10 classic Amusement Park Rides from the distant past...that you can still ride!
Amusement parks, in one form or the other, have been around since the Middle Ages. In America, the late 19th and early 20th century saw the first ones established. In 1890's Chicago, the Water Chute was opened as the nation's first amusement park. New York's Coney Island followed, and is perhaps the most famous, with its wooden Cyclone roller coaster. Disneyland in California opened in 1955, and is known as America's first "theme Park."
Although parks and rides have changed, upgraded and gotten super-sophisticated, there are some classic rides still in operation that continue to pack quite a thrill - and some history.
1. WILDCAT (LAKE COMPOUNCE), BRISTOL, CT
Opening in 1846, Lake Compounce is the oldest continually operating amusement park in North America. The Wildcat is a wooden rollercoaster built in 1927, and the centerpiece of the park. It may not be as fancy as some modern coasters, but just think of the folks who screamed themselves hoarse over the years. And, let's just say it: "built in 1927."
2. ANTIQUE CAROUSEL (LAKE COMPOUNCE), BRISTOL, CT
Authentic wooden carousels are super-rare. This park has one of the hundred or so remaining. It was built in 1898, and moved to Lake Compounce in 1911. Oh, what those painted horsies must have seen over all those yearsâ€¦.
3. CYCLONE (LUNA PARK) CONEY ISLAND, NY
It made its debut in 1927 - and is considered the Mother of American rollercoasters. This wooden marvel gives you a great view as you reach 85 feet - but make it quick: you'll be dropping and rolling at 60 mph before you can scream "New York, New York!"
4. WONDER WHEEL (DENO'S WONDER WHEEL AMUSEMENT PARK), CONEY ISLAND, NY
This iconic Ferris wheel opened for business on Memorial Day, 1920. Soaring 15 stories high, the building of the ride was overseen by 18 former construction guys. It's maintained a perfect safety record ever since, getting annual overhauls. And its inspired numerous copycats around the world.
5. JACK RABBIT (SEABREEZE) ROCHESTER, NY
The park itself was built in 1879. This coaster was built in 1920 and is the oldest continually operating rollercoaster in America. The wooden tracks provide a 75-foot drop, crazy curves and a killer finish - through a super-dark tunnel. 'Cause the '20s didn't play around.
6. BLUE STREAK (CONNEAUT LAKE PARK), CONNEAUT LAKE , PA
This wooden rollercoaster was built in 1937, and is the 17th oldest wooden coaster in America. If you're expecting it to be painted blue, you'll be disappointed: it was named for the local high school teams, the Blue Streaks. It's been declared a "Coaster Landmark."
7. THUNDERHAWK (DORNEY PARK), ALLENTOWN, PA
This coaster ride opened in 1923, and is the park's oldest coaster. But it's also the second oldest toboggan-style coaster in the world. For the minute and a half you're on the ride, imagine what people back in the day felt as they hit a cruising speed of 45 mph.
8. THE WHIP (IDLEWILD), LIGONIER, PA
The park itself is home to tons of classic rides. And the Whip is one of them. Built in 1939, the same year that "Gone with the Wind" won a bunch of Oscars, the simple ride gives a "crack the whip" effect to the folks in its 12 cars. Scarlett O'Hara knows how that feels.
9. CATERPILLAR (IDLEWILD) LIGONIER, PA
Built in 1947, its one of the last remaining rides of its kind. You've got a bunch of cars linked together, hurtling through the darkness on a wild, crazy track - and then a canopy comes down to put you in complete darkness. Good times.
10. MERRY-GO-ROUND (LAGOON PARK), FARMINGTON, UT
It was built in 1893 and was originally powered by mules. This wooden carousel is one of a very few intact ones still in operation. And it's the only wooden merry-go-round in Utah.