Amusement parks: The ride of a lifetime

Many of today’s young people — older folks, too — are attracted to a more extreme form of amusement, Faith Salie among them: 

For decades amusement parks have been a staple of American summers. From the smells of fried sugar to stomach-churning rides, there is just something about them that brings out the kid in us.

Is there anything more fun than a roller coaster ride? “If it is, I haven’t met it yet,” laughed Arthur Levine, a travel writer and theme park enthusiast.

And how many roller coasters has he ridden? “You know, some people obsessively keep track,” Levine said. “I’d venture a guess and say maybe 300, 400, 500. I’m not really sure. But a lot. Let’s just say a lot!”

Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain, a hybrid wood-steel ride with two 80-degree drops that runs as a Möbius-strip, which travel writer Arthur Levine recently ranked as the best roller coaster in the U.S.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Each year more than 335 million people pack America’s 400 amusement parks. But as much as we might consider a visit to one of these parks an American pastime, the world’s oldest amusement park is in Denmark.

Nils Erik Winther is the director of Bakken, the world’s oldest amusement park. Located in Dyrehaven.  Today the park is filled with traditional rides and games. But back when it was founded — 434 years ago — the original attraction was water. A natural spring attracted scores of nearby city dwellers, eager for fresh water. There was nothing else except “Trees, forest,” said Winther.

Merchants and performers soon began entertaining the crowds, laying the foundation for amusement parks. 

Bakken, c. 1825. As the site’s natural spring drew visitors, amusements were built up to entertain them.

Paul Fearn/Alamy Stock Photo

Bakken inspired other cities to create their own…

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