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Amusement Parks


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The Deadliest Roller Coaster Accident in America

For over a century, roller coasters and other amusement park rides have provided thrills by walking the line between scary and fun. Most recently, an Ohio State Fair attraction known as the Fire ...read more

6 Early Amusement Parks

1. Steeplechase Park Opened in 1897 by entrepreneur George C. Tilyou, Steeplechase Park was the first of three major amusement parks that put New York’s Coney Island on the map. The park took its name from its signature attraction, a 1,100-foot steel track where patrons could ...read more


The Lost Amusement Parks Of Columbus

Did you know that Columbus, Ohio was once home to four different amusement parks? The parks of yore had swimming pools could hold 5,000 people at the same time, state-of-the-art thrill rides made people squeal with glee, men and women jitterbugging in dance pavilions for hours, roller coasters, and so much more.

Can’t imagine it? Well, you can read about the amusement parks of Columbus’ past and see pictures below!

Minerva Amusement Park

Minerva Amusement Park opened in the summer of 1895 and was the first amusement park in Franklin County. The park had a zoological garden, ornithological museum, the Scenic Railway roller coaster, and even a water slide. Minerva Amusement Park’s original dance hall burned down in 1896, and a casino took its place. Weirdly, the casino wasn’t a place to gamble, but a place to enjoy vaudeville acts, orchestral performances, and other high-class entertainment.

The park was forced to close its gates in 1902 because Minerva Amusement Park could not compete with the popularity of Olentangy Park. The new park was much closer to downtown and was easier for the general public to get to. The Village of Minerva Park pays tribute to Franklin County’s first amusement park by taking its name.

The Minerva Amusement Park Gate via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection Minerva Amusement Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection The Scenic Railway Roller Coaster via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection The Minerva Amusement Park Casino via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Olentangy Park

Speaking of Olentangy Park… the amusement park was first opened in 1899. It was run by the Dusenbury Brothers who wanted their park to be a family-friendly place to visit. Olentangy Park was a sight to be seen and featured a beautiful theater, a Loop-the-Loop ride, a Shoot-the-Chutes ride, Ferris wheels, and many other thrills in the 44 years it was open. In its heyday, Olentangy Park was the largest amusement park in the country.

Daily visitors started to dwindle during the Great Depression. Many amusement parks across the nation were forced shut down and Olentangy Park was no exception. The park finally closed in 1938 and its rides were sold to various other parks. Today, the Olentangy Village apartment complex is located where the amusement park stood. Though Olentangy Park may be long gone, you can still ride its whimsical carousel at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The Olentangy Park Theater via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection The Loop-the-Loop ride at Olentangy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection The Shoot-the-Chutes ride at Olentandy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection Olentandy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Indianola Park

Opened in 1905, Indianola Park was in the heart of the University District. It stretched from 18th Avenue to Norwich Avenue and 4th Street to Big Four Street–a total of 30 acres. Not only did this amusement park have numerous rides and coasters, but it also boasted a huge swimming pool, a dance hall, and later, a stage for touring music groups to perform. The park was extremely popular and it wasn’t uncommon for thousands of Columbusites to go for a dip in the pool in a single day.

The park was closed in 1937 due to hard financial times, yet another victim of the Great Depression. 11 years later the property got a second chance at life and the Indianola Park Shopping Center was built.

The Indianola Park Gate via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection The massive pool and dance hall at Indianola Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection Indianola Park’s carousel via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection A concert being performed at Indianola Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Norwood Amusement Park

This popular destination in Bexley, at the corner of Alum Creek Drive and E. Livingston Ave., had over 20 attractions. Norwood had multiple kids rides, a small Ferris wheel, a swimming pool, and other rotating exhibits.

The park was open until the late 1950s and was the last remaining amusement park in the Columbus area. Norwood was reportedly torn down to make way for the I-70 ramp off of Alum Creek Drive. Today, the space where the park once stood is known as Pump House Park.

An overhead view showing a very general area of where Norwood Amusement Park was located via Facebook Children on a boat ride at Norwood Amusement Park via Facebook A little boy on a racecar ride at Norwood Amusement Park via Facebook

Originally published 7/14/17. Updated 3/2/20.

Hollywood

Outside of the Disney Brothers Studio on Kingswell Ave. in Los Angeles in 1925. Left to right: Lillian Bounds Disney (Walt's wife) Walt Disney Ruth Disney (Walt and Roy's sister) Roy Disney and Roy's wife Edna.

Disney and his brother pooled their money to set up a cartoon studio in Hollywood. The Kingswell studio was two blocks west of the boys' Uncle Robert's home where both were staying. They produced the "Alice in Cartoonland" series and some of the "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" series here. This is where the Walt Disney Company officially began on October 16, 1923.

Needing to find a distributor for his new Alice Comedies &mdash which he started making while in Kansas City, but never got to distribute &mdash Disney sent an unfinished print to New York distributor Margaret Winkler, who promptly wrote back to him. She was keen on a distribution deal with Disney for more live-action/animated shorts based upon Alice's Wonderland.


6 Joyland Amusement Park


When it opened in 1942, Joyland was considered the biggest amusement park in the southwest, featuring a train, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, Tilt-a-Whirl, and a roller coaster, it&rsquos main and most infamous attraction.

The park would eventually grow to include a log flume ride, a haunted attraction ride, swings, bumper cars, and many other carnival-type attractions, as well as host concerts and outdoor festivals.

Though the park experienced a handful of ride-related deaths, the murder of a park employee would throw some shadows over the park in 1982. Michael King, an employee, would get into an altercation with four men, aged 17 to 21, after the men snuck into the park after hours. King was stabbed to death, and police arrested the men responsible, letting the two underage boys go, and brought charges up against Dwight Sayles and Victor C. Walker.

Sayles would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and given five to twenty years in prison, with the eligibility of parole in eight years. [5]

After the murder, the park would continue to operate and grow in size, adding another rollercoaster, but tragedy would continue to plague it. A park maintenance employee would be killed after getting hit by a rollercoaster and, in 2004, a thirteen-year-old girl would be injured after a thirty-foot fall from the Ferris wheel, which would lead to a series of financial issues and disputes that would eventually bring the park to close.

