Smaller theme parks maintain a family-feel with vintage and modern attractions.
Far from the madding crowd of big-name amusement parks, dozens of slower-paced, family-style and nostalgic operations dot America with enough charm and attractions to take home a lifetime of large memories. Derek Sailors of North Carolina, who has worked on the encyclopedic Roller Coaster DataBase for years, started his own Facebook page, to boost those sites, including Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and preserve the heritage (he also runs pages for zoos, road trips, and defunct amusement parks). Here are some of his top picks:
Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa. This family-owned operation founded in 1926 is a big park with a small-park Americana feel. Admission is free, with individual prices for each of more than 60 rides, including three wooden roller coasters, a 1913 Grand Carousel, two miniature railways, and a dark haunted house. The compound includes a swimming pool, golf course, campground and restaurants.
Canobie Lake Park, Salem, N.H. This smaller theme park was founded by the Hudson, Pelham & Salem Railways at the end of a new trolley line in 1902. Visitors in those days dressed up for a day of picnicking, sporting events, canoeing, the Penny Arcade, and a ride on the Circle Swing. Attractions today include thrill rides such as the Yankee Cannonball rollercoaster and spinning Ice Jet, family rides including a 1903 carousel and 40-foot pontoon boat, kids’ rides, water rides, arcade games and live shows.
Seabreeze, Rochester, N.Y. This park was founded in 1879 as the last stop on a steam train line with picnic grounds and a lakefront. Mechanical rides were added, including a carousel in 1900. In addition to the vintage 1920 Jack Rabbit rollercoaster, Seabreeze has modern thrill rides, family rides, kids’ rides, a water park, shows and games.
Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Arnolds Park, Iowa. Wesley Arnold bought land on the south shore of West Lake Okoboji in 1864 and started entertaining visitors on the Milwaukee Railroad in 1874. Community leaders raised $7.25 million in 1999 to save the park from demolition and build a Maritime Museum. In addition to a full range of rides, the park hosts concerts and shows and runs a large steamer ship, Queen II, on the lake.
Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park, Rossville, Ga. Lake Winnie opened in 1925, focused at first on water-related attraction. The Boat Chute, installed two years later, is the oldest still-operating mill chute water ride in the United States. The site also has a 1916 carousel, an open-air theater, a water park, and a Cannonball rollercoaster installed in 1967.