or theme park
the generic term for a collection of rides
and other entertainment
attractions assembled for the
purpose of entertaining a large group of people. An amusement park
is more elaborate than a simple city park or playground
, usually providing attractions meant
to cater to children, teenagers, and adults. A theme park is a type
of amusement park which has been built around one or more themes,
such as an American West theme, or Atlantis. Today, the terms
amusement parks and theme parks are often used
Amusement parks evolved in Europe from fairs
and pleasure gardens
created for people’s recreation
amusement park of the world (opened 1583) is Bakken, at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark.
the United States, world's fairs
were another influence on
development of the amusement park industry.
Most amusement parks have a fixed location, as compared to
. These temporary types of amusement
parks, are usually present for a few days or weeks per year, such
as funfairs in the United Kingdom, and carnivals (temporarily set
up in a vacant lot or parking lots
(temporarily operated in a fair ground
) in the United States. The temporary
nature of these fairs helps to convey the feeling that people are
in a different place or time.
Often a theme park will have various 'lands' (sections) of the park
devoted to telling a particular story. Non-theme amusement
park rides will usually have little in terms of theming or
additional design elements while in a theme park all the rides go
all with the theme of the park, for example Magic
Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
History of amusement parks
Fairs and pleasure gardens
, such as the Bartholomew Fair
which began in England in
1133, are a parent for the modern amusement park. Beginning in the
Elizabethan period the fair had evolved into a center of amusement
with entertainment, food, games, and carnival-like freak-show
attractions. The seasonal celebration was a natural place for
development of amusement attractions. Oktoberfest is not only a beer festival but also provided
amusement park features beginning in 1810, when
the first event was held in Munich, Germany.
the United States, the county and state
also played a part in the history of amusement parks.
These were annual events that were usually held for a short time, a
week or two, to celebrate a good harvest. These fairs featured
livestock exhibits, baking and cooking competitions.
Amusement parks also grew out of the pleasure gardens that became
especially popular at the beginning of the Industrial revolution
as an area where
one could escape from the grim urban environment . The oldest intact
still-surviving amusement park in the world (opened 1583) is
Bakken ("The Hill")
at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark.
well known of the parks in London, was Vauxhall Gardens founded in 1661 and closed in 1859.
long-standing park is Prater in Vienna, Austria, which
opened in 1766.
This park was conceived as a place where the
common person could enjoy a respite in a pastoral setting and
participate in the musical culture of the city. Tivoli
Gardens, Copenhagen is another example of a European park, dating from
1843, which still exists.
These parks consisted of booths,
entertainment, fireworks displays and some “rides” such as
introduction to the modern railroad. The parks grew to accommodate
the expectations of their customers -- who were increasingly
familiar with the mechanical wonders of industrialization. Rides
became a required part of the pleasure garden and by 1896 there
were 65 such pleasure parks in London.
Another type of fair is the exposition
. World's fairs
began in 1851 with the construction of the landmark Crystal Palace
in London, England. The purpose of the exposition was to celebrate
the industrial achievement of the nations of the world (of which
Britain just so happened to be the leader). America cities and
business saw the world’s fair as a way of demonstrating economic
and industrial success. People particularly point to the World's
Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Illinois as an early precursor to the modern amusement
This fair was an enclosed site that merged
entertainment, engineering and education to entertain the masses.
It set out to bedazzle the visitors, and successfully did so with a
blaze of lights from the “White City.” To make sure that the fair
was a financial success, the planners included a dedicated
amusement concessions area called the Midway Plaisance.
this fair captured imagination of the visitors and of amusement
parks around the world, such as the first Ferris wheel, which was found in many other
amusement areas, such as the Prater by
Also, the experience of the enclosed ideal city with
wonder, rides, culture and progress (electricity), was based on the
creation of an illusory place. Certainly the precursor of the
amusement park experience to come.