The 57-acres of Joyland were purchased in 2018 by Gregory and Tina Dunnegan, tent company owners who plan to bring new joy to the abandoned park by making it into an outdoor event venue for weddings, concerts, and traveling carnivals.


Defunct and abandoned amusement parks across Pennsylvania

Amusement parks have changed dramatically in the past 150 years.

They began as an incentive by trolley companies to increase weekend ridership, offering picnic groves and often theaters or boats. Swimming and rides later became stronger attractions.

Many of Pennsylvania's parks closed as the result of trolley service ending, increased insurance costs and competition with other parks. Others were shut down after severe storms and fires.

Here are some of the more well-known parks of the past.

A worker walks past one of the attractions at Williams Grove Amusement Park in 2007. Most of the rides were auctioned off after the park closed. (Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com FILE)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Williams Grove Amusement Park (1850-2005)

Monroe Township, Cumberland County

The remains of this abandoned theme park in Monroe Township will be revived for a one-night Halloween event.

Williams Grove closed in 2005 after more than 150 years in business. Most of its rides were auctioned off, though the skeleton of a roller coaster stands as one of the few reminders of the area's past.

Forks Township, Northampton County

Bushkill Park is not permanently closed, but it is on a long hiatus.

The park was flooded by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Owners Sammy Baurkot and Neal Fehnel began cleanup efforts shortly after but ran out of funds and had to put the project on hold. The owners also experienced management issues and additional flooding, all of which have further delayed reopening.

The park is continuing to rebuild attractions.

A postcard in Jack Hiddlestone's collection shows Lake Lincoln swimming area at Nay Aug Park, Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo/Jimmy May)

Nay Aug Park (1931-1990)

Scranton, Lackawanna County

Nay Aug Park still stands as a municipal park in Scranton, but for several decades it was one of the state's many amusement parks.

The park was operated by the Karl and Ralph Strohl. It featured a variety of rides and a dance hall, which was later turned into an arcade. The wooden roller coaster was closed in 1987 and rides were sold in 1990.

White Swan Park (1955-1990)

White Swan opened in 1955 to capitalize on the post-World War II baby boom.

It had seven rides to start and three lakes, but no white swans like the name would imply. Owner Roy Todd planned to bring swans to the park but did not follow through with that idea because they would be prey to wildlife.

The park was forced to close after the 1989 season to make room for Route 60 to the Pittsburgh International Airport. PennDOT paid $4 million for the property.

The Red Streaker, a wooden coaster built in the 1950s, was bought by David Pickstone
during an auction at Willow Mill Park in 1994. The amusement park shut down 1989. (Patriot-News file)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Willow Mill Park (1929-1989)

Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County

Willow Mill opened as an amusement park in 1929 and included several rides alongside an inn. The mill that was on the property previously fell into disrepair under the park owner.

The park was inundated with rain when Hurricane Agnes hit the area in 1972. Repairs were made and Willow Mill was expanded the next year.

It remained in operation until 1989, when it closed as a result of higher insurance costs and lower attendance.

Zieber's Park/West Point Park (1868-1989)

West Point, Montgomery County

West Point Park was the last remaining amusement park in the counties surrounding Philadelphia.

It began when farmer Hesekiah Zieber opened his land to picnickers in 1868. He also had palm reading, monkeys and boats to entertain visitors.

The area later was renamed and more attractions were brought in. West Point featured a skating rink, roller coaster and other rides.

Now the land is mostly covered with houses, but the pond remains.

Butler Township, Luzerne County

This park operated from 1957 to 1988. It started out with just six rides but grew to 18 by 1985 when the Barletta family sold the park to Mirthmaster Inc., which filed for bankruptcy the year it closed Angela Park.

Rides were auctioned off and the remaining structures were later razed.

An old photo of the driver's ring at Lakeview Park in Royersford. Note the lion in the sidecar. Those were the days.

Posted by Bill Adams on Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lakeview Amusement Park (1919-1987)

Royersford, Montgomery County

This trolley park succumbed to higher insurance costs and closed after the 1987 season, a few years before auctioning off the last of its rides in 1991.

Among Lakeview's attractions were three roller coasters, a ferris wheel and boat rides on the lake.

The Lakeview Shopping Center stands where the park used to be.

Rocky Glen Park (1886-1987)

Rocky Glen opened as a trolley park but remained popular for an entire century. It was designed by legendary roller coaster architect Fred Ingersoll.

During the 1920s, a conflict between then-owners Ben Sterling, John Nallan and Joseph Jennings resulted in a fence dividing the park in two. Sterling received full ownership in the 1950s and saw good attendance until the 1970s, when he sold it.

The new owners rebranded the park as Ghost Town in the Glen with a Wild West theme. It again changed hands in 1979, and it was renamed Rocky Glen in 1983.

The decline of manufacturing jobs in the area led to fewer visitors, and the park closed in 1987 as a result of decreased attendance and higher insurance costs. Rides were auctioned off in 1988.

A series of fires plagued the area from the park's closure until 1994, when the city opted to tear down what remained of Rocky Glen.

Ontelaunee Park, Rt.143, New Tripoli, PA. Homer Nathan Snyder owned and operated the New Tripoli Garage from 1914 to.

Posted by Lehigh Valley History on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ontelaunee Park (1929-1987)

New Tripoli, Lehigh County

A garage owner opened Ontelaunee Park in 1929. He added a theater, dance pavilion and merry-go-round, among other rides, before selling it in 1966.

The park changed hands a few more times, eventually auctioning off its rides in 1987.

Ontelaunee was sold to Lynn Township in 2000 and now operates the land as a municipal park.

Hanson's Amusement Park (1891-1984)

Harveys Lake, Luzerne County

The long history of this trolley park begins with a picnic grove, like most of the other parks of its time.

A dance pavilion and merry-go-round provided entertainment during its initial years. A ferris wheel was added in 1908 and the park's first roller coaster in 1910.

Hanson's remained in operation until 1984, when the Amusement Inspection Act became law and prompted higher insurance costs. That combined with a broken roller coaster caused the owners to auction off its equipment and close the park.

