Best Local Theme Park

Gold Reef City Johannesburg is a unique Theme Park in South Africa It has thirty thrilling rides, hotel in Victorian Style and a Casino

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I have to add another vote for The Enchanted Forest in Maryland. Many of the pieces were moved to Clark’s Eliok Farm, worth the trip to see them. The park was also recreated in the movie Crybaby.

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Before Disneyworld and Universal, Florida was full of quirky local amusement areas: Six Gun Territory, Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs, Lion Country Safari, Cypress Gardens and the mermaids at Weeki Wachee. Some are still there, but what I miss the most was a magical monorail ride through the trees in a leaf-shaped monorail at Rainbow Springs. There were no monsters or elves, just a delightful ride. From Wikipedia:
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Knoebels is truly unique. They have a number of old rides, including an antique carousel with the brass ring game. The rumor is they were told they couldn’t recreate a trackless coaster they had decades ago with today’s safety features, so they did it. It took seven years.

There is a game called fascination I’ve never seen before. It’s sort of like skee ball, but you sit at a machine the size of a pinball machine and play against a room full of people doing the same thing.

They have a huge, old-fashioned pool with three diving boards of different heights. I could finally show my son how metal slides are much faster than plastic because they have one in the middle of the pool. I don’t know how tall it is, but it’s at least 10 feet. And it has water streaming down so it doesn’t get as burning hot at they used to, but it is fast.

They also have cabins and camping spots, so families often stay for a week.

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I agree! Knoebels Grove has grown with the times. Yet they retained that “classic” feeling. I’ve been visiting since my childhood in the 50s! I also appreciate that they keep photos and memorabilia in one section. I can recall MANY of the times that Knoebels was flooded because of the creeks that run through the park.

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Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster,Pa. My wife and I went in 1975, went back with our kids in the early 80s, and a few years ago my son took my grandson there!

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I remember going to Belmont Park when it still had several rides left over from the 1950s (or even earlier?). One was a huge wooden disc, lying flat on the ground, that spun around. You were supposed to lie down on it and see how long you could stay on before you spun off (there was nothing to grab hold of, and the disc was very slick). The more riders being flung hither and yon, the more hilarious it was!

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Many of us in Memphis still regret the loss of the old Fairgrounds, open all year 'round but most lively during the annual Mid-South Fair in the summer. The big wooden roller coaster, the Zippin Pippin, was Elvis’s favorite. The beautiful old carousel was taken and refurbished and put back up at the Children’s Museum of Memphis, where it looks better than ever.

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The Zippin Pippin is alive and well at Bay Beach Park Green Bay, WI. This is a great park for kids and we’ve now taken our oldest great-grandson there.

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Thanks, Roscoe50! I had heard that although the Zippin Pippin had been carefully taken down and carefully reassembled by buyers, their park didn’t make it, and the dear old roller coaster was once again sad and lonely. So very glad to hear that’s not true!

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Dutch Wonderland is great…the giant pretzel is a great photo-op, and keep an eye out for the animatronic bakery display, it’s truly terrifying…

Holiday World is also a good mix of fun and odd. My favorite part: the restaurant that serves Thanksgiving food EVERY DAY.

Stuffing in July!! :raised_hands:

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You had me at animatronic bakery!

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OK, I’ve got two candidates for local amusement parks, and both, sadly, are defunct. The first is the old “FreedomLand,” built in 1961 on a former dump that had been a swamp (nowadays we would say “wetlands”) in the Bronx, NY. It was only open seasonally, and lasted only a few short years. One of the most interesting things about Freedomland (from the point of view of a geographer, anyway!) is that the park itself was in the shape of a map of the continental United States, with focus on memorable parts of the country – the Wild West, New York City, New Orleans, the Great Plains, etc. See write up at:


At that time, there were a number of competing amusement parks in the general New York metro areas, most of which are no longer with us (Rockaway’s Playland, Palisades Amusement Park, Coney Island’s Luna Park, Rye Beach, etc.). Teenagers were definitely the main market for most of these parks, especially after dark.
My other candidate is not, strictly speaking, an amusement park, but more of a fairy tale forest for kiddies. The beloved Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, New Jersey, designed in 1928 by the well-known architect and set designer, Joseph Urban, was in operation for nearly 50 years. This place has, in fact, been written up in Atlas Obscura, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-gingerbread-castle-franklin-new-jersey
As a child, my mom would take me there on a nice day trip. We would get their special gingerbread cake with whipped cream or a gingerbread man cookie in the vaguely Olde German style restaurant/gift shop, and then tour the different little outdoor diorama type scenes of various fairy tales – the old woman in the shoe, Humpty Dumpty, Hansel and Gretel. The highlight was visiting the castle itself, where we were told by the teenaged tour guides, costumed to look like Nordic peasants, that we mustn’t touch the pink elephants that bordered the steps or they would turn to stone.
Back in the park’s heyday, the whole town of Hamburg was part of the fairy tale theme. Streets had fairy tale names like Old King Cole Way, and many of the residential building were painted unusual pastel colours and had a Swiss chalet, neo-Tudor, or a half-timbered look to them. This is a recent photo of a street sign featuring the castle logo. At one time these signs were ubiquitous, but now only a few are left. There has been talk over the years about restoring the park but nothing ever seems to come of it, and the place is basically a ruin now.

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Those keys also used to work at the Toledo zoo

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I came here to say just that, except from my personal experience (at age 9) I would swap the word “magical” for “eerie” or even “downright unnerving.” I suppose it is magical, but less in the “fairy tale princess” way and more in the “elves will steal your babies and livestock” way.

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Geauga Lake in Aurora, OH. Sadly, no longer there, but you can see lots of photos online of the abandoned park. The park opened in 1887 as a picnic spot, but grew into a theme park. We lived pretty much right across the street from it, and on the other side was Sea World (also no longer there). Through the early 2000’s it changed hands multiple times and eventually went defunct. We spent many a summer there, I went on my first roller coaster there too - the Big Dipper - which was unsafe enough at that time that I remember standing up from the seat with the downhill drops, and crying for my mommy the first time, lol. I also remember my grandmother telling me that someone had their leg torn off on one of the spinning rides there, though I never researched it to verify.

Here’s a Youtube video of a short history of the park: YouTube

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I remember kids talking about that one! We never went though (from Racine).

I’ve heard about Knoebels - one day I hope to check it out.

I grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a summer wasn’t complete without at least one trip to Kennywood Park. My family would make trips there or to the Highland Park Zoo.
My High School class even got to go to Kennywood one year, a great treat. On another school trip, we visited Islay’s Ice Cream factory, where they had the original Klondike Bars and Skyhigh Ice Cream Scoops.
Fortunately, I can still get Klondikes locally here in Portland, Oregon, but not the Skyhigh’s. (They had a special Long ice cream scoop that were about six inches tall.)

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I rode the Loch Ness Monster when I was 21 and, 42 years later, it remains the absolute most terrifying ride I’ve ever experienced! I wanted to see what that huge drop felt like - it was sheer terror and I loved it.

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