The “midway” introduced at the Columbian Exposition would become a
standard part of most amusement parks, fairs, carnivals and
circuses. The midway contained not only the rides, but other
concessions and entertainments such as shooting galleries
, penny arcades
, games of chance
Trolley parks and Coney Island
In the final decade of the 19th century, the electric trolley lines
were developed in most of the larger American cities. Companies
that established the trolley lines were directly responsible for
establishing amusement parks -- trolley
-- as destinations of these lines. Trolley parks like
Atlanta's Ponce de Leon Park
, or Reading's Carsonia Park
were initially popular natural
leisure spots before local streetcar companies purchased the sites,
expanding them from picnic groves to include regular
entertainments, mechanical amusements, dance halls, sports fields,
boats rides, restaurants and other resort facilities. Various
sources report the existence of between 1500 and 2000 amusement
parks in the United States by 1919.
these parks were developed in resort
locations, such as bathing resorts at the seaside in New Jersey and New
York. Others were found along rivers and lakes
that provided bathing and water sports such as Riverside
Park in Massachusetts which was founded along the Connecticut River in
the 1840s and Lake
established as a bathing beach in 1846.
such location was Coney
Island in Brooklyn, New York where a horse drawn street car line brought
pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829.
In 1875, a
million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two
million reached Coney Island. Hotels and amusements were built to
accommodate both the upper-classes and the working-class. The first
was installed in the 1870s, the
first roller coaster
, the "Switchback Railway
" in 1884. It wasn't till 1895,
that the first permanent amusement park in North America opened:
Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.
This park was one of the first to charge
admission to get into the park in addition to sell tickets for
rides within the park.
In 1897, it was joined by Steeplechase
, the first of three major amusement parks that would open
in the area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and
sweep away the restraints of the Victorian crowds. The combination
of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of
access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American
amusement park. Often, it is Steeplechase Park that comes to mind
when one generically thinks of the heyday of Coney Island, but
there was also Luna Park
(opened in 1903), and Dreamland
(opened in 1904). Coney
Island was a huge success and by year 1910 attendance on a Sunday
could reach a million people. Fueled by the efforts of Frederick Ingersoll, other "Luna Parks" (starting with ones in Pittsburgh and Cleveland in 1905) were quickly erected worldwide and opened
to rave reviews.
Furthermore, fire was a constant threat in those days, as much of
the construction within the amusement parks of the era was wooden.
In 1911, Dreamland was the first Coney Island amusement park to
completely burn down; in 1944, Luna Park also burned to the ground.
Most of Ingersoll's Luna Parks were similarly destroyed (usually by
) before his death in 1927.
The "Golden Age" of amusement parks
During the Gilded Age
, many Americans
began working fewer hours
and had more disposable income.
With new-found money and time to spend on leisure activities,
Americans sought new venues for entertainment. Amusement parks, set
up outside major cities and in rural areas, emerged to meet this
new economic opportunity. These parks reflected the mechanization
and efficiency of industrialization while serving as source of
fantasy and escape from real life. By the early 1900s, hundreds of
amusement parks were operating in the United States and Canada.
Trolley parks (established at the end of the trolley line by
enterprising streetcar companies) stood outside many cities.
like Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, GA and Idora Park near Youngstown, OH took passengers to
traditionally popular picnic grounds, which by the late 1890s also
often included rides like the Giant Swing, Carousel, and Shoot-the-Chutes. These amusement parks
were often based on nationally-known parks or world's fairs: they had names like
Island, White City, Luna Park,
American Gilded Age was, in fact, amusement parks' “golden age”
that reigned until the late 1920s.
The Golden Age of amusement parks also included the advent of the
Kiddie Park. Founded in 1925, the original Kiddie Park is located
in San Antonio, Texas and is still in operation today. The Kiddie
Parks became popular all over America after World War II.
This era saw the development of the new innovations in roller coasters
that encouraged extreme
drops and speeds to thrill the riders. By the end of the First
World War, people seemed to want an even more exciting
entertainment, a need met by the roller coasters. Although the
development of the automobile provided people with more options for
satisfying their entertainment needs, the amusement parks after the
war continued to be successful, while urban amusement parks saw
declining attendance. The 1920s is more properly known as the
“Golden Age” of roller coasters, being the decade of frenetic
building of these rides.