Chadds Ford, Delaware County

Lenape Park was one of the first trolley parks to open in the state. The West Chester Street Railway Company opened it in 1891.

The park sold its carousel in 1978 to try and stay afloat. Its frame found a home in Carousel World, but the horses are spread far and wide. Lenape continued to struggle financially and closed in 1985.

Now the land is Brandwine Picnic Park.

Lakewood Park (1916-1984)

Barnesville, Schuylkill County

Lakewood began, like many other parks of its time, as a picnicking and swimming area. It had a manmade lake and stream.

During its history, Lakewood hosted national acts including Dick Clark, Chubby Checker and Alan Alda.

The pool closed in the 1960s as the result of declining attendance. The park remained in operation to host festivals and have a few rides. It officially closed in 1984.

The ballroom was destroyed by fire in 1998.

A postcard shows the roller rink at Rocky Springs Park in West Lampeter Township. (dfirecop/Flickr.com)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Rocky Springs Park (1899-1983)

West Lampeter Township, Lancaster County

Rocky Springs had many attractions, starting with a dance pavilion and growing to have dozens of rides, including four roller coasters in its history.

The park was boarded up in 1966. It was bought in 1978 and restored at a cost of $1 million, but that revival only lasted until 1983 as the result of low attendance.

Condominiums were later built on part of the property. A municipal park of the same name comprises the other part. Though service to Rocky Springs ended in 1947, the trolley station remains in the park today with other a few other mementos.

The Rocky Springs Carousel was purchased through $1.3 million in community donations in the late 1990s, but it still sits in storage.

Indian Trail Park, along Route 248, Northampton, PA had rides, a pool and a restaurant. The park opened in 1929 and closed in 1984. Lehigh Township owns the property today.

Posted by Lehigh Valley History on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Indian Trail Park (1929-1983)

Lehigh Township, Northampton County

The park opened in 1929 with a pool and rides. Its small wooden coaster

Declining attendance in the 1970s forced the park to sell its rides and tear down the coaster in 1976. It closed in 1984.

Now the land is owned by Lehigh Township and run as a municipal park.

Fantasyland was one of the first theme parks in the state.

It closed after the owner retired in 1980, selling the land and rides. The owners, Kenneth and Thelma Dick, lived out the rest of their lives in a house near the entrance to the Gettysburg Battlefield Museum. That home was torn down in 2012.

A barn in Fairview Park in Salem Township, Westmoreland County. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Fairview Park (1945-1980)

Salem Township, Westmoreland County

A group of African-American churches opened Fairview Park in 1945 to cater to the black community, which was barred from most other parks in the area. Fairview had a roller coaster, skating rink and other rides, as well as hot air balloons.

West View Park (1906-1977)

West View, Allegheny County

Roller coaster designer Theodore Harton opened West View in 1906. It contained rides built by his company, including the first coaster in the state with drops of more than 50 feet, as well as picnicking areas and a ballroom.

West View was the last Pennsylvania park to be serviced by a trolley line. Attendance dropped after trolley service ended in 1965. The death of then-owner George Harton III caused the park to fall into disrepair and more patrons were instead visiting Kennywood. The park closed in 1977.

The land was razed in 1980 to make way for a shopping plaza.

Willow Grove Park (1896-1975)

Willow Grove, Montgomery County

This park opened in 1896 and survived for decades as one of the largest amusement parks in the state. A large music venue brought notable performers to the park, including the New York Symphony and John Philip Sousa, who also wrote some of his music at Willow Grove.

The park closed in 1975 after an unsuccessful attempt to boost attendance with a Wild West theme.

The area was razed in 1980 and a mall was built in its place.

Bathing Pool once located at the former Ideal Park near the village of Benscreek, Somerset County, just outside of Johnstown.

Posted by Jackson-Township historical preservation on Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ideal Park/Fun City (1921-1973)

Benscreek, Somerset County

Ideal Park was built to capitalize on the growing popularity of swimming in the 1920s. It opened in 1921.

In 1955, it was sold for $115,000 and renamed Fun City. The new owners added rides, a white sand beach and made upgrades to the pool and bath houses.

Rides were removed in 1973.

Rolling Green Park (1908-1972)

Hummels Wharf, Snyder County

This trolley park had a theater and fireworks every weekend. It later added two roller coasters and tilt-a-whirl, as well as turned the theater into a funhouse.

Hurricane Agnes struck Rolling Green in 1972, and the park closed because of the destruction.

Over on the Embassy Theatre's Facebook page, I posted a photo of the Tropical Storm Agnes Flood of 1972 waters in front.

Posted by Kishacoquillas Park Project on Friday, June 26, 2015

Derry Township, Mifflin County

Kishacoquillas, or Kish Park, was one of Pennsylvania's many trolley parks. It survived The Depression and World War II but the owners decided to close it after the destruction of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The owners sold the rides and parts to other damaged parks.

Kishacoquillas does have some semblance of its past self, however, as buildings have been repurposed instead of razed. The old haunted house is now part of a community theater, the arcade is a township garage and the bumper car structure now holds picnic tables.

Hanover Park/Sans Souci Park (1880-1970)

Hanover Township, Luzerne County

This trolley park went through a few iterations: Hanover Grove from 1880-1892, Hanover Park from 1893-1904 and Sans Souci Park until 1970.

The park had four roller coasters during its history. It also had a haunted house.

Butztown, Northampton County

Willow Park had just over a dozen rides and a nearly 1-million gallon swimming pool, but some many remember it more for the odd promotion that involved a man buried in a glass coffin for a week. Visitors could speak to him through a tube.

For #ThrowbackThursday: Forest Park, Chalfont, 1908. This park, located between the north branch of the Neshaminy and.

Posted by Doylestown Historical Society on Thursday, September 15, 2016

Forest Park was a picnic grove for nearly a century before being purchased by amusement park ride designer Richard Lusse in 1932, who added rides and booked entertainers such as Mae West to draw crowds.

The park suffered severe flooding in the 1950s and closed in 1968.

MCKEESPORT FACTS: Rainbow Gardens was opened with a roller skating ring in 1924, A swimming pool was added two years.

