The Amusement Park In America

Pleasure Gardens—the forerunner of Amusement Parks

The exterior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens. Pleasure Gardens - the forerunner of Amusement Parks In America
The exterior of the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens, built in 1688–89 by the first Earl of Ranelagh. A pleasure garden refers to a publicly accessible park or garden intended for leisure and amusement purposes.

Commercialized Leisure

The expansion of the urban middle class in Europe led to a rise in “commercialized leisure.” The result of their increased earnings led to a change in socializing trends. Consequently, paid entertainment, particularly in cities like London, experienced a surge in popularity. Known as Pleasure Gardens—the forerunner of Amusement Parks. Outdoor spaces that required an entry ticket were a popular form of entertainment during this period. Pleasure gardens began as parks or gardens open to the public for entertainment and recreation. The added attractions such as amusement rides, zoos, concert halls, and bandstands.

They are distinct from other public gardens which do not usually offer such facilities. In the past, the term referred to private gardens with flowers, shrubs, or wooded areas. The depiction of entertainment in nature has been documented as far back as 1500 BC.


The Oldest Amusement Park In The U.S

Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut. Pleasure Gardens - the forerunner of Amusement Parks In America

Did you know that Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut is the oldest amusement park in the U.S.? It’s been around since 1846 when Samuel Botsford organized a public demonstration of electricity experiments on Gad Norton’s property. It drew thousands of spectators. Norton was inspired to install picnic tables, and set up a path around the lake. These enhancements, including swimming and row boats, allowed people to more fully enjoy the property.

Knott’s Berry Farm, America’s first theme park, began as “The Knott’s Berry Farm” in 1889. During the 1920s, Walter and his wife Cordelia sold various berry products. These included fresh berries, preserves, and pies, from a roadside stand.

Knott's Berry Farm, America's first theme park.

The Ferris Wheel

The name "Ferris wheel" originated from its creator, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. Pleasure Gardens - the forerunner of Amusement Parks In America
The original Chicago Ferris Wheel, built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

The name “Ferris wheel” originated from its creator, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. He built one of the first examples for the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in Chicago in 1893. First known as “Pleasure wheels,” its passengers rode in chairs suspended from large wooden rings. The rings were turned by strong men, the attraction may have originated in 17th-century Bulgaria.

George was a structural engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While he was inspecting steel for the fair when he came up with the idea for a massive metal wheel. He presented it to Daniel Burnham, the lead architect for the fair, who had requested a standout structure. Burnham and his colleagues hoped that the Ferris wheel would be as impressive as the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower had been built for the 1889 Exposition in Paris.

Of the numerous proposals for Chicago’s spectacular attraction, nothing captured the imagination quite like the “Chicago Wheel.” George’s enormous vertical structure rotated around a center axle. It featured 36 gondolas capable of holding up to 60 people each—for a total capacity of 2,160 people. Although it wasn’t the first amusement wheel, Burnham was skeptical about the feasibility of constructing such a large-scale structure. George had to conduct numerous safety studies, which he financed himself, before finally convincing Burnham that the structure was achievable. Eventually, in 1893, George succeeded in building the attraction, giving birth to the iconic Ferris wheel.


The 1920’s

During the 1920s, amusement parks expanded throughout the United States. As the middle class expanded, the demand for leisure and entertainment, particularly thrilling rides, increased. This led to the establishment of amusement parks like Cedar Point in Ohio, Kennywood in Pittsburgh, and Hersheypark in Philadelphia.


Mickey Mouse Village Amusement Park

The decade of the 1950s saw the peak of the amusement parks industry in America. New rides such as the Wild Mouse roller-coaster, Tilt-a-Whirl spinning cars, and Scrambler thrilled visitors. Disney opened its California and Florida theme parks during the 1950s. This changed the face of the amusement park industry forever, with innovations in rides, themes, and storytelling concepts. Disney had initially set out to build what he called a “Mickey Mouse Village,” which eventually became Disneyland.

The company’s artists, designers, and engineers were bringing to life. Walt Disney’s vision of creating an amusement park with themes, such as Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland. Disney was involved in every detail and pushed to make sure visitors could experience walking into their favorite Disney films.

Walt Disney, Disney Land.

In the 1970s and 1980s

Theme parks built bigger, faster rides. Rides like The Beast at Kings Island with the longest wooden roller coaster in the world! For nearly five decades, the Great American Scream Machine has stood as a beloved symbol at Six Flags Over Georgia. This timeless wooden roller coaster has become an iconic landmark, delighting countless riders with its thrilling and unforgettable experience. Disney opened Epcot Center in Florida, based on the concepts of Internationality and progress. Universal Studios also opened its first theme park in California. Today, the amusement park industry continues to flourish, with technology revolutionizing the rides and attractions. Parks have evolved beyond mere roller coasters.Now offering a plethora of water-based rides, virtual reality experiences, and captivating animatronics attractions.

