History of Amusement & Theme Parks
Amusement park is the more generic term for a collection of amusement rides and other entertainment attractions assembled for the purpose of entertaining a fairly large group of people. An amusement park is more elaborate than a simple city park or playground, as an amusement park is meant to cater to adults, teenagers, and small children.
An amusement park may be permanent or temporary, usually periodic, such as a few days or weeks per year. The temporary (often annual) amusement park with mobile rides etc. is called a funfair or carnival.
The original amusement parks were the historical precursors to the modern theme parks as well as the more traditional midway arcades and rides at county and state fairs (in the United States). Today, amusement parks have largely been replaced by theme parks, and the two terms are often used interchangeably.
For a remarkable example of a European park, dating from 1843 and still existing, see Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen. Even older is the Oktoberfest which is not only a beer festival but also provides a lot of amusement park features, dating back to 1810, when the first event was held in Munich, Germany.
History of American amusement parks
The first American amusement park, in the modern sense, was at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, Illinois. The 1893 World's fair was the first to have a Ferris wheel and an arcade midway, as well as various concessions. This conglomeration of attractions was the template used for amusement parks for the next half-century, including those known as trolley parks.
In 1897, Steeplechase Park, the first of three significant amusement parks opened at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Often, it is Steeplechase Park that comes to mind when one generically thinks of the heyday of Coney Island. Steeplechase Park was a huge success and by the late 1910s, there were hundreds of amusement parks in operation around the world. The introduction of the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster at Steeplechase Park in 1927 marked the beginning of the roller coaster as one of the most popular attractions for amusement parks as well as the later modern theme parks of today.
During the peak of the "golden age" of amusement parks from roughly the turn of the 20th century through the late 1920s, Coney Island at one point had three distinct amusement parks: Steeplechase Park, Luna Park (opened in 1903), and Dreamland (opened in 1904). However, the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II during the 1940s saw the decline of the amusement park industry. 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.
By the 1950s, factors such as urban decay, crime, and even desegregation led to changing patterns in how people chose to spend their free time. Many of the older, traditional amusement parks had closed or burned to the ground. Many would be taken out by the wrecking ball to make way for suburban development. In 1964, Steeplechase Park, once the king of all amusement parks, closed down for the last time.
In 1955, Disneyland in Anaheim, California revived the amusement industry with its themed lands and matching attractions instead of using the older formula with traditional rides in one area and a midway, concessions, and sideshow attractions in another. The idea of theme parks caught on and, by the 1980s, became a billion dollar-a-year industry in the United States and around the world.
History of theme parks
The theme park is the modern amusement park, either based on a central theme or, divided into several distinctly themed areas, or "spaces" as is often used. Large resorts, such as Walt Disney World in Florida (United States), actually house several different theme parks within their confines. The first such built park still in operation is 'Bakken' at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen. It was founded in 1583. Walt Disney is credited with having originated the concept of the themed amusement park. Disneyland was based loosely on Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California and various World's Fairs. Several Disneyland attractions — Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, "it's a small world", and the dinosaurs of Primeval World — were built by Disney's in-house manufacturing department (Walt Disney Imagineering) for the 1964 New York World's Fair. When the fair closed, Disney relocated the shows to a permanent home at Disneyland.
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 forever.
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. Even before Steeplechase Park at Coney Island closed in 1964, a new entry to the theme park world emerged in the first regional theme park, as well as the first Six Flags park, Six Flags over Texas.
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. By 1968, 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.
Other important developments in early theme park history largely occurred in California. Knott's Berry Farm, located in Buena Park, California near Anaheim, originally *was* a berry farm owned by the Knott family that started in the 1920s. By the late 1950s, Knott's Berry Farm had established its Ghost Town, which became the first of several themed areas of the modern Knott's Berry Farm theme park.
Roller coasterDuring 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. Regional 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 nearly identical theme parks named "Great America" in northern California and Illinois. The former is now owned by Paramount, which now also owns Kings Island; and the latter is now Six Flags Great America. 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.
Perhaps the most indirect evolution of an attraction into a full-fledged theme park is that of Universal Studios Hollywood. Originally just a backlot tram train 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 "Conan 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 second-largest theme park company in the world, only rivalled in size by Disney itself.
Since the 1980s, the theme park industry has become larger than ever before, with everything from large, worldwide type theme parks such as Disneyland 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 in Carlsbad, California (the first Legoland opened in Billund, Denmark). The only limit to future theme park ventures is one's imagination.