Posted by McKeesport Past on Monday, September 28, 2015

Rainbow Gardens (1924-1968)

White Oak, Allegheny County

This park opened in 1924 with its main attraction being a roller rink. A large swimming pool was added two years later.

The park condemned in 1968 so that Pennsylvania could build a highway in its place, but the state did not follow through with those plans.

The land is now home to the Oak Park Shopping Center.

Edgewood Park (1905-1964)

Shamokin, Northumberland County

This trolley park featured a roller coaster, railway and roller rink. A swimming pool opened at Edgewood in 1926.

Rusted roller coaster cars sit abandoned in the former Lake Ariel Park. (screen shot from WNEP video)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Lake Ariel Park (1875-1958)

Lake Township, Wayne County

This park opened as a picnic grove next to the lake in 1875.

It closed and reopened several times during the first few decades, but two roller coasters and other rides gave it new life in the 1920s.

While the park did not thrive during World War II, it was the one-two punch of a hurricane and snowstorm that prompted the park's closure in 1958.

Some parts of the park remain in what is now an overgrown area, including roller coaster cars and a bench.

Owner Alvan Markle Sr. officially established Hazle Park in 1892, erecting a large arch over the entrance at 202 W.

Posted by Lehigh Valley History on Monday, July 18, 2016

West Hazleton, Luzerne County

This picnic ground was turned into an amusement park in 1892. A lake and gardens attracted visitors during the first few years. A roller coaster was added in 1905, followed by other rides and a theater.

The park couldn't compete with other parks and closed in 1956.

The Mount Scenic Railway is shown in this 1910 image of Woodside Park, Philadelphia. (Library Company of Philadelphia)

Lisa Wardle | [email protected]

Woodside Park (1897-1955)

Another of the many trolley parks to open in the late 19th century, Woodside was established in 1897. It was the first park to feature bumper cars when Lusse Manufacturing tested the ride there in 1923.

"My dad was a manager there for 30 years and I had the advantage of ɿree' tickets for all the rides, including the Crystal Pool," Robert Connolly told the East Falls Historical Society. "They had three managers there — one for the lower end, one for the middle, and my dad had the upper end where the Airplanes, Dance Hall, Picture Studio, Music Hall, Scary Haunted house, the Hobby Horses, and the Hummer were."

Woodside remained in operation until 1955. It closed as the result of rising property costs and decreased attendance.


Remembering the long-lost amusement parks of Texas

"Mermaids" put on shows that could be seen from an underwater submarine theater.

7 of 60 Aquarena Springs, San Marcos

And who can forget Ralph the Famous Swimming Pig and his notorious "swine dive."

8 of 60 Aquarena Springs, San Marcos

Nowadays, the once-famed resort is an environmental education center, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.

10 of 60 AstroWorld, Houston

AstroWorld was conceived by former Houston mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz to be counterpart to the Astrodome.

11 of 60 AstroWorld, Houston

A rider gets splashed on AstroWorld's Bamoo Shoot Ride on June 1, 1973.

Bill Clough/Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

13 of 60 AstroWorld, Houston

The Texas Cyclone was built as a replica of the Coney Island Cyclone, but taller and faster.

Jessica Kourkounis/Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

14 of 60 Busch Gardens, Houston

Located next to the Anheuser-Busch brewery, Busch Gardens was a 40-acre theme park with hundreds of exotic, tropical birds from Asian and South America plus a domed ice cave featuring sea lions, polar bears and penguins in an arctic environment. It closed within two years.

16 of 60 Busch Gardens, Houston

A clown lets a youngster ride a wild tricycle, 1971.

17 of 60 Busch Gardens, Houston

Bird watching was a full-time job for Busch Gardens staffers Jerry Franklin, left, Sally Chalmers and Carla Taft. The park had hundreds of exotic, tropical birds from Asian and South America.

Darrell Davidson/Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

19 of 60 Busch Gardens, Houston

A park visitor slides down after climbing the thatched tree-house at Houston's Busch Gardens.

20 of 60 Castle Golf and Games, Houston

Castle Golf and Games was more than a miniature golf course complex centered around a replica castle. It also had bumper boats and batting cages, video games and skee ball. Photo: February 1981.

22 of 60 Castle Golf and Games, Houston

The final swing on the golf course would shoot the ball into the castle.

23 of 60 Castle Golf and Games, Houston

Until it was demolished in 2012, Castle Golf and Games was located off Loop 610 near U.S. 290. (This photo was captured after the park closed.)

25 of 60 Castle Golf and Games, Houston

Eventually, the park was demolished for a freeway expansion. (This photo was captured after the park closed.)

26 of 60 EarthQuest Adventures, Houston

Planning began in 2005, bankrupt in 2011

A $500-million dinosaur-themed park project, the venture went bankrupt before the park was actually realized.

28 of 60 EarthQuest Adventures, Houston

Planning began in 2005, bankrupt in 2011

Located along U.S. 59 near New Caney, it was to be seven times larger than Houston's AstroWorld with 50 attractions that stress environmental stewardship. There would be a 12-acre water park made from a retreating glacier, an animal park including threatened species and a ride through a land with a fiery volcano and life-sized dinosaurs.

29 of 60 EarthQuest Adventures, Houston

Planning began in 2005, bankrupt in 2011

Developers picked up the project again in 2014, with the vision of a 500-acre Disney-esque park.

31 of 60 Fame City - Fame City Waterworks - Adventure Bay - Funplex, Houston

Located in west Houston, this mega-complex was a huge indoor kids playground, complete with bumper cars, go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, a bowling alley and Ferris wheel. There was also an adjacent water park.

32 of 60 Games People Play, Houston

A small but beloved theme park off FM 1960, Games People Play featured three water slides, a batting cage, arcade and a miniature golf course.

34 of 60 Hanna-Barbera Land, Spring

Unable to compete with Astroworld, Hanna–Barbera Land was only open for two seasons.

E. Joseph Deering/© Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

35 of 60 Hanna Barbera Land, Spring

The theme park was based on the worlds of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons like "The Flinstones," "Yogi Bear" and "Scooby-Doo."