The Beast is a wooden roller coaster.
The Beast is a wooden roller coaster located at Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio. The ride, which cost approximately $3 million to construct and was built on 35 acres of hilly terrain, opened in 1979 as the tallest, fastest, and longest wooden roller coaster in the world. It still holds the record for being the longest, with a length of 7,361 feet, even after many years. Additionally, its duration—more than four minutes long—also ranks as one of the longest among roller coasters.

The Amusement Park, An American Tradition

Amusement and theme parks have become an American tradition, enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. We hope this brief journey of amusement and theme parks in America has brought back many happy memories!


Let Amazing Destinations take care of all the details and help you plan your next trip. We go to over 20 exciting amusement parks! We also offer group packages to such as American Dream Mall, Nickelodeon Universe, DreamWorks Waterpark, and much more!. Amazing Destinations, “We Take You There!” Contact Us today.

Read Our Reviews

Amazing Destinations, LTD is rated 4.88 out of 5.0 stars based on 25 review(s).

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Cathy, The kids had a great time and it was a good experience for all. The drivers were efficient and very kind to the kids. They were always on schedule and very safe. The school is very happy and we are already talking about Boston in the fall. A. Murry Bergtraum H.S.

- A. Murry

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On behalf of the seniors from Fred Samuel Resident Association, Inc and the Upper Harlem seniors, Ôthank youÕ for a glorious trip. We were most impressed with the bus ride there and back (with Abraham our driver) and the service that you provided us throughout the contract and beyond. We look forward to working with you again next year.Ó D. Blackwell Fred Samuel Resident Association, Inc.

- D. Blackwell

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Good afternoon Cathy, Our group had such an amazing time. Thank you so much for such a smooth, fun trip. We will definitely be using Amazing Destinations in the near future.Ó J. Garcia Selfhelp Community Services

- J. Garcia

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Good Afternoon, I want to take time to say Thank You for all you have done for myself and the Seniors here at Highbridge Garden Senior Center. We had a great summer and I hope things will continue. Steve And Cathy you guys are the best!Ó N. Smith Highbridge Garden Senior Center

- N. Smith

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Amazing Destinations is the best. They work with you in all ways possible to make sure you have a great trip. They have top of the line buses n driversÉ After working with Cathy n Steve you will have gained new friends besides. K. Giannone St. Adalbert

- K. Giannone

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We finally went on our Group Bus trip to Sight & Sound Theater to see Queen Esther this past weekend, we had cancelled this trip due to Covid and our church group of 37 were extremely excited to get back on the road and Amazing Destinations came through for us. Amazing Destinations had every COVID-19 measure in place to ensure a safe experience from the time the Bus arrived to restaurant and theater. B. Simpson First Baptist Church

- B. Simpson

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Our family of 28 total passengers wanted to get out and travelÉ we called Amazing Destinations and they put together a fabulous day trip for usÉ Hand sanitizer was available for all of us. We felt extremely safe on the busÉ I will continue to use Amazing Destinations for all future travel plans. Thanks to Cathy you are amazing. M. Jones Custom Family Tour

- M. Jones

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Cathy, Hi Cathy! I just wanted to thank you Ð we had a great trip! Students and teachers all had a blast. On another note, I wanted to say how happy I was in particular with the bus company, especially my driver Benitio. I have an infant at home that I am breast feeding. He gave me full range of his busÉ and was very accommodating. We will talk next year! Thank you! T. Johnson Assistant Principal

- T. Johnson

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Good morning, Thank you again for another wonderful trip. Everything was flawless as always and everyone had a great time. Looking forward to more trips in the future. D. Stewart St. Paul's Community Church

- D. Stewart

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Hello Cathy,É Thank you again for booking us to see Moses, all our guests were very pleased. So now we want to see DanielÉÓ Destination: Sight & Sound Theatre H. Smith Church of the New Vision

- H. Smith

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Good afternoon, The trip was planned perfectly as far as timing and logistics were concerned. The activities were great and kept the attention of the students. Plenty to eat for all and some fun with the educational aspect, we greatly appreciated the organization from your company and look forward to the other trips we have booked with you! Sybil Harry S. Truman H.S.

- Sybil

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Hi Steve, The restaurant was nicely set up and they were ready for us even though we were a little early... Kudos to the bus driver, Jesse. His service to our seniors was excellent. The play was great so much so, that one of the stars came on board our bus before we left to thank us for coming and how much they enjoyed our being there. Looking forward to our trip in September! Ruth 55+ Club

- Ruth

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On time and on schedule

- Kevin O’Keefe

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Timely and professional service!!

