From Gardens to Rollercoasters: A Brief History of Amusement Parks
Throughout history, humans have always craved a sense of thrill and an affinity for different forms of entertainment and attraction at all different scales and sizes. Theme parks have continuously evolved, as society redefines what it means to be entertained, and have transformed from evening strolls into physics-defying twists and turns on state-of-the-art rollercoasters.
Long before what we know them to be today, the theme park concept emerged in Europe during the Renaissance era. Taking on the form of themed festivals usually timed around religious holidays and seasonal harvests, crowds gathered in public squares to share food, marvel at foreign objects, participate in games such as javelin throwing and archery, and of course, watch knights joust. Towards the 18th century, pleasure gardens replaced these historic fairs as a way to entertain the middle class. These gardens featured heavily designed parks where guests could walk around, listen to live music, watch dancers and acrobats perform, and finish the evening with extravagant firework shows. They quickly evolved into socialite events where people would show off their fanciest clothes and where artists and architects would exhibit their newest work. These pleasure gardens jumped across the pond and caught on in New York City, which soon added small rides to these events, including the first carousel in North America.
Eventually, the pleasure garden concept declined in popularity and the rise of the types of theme parks that closely align with what we are familiar with today began to spring up across the United States. Many of the American trolley car systems that operated during the late 1800s