E. Joseph Deering/© Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

37 of 60 Hanna-Barbera Land, Spring

It featured a carousel, a Scooby-Doo roller coaster, an enormous jungle gym and puppet shows.

38 of 60 Hanna-Barbera Land, Spring

There were also swan pedal boats.

E. Joseph Deering/© Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

40 of 60 Magic Landing, El Paso

Magic Landing was one of El Paso's two theme parks operating in the 1980s. It had bumper cars and paddle boats, a swinging pirate ship and Ferris wheel, and a fateful roller coaster called the Wildcat.

Magic Landing In Memoriam Show More Show Less

41 of 60 Magic Landing, El Paso

In 1988, an 18-year-old employee was killed while trying to help a visitor retrieve a baseball cap from the roller coaster tracks. The coaster came down while his arm was stretched across the track and cut it off. He died at a hospital hours later.

Magic Landing In Memoriam Show More Show Less

43 of 60 Magic Landing, El Paso

After the death of an employee, the park could not afford the insurance to stay in business.

Magic Landing In Memoriam Show More Show Less

44 of 60 Magic Landing, El Paso

After years of vandalism and arson, Magic Landing was razed to the ground.

46 of 60 Playland Park, Houston

Playland Park was Texas' first amusement park. The precursor to AstroWorld, Playland Park had a tilt-a-whirl, loop-de-loop and "rollie" coaster. When it first opened, The Rocket was billed as "the largest roller coaster in the world." Some Houstonians share their earliest memories of Playland Park, here.

47 of 60 Playland Park, San Antonio

Playland Park's slogan: "The fun spot of San Antonio."

49 of 60 Playland Park, San Antonio

Playland Park closed in 1980. Five years later, the Rocket was dismantled and resurrected as the Phoenix at Knoebels Amusement Park in Pennsylvania.

EDWARD A. ORNELAS/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

50 of 60 Playland Park, San Antonio

Located on N. Alamo off Broadway, the site of Playland Park is a 12.5 acre vacant lot

52 of 60 Pleasure Pier, Port Arthur

Pleasure Pier began with a dance hall and roller coaster. A ballroom, Olympic-size swimming pool and 18-hole golf course followed.

53 of 60 Pleasure Pier, Port Arthur

With ships frequently hitting the bridge, access became limited. Then storms, fires and erosion eventually destroyed all of the facilities.

55 of 60 Sea-Arama, Galveston

Before we had Sea World, Texans spent summer vacations visiting Sea-Arama Marineworld in Galveston.

56 of 60 Sea-Arama, Galveston

Sea-Arama was one of the first ocean-themed parks in the world, according to the site: Remembering Sea Arama Marineworld.

58 of 60 Sunshine Amusement Park, San Antonio

This amusement park was located on Roosevelt and Southcross.

59 of 60 Sunshine Amusement Park, San Antonio

This amusement park was located on Roosevelt and Southcross.

Stomach-hurling, whiplash roller coasters seem to have been a staple of teenage summers since they were invented. And while Six Flags sends fans head-over-heels screaming and boomeranging back for repeat thrills, the heyday for independent, kitschy theme parks was before the dominance of the Dallas-based chain Six Flags.

For many Texans growing up in the '60s, '70s and '80s, AstroWorld was hands-down the ultimate rite-of-passage amusement park &mdash whether you lived in Houston or traveled hours to brave that rickety, terrifying Texas Cyclone.

San Antonians of a certain generation had Playland Park and the Rocket roller coaster, which was actually the first "rollie" in Texas erected in the 1940s. Playland Park was in fact Texas' first amusement park. Originally located in Houston, the predecessor to AstroWorld, it moved to San Antonio in the 1960s. But many recall their first dates and back to school parties there.

Click through the gallery above for a brief history of Texas theme parks that are long gone but not forgotten, from Sea-Arama in Galveston to El Paso's ill-fated Magic Landing.

And remember life before Sea World docked in S.A.? We had Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with "mermaids" and Ralph the swimming pig, famous for his swine dive.

Many of these parks went under when Six Flags rose in the 1990s, and when Sea World came to San Antonio. Some parks suffered tragic accidents and weren't able to recover.

Nonetheless, people continue to hold these places deep in their nostalgic hearts, and memorial sites are all around from the Facebook group We Miss Games People Play to the blogs Magic Landing In Memoriam and Remembering Sea-Arama.

If you remember Sunshine Park in San Antonio's southside, or you can recall parties at Playland or family vacays to any of Texas' old amusement parks, share your best memories in the comments.

Scott came to the Express-News from the San Antonio Current, the Alamo City's alt-weekly publication, where she ran online and social programming. Prior to that Scott was the web editor at Texas Public Radio, the San Antonio NPR affiliate.


Amusement Parks - HISTORY

Amusement Parks in America

On warm Sunday afternoons during the summer, a crowd of over 15,000 people would be found at Columbia Beach.

Once upon a time, summer was a time for sea bathing, playing croquet, sailing and walking. Life didn’t have the hectic pace that keeps us distracted today. Thousands of people would flock to the beaches in the summers and especially on the weekends. Many people would even seek out Mineral Springs, looking for medicinal benefits. Swimming was much more popular in those days. The average home didn’t have running water, so baths were usually taken out of doors or on a trip to town.

Coney Island became an amusement resort, as did many other towns along the ocean shore. It is considered to be the birthplace of the American amusement resort. Several luxury hotels were built there in the 1870s and a ten-mile railroad was extended there from the city. Coney Island was described as “heaven at the end of a subway ride.” They also called it the “Nickel Empire.” Every ride cost 5 cents and so did a hot dog or a pop.

Carry-Us-All with wooden animals carved by Charles Loof in the 1870s.

The famed artisan Charles Looff came to Coney Island from Europe in the 1870s and he carved wooden animals that were attached to a circular floor that turned in circles. It opened in 1875 and it was known as a “Carry-Us-All” or carousel. Lamarcus Thompson built the world’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railroad, in 1884 at Coney Island.

