The History of Amusement Parks

With roller coasters, Ferris wheels, games, entertainment and more, amusement parks have been a part of our lives and provided families with hours of entertainment for many years. Amusement parks over time have ranged from small community fairs which move from town to town, to the large corporate sponsored parks which offer something for everyone in the family.

The origin of amusement parks can be traced back to the 1100’s in England, when Elizabethan Fairs were held. While they are not like today’s parks, they offered a variety of entertainment and food which became a popular pastime with people of that era. The Oktoberfest became another form of amusement park, where not only beer was served, but other events to celebrate that year’s harvest with food, drink and displays.

The amusement park genre began to increase in popularity with the start of the World Fair. In 1851 the first World’s Fair was held at Crystal Palace in England. The World’s Fair became a place for vendors to showcase new products, star entertainers to perform and for people to sample food and view products from countries around the world. Throughout the 1800’s and into the 1900’s the World’s Fair was a chance for the world to get together, meet and have a good time in one location.

The golden age of amusement parks took place in the early 1900’s. With transportation becoming easily accessible via trolleys, cars and trains, people were able to move freely between cities and into different areas. New amusement parks such as Coney Island, Dreamland and Luna Park started to operate near large cities. The lure of thrilling rides, food and entertainment began to draw large numbers of fans. However, in the 1930’s, amusement parks along with the rest of the world took a major hit when the Great Depression hit. Many amusement parks closed forever and others barely survived the economic downturn. Even when the Depression was over, the amusement park industry recovered a portion of their business; however, they never achieved the same level of success.

After the Great Depression amusement parks started the transformation to larger parks. Amusement parks such as Disneyworld, Disneyland, Six Flags, Hershey Park and Knotts Berry Farm started to gain popularity. These new large parks had the latest in thrill rides and roller coasters, featured family entertainment, all types of food and fun for the entire family.

Amusement parks have been around in various forms for hundreds of years, and have been a part of our everyday life for years. Amusement parks will continue to be a popular form of entertainment for many years to come. To understand the development in amusement parks, we have assembled a collection of resources: