This is the time of year when I start thinking about packing up the family and heading to an amusement park. The lure of funnel cakes, roller coasters and log flume rides beckons me.
Amusement parks have been around for centuries, with the oldest one, Dyrehausbakken—Bakken for short—located near Copenhagen in Denmark. Bakken began in 1583 when a natural spring was discovered, enticing throngs of people who believed the water had curative properties to visit the site. The large crowds attracted entertainers and hawkers and thus the amusement park was born.
The World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago was the precursor to the modern amusement park. It enthralled visitors with a blaze of lights from the "White City," and the world's first Ferris wheel drew people from far and wide. The first permanent enclosed amusement park was Sea Lion Park, which opened in 1895 at Coney Island in New York. From there, amusement parks sprang up all over the place. Many have opened and closed in the ensuing years, giving way to mega theme parks like Disney World and Six Flags.
So many childhood memories are linked to the first time you went on the Bobs at Riverview or the beautiful carousel at Kiddieland. It you want to take a stroll down memory lane, here are some books about amusement parks of yore—and also a book of current parks. Before you know it, you'll be pining for a spin on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
Amusement Parks by Judy Alter relays how amusement parks evolved from small state fairs to today's mega theme parks.
The Great American Amusement Parks by Gary Kyriazi is a pictorial history of amusement parks through the ages.
Riverview Amusement Park by Dolores Haugh reminisces about the iconic Riverview Park in Chicago, which grew from 22 acres and three rides to 140 acres and over a hundred attractions. A must-read for baby boomers who spent many a summer's day riding the Bobs or Shooting the Chutes.
The Amusement Park Guide is a comprehensive list of amusement parks throughout the United States and Canada. Start planning your vacation now!