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What is America's Oldest Amusement Park?

A roller coaster at an amusement park.
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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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Lake Compounce, America's oldest continuously operating amusement park, has been entertaining families since 1895, when a small complex containing a casino, restaurant, and ballroom were built on the park's premises. Even before it was an amusement park, throughout the American Civil War era, the park was a popular swimming and picnicking spot, where people could take to the lake rowing or simply sit in the lakeside gazebo and enjoy the view. Lake Compounce covers 332 acres (1.3 kmĀ²) of wild land in Bristol, Connecticut.

It wasn't until 1911 that the first official amusement park ride was opened. The carousel, which is now in the National Register of Historic Places, was hand-carved and cost over $10,000 US Dollars (USD) to produce. Three years later, the Green Dragon, one of the first electric roller coasters in the nation, made its debut. The coaster was torn down in 1926 to made space for the Wildcat, one of the world's oldest wooden roller coasters, which is still running to this day. The amusement park now holds forty rides, including four roller coasters.

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The amusement park is also home to some unusual rides, including an authentic 1911 open-air trolley that passengers can ride around the park; a Mark Twain-inspired stern wheeler; the Thunder Rapids water ride; the Zoomer's Gas N' Go, which features 1956's Corvette reproductions riding around a themed locale; and a steam railroad covering hundreds of miles of the park's surface. A large water park, known as Splash Harbor, runs along Lake Compounce. Both parks offer a great Halloween experience, where rides are run in the dark and most corners are turned into hunted attractions.

In 2004, the Lake Compounce amusement park won the Golden Ticket Award for the world's best wooden roller coaster. The Boulder Dash coaster is built right on a mountainside, where it dashes around trees and boulders at 60mph. The amusement park also features many kid-size attractions, including mascots, magic acts, singers and dancers, and the occasional appearance of cartoon characters. Lake Compounce is also famous for giving away free Pepsi to visitors.

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anon278237
Post 7

Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio near Cleveland constructed its first ride in 1889. Cedar Point didn't construct its first ride until 1892. In 2007, Geauga Lake was shut down by the same man who owned Cedar Point. Hardly a coincidence.

Although a water park still exists on the property, the rides were removed in 2008 after most were sold and some went to scrap like the seven-year-old Villain coaster. All that is left today is the aging Big Dipper built in 1925. Hopefully Geauga Lake will once again be able to be called one of the oldest operating parks in the country.

anon274618
Post 6

@anon 25352: You are probably correct, but there's another category. Lake Compounce opened in 1846, Riverside in Agawam in 1840, a difference of 55 years? Further, Lake Compounce is America's oldest continuously operated park. It was always open in one form or another at least part of every year since 1846.

Riverside was closed from 1933 to 1939. Look it up. My wife and I live five miles from Lake Compounce, and we always get seasons passes. My grandparents and aunts and uncles went there to dance in the 20's and 30's, and they told me the history!

anon197366
Post 5

well, what about canobie lake park which opened in 1902?

anon106387
Post 4

Cedar Point is the second oldest park in the USA.

anon80495
Post 3

There were no rides in the 1800s at this lake compounce park. What about Cedar Point amusement park - is that older?

anon35478
Post 2

I'm just curious -- in terms of America's older amusement parks, where does Cedar Point fit in?

anon25352
Post 1

I'm sorry to inform you but this article is wrong. Six Flags New England Park in Agawam, MA opened in 1840, which is 55 years earlier. I am from Agawam and not only went there, but worked there as a teenager, and loved the Thunderbolt.(haha) So I know the history of it.

Moderator's reply: I conducted a bit of my own research, and it appears that Riverside Park, which later became Six Flags was established in 1840 as a picnic area. No rides where installed until after the turn of the century. It is, however, the oldest of the Six Flags chain of amusement parks. Thanks for sharing your story!

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