Depression and post-World War II decline
Derelict amusement park in Tanzania,
The Great Depression
of the 1930s
and World War II
during the 1940s saw
the decline of the amusement park industry. War saw the affluent
urban population move to the suburbs, television became a source of
entertainment, and families went to amusement parks less
By the 1950s, factors such as urban
, and even desegregation
in the ghettos led to changing
patterns in how people chose to spend their free time. Many of the
older, traditional amusement parks closed or burned to the ground.
Many would be taken out by the wrecking ball to make way for
living and development
. In 1964, Steeplechase Park,
once the king of all amusement parks, closed down for good.
traditional amusement parks which survived, for example, Kennywood, in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, and Cedar
Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, did so in spite of the odds.
The modern amusement park
First parks devoted to a particular theme are precursors for the
modern amusement park.A Blackgang
Chine amusement park, established in 1843 by Victorian
entrepreneur Alexander Dabell, on the Isle of Wight, UK can be
considered the oldest existing theme park in the world.
first amusement park on Coney Island, Sea
was built around a nautical theme.
Modern amusement parks now run differently than those of years
past. Amusement parks are usually owned by a large corporate
conglomerate which allows capital investment unknown by the
traditional family-owned parks. Starting with Disneyland in the 1950s, the park experience became part of a
larger package, reflected in a television show, movies, lunch
boxes, action figures and finally park rides and costumed
characters that make up the "theme."
These parks offer a
world with no violence or social problems. The thrills of the theme
parks are often obscured from the outside by high fences or
barriers re-enforcing the feeling of escape, they are kept clean
and new thrill rides are frequently added to keep people coming
back. In addition to this experience, the theme park is either
based on a central theme or, divided into several distinctly themed
areas, lands or "spaces." Large resorts, such as Walt Disney
World in Florida (United
States), actually house several different theme parks
within their confines.
Florida and most notably Orlando boasts more theme parks than any other worldwide
destination. The northeastern USA region, most notably
Pennsylvania, is now a hotbed of traditional surviving amusement
parks. In its truest traditional form is Conneaut
Lake Park in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania. Others include Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Knoebels
Groves in Elysburg, Pennsylvania; Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania; Idlewild
Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania; Lakemont
Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania; Dorney
Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Family-owned theme parks
theme parks did evolve from more traditional amusement park
enterprises, such as Knott's Berry Farm.
In the 1920s, Walter Knott
and his family sold berries from a
roadside stand, which grew to include a restaurant serving fried
chicken dinners. Within a few years, lines outside the restaurant
were often several hours long. To entertain the waiting crowds, Walter
Knott built a Ghost Town in 1940, using buildings relocated from
real old west towns such as the Calico, California ghost town and Prescott, Arizona.
In 1968, the Knott family fenced the farm,
charged admission for the first time, and Knott's Berry Farm
officially became an amusement park. Because of its long
Berry Farm currently claims to be "America's First Theme
Knott's Berry Farm is now owned by Cedar Fair
Entertainment Company. Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut may be the true oldest continuously operating
amusement park in the United States, open since 1846.
Claus Town, which opened in Santa Claus, Indiana in 1935 and included Santa's Candy Castle and other Santa
Claus-themed attractions, is considered the first themed attraction
in the United States: a pre-cursor to the modern day theme
park. Santa Claus Land (renamed Holiday
World in 1984) opened in 1946 in Santa Claus,
Indiana and many people will argue that it was the
first true Theme Park despite Knott's history. In the 1950’s the
Herschend family took over operation of the tourist attraction,
Marvel Cave near Branson,
Over the next decade they modernized the
cave, which led to large numbers of people waiting to take the
tour. The Herschend family opened a recreation of the old mining
town that once existed atop Marvel Cave. The small village
eventually became the theme park, Silver Dollar City. The park is still owned and operated by the
Herschends and the family has several other parks including
Dollywood, Celebration City and Wild Adventures.
