Over the last century, amusement parks have attracted streams of people seeking thrills and entertainment. Today, people love amusement parks just as much as they did 100 years ago, but there have been a few changes to the whole amusement park experience that have happened since then. One thing that has remained the same, however, is the sense of joy and happiness one gets from visiting an amusement park. It’s just as fun now as it was in the early 19th century.
Going to an amusement park in the early days involved getting dressed up, wooden roller coasters, and $1 tickets. We’ll go more into these soon! Today, amusement parks are a lot more casual than they used to be. At present, we have a huge number of amusement parks to choose from so they’re not as special as they used to be. Still, we all love enjoying a day out at our local amusement park for family fun or a simple adrenaline rush.
To show just how much amusement parks have changed since the early 19th century, we’ve collected 20 incredible photos that illustrate how amusement parks used to be compared to how they are now. The one thing that never alters is the huge beaming smile on visitors’ faces.
20 Going to an amusement park was like going out on the town
In the 19th century, people made a big deal about their appearance when going to an amusement park. It was almost as if there was a dress code. Women would wear dresses or skirts with heels and men would wear their suits and ties. The dress code back then for visiting a theme park was totally different to how it is now. Although, people back then generally made more effort with their appearance when going out. It wasn’t like how it is now where we go out all the time. Back then it was a special occasion to go out and do something fun with the family.
19 It was normal for women to wear heels on rides
Women even wore heels on rides, which just isn’t seen as often nowadays. In fact, today it might even be considered a danger hazard on certain rides. We can see in the picture that women generally looked glamorous in amusement parks, which just isn’t so common these days. Back then, it was perfectly normal to see women wearing heels on rides like the carousel. We’re not sure how safe it is, but at least they looked glamorous doing it.
Today, most us of just go wearing our sneakers. Comfort, for the majority of us, is the essence of our dressing philosophy.
18 Today, people dress a lot more casually
Visitors today have ditched the fancy clothes for comfort. Then again, who can blame them with those huge lines? It would definitely be a nightmare if we were stuck waiting in life for 1 hour wearing killer heels and hot clothing. That’s why most of the visitors we see pictured there today can often be seen sporting baggy shirts, shorts, and sneakers.
Maybe back in the day, the lines weren’t so huge, so people had more willpower to wear tight clothing or heels. Some visitors even go shirtless when the sweltering temperatures arrive (until they get told off). We doubt anyone would have dared try this 100 years ago.
17 Amusement parks used to be the backdrop for acrobatics
Before roller coasters emerged, amusement parks used to be the setting for acrobatics. Especially during the Middle Ages, people would flock to fairs like England’s Bartholomew Fair for entertainment. That entertainment would be acrobatic shows. It was something new and exciting at the time. Nowadays we don’t see it as something so special, but back then it was a new and exciting experience.
Although we are going back way before 100 years ago with this example - Bartholomew Fair started in 1133. However, it was also common in the early 19th century for visitors to watch acrobatic shows at amusement parks.
16 They even used to host freak shows
Freak shows would not be allowed today but 100 years ago, they were popular at amusement parks. In addition to acrobatic shows, people would also visit amusement parks and fairs to watch freak shows. There would also be competitions which people got involved in. It’s funny to think how so much has changed since then.
Can you imagine if freak shows were around today? The shows were basically there to shine a light on people with unique features and traits. It was a cruel practice really, but people considered it to be entertainment at the time. Luckily, it’s considered anything but these days.
15 Now we have arcade games instead
Instead of freak shows, we now have alternative entertainment like arcade games. And it’s a way healthier form of competition!
One hundred years ago, people didn’t play arcade games. They relied on freak shows and acrobatic shows for entertainment.
The role of any amusement park is to provide fun and entertainment to its visitors, but we’re happy the form of entertainment has changed today. It’s a lot less cruel and a lot more fun. Today, we have so much entertainment to choose from. With the huge selection of rides and arcade games, it would be impossible to get bored here.
14 Roller coasters used to be made of wood
In the 1930s, roller coasters used to be made out of wood because around that time, they were a new thing. Roller coasters weren’t around until the early 1900s and so their original design was much different to how we know it now. At the time, it was an exciting new thing for people.
Nobody before had been on anything like a roller coaster, so they were in a rush to see what it was like. However, it wasn’t particularly safe. The fact that roller coasters were made out of wood was somewhat of a danger hazard and there were some incidents revolving around the design.
13 But that led to devastating consequences
The trouble is, wood can be a fire hazard – especially on roller coasters. Not only with a constant threat to the rides and riders, but it was also a threat to the parks themselves because a ride catching fire could easily have spread throughout the park, damaged other rides, and of course hurt people.
In 1911, Coney Island’s Dreamland burned to the ground after one of its wooden roller coasters caught fire. In 1944, Luna Park also faced the same circumstances. Eventually, thankfully, wooden roller coasters phased out and were replaced with safer materials. This significantly reduced the risk of fatalities at parks around the world.
12 Now we have steel roller coasters
Fortunately, we now have roller coasters made out of steel, which is much safer than wooden-built roller coasters. Wooden roller coasters are still around but they have remained basic in terms of their design.
In order to meet the demands of people wanting more thrilling rides, steel construction was required for loops and drops on roller coasters. That is why we now have some of the most complex roller coasters on the planet – this would not have been possible with wooden construction. Engineers are constantly pushing the boundaries and that meant out with the wood and in with the steel.
11 Rides back then generally weren’t safe
Safety measures on rides have gotten an extreme upgrade since their heyday. Back in the day, they generally weren’t so safe to ride. There was a much greater lack of knowledge back then, so people weren’t sure about the safety hazards of various rides. For instance, the wooden roller coasters were a major fire hazard.
Although we still have wooden roller coasters in some amusement parks, most roller coasters are built with steel these days. The reason for that is down to the safety precautions.
As rides have advanced, naturally the safety measures of them have too – and we’re happy about it!
10 Entry fees cost $1 in the 1950s
Today, anyone over 10 will pay just under $100 for a one day pass to Disneyland, while kids age 3-9 will cost $93. In other words, it’s not a cheap day out for the family. Back in 1955, a ticket to Disneyland cost $1 for adults and only 50 cents for children. That’s a huge difference, isn’t it? No wonder it was so popular back in the day to go on a trip to Disneyland.
Today, not all families can afford it. Of course, Disneyland wasn’t what it is today. Even though it was still amazing, it wasn’t advanced with as many rides as it is now.
9 But visitors had to pay for each ride separately
The only difference is that now we can purchase one day pass and we don’t have to pay per ride. In the 1950s, they would have to pay the $1 entrance fee as well as 25 to 35 cents per ride.
The park had 35 rides in total, so if one were to try everything in the park it would cost $8.70 per adult and $5.15 for each child. Then there was the miniature train ride around the park