Childrearing

What Happened To Amusement Parks?

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I’m in Colorado right now on vacation with my family. Last night we went with a ton of cousins to Lakeside Amusement Park. I am not sure my children have ever had such fun in their lives. Lakeside is a family-owned park near Denver that opened over 100 years ago. It was originally built in the Exposition and White City architectural styles but then had a renovation in the 30s that gave it much of its current Art Deco look. Architect Richard Crowther is responsible for much of that look.

The park has a Kiddie Land section with 15 rides for the preschool set. These include motorcycles, a ferris wheel, boats, airplanes, more airplanes and even a roller coaster. We brought in our own food and parked our cooler, frequently unattended, at a pavilion nearby.

My girls got unlimited use of the Kiddie Land for $6. Six dollars! The larger section of the park has a roller coaster called the Cyclone — all wooden and an amazing ride — and something called the Wild Chipmunk — a sort of individual roller coaster that should be renamed The Whiplash.

Other highlights include a 22″ gauge lake-circling miniature railway train featuring steam locomotives “Puffy Billy” and “Whistling Tom” that came from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The 1908-built carousel was made with figures from other carousels and seem to have been carved by Charles I. D. Looff.

Last night the park was full of families and the kind of families that appreciate $6 unlimited rides passes to an amusement park. Real people. My extended family was all able to come and have a blast.

But this type of experience is unthinkable back where I live in Washington, D.C. I mean, we do have some horrific excuse for an amusement park, by which I mean it’s filthy, a Six Flags outfit, expensive as all get out, full of thugs and a trek to get to. Denver, has a nicer, cleaner version of that with its Elitch’s Six Flags park.

But what happened to just cool amusement parks like Lakeside where older boys could take girls on dates or young families could have some cheap, clean fun? We had family there last night that ranged in age from their 60s to age one. I can barely think of any other place that our whole family could have gone and everyone could have had so much fun. It’s really shame there aren’t more places that cater to entertaining whole families.

Where do you go when you want to take the whole family? Are there other great activity spots out there that I just don’t know about?