theme parks include: Children's Fairyland opened in 1950 in Oakland, California. Another variation of the theme park were the
animal parks that reintroduced the concept of Sea Lion Park such as Marineland
of the Pacific which opened in 1954 which paved the way for
SeaWorld parks which eventually added thrill
Disneyland and the corporate-owned park
Walt Disney, however, is often credited with
having originated the concept of the themed amusement park,
although he was obviously influenced by Knotts Berry
Farm owned by Walter Knott (at the time owner of
Calico Ghost town) whom brought
buildings from Calico to increase business at his berry stand
located in nearby Buena Park, CA, as well
Gardens in Copenhagen and De
Efteling, opened in
1952 in the Netherlands, to which Walt Disney was a regular visitor.
Disney took these influences and melded them with the popular
Disney animated characters and his unique vision, and "Disneyland"
was born. Disneyland officially opened in Anaheim, California in 1955 and changed the amusement industry
Key to the design process of Disney's new park was
the replacement of architects with art directors from the film
The years in which Disneyland opened were a sort of stopgap period
for the amusement park industry , as many of the older, traditional
amusement parks had already closed and many were close to closing
their doors. Cedar Point was set to be torn down in the 1950s when local
businesspeople were intrigued by the success of Disneyland and
saved it from destruction. Other parks were not as lucky, with
Steeplechase Park at Coney Island closing in 1964; Riverview Park, Chicago, Illinois, closed in 1967. Some traditional
parks were able to borrow a page from Disneyland and use television
to its advantage, such as Kennywood, a park started in 1898 and continuing to operate
to the present which used television advertising and featured
television personalities at the park.
regional theme park, as well as the first Six
Flags park, Six Flags over Texas was officially opened in 1961 in Arlington,
Texas near Dallas .
The first Six Flags theme park was the vision of Angus Wynne, Jr.
and helped create the modern, competitive theme park industry.
the second Six Flags park, Six Flags
Over Georgia, opened, and in 1971, Six Flags Over Mid-America
(now Six Flags
St. Louis) opened near St. Louis, Missouri. Also in 1971 was the opening of the Walt Disney
World resort complex in Florida, which is still the largest theme park and resort
complex in the world with the Magic Kingdom (1971), Epcot (1982),
Hollywood Studios (1989) and Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998).
During the 1970s, the theme park industry started to mature as a
combination of revitalized traditional amusement parks and new
ventures funded by larger corporations emerged. Magic
Mountain (now a Six Flags park) opened in Valencia, California.
parks such as Cedar
Point and Kings
Island, popular amusement parks in Ohio, moved
towards the more modern theme park-concept as well as rotating new
roller coasters and modern thrill rides. Also during the
mid-1970s, Marriott Corporation built two identical theme parks
named "Great America" in northern
California and Illinois. The former is now California's
Great America and is owned by Cedar Fair, L.P., which now
also owns Kings Island and Cedar Point; and the latter is now
Many theme parks were hit badly by the Arab
oil embargo of 1973 and a number of planned theme parks were
scrapped during this time. Most of today’s major amusement parks
were built in the 1970s.
the most indirect evolution of an attraction into a full-fledged
theme park is that of Universal Studios Hollywood. Originally just a backlot tram ride tour of
the actual studios in Hollywood, California, the train ride that started in 1964 slowly evolved
into a larger attraction with a western stunt show in 1967, "The
Parting of the Red Sea" in 1973, a look at props from the movie
Jaws in 1975, and the
Barbarian" show in 1984. By 1985, the modern
era of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park began with the
"King Kong" ride and, in 1990, Universal
Studios Florida in Orlando opened.
Universal Studios is now the
third-largest theme park company in the world, behind Disney and
Present and future of amusement parks
1980s, the amusement park industry has become larger than ever
before , with everything from large, worldwide type theme parks
such as Disneyworld and Universal Studios Hollywood to smaller and medium-sized theme parks such as
the Six Flags parks and countless smaller
ventures in many of the states of the U.S. and in
countries around the world. Even simpler theme parks directly aimed
at smaller children have emerged, including Legoland opened in 1999 in Carlsbad, California (the first Legoland opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark).
