Today’s amusement parks are filled with hi-tech thrills and modern rides. Many of these parks, however, trace their roots back hundreds of years ago or more. In fact, the nation’s oldest continuously operating amusement park, Lake Compounce in Bristol and Southington, Connecticut, first opened in 1846. Many of these early amusement parks featured dancing, beer gardens, picnics and swimming as mainstays of their entertainment. Today’s amusement parks are more centered around thrill rides and water parks but the goals are still the same; fun for the entire family.
Amusement parks have become part of our summers and part of the fabric of our family’s memories. Setting aside the mega, year-round theme parks in Florida and California, here are five of America’s Great Amusement Parks.
Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
Most people associate roller coasters with amusement parks and Cedar Point has specialized in building some of the most thrilling coasters on the planet. Along with about 20 roller coasters the park also includes over 50 other rides. Along the shores of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is the third oldest continuously operating amusement park in the country, tracing its history to the 1870’s. Today, over 3.5 million people visit Cedar Point annually.
Hershey Park – Hershey, Pennsylvania
Once serving as picnic grounds for Hershey Chocolate employees, Hershey Park is now a sprawling amusement park featuring rides like the Lightning Racer, double-track coaster, a 20,000 square foot wave pool and plenty of wholesome entertainment. The park is described as “The Sweetest Place on Earth” and its estimated 3 million visitors would agree.
Six Flags Magic Mountain – California
Just about an hour away from Los Angeles, Six Flags Magic Mountain is perhaps the best of the Six Flags theme parks with 19 coasters like the 70 mph Viper and Superman, that shoots riders up some 400 feet vertically into the air. While it draws some 3.3 million visitors each year, it is the only “year round” amusement park on our list.
Luna Park – Coney Island, New York
Luna Park, Coney Island, New York makes our list as a legacy amusement park that combines some modern thrills with classic amusement park features. Here, you’ll find traditional fair foods like candy apples and cotton candy, souvenir shops, mid-way games and beach views. This is one of three iconic amusement parks on Coney Island.
Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The newest entry on our list, Dollywood, opened for the first time in 1986. It actually traces its history to 1961 however, when Rebel Railroad began operation on the site. Dollywood attracts about 2.5 million people throughout its extended season that lasts from mid-March until January 1st.
Your favorite amusement park will likely depend on where you spent time as a youth and where you grew up. They all usually have great memories and fun summer days in common.