Most of the early amusement resorts sprang up near population centers like Coney Island in New York and Ocean Beach near the western edge of San Francisco. One of the earliest parks in the Northwest had beginnings as a baseball park constructed at the end of a cable car line on the Spokane River in Washington. Originally called Ingersoll Park, the baseball field opened on July 18, 1889.

In 1893, the Spokane Street Railway, which was owned by the Washington Water Power Company (WWP), bought the entire park and decided to expand it into an amusement park patterned after Coney Island. They built a swimming pool next to the river and set about to rename the park. They stumbled across the Latin word for an indoor swimming pool – natatorium. The new park was christened “Natatorium Park.”

One of the earliest parks, Chicago’s White City, grew out of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. White City was the common name for dozens of amusement parks in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Inspired by the White City and Midway Plaisance sections of the World's Columbian Exposition, the parks started gaining in popularity in the last few years of the 19th century.

The enormously successful World's Columbian Exposition attracted 26 million visitors and featured a section that is now commonly considered the first amusement park: a midway, the mile-long Midway Plaisance, the first Ferris wheel constructed by George Ferris, Thomas Rankin's Snow and Ice Railway, a forerunner of the modern roller coaster, which was later moved to Coney Island as well as lighting and attractions powered by alternating current. Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti had just completed the first power plant with AC power in London only the year before.

The Columbian Exposition also featured the debut of several foods that became popular in the United States: the hamburger, shredded wheat, Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and pancakes made using Aunt Jemima pancake mix. The Zoopraxographical Hall was the first commercial theater. Ragtime music composed and performed by Scott Joplin exposed millions of people to a new form of music and it instantly became a staple for fairs and carnivals.

While the Midway Plaisance became the Exposition's main drawing card, it was not the primary purpose of the World's Fair in the eyes of its founders, who pictured it to be the beginning of a classical renaissance featuring electrically-lit white stucco buildings collectively known as White City occupying the main court.

While White City gave the park its visual identity, the throngs who attended the Columbian Exposition tended to collect at the Midway Plaisance and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which set up shop just outside the park grounds after the fair's founders rejected Buffalo Bill Cody's attempt to become an official Columbian Exposition exhibitor.

Chicago’s Columbian Exposition was destined to be remembered primarily for two ironic visions, that of the crowds at the Midway Plaisance, with exhibitions of boxer John L. Sullivan and exotic dancer Little Egypt as well as its games and its rides, and the architecture of White City.

Paul Boyton's Water Chutes, featuring a shoot-the-chutes ride that wasn't present in the Columbian Exposition, was the first amusement ride to charge admission when it opened in 1894. Inspired by the immediate success of his Water Chutes with 500,000 people visiting in its first year of operation, Boyton moved and expanded his Water Chutes in 1896. In 1895, Boyton also opened Sea Lion Park, one of the earliest embodiments of an amusement park, at Coney Island with several rides, including a shoot-the-chutes, an old mill ride and a sea lion show.

An enterprising man named George Tilyou operated Coney Island’s first Ferris wheel in 1894 at the Bowery, near the Iron Tower, which was built for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and moved to Coney Island a year later. Tilyou built several other amusements that were scattered around Coney Island. In 1897, he consolidated all of his rides into one place by his Ferris wheel. Tilyou called it Steeplechase Park.

In the half decade after the end of the Columbian Exposition, the American concept of the amusement park was starting to take hold. White City amusement parks were making their appearance in Philadelphia in 1898 (it was also known as Chestnut Hill Park) and in Cleveland, Ohio in 1900. An explosion of nearly identical amusement parks soon followed. Parks were being erected at a frenetic pace.

A typical White City park featured a shoot-the-chutes and lagoon, a roller coaster (usually a figure eight or a mountain railway), a midway, a Ferris wheel, games, and a pavilion. Some White City parks featured miniature railroads. There were roughly 250 amusement rides operating in the United States in 1899 the number almost tripled to 700 by 1905 and more than doubled again to 1500 by 1919.

One of the earliest amusement parks in the west, Columbia Gardens, opened in Butte, Montana in 1900.

Railway companies, noticing the popularity of Midway Plaisance of the Columbian Exposition and the lack of railroad ridership on the weekends, constructed trolley parks as an effort to improve their bottom line. Power companies were starting to partner with railroad companies to create electric trolley companies and construct “Electric Parks.” Nearly every major city in America had at least one amusement park in the early years of the 20th century.

In 1901, partners Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy, operated the very popular ride they called "A Trip to the Moon" at the Pan-American Exposition which opened in Buffalo, New York. They also opened a similar ride at Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park.

Poor weather and bad economic conditions forced the closure of Sea Lion Park in 1902. Boyton sold Sea Lion Park to Thompson and Dundy who redesigned the park and reopened it as Luna Park in 1903.

The name Luna was derived from the brightly lit green and white cigar-shaped airship “Luna” which transported people on an imaginary Trip to the Moon. The spectacular new park, on the sight of the old Sea Lion Park, featured a forest of towers and spires lit at night by 122,000 electric lights. Luna was probably the most popular park at Coney Island.

A year later, in 1904, former New York State Senator William Reynolds opened Dreamland to record crowds and his theme was “Bigger and Better”. Whatever Luna built, Dreamland had to build it bigger and better. Where Luna had 250,000 lights, Dreamland had a million. On opening day, 135,000 eager patrons visited the park.

Some long-established parks changed their names to White City upon the addition of amusement rides and a midway. Like their Luna Park and Electric Park cousins, many cities had two (or all three) of the Electric Park/Luna Park/White City triumvirate in their vicinity, with each trying to outdo the others with new attractions.

Roller coaster designer and entrepreneur Frederick Ingersoll provided many parks with figure eight roller coasters and scenic railways long before expanding the Luna Park chain in 1905. Over a quarter century period, the Ingersoll Construction Company, erected more than eleven roller coasters per year.

The competition was fierce, often driving the electric parks out of business due to increased costs from equipment upgrades, upkeep and increasing insurance costs. Boyton's Water Chutes went out of business in 1908 in the face of increasing competition. More than a few succumbed to fire.

Only one park that was given the White City name continues to operate today: Denver's White City, which opened in 1908, is now known as Lakeside Amusement Park.