- Jennifer Mitchener

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Cathy, The kids had a great time and it was a good experience for all. The drivers were efficient and very kind to the kids. They were always on schedule and very safe. The school is very happy and we are already talking about Boston in the fall. Thank you very much! A. Pajares

- A. Pajares

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Hi Cathy! I just wanted to thank you - we had a great trip! Students and teachers all had a blast. On another note I wanted to say how happy I was, in particular, with the bus company especially my driver Benitio. I have an infant at home that I am breast feeding. He gave me full range of his bus so that I could pump. He took his stuff and napped on one of the other guy's busses, showed me how to work the door and was very accommodating. We will talk next year! Thank you! T. Johnson

- D. Boody

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Dear Steve and Cathy, Before I begin my day here, I just had to take a moment to thank you for a LOVELY Trip. The buses were absolutely Gorgeous, the food on the boat was somewhat better than last year, the music was so much better, we danced and danced. Everyone complimented me on this trip even when I went to church yesterday. I really enjoyed this this year, and I am certain they will talk me into doing this again next year, but we must have the SAME BUSES. Thank you both for making this trip a TOTAL SUCCESS, can’t wait to plan our next adventure. Diana

- Diana

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Cathy, Marie is elated at how well everything went! We had a great time and everything worked out perfectly. The bus driver and tour guide were fabulous. We are looking forward to our next trip in October. Thank you so very much. Beth

- Beth

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Good morning Steve, Thanks for an excellent trip, not one problem. The bus and driver was top notch. The driver was one of the best I have encountered during my forty odd years of coach traveling. Four stars for Amazing Destinations! Thanks and have a great day. R. Scotto

- R. Scotto

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Hi Cathy, Just an update of our trip to Holiday Hills. We had a ball and my seniors had a wonderful time, Our driver Henry was the best and we are requesting him for our September 17th trip to MT. Airy Casino. We already spoke to him and he said he would be more than happy to be our driver. Please see what you can do and I will remind you ahead of time. Again thank you for all your help with our trips. We still want to go to Villa Roma in December. Have a wonderful day. Thank you, D. Johnson

- D. Johnson

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Hello Steve & Cathy, Hope all's well. Just a short note to thank you for all you've done to make our Lake George trip enjoyable. You are the best.....courteous, reliable, and accommodating. ...all in all, everything was great. Our driver Kevin was very nice. Again, thank you and we are certainly looking forward to doing more business with you next year. Best regards, C. Springer

- C. Springer

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Hi Cathy hope all is well! Everyone had such a wonderful time yesterday during the Joseph trip. Now that we have finished with this trip, I would like to get information regarding the Samson show. Also, with the response being so great from this trip, I'm actually considering booking two buses if that's at all possible. Looking forward to hearing from you. Best wishes, Arianny

- Arianny

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Good Afternoon, Just wanted to let you know...on behalf of my staff, students and parents...THANK YOU!! We had an INCREDIBLE TIME in Washington DC! The drivers were very respectful and courteous to all our needs. Our parents and students really enjoyed the food and hospitality at Golden Corral. Mr. Scott the tour guide, truly enhanced the experience of the tour with his knowledge and friendly nature. We must, must do it again! Next yea, we are thinking about touring Philadelphia! Once again, Thank You! R. Peay

- R. Peay

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Good evening Steve and Kathy, I just wanted to say a very big 'Thank You'!!! Our trip was truly 'AMAZING'. From beginning to end the trip was awesome. Our driver, Mr Benito arrived on time and was perfect through out the trip. He drove with ease and got us to all of our destinations on time. The bus was perfect and everything we discussed was given to us. Our group had a beautiful time at the museum and the MLK memorial. Our tour guide Ms. Lynette was awesome. Her knowledge of Washington DC was phenomenal. As a first time trip planner you both helped me plan a trip that was just awesome. A great time was had by all. Even when we had a little 'bump in the road' you both made it your priority to contact me and the restaurant and speak on our group's behalf to solve the problem and to apologize for the restaurant's error. I really want to thank you both for that. Sincerely, D. Brewster

- D. Brewster

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Hi Cathy & Steve, A great big 'Thank you' to both of you for working with me and organizing my weekend getaway to the Baltimore Crabfeast on July 29-30. We had a blast!!! From beginning to end, everything was wonderful. The bus, the hotel, the service. You guys rock. I definitely want to book the trip again for next year. As soon as you get your dates and rates for next year, please let me know so that I can start early. Thanks again. V. Proctor

- V. Proctor