Oldest Amusement Parks in the United States

10 Oldest Amusement Parks in the United States

Although Disneyland and Disneyworld are the most popular amusement parks in the United States and the world, they are certainly not the oldest in the country. In fact, all of the amusement parks on this list have both Disney theme parks beat by decades, and the oldest American amusement park dates back to over a century before Disneyland made its debut in 1955.

While all of the amusement parks on this list are incredibly old and some have had closures, all of them are up and running today. Many of these old American amusement parks also still have some of their original rides. All of these amusement parks are seasonal and typically operate during the summer months through early fall.

10. Conneaut Lake Park

Year Opened: 1892
Location:  Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA
Operating Season:  May – October
Area:  200 acres (0.81 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  27
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  3

Conneaut Lake Parkphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via Jhardz1

Conneaut Lake Park was opened in 1892 as Exposition Park in Pennsylvania. Although Conneuat Lake Park has been in operation for over 126 years, not much has changed and the park retains much of its 19th century charm. The first ride at Conneaut Lake Park was opened in 1899 and was a carousel manufactured by the T.M. Harton Company.

A few years later, Conneaut Lake Park added its first roller coaster, “3 Way Figure 8 Toboggan Slide”, which was later renamed “Figure 8.” Like some of the other amusement parks on this list, Conneauat Lake Park went through some low points and was not opened for a few seasons. However, in recent years many of Conneaut Lake Park’s attractions have been updated and the park is still open today.

Did You Know?

Conneaut Lake Park is home to an historic hotel, the Hotel Conneaut, which contains a wing from the original 1893 hotel.

9. Arnolds Park

Year Opened: 1889
Location:  Arnolds Park, Iowa, USA
Operating Season:  May – September
Area:  Unspecified
Total No. of Attractions:  30+
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  1

Arnolds Parkphoto source:  Flickr via Martin Lewison

Arnolds Park in a town with the same name in Iowa was established as an amusement park in 1889 when owner Wesley Arnold built a wooden, 60-foot toboggan-style waterslide on the south shore of West Lake Okoboji. The Arnold’s property had been open to large private parties to camp, hunt, and fish since the 1870s. A decade later, Arnold built a hotel and his daughter, Hattie and her friend Ida Lewis, decided to dub the property Arnolds Park and the name stuck.

Following the toboggan waterslide, Arnold added more attractions and continued to build up the park until his death in 1905. Arnold left the park to his daughters who added even more attractions and amusements. Following a brief closure in 1988, Arnolds Park was purchased by a group of investors the following year, who revitalized the park. In 1999, Arnolds Park came very close to once again being shut down, but the park was saved after $7.25 million was raised.

Did You Know?

In addition to traditional amusement park attractions, Arnolds Park has a popular Maritime Museum, which contains rare artifacts and information about the Iowa Great Lakes.

8. Lagoon

Year Opened: July 15, 1886
Location:  Farmington, Utah, USA
Operating Season:  late March – October
Area:  95 acres (0.38 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  53
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  10

photo source:  Flickr via Ben P L

Lagoon is the oldest amusement park in the western part of the United States and was opened in Farmington, Utah in 1886. The park was originally called Lake Park and was located on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. In 1899, the park was moved to Farmington and renamed Lagoon. That same year, the park’s first thrill ride, Shoot-the-Chutes, was opened.

In 1921 Lagoon opened its first roller coaster, which is still in use today and one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters. Lagoon added more attractions over the following decades until a large portion of the park was burned down in 1953. However, Lagoon was quickly rebuilt and expanded with new attractions.

Did You Know?

Lagoon has become known for its unique roller coasters, including its most recent addition, Cannibal, which features a 208 foot (63.4 meters) tower, a 116 degree inverted dive, and reaches speeds up to 70 mph (112.7 km/h).

7. Coney Island

Year Opened: June 21, 1886
Location:  Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Operating Season:  May – October
Area:  Unspecified
Total No. of Attractions:  24
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  1

Coney Islandphoto source:  Flickr via Jeremy Thompson

Not to be confused with the more famous Coney Island in New York, the Coney Island amusement park is the second oldest amusement park in the state of Ohio. Coney Island was opened on June 21, 1886 by the Ohio Grove Corporation and initially had a long name: Ohio Grove, the Coney Island of the West. A year later, the park’s name was (smartly) shortened to just Coney Island.

In 1893, Lake Como was built at Coney Island and new attractions were also added to the park. Roller coasters were first opened at Coney Island in 1911 and a few more were built in the following years. Coney Island was in continuous operation until 1971 and remained closed, except for the Sunlite Pool, until the mid-1970s. Since then, Coney Island has remained opened and has had numerous upgrades over the years.

Did You Know?

Although Coney Island had more roller coasters in the past, today the park only has one, the Python.

6. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom

Year Opened: 1884
Location:  Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA
Operating Season:  May – October
Area:  200 acres (0.81 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  47
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  7

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdomphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom was officially opened as an amusement park in 1884, but traces its history much further. Original owner, Solomon Dorney, built a fish hatchery on the property in 1860, but soon realized that his estate would be better off as a public attraction. In the 1870s, Dorney added games, small playground rides, refreshment stands, and even built a hotel and restaurant. Dorney also added a small zoo.

In the following years, Dorney brought in numerous mechanical rides and attractions in 1884, he renamed the park to Dorney’s Trout Ponds and Summer Resort. In 1901, Dorney sold the park and the new owners continued to add more rides and attractions. Today, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom remains as a popular attraction in the area.