The only limit to
future theme park ventures is one's imagination.
Amusement parks in shopping malls began in the 1990s , blending
traditional amusement park entertainments -- roller coasters, water
parks, carousels, and live entertainment -- with hotels, movie
theaters, and shopping facilities. Examples of giant mall parks are West
Edmonton Mall, Alberta, Canada; Pier 39, San Francisco; Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota.
Amusement park owners are also aware of the need to satisfy their
aging baby boomer
customer base with
more restaurants, landscaping, gardens and live entertainment.
Kennywood has created in 1995 the "Lost Kennywood" area with
classic rides that recall the possibly more tranquil times of the
early twentieth century .In 2001, Disney opened the Disney's
California Adventure which includes Paradise
Pier, a recreation of the traditional seaside amusement park of
Family fun parks starting as miniature golf courses have begun to
grow to include batting cages, go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats
and water slides. Some of these parks have grown to include even
roller coasters, and traditional amusement parks now also have
these competition areas in addition to their thrill rides.
The popularity of theme parks has led to the increase of theming --
"the use of an overarching theme, such as western, to create a
holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue"
-- in non-theme park venues. While theme restaurants, casinos, and
other themed spaces lack the rides and other features of theme
parks, they owe much to the legacy of the theme lands and spatial
organization that became popular in theme parks.
Although domestic visitors still make up around 80 percent of
admissions to theme and amusement parks, an aging population in the
U.S. and a slowing economy in 2008 are forcing The Walt Disney
Company and its competitors to seek
their fortunes in emerging tourist markets such as in the Middle
East and in China. The Walt Disney
, accounts for around half of the total industry's
revenue in the US as a result of more than 50 million adventure
seekers pouring through the gates of its U.S.-based attractions
Admission prices and admission policies
Amusement parks collect much of their revenue from admission fees
paid by guests attending the park. Other revenue sources include
parking fees, food and beverage sales and souvenirs.
Practically all amusement parks operate using one of two admission
In this format, a guest enters the park at little or no charge. The
guest must then purchase rides individually, either at the
attraction's entrance or by purchasing ride tickets (or a similar
exchange method, like a token
). The cost
of the attraction is often based on its complexity or popularity.
For example, a guest might pay one ticket to ride a carousel
, but would pay four tickets to ride a
. The park may allow
guests to purchase unlimited admissions to all attractions within
the park. A wristband or pass is then shown at the attraction
entrance to gain admission.
Disneyland opened in 1955 using the pay-as-you-go
Initially, guests paid the ride admission fees at
the attractions. Within a short time, the problems of handling such
large amounts of coins led to the development of a ticket system
that, while now out of use, is still part of the amusement-park
lexicon. In this new format, guests purchased ticket books that
contained a number of tickets, labeled "A," "B" and "C." Rides and
attractions using an "A-ticket" were generally simple, with
"B-tickets" and "C-tickets" used for the larger, more popular
rides. Later, the "D-ticket" was added, then finally the now-famous
," which was used on the biggest
and most elaborate rides, like Space Mountain
tickets could be traded up for use on larger rides (i.e., two or
three A-tickets would equal a single B-ticket). Disneyland, as well
as the Magic
Kingdom at Walt Disney World, abandoned this practice in
The advantages of pay-as-you-go include:
- guests pay for only what they choose to experience
- attraction costs can be changed easily to encourage use or
capitalize on popularity
The disadvantages of pay-as-you-go include:
- guests may get tired of spending money almost continuously
- guests may not spend as much on food or souvenirs
An amusement park using the pay-one-price format will charge guests
a single, large admission fee. The guest is then entitled to use
almost all of the attractions in the park as often as they wish
during their visit. The park might have some attractions that are
not included in the admission charge; these are called "up-charge
attractions" and can include bungee
or go-kart tracks
or games of
skill. However, the majority of the park's attractions are included
in the admission cost.
