The Utterly Fascinating History of Amusement Parks

Fact about Loveland, Jeju Island
Amusement parks are precursors to modern-day theme parks. Today, theme parks are found all around the world and are very popular, and have almost relegated amusement parks to the back seat. However, amusement parks have a rich history, which we shall take a look at here.
Male Statue of Liberty!
Parque Jaime Duque is a theme park built by Jaime Duque Grisales, in Bogotá, Colombia, which has about 700 bizarre sculptures, including a male Statue of Liberty.
Amusement parks are a collection of rides and other entertainment attractions put together at one place for the sole purpose of entertaining people. These parks evolved in Europe from fairs and pleasure gardens, which were held to attract and entertain a large number of people.

In America, World's Fairs also had an influence on the development of amusement parks. The most striking development from pleasure gardens and fairs to amusement parks is that most amusement parks have a fixed location, while the fairs were set up on a temporary basis for a week or two. Buzzle gives you a brief evolution of amusement parks, which led to today's theme parks.
The Beginnings
Before the advent of amusement parks, it was pleasure gardens that people used to visit for recreational purposes. Pleasure gardens and periodic fairs are considered to be the parents of amusement parks.
People relaxing in city park, England
City Park, England
Around 1133 CE, fairs were very popular in England. These fairs offered people food, games, and entertainment. Pleasure gardens first appeared in the form of resort grounds that were operated by inns to attract customers, and attained huge popularity by the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Luna park in Coney island, NYC
Luna Park in Coney Island, NYC
In America, amusement parks began as picnic grounds. Breweries used to sell beer to the locals, and these picnic grounds became the perfect family outing place, where people could drink beer and enjoy delicious food.
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
In Germany, the Oktoberfest was not only a beer festival, but had all amusement park-like attractions that served as a great getaway for the people of Munich.
World's Oldest Operating Amusement Park
Dyrehavsbakken, commonly referred to as Bakken, is the world's oldest operating amusement park. It opened in 1583 near Klampenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark. The amusement park caters to about 2.5 - 2.7 million visitors per year. The park was created at a place where clean spring water was available.
People were attracted to the spring water because Copenhagen didn't have a good-quality water resource. Due to this large attraction, hawkers and entertainers flocked the area, and this set the tone for the amusement park. Over time, entertainment shows were organized, and many rides were introduced. Today, Bakken has six roller coaster rides, the most popular of which is Rutschebanen.
Inspiration for Modern Amusement Parks
Apart from pleasure gardens and picnic spots, the modern amusement park drew inspiration from other fairs and parks that were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. These included the various World's Fairs, and Trolley Parks.
World's Fairs
Interior of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The different World's Fairs, that first began in 1851, were a huge inspiration that helped develop amusement parks. These fairs, which were held all around the world, exhibited the success of the industrial development of various countries. Companies from America and Britain used the fairs to demonstrate their economic and industrial success.

The World Colombian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, was the first fair to have a Ferris wheel. It celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus finding the new world. Spread over an area of over 600 acres, the fair had participants from almost 50 countries, and was a great combination of entertainment, engineering, and education. The fair had a good mix of music, hokum, and a 'hootchy-kootchy' version of belly dance. Due to great concessions, this part of the fair made a lot of profit, and in times to come, became one of the most significant areas of the amusement park.
Trolley Parks
State fair amusements park, USA
State Fair Amusements, North Carolina, USA
In the 19th century, many amusement parks were developed by trolley and streetcar companies. These were known as trolley parks, and were built mostly in America. By 1919, there were about 2,000 such trolley parks in America. The main reason behind building these parks was to promote streetcar services, and give people a reason to use streetcars on weekends. These companies used to buy electricity at a flat monthly rate and build parks. The parks had pavilions that held dance events, concerts, and firework shows. One of the most famous trolley park location was Coney Island.