In 1900, Portland had 90,000 residents and it was the largest metropolis in the Northwest, Portland had the busiest port up the coast from San Francisco. The Alaska gold rush and the railroads began to make Seattle boom. Portland’s leaders decided a World’s Fair would bring the masses to Portland and they summoned the cutting-edge amusements of the day to come to Portland to help build the Lewis & Clark Exposition .

Guild’s Lake provided a perfect location for the popular Chute-the-Chutes at the Lewis & Clark Exposition. Three million people came to Portland’s Party and many of them decided to stay. Portland’s population doubled in the next five years.

Portland’s first amusement park, The Oaks, opened in Sellwood along the Willamette River in 1905.

A friendly rivalry developed between the builders of Oaks Park and the Lewis & Clark Expo and they had a race to see which could open first. Oaks Park opened two days before the Expo, on Memorial Day, May 30, 1905. In its first season, over 300,000 people packed the streetcars to visit the park and over 30,000 people would visit the park on Sundays and holidays. Oaks Park had a 4000-seat auditorium and The Oaks was said to have been John Philip Sousa’s favorite place to perform, having been there numerous times.

The only amusement park in Portland that survives today is Oaks Park, which is the oldest amusement park on the West Coast and the skating rink is the oldest rink west of the Mississippi.

Council Crest, the Dreamland of the Northwest, opened on Memorial Day in 1907. Council Crest’s dance hall at the “Top of the Town” was the place to go on a summer evening. There was a Scenic Railway (roller coaster) and the Columbia River Water Log Ride, which encircled the park.

The Portland Railway Light & Power Company conceived of Columbia Beach on Sand Island, (now Tomahawk Island), just to the east of Hayden Island. After several delays, Columbia Beach finally opened on August 5, 1916 after heavy August rains and unusually high water in the Columbia River. Even with the late opening, revenues for the Railway company increased greatly and Portland’s most popular new amusement resort saw many thousands of people.

Columbia Beach had excellent camping facilities and the dance floor was one of the largest in the country. There were dances seven days a week. There was a miniature railway, a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a motordome, a midway, athletic fields, a delicatessen, a grocery store and a roller skating pavilion.

According to an ad in the Sunday Oregonian from June 20, 1920, you could ride an airplane for free at Columbia Beach. You could fix a picnic lunch, take the Vancouver Line streetcar to the Park, watch a ballgame and visit the zoo. Then you could dance away the afternoon and night.

Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was heralded as Portland’s “Million Dollar Playground.” When it opened on Memorial Day, May 26, 1928, Jantzen Beach was the largest amusement park in the nation. The park sprawled over 123 acres at Hayden Island at the northern tip of Portland.

There was the huge Dipper roller coaster, the thrill rides, the midway games and midget auto racing. There was also the “Golden-Canopied Ballroom,” which attracted big name bands, and people from all over the world came to compete in the dance competitions, which were complete with orchestras.

When it opened on June 28, 1930, Lotus Isle was the largest amusement park in Portland on 128 acres. It was located just east of Jantzen Beach at the site of the old Columbia Beach. Lotus Isle was known as the “Wonderland of the Pacific Northwest” and you could take in over 40 rides.

The Grand Ballroom, which is thought to be the birthplace of the dance marathon circuit, was one of the first locations for the great walkathons where they would pack in 6,000 people and many more lined up outside to get in. Several of the organizers would go on to achieve fame and fortune all over the country. One of them, Leo Seltzer, would go on to start Roller Derby.

The ballroom was built at a cost of $60,000 with a wide veranda overhanging a lake. Many unfortunate problems beset the park and it was only open for three seasons. The ballroom caught fire the second season and burned to the ground. Dances were held the final season on the Blue Swan, a barge which was docked on the Columbia River.

Blue Lake Park which is located seven miles east of Portland, near Fairview, opened on July 3, 1925. The photo above from July 3, 1960, shows the Blue Lake Dance Hall and the Merry Mix-Up swing ride. Blue Lake will be remembered for swimming, boating, picnics, concerts, dancing and rides for all ages. The original Dance Pavilion burned in 1928 and it was soon replaced with the building above. Multnomah County took over the park in 1960 and removed all the rides. It is still a popular place for swimming and picnicking.

Oak Grove Beach, an amusement resort and park which operated from 1917 to 1929, spread out over 70 acres and it was accessible via the Milwaukie and Oregon City streetcars. Oak Grove Beach was mentioned in the July 1, 1925 edition of the Portland News. The article tells of rides, water chutes, toboggans, floats and high dives that were lit up by floodlights so the park could stay open till 11:00 at night.


Amusement Parks - HISTORY

Through 1908, Chicago led the nation in its number of amusement parks, including the Chutes, the original Ferris Wheel (at Clark and Wrightwood in Lincoln Park, 1896 to 1903), Sans Souci ( Woodlawn ), White City (Woodlawn), Luna Park ( New City ), and Forest Park. Joyland Park, owned and operated by African Americans, was part of the Bronzeville neighborhood during its 1920s heyday. Riverview, at Belmont and Western in North Center, was Chicago&aposs largest and longest-running park, surviving from 1904 to 1967. Riverview had the world&aposs first suspended roller coaster (1908) and first parachute ride (1936). Most legendary, however, was the Bobs (1924), perhaps the greatest coaster ever built.

Art Fritz&aposs pony-ride enterprise in suburban Melrose Park in 1929 turned into one of the first “kiddielands.” By 1944, there were 10 kiddielands in the Chicago area, presaging the explosion of such parks across America in the Baby Boom of the 1950s. Ironically, only Fritz&aposs original survived into the next century.

In the 1960s, as middle-class population shifted to the suburbs, old urban parks like Riverview closed, and California&aposs Disneyland (1955) provided the model for new, outlying “theme parks.” Santa&aposs Village, part of the first chain of theme parks, opened in East Dundee, 1959. Old Chicago, the first indoor shopping mall / theme park ( Bolingbrook, 1975 to 1980), foreshadowed Canada&aposs West Edmonton Mall and Minnesota&aposs Mall of America. Marriott&aposs Great America ( Gurnee, 1976 sold to the Six Flags chain, 1984) brought Chicago into the modern theme park era.