“pay-one-price” ticket was first used by George Tilyou at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island in 1897.
The entrance fee was 25 cents for
entrance to the park and visitors could enjoy all of the
attractions as much as they wanted.
Angus Wynne, founder of Six Flags Over Texas, first visited Disneyland in 1959, he noted that park's pay-as-you-go format
as a reason to make his park pay-one-price.
He felt that a
family would be more likely to visit his park if they knew, up
front, how much it would cost to attend.
The advantages of pay-one-price include:
- guests can more easily budget their
- guests may be more likely to experience an attraction they've
already paid for
The disadvantages of pay-one-price include:
- guests who are simply coming just to be with their families
will have to pay anyway
Rides and attractions
Mechanized thrill machines are what makes an amusement park out of
a pastoral, relaxing picnic grove or retreat. Earliest rides
include the carousel
which was originally
developed as a way of practicing and then showing-off expertise at
skills such as riding and
spearing the ring. By the 19th century, carousels were common in
parks around the world. Another such ride which shaped the future
of the amusement park was the roller
. Beginning as a winter sport in 17th century Russia,
these gravity driven railroads were the beginning of the search for
even more thrilling amusement park rides. The Columbian Exposition
of 1893 was a particular fertile testing ground for amusement
rides. The Ferris wheel is the most recognized product of the fair.
All rides are set round a theme.
A park contains a mixture of attractions which can be divided into
There is a core set of thrill rides which most amusement parks
have, including the enterprise
, the gravitron
, chairswing, swinging inverter ship,
twister, and the top spin. However, there is constant innovation,
with new variations on ways to spin and throw passengers around
appearing in an effort to keep attracting customers.
Since the late 19th century, amusement parks have featured roller coasters
. Roller coasters feature
steep drops, sharp curves, and inversions. Roller coasters may be
the most attractive aspect of a park, but many people come for
other reasons. Amusement parks generally have anywhere from two to
seven coasters, depending on space and budget. As of 2009, the
record for the most coasters in one park is held by Cedar Point with 17; followed by Six Flags
Magic Mountain with 16, Canada's Wonderland with 15, and Kings Island with also 15.
Amusement park trains have had long and varied history in American
amusement parks as well as overseas. According to various websites
and historians, the earliest park trains weren't really trains --
they were trolleys
. The earliest park trains
were mostly custom built. Some of the most common manufacturers
- Allan Herschfield
- Cagney Brothers
- Chance Rides (C.P. Huntington Train)
- Crown Metal Products
- Custom Locomotives
- Miniature Train Co. (MTC)
- The National Amusement Devices Co.(NAD)
- Tampa Metal Products
Amusement parks with water resources generally feature a few water
rides, such as the log flume
, and rowing boats. Such
rides are usually gentler and shorter than roller coasters and many
are suitable for all ages. Water rides are especially popular on
Transport rides are used to take large amounts of guests from one
area in the park to another. They usually cost extra, even in parks
where rides are free. They are generally popular as they offer an
alternative to walking (riding on a train). Transport rides include
, and train rides.
Ice-cream and sweets stand at the
amusement park at the Louvre, Paris.
Amusement parks generate a portion of their income through the sale
of food and drink to their patrons. Food is routinely sold through
, push carts and indoor
. The offerings vary as widely
as the amusement parks themselves, and range from common fast food
items, like hamburgers
and hot dogs
and local street foods
full-service gourmet dishes. Amusement parks with exotic themes may
include specialty items or delicacies related to the park's theme.
Many restaurants and food stands are operated by the amusement
parks themselves, while others are branches of regional or national
- Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of New Jersey.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.
- Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of New York.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.
- Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania.
Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.
- Futrell, Jim. Amusement Parks of Virginia, Maryland, and
Delaware. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.
- Lukas, Scott A. Theme Park, London: Reaktion Books,
2008, ISBN 978-1-86189-394-9 (ISBN 1-86189-394-9)