History of amusement parks

Amusement parks as we know them today have been influenced by two things: first the fairs that started in the Middle Ages in Europe, and second the Pleasure Gardens, like Vauxhall Garden in London (founded in 1661). 

The very, very first amusement park, "Bakken", opened in Klampenborg, Denmark, in 1583!

However, the fixed amusement parks appeared with the rise of World's Fairs in the 19th century. 
In 1851, the first World's Fair was held at London's Crystal Palace

The transept façade of the original Crystal Palace


Then in 1893, the World's Columbian Exposition took place in Chicago.

Advertisement piece of art for the World's Columbian Exposition 
(also known as the Chicago World's Fair), held in 1893


Looking West From Peristyle, Court of Honor and Grand Basin 
of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, Illinois)


The original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 

Inside the Columbian Exposition.


In the beginning, some entertainment places were in fact beaches. Coney Island in Brooklyn began as a beach from 1829. Blackpool in England was very popular in the 1850s and 1860s. 
Meanwhile, picnic areas appeared in the USA along rivers and lakes. 

At the end of the 19th century, Coney Island evolved from a single beach to an amusement park. Its first carousel was installed in the 1870s, and its first Roller Coaster, the "Switchback Railway", appeared in 1884.

Coney Island in 1907. 

Watch this great film made in Coney Island in the 1940s!


In the 19th century, piers also developed and attracted more and more visitors. 

Many amusement parks were opened in North America. In the early 20th century, hundreds of amusement parks were open in the USA and Canada.

There were two sorts of parks: the amusement parks, and the theme parks. Nowadays, we would add a third category, which is the educational parks (like Epcot in Florida or Puy du Fou in France)

After the first world war, people were asking for more entertainment and so more amusement parks, and the 1920s were the golden age of Roller Coasters. 

The decline of the amusement park industry started in the 1930s with the Great Depression. This decline continued with the second world war.

Parks were still opening, though. In 1946, Santa Claus Land (now known as "Holiday World and Splashin' Safari") opened its doors, and in 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland.


Television was invented and amusement parks declined even more. Some of them closed down, like Steeplechase Park, in Coney Island, which closed in 1964.

Steeplechase Park entry.



Great rides were invented for amusement parks, especially in the 19th century when industry developed and steam engines were invented. To know more about these great rides, please visit this History of Fairground rides, and also this link about British Fairground rides. This page is also fantastic!


Read more.






(All photos used in this article are in the public domain)