Did You Know?

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom is home to one of the world’s oldest roller coasters still in operation, Thunderhawk, which was completely refurbished in 2016.

5. Seabreeze Amusement Park

Year Opened: August 5, 1879
Location:  Irondequoit, New York, USA
Operating Season:  May – September
Area:  Unspecified
Total No. of Attractions:  35
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  4

photo source:  Wikimedia Commons

Like most of the amusement parks on this list, Seabreeze Amusement Park was initially a recreational park where people came to have picnics and enjoy activities on the lake. Not long after, mechanical rides were added to Seabreeze and the park’s first carousel was added to the park in 1900.

In the 1920s, Seabreeze was expanded even more and four roller coasters were opened, including the park’s iconic Jack Rabbit coaster, which is still in operation today. From 1940 until the 1970s, the park’s name was changed to Dreamland, but name was changed back to Seabreeze following a number of slow years. In recent years, Seabreeze has been updated and now has the Whirlwind spinning coaster and Hydro Racer waterslide complex.

Did You Know?

Seabreeze is still run by descendants of the Long family, who took over the park in the early 1900s.

4. Idlewild and Soak Zone

Year Opened: May 1, 1878
Location:  Irondequoit, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, USA
Operating Season:  May – October
Area:  Unspecified
Total No. of Attractions:  40
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  2

Idlewild and Soak Zonephoto source:  Flickr via Jeremy Thompson

Idlewild and Soak Zone, commonly called just Idlewild, was opened for the first time to the public on May 1, 1878. The land’s owner, William Darlington, granted Judge Thomas Mellon, owner of the Ligonier Valley Railroad, “the right and privilege to occupy his land for picnic purposes or pleasure grounds.” Under the agreement, campgrounds, an artificial lake for boating and fishing, a large hall, and picnic tables were added to Darlington’s property.

Although Idlewild was fairly popular, improvements and more amusements were not added to the park until the 1930s. Many of the attractions added during this time are still at Idlewild today. Idlewild continued to grow over the next few decades and its official name was changed to Idlewild and Soak Zone in the 1990s.

Did You Know?

Idlewild and Soak Zone has received the Golden Ticket Award – the highest honor in the amusement park industry – for Best Children’s Park every year since 2010.

3. Six Flags New England

Year Opened: 1870
Location:  Agawam, Massachusetts, USA
Operating Season:  April – late December
Area:  235 acres (0.95 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  63
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  12

Six Flags New Englandphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via milst1

Six Flags New England was originally opened as a public park called Gallup’s Grove in 1870 in Agawam, Massachusetts. Since the original park dates back to the 19th century, Six Flags New England is officially the oldest amusement park under the Six Flags umbrella. The park did not become a Six Flags until 1999 after its owner, Premier Parks, acquired Six Flags from Time Warner a year before.

In the early 1900s, the first rides were added to the park and in 1912 the first roller coaster, The Giant Dip, was opened. After this, the park changed its name to the Riverside Amusement Park, which remained until it was converted into a Six Flags. While Six Flags New England is one of the oldest American amusement park, it hasn’t always been in operation and was closed for a few years in the 1930s following the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Did You Know?

The Illions Carousel, which was installed in 1909, is still in operation and located right at the entrace of Six Flags New England.

2. Cedar Point

Year Opened: 1870
Location:  Sandusky, Ohio, USA
Operating Season:  May – October
Area:  364 acres (1.47 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  71
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  18

Cedar Pointphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via Gregory Varnum

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio calls itself the second oldest amusement park in America as well as “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World!®” Currently, Cedar Point has 18 different roller coasters, which is quite impressive. In addition to its numerous roller coasters, Cedar Point also has a variety of family friendly rides and also a water park.

Cedar Point was first opened to the public in 1870 as a bathing beach. A decade later, a dance hall and bathhouses were added. In 1892, Cedar Point’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, was opened and it was 25 feet (7.62 meters) tall and reached a top speed of 10 mph (16.1 km/h). Over the years, Cedar Point has achieved various feats with its roller coasters, such as opening Steel Vengeance – the tallest, fastest, longest, steepest hybrid roller coaster on Earth – in 2018.

Did You Know?

Cedar Point has six roller coasters that are taller than 200 feet (~61 meters) and was the first amusement park in the world to make this achievement.

1. Lake Compounce

Year Opened: 1846
Location:  Bristol, Connecticut, USA
Operating Season:  May – December
Area:  332 acres (1.34 km²)
Total No. of Attractions:  55
Total No. of Roller Coasters:  13

Lake Compouncephoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via Wildcat1

Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut, is the oldest amusement park in the United States. Lake Compounce traces its origins back to 1846, when Samuel Botsford, an influential Bristol scientist, persuaded property owner Gad Norton to allow him to hold a public demonstration of electricity experiments on his land. The event brought in thousands of spectators and Norton was inspired to install picnic tables, set up a path around the lake, and allowed people to swim or row boats in the water.

Over the next few years, small attractions and rides were added to Lake Compounce and the spot became a popular local hangout. In 1895, the first permanent building, called the Casino, was opened at Lake Compounce and had a ballroom and restaurant. Around this time, the first amusement park ride, a carousel, was added to Lake Compounce. Over the next few decades, Lake Compounce continued to expand and the amusement park has been in continuous operation since it first opened to the public in 1846.

Did You Know?

Lake Compounce is home to the Boulder Dash, which was voted the world’s No. 1 Wooden Coaster.



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