In 1995, a 148-foot Ferris Wheel—recalling the 1893 original—was erected at the renovated Navy Pier, a reminder of Chicago&aposs past amusement greatness.


10 Great American Amusement Parks

On July 17, 1955, Anaheim, California watched as Walt Disney dedicated and opened Disneyland, at the time, the premier amusement park in the world. The US has a long history of fine amusement parks, certainly making the US the amusement park capital of the world. Here we list 10 great parks, not necessarily the biggest, but 10 that draw the most people each year, and that we think you would especially enjoy visiting.

Digging Deeper

10. Six Flags Magic Mountain, California (Valencia).

With 19 roller coasters, more than any other park in the world, this place gives Cedar Point a run for most thrilling park. Only open since 1971 (as Magic Mountain, before Six Flags bought it), this park is a bit younger than most of the big ones. Cracked fact: It is the Walley World of the 1983 classic film, National Lampoon’s Vacation.

9. Hershey Park, Pennsylvania (Hershey).

With 70 rides and 12 roller coasters and 3.1 million visitors a year, this is hardly the park Milton Hershey built for the leisure of his employees. It is still owned by the chocolate giant, and features a water park and zoo. Of course, it is next to Hershey’s Chocolate World which has restaurants and a ride that takes you through a virtual chocolate factory. Several other great amusement parks are fairly close, including our sentimental favorite, Knoebels Amusement Resort.

8. Kings Island, Ohio (Mason).

Scoring just behind its sister park to the north, Kings Island gets only about 100,000 fewer visitors than Cedar Point, with similar emphasis on thrill rides and mega-coasters, and of course, a water park. With 46 rides and 14 roller coasters (80 rides and attractions total) this is a major league park.

7. Cedar Point, Ohio (Sandusky).

The most visited amusement park in the US outside of California or Florida, this place has the beach, water park, marina, shows, and rides galore. Plus, it ranks at #1 (or close) in food quality every year. With a league leading 74 rides, 17 of them roller coasters, this is the king of the thrill rides parks. It is the only park in the world with roller coasters in all 4 height classes, including 4 over 200 feet tall.

6. Knott’s Berry Farm, California.

Established by Walter Knott, famous berry grower (first cultivator of boysenberries, a cross of raspberry, blackberry, dewberry and loganberry invented by a guy named Boysen), the berry part of the business is now owned by Smuckers of Orville, Ohio and the amusement park is owned by Cedar Fair of Sandusky, Ohio, the company that owns Cedar Point and Kings Island, giving the Farm more of a thrill ride emphasis. Cracked fact: Knott’s decided not to sell out to Disney for fear Disney would obliterate traces of the original Knott’s character. The park has 5 theme sections and a water park. Knott’s is now owned by Cedar Fair.

5. Universal Studios, Florida and Hollywood.

Movies are big business and almost everybody likes at least some movies. The Universal Studios parks (including Islands of Adventure in Orlando) are the premier place to celebrate the world of movies for the entire family. Close to 15 million people per year attend these 2 parks (combined) and 20 million when you include the Islands of Adventure park.

4. Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.

The only park on the list out of sequence by visitor count, we put Busch Gardens ahead of Universal because of the more eclectic appeal of the park. (Nostalgia for the days of free samples of Anheuser-Busch products, that is.) Thrill rides and shows in an African setting, the park features animal exhibits and an associated water park, Adventure Island.

3. Sea World, Orlando.

Any Sea World is a wonderful place to see Killer Whales (Orcas), dolphins and seals performing spectacular displays, with a variety of top notch water oriented shows. Some may criticize the use of sea mammals in the shows, but that aside, the shows are fantastic. See the aquariums and other sea life displays or watch pearl divers at work. Millions do every year.

2. Disneyland/Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim.

To many people, the original is still the best. The second most visited set of amusement complexes in the US, millions in the West save the long trip to Florida and go to the fantabulous parks in their own neck of the woods. (Snow White’s Castle ought to be on the California state flag.) The Disney parks have a spectacular array of rides, shows, and attractions, making them all around entertainment centers.

1. Disney World/Epcot, Orlando.

Including White Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is the most extensive amusement/theme park complex in the world. Obviously, anything this fantastic comes at a price, and the price is expense and crowds. Still, this most visited of all park complexes has so much to see and do you have to read about them individually. The ultimate fantasy vacation for kids (and grown up kids).

Question for students (and subscribers): Tell us which parks are your favorites in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Samuelson, Dale and Wendy Yegoiants. American Amusement Park. MBI, 2001.


Other lesser known Amusement Parks in Ohio

Everybody knows about Ohio's 2 monster amusement parks, but did you know the Columbus Zoo also has amusement park. In fact there are several other lesser known amusement parks in Ohio that might fit your family needs better than the flamboyant big guy up north or his twin brother in Cincinnati, but for folks with little ones and on a budget, you might want to consider these as good alternatives.

Jungle Jack's Landing

The Columbus Zoo is one of the world's premiere zoos, but it also has a much lesser known amusement park which helps round out Zoombezi Bay water park, an entirely separate section of the zoo. There's also throughout the zoo a number of amusement rides including a train ride, a beautiful and historic merry go round, pirate island boat ride, and several animal rides. Each of these items are in addition to regular zoo admission.

Jungle Jack's Landing is located inside the zoo and tickets can be purchased for individual rides or a single Zoo-it-All wristband can be purchased that will include all the park rides for one low price.

Tuscora Park, New Philadelphia

Located just of Interstate 77 south of Canton, the Tuscora Park Amusement park has something for just about everyone. The little ones will enjoy the many rides designed especially for the younger set. Adults can enjoy the swimming pools, fishing in the pond, or listening to live entertainment.

Memphis Kiddie Park

Memphis Kiddie Park is an Ohio Amusement Park with a tradition dating back to the 1950s when amusement parks were all the rage across Ohio. Most of these amusement parks have long since closed, but Memphis Kiddie Park remains providing generational entertainment. This amusement park is really for the kids. It features 11 amusement rides, an arcade and miniature golf course and is still a Cleveland landmark. Most of the rides are restricted to children about 4' tall or less.