Coney Island was already a popular seaside resort that had a lot of visitors from different parts of the country. The place covered a huge area, and part of it was undeveloped. Thus, the place provided good and cheap recreation. The horse-drawn streetcar line was one of the main attractions of the place. The carousel, or merry-go-round, was first installed at Coney Island. Also, the first roller coaster for an amusement park, i.e., Switchback Railway, was constructed at the Island from the designs of LaMarcus Adna Thompson. However, all these attractions were a part of Coney Island. It was only in 1895 that the first amusement park, Sea Lion Park, opened at Coney Island. This park was the first to charge for admission and sell tickets to enjoy the rides.

In 1897, another park, Steeplechase Park, opened in the Coney Island area. In 1927, the famous Cyclone roller coaster was introduced in Steeplechase Park, which became the main attraction of the amusement park. Steeplechase Park burned down in a fire in 1907, but was rebuilt in 1908. The 'Pavilion of Fun' was one of the main attractions in the park after it was rebuilt. Luna Park and Dreamland were other parks that opened on Coney Island.

With urban development, trolley parks began to decline. As people had their own automobiles, trolley parks didn't seem to appeal to them. By 1920s, due to Great Depression, and other reasons, trolley parks lost their popularity.
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The Gilded Age
Pacific park on Santa Monica Pier
Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier
In the early 1900s, America was seeing enormous economic growth. The income of people was high, and they were working for lesser number of hours. They had enough time, and money, to spend on leisure activities, like visiting amusement parks. Even traditional picnic grounds, like Atlanta's Ponce de Leon and Idora Park, were turned into amusement parks by incorporating rides like the giant swing and the merry-go-round. This period was known as the Gilded Age, or the Golden Age for Amusement Parks.
The Dark Age
Empty amusement park
The Great Depression, during the 1930s, and the Second World War, during the 1940s, marked the decline of amusement parks. These events forced the urban population to move to suburbs, and people preferred staying indoors. Their main source of entertainment during this period was the television, and families didn't want to go to amusement parks.
During this period, many parks were shut down to make way for urban development. Steeplechase Park shut down in 1964, with only Kennywood, Cedar Point, and a few others surviving. However, after World War II, there was a sudden increase in the popularity of amusement parks. New parks opened and people started visiting amusement parks again.
Theme Parks
Magic Kingdom Disney world
Disney World, Orlando - Florida
Around the 1950s, people started losing interest in amusement parks, and their popularity declined once again. It was during this period that Disneyland was developed by Walt Disney.
The credit for the concept of theme parks goes to Walt Disney, thanks to his development of Disneyland. Disneyland was loosely based on Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Children Fairyland in Oakland, and other World's Fairs. It officially opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California. The quality of parks improved with the creation of Disneyland. Family-friendly shows were shown, the food served was of good quality, overall hygiene was maintained, and the rides were safe. This was the rise of theme parks. The Walt Disney Company opened a second theme park, Magic Kingdom, in Florida. After the success of Disneyland, other theme parks, like the Great Adventure in New Jersey, and Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, were developed.
Universal studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA
Universal Studios is the best example of a distinct attraction being turned into a theme park. The only attraction that the studio had was the Backlot Tram train ride. Over a time, a stunt show, props from the 'Jaws' film, and the 'King Kong' ride were added. As the popularity of this studio increased, Universal Studios opened a second theme park in Florida, the same place where Disney opened their second theme park.
As the popularity of theme parks began to increase, traditional amusement parks started to lose their popularity. People preferred visiting these newly developed theme parks over the old amusements parks. Today, theme parks are categorized into educational, family-owned, and regional parks.
Water Parks
Water park with colorful slides
Alongside the development of theme parks and amusement parks, water parks were also evolving. Water parks were first introduced in 1940s and 1950s, by George Millay, when he came up with idea of Sea World. The park had dolphins, marine displays, swimming pools, restaurants, and gift shop. Over the years, water parks evolved, and indoor water parks were introduced. The World Water park, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is spread over 20 hectares of land, making it world's largest indoor water park.
A lot of parks have been developed in recent years, from small and medium-sized theme parks, like Six Flags parks, to theme parks aimed at kids, like Legoland. From indoor water parks to strange attractions, amusement parks today have evolved to give way to different theme parks and water parks, providing better facilities, and more entertainment to users.
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