Amusement parks and their beginning

The History and Evolution

How Amusement Parks Came To Be

Local fairs and carnivals have been around since the Middle Ages, but modern amusement parks can trace their roots to the 19th century. When so-called “pleasure gardens” and “trolley parks” first flourished in the United States and Europe, these early resorts featured primitive—and often wildly unsafe—rollercoasters and rides, but they also included a variety of offbeat attractions ranging from strongmen and wild animals to freak shows, staged disaster spectacles and even battle reenactments.

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 race one another on mechanical horses, but it also included a Ferris Wheel, a space-inspired ride called “Trip to the Moon” and a miniature railroad. Attractions like the “Whichaway” and the “Human Pool Table” tossed strangers against one another and gave couples an excuse to canoodle, and the wildly popular Blowhole Theater allowed spectators to watch as air vents blew up unsuspecting female guests’ skirts.
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2. Vauxhall Gardens

For much of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the famed Vauxhall Gardens offered Londoners a much-needed respite from the grime and sprawl of the big city. Nestled on the south bank of the River Thames, this verdant pleasure garden consisted of several acres of trees and flowers, footpaths, and pavilions lit by thousands of shimmering gas lamps, for the price of one shilling, visitors could stroll through Vauxhall’s lush groves, admire paintings and sculptures and take in music performed by the site’s house orchestra. The Gardens also offered more unusual diversions including a miniature diorama of a village mill and a resident hermit who told fortunes, by the 1820s, Vauxhall had begun to abandon high culture and refinement in favor of dancing and other more mainstream entertainments and soon patrons could take in fireworks displays, ballooning exhibitions and sideshow acts such as sword swallowers and tightrope walkers.
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3. Dreamland

Coney Island’s Dreamland only operated for seven years between 1904 and 1911, but during that time it established itself as one of the most ambitious amusement parks ever constructed, a former senator named William H. Reynolds, the site included a labyrinth of unusual rides and attractions lit by an astounding one million electric light bulbs. Visitors to Dreamland could charter a gondola through a recreation of the canals of Venice, brave gusts of refrigerated air during a train ride through the mountains of Switzerland or relax at a Japanese Tea house. Dreamland featured everything from freak shows and wild animals to imported Somali warriors and Eskimos, but perhaps its most unusual offering was an exhibit where visitors could observe premature babies being kept alive using incubators, which were then still a new and untested technology. The infants proved a huge hit, but they and many other attractions had to be evacuated in May 1911, when a fire—ironically triggered at a ride called the Hell Gate—leveled the property and shut Dreamland down for good.
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The Top Ten Best Amusement Parks in America

Why I Chose This?

I thought since I go to a few amusement parks I can do a summary about what it's about and the history behind it, and I also thought since I know a lot about it, I should write about it.

-Ian Harrison