Themeparks have been entertaining both kids and adults for centuries and we look at some of the oldest and most-loved amusement parks in the world.
Bakken, Klampenberg, Denmark
About 10km north of the Danish capital of Copenhagen is the oldest amusement park in the world: Bakken. Translated it means ‘the hill’ and opened way back in 1583. It’s been entertaining an ever changing crowd for 430 years and has seen trends come and go. Built on natural springs, the area attracted hoards of locals keen to access better water, which in turn enticed hawkers and entertainers who performed for the locals, and which evolved into the earliest amusement park.
Today Bakken has 6 rollercoasters including the wooden Rutschebanen which opened in 1932. There are also the ubiquitous bumper cars, go carts and log flume rides. There are also specially designated children’s rides and each summer Bakken hosts the Circus Revue show.
Prater, Vienna, Austria
The Wurstelprater amusement park, which is often just shorted to the Prater, is located within Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district. The site evolved from a park, which the Emperor declared public in 1766 in order to quash the activities of poachers. He encouraged cafes and traders, which saw the area become an amusement park.
Today the Prater offers a wide array of thrilling rides and attractions, from the hair-raising 70kmp Megablitz rollercoaster to the scary sounding Ejection Seat, which is likened to a NASA test plant. There are also nostalgia rides including the haunted house, miniature golf and carousel. Kids are well catered for too with the bouncy castles, merry-go-round and hippodrome.
Vidám Park, Budapest, Hungary
Within Budapest’s City Park is a castle, circus and the Vidam Amusement Park. The vast public park has something for everyone and the Budapest Amusement Park, aka Vidám Park has been entertaining visitors for centuries. The main draw is the Hullámvasút rollercoaster which was constructed in 1922 and rises to 17 meters. The park focuses on its heritage and the 1906 merry-go-round and 1912 cave railway evoke nostalgia in the Hungarians.
Blackgang Chine Amusement Park, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Located on the south coast of the Isle of Wight is the traditional Blackgang Chine themepark. Chine means ‘coastal ravine’ and this park certainly lives up to its name – located atop a cliff, the park has several times had to move further inland following landslides caused by coastal erosion.
Geared up for families, there are six lands of imagination, including cowboy, fantasy and dinosaur land. The fun rides include snakes and ladders and water force. There’s plenty to keep kids entertained all year round too with the intriguing Hell’s Mouth and Jonah’s Whale amusements.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
One of the most popular amusement parks in Europe, Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843 and is busier than the Bakken Park (see above). Over 4 million thrill seeking travellers visited the Copenhagen-based amusement park last year, which makes it the fourth busiest amusement park in Europe. Tivoli is best known for its traditional wooden rollercoaster the Rutschebanen which opened in 1914. There are a further 4 rollercoasters, in addition to The Star Flyer – the tallest carousel ride in the world. There are also the usual themepark favourites such as the Ferris Wheel, the Monsoon giant swing and the Spinning Top.
Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut, USA
And now over to the United States of America for the oldest amusement park in the Americas. Lake Compounce opened in 1846 in New England and combines themepark, waterpark and beach. There are more than forty different attractions including three rollercoasters: the newest coaster Boulder Dash has a terrifying 120-foot (37 m) first drop and the 1927 Wildcat focusses on the park’s heritage with its original wooden boards. Compounce also features the favourites such as the Pirate Ship, Skyride chair lift and Twister.
Hanayashiki, Tokyo, Japan
The oldest amusement park in Asia is Hanayashiki in Japan which opened in 1853. Originally a flower park in the late Edo period, Hanayashiki evolved into a mini zoo and witnessed the birth of tiger quintuplets in 1923 and the birth of the first lion cub in Jopana in 1931.
Today the park offers 20 different rides including a Ghost Mansion, Bee Tower that overlooks Asakusa and the Surprising House that spins around.