is low-key enough that all of the performances are grounded and solid and rarely veer into melodrama. Canterbury is convincing as the philanthropic Zach Bonner and captures both the innocence and drive of a boy who wants to go above and beyond to make a difference to homeless children. While the sentimentality of the script might make it a bit hard to stomach for some, there’s always a realistic veneer to the occurrences that keeps the movie at a roughly appropriate balance of saccharine and compelling. The script isn’t aiming to be a ‘Best Picture’ contender and so the film never feels a disappointment.
While Christ or faith has little to no mention in the movie at all, Zach’s selfless service to others (especially during his walk, which the movie shows the difficulty of completing) is a picture of Christian charity. It’s a great message to kids that even a kid without much money can still make a difference by serving others. It’s a great message and one that helps elevate the film to above-average.
It might not rank among the greatest film on any list and may be little more than a watchable lesson in charity, but Little Red Wagon seems to achieve everything it aspires to be. With solid acting all around and strong moral lessons on helping the poor, this is one family movie that has a little something for everybody.
From start to finish, the film is about as unobjectionable as you could really hope for. Sexual content is essentially nonexistent. There is only some brief minor language (d-word, and maybe a few more minor words. Nothing I heard was particularly alarming at all.). There are some upsetting depictions of homeless life. A boy is shown with a minor bloody scrape on his arm after taking a fall. Zach is shown throwing up after a tough stretch of his walk to the state capital. But all in all, this is about as family friendly as you can get.
There were several short featurettes given background info on the movie and real-life foundation it’s based on. Most revolved around meeting the real-life Zach Bonner. There was a featurette about him visiting the set of the movie and others detailing his homeschooling, how the “Zach Packs” are put together, and his walk across America. The bonus features weren’t mind-blowing but they did succeed in offering a nice supplement to the movie’s story by showing how everything that Zach did was real and that helping people isn’t just something for people in the movies.
If you happen upon this movie, I highly recommend it. It might not be the most riveting thing you’ve seen this year, but it’s a good reminder for any of us that we’re called to service of our brothers and sisters and Christ. If a lower middle class boy like Zach could do all that he did, imagine how much the rest of us could do.
It's been quite a year in just about every area, and Christian music is no exception. In my first full year as a staff reviewer ay NewReleaseTuesday, I got a considerably larger view of the Christian music landscape than I have in previous years. So I am even more confident than I usually am in my "Best of" picks--confident enough to write a little article about it. It's been a great year to be part of the NRT team and I'm looking forward to all the surprises that wait next year.
So here are my "Best of 2012" picks in Christian music, starting with No. 10 and going to No. 1. Some choices might not surprise you given my reviews, and some just might.
Best Albums of 2012
10. Anchor and Braille - The Quiet Life
While not something I can listen to regularly, this side project of Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian was truly a surprising summer treat. It was more upbeat and accessible than the debut album and helped define Christian as one of the more versatile musicians in the industry today.
9. Fireflight - Now Fireflight returned with another release of radio-ready rock this year. The title track and lead single "Stay Close" were all solid tracks. Although given the quality Fireflight is known for, I do wish I could put them a little higher.
8. Sent By Ravens - Mean What You Say
Sent By Ravens released their sophomore album this year, and then said goodbye. Talk about bittersweet. On one hand, they released a very solid rock album with promise to make them one of the big names in the industry, and then they break up. It's tough being a music fan in today's day and age…
7. Thousand Foot Krutch - The End is Where We Begin
TFK left their longtime home at Tooth and Nail records and started a Kickstarter to pay for this album. Luckily for fans, the quality remained top-notch TFK. Bringing back some of the older rap sound but keeping the accessible rock sounds of their other recent releases made for a satisfying balance and a slew of new classic TFK rock tracks like "War of Change" and "Let the Sparks Fly."
6. Kutless - Believer
Kutless has always put out solid albums, and this release was no exception. While it seemed to be missing a truly memorable rock anthem, it did well at blending the rock and worship sides of Kutless into an accessible album with a lot of tunes ready to be hits. The Eastertide song "This is Love" and the emotional "Carry On" are definite highlights.
5. Capital Lights - Rhythm N' Moves
While so many other bands were breaking up, Capital Lights finally got back together just long enough to release a second album on Tooth and Nail records. Fans who feared that they might never hear any more of the band's signature rock sound were gifted with exactly what we'd expect from another Capital Lights record. While that left surprises few, it was just nice to finally get more music from the CL boys.
4. House of Heroes - Cold Hard Want
It's pretty much a given that any time House of Heroes releases a new album nowadays, it's going to end up all over the "best of" lists at the end of the year. This new album is no exception. While it still falls a bit short of their classic The End is not the End album, it's got more than enough signature rock tunes to make a great and memorable release.
3. The Classic Crime - Phoenix
Another band who exited Tooth and Nail and successfully funded a Kickstarter. The band's previous albums set the bar pretty high in terms of musical quality but their new indie status seems to have only helped them raise it again. In short, this album is amazing. It's the same deep, in-your-face lyrics the band has always been known for, but this time the music sounds even better. (Yes, that's possible.) Highlights include the contemplative "Beautiful Darkside" and the epic masterpiece of "The Precipice."
2. For King & Country - Crave
The only debut on this list, and what a debut it is. If you ask me, this goes down next to classics like Jars of Clay's self-titled and Leeland's Sound of Melodies as far as classic debut albums go. While the Australian duo (and brothers of Christian music icon, Rebecca St. James) had put out an EP or two before (some under their former name, Joel and Luke), this was their first national full-length, and they wasted no time packing it with their best. I was first introduced to them on the Winter Jam 2012 Tour and I was immediately won over. From start to finish, be it a rousing anthem or a contemplative ballad, there isn't a wasted note here. Why isn't this band the next big thing being played all day on pop radio both Christian and mainstream? I have no idea. Hopefully 2013 will change that.
1. Anberlin - Vital
To anyone who has read my review for this album, this should come as no surprise and I do not need to even explain this choice. In short, this is a mind-blowing, epic, amazing, absolutely terrific masterpiece of an album. Anberlin had struggled to produce such a record since their last such album, Cities, dropped in early 2007. Well, I think it's finally safe to say that they've (finally) succeeded, and captured the spot of my Number 1 album of 2012.
I'm also including a list of the best songs of this year (without explanations). Well, almost the best songs. If I really included only (what I think are) the best, I probably wouldn't get past my first 2 or 3 album selections, and that wouldn't be a very interesting list. Therefore I am limiting myself to absolutely 1 song from each artist – no exceptions. So I suppose it's the best songs of the best artists, in a way? I don't know. I'll just give you the list and let you judge what you think. In order:
"Modern Age" - Anberlin
"The Proof of Your Love" - For King & Country
"The Precipice" – The Classic Crime
"Need You Now (How Many Times)" - Plumb
"Dead Flowers" - Demon Hunter
"Remember The Empire" - House of Heroes
"Save The Last Dance" - Capital Lights
"Up in the Air" - Marc Martel
"This Is Love" – Kutless
"Before I Start Dreaming" – Anchor & Braille
Best Christmas Songs:
"Baby Boy" - For King and Country
"Christmas is Coming" - Jason Gray
"Shining" - Sanctus Real
Saddest band "breakup" – Downhere
Biggest CCM surprise of the year – Audio Adrenaline sort of comes out of retirement, with an almost entire new lineup, and Kevin Max as the lead singer.
Best "new" band – For King & Country (technically not "new" to this year but I'll list them as such since this is the year they released their debut full-length)
Most disappointing delay of an expected release – New album by Skillet
Most anticipated albums of 2013:
Skillet – Untitled
Plumb – Need You Now
Marc Martel – Untitled EP
Switchfoot – Fading West
The Letter Black – Untitled
Red – Release The Panic
Sanctus Real – Run
Silverline – Lights Out
Seabird – Untitled
Hawk Nelson – Made
I am sure there is much more I could include in such a list, but I'd be here all day if I attempted that. So for 2012, that's my own personal "Best of" list. Here's to a great 2013 that is already promising to be another great year in music. What new artists will thrill us? What artists will surprise us with an amazing comeback? Who will we say goodbye to? Will highly anticipated new releases meet their massive expectations? I suppose by this time next year, we'll know the answers to these questions. Until then, let's sit back and enjoy the ride that will be music in 2013.