The oldest still-operating amusement parks around the globe trace their origins to gardens, hunting grounds, picnic sites, campgrounds and bathing beaches, much as Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park first opened as cave tours in 1895 – within range of the 10 oldest parks in the world.
The Guinness Book of World Records holder, Bakken in Kampenborg, Denmark, opened in 1583 near popular fresh-water springs as a pleasure garden with live entertainment, fireworks, dancing, games and some early rides. That was common in European cities then, but most had closed by the 18th century. Bakken, “The Hill,” is short for Dyrehavsbakken, “The Animal Park’s Hill,” and was a private royal hunting ground until 1756. Its first roller coaster, built in 1932, is still operating.
The second-oldest, Wurstelprater, also known as Prater, in Leopoldstadt, Austria, was also a hunting ground before it opened to the public in 1766. Its top attraction now is Wiener Riesenrad, a Ferris wheel, a Vienna landmark.
The third-oldest, Tivoli Gardens, opened in Copenhagen in 1843 and became so famous that it inspired Walt Disney’s design of Disneyland in 1955. Today, it operates one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters, the Rutschebanen, built in 1914, among its 31 attractions.
The oldest amusement park in the United States, Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn., opened on Oct. 6, 1846, when the public was invited to witness a scientist’s experiments in electricity. It was a picnic ground before attractions were added two years later. Lake Compounce now has 44 rides, including five roller coasters.
Other historic amusement parks ranked by age are:
- Hanayashiki in Tokyo, which was a flower park in 1853 and added amusements in 1872. It now has 20 rides and a popular Ninja training class.
- Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, opened in 1870 as a public bathing beach and added its first roller coaster in 1892, the start of its reputation as Roller Coaster Capital of the World. It now has 16 roller coasters, including five above 200 feet, among its 72 rides.
- Idlewild and Soak Zone, opened as a public campground in 1878 in Ligonier, Pa. It now has 40 rides and a special section inspired by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
- Gröna Lund in Stockholm still operates the Circus Carousel and Fun House from its opening in 1883 among its 31 rides. It is also famous for concerts headlined by such celebrities as Jimi Hendrix, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Bob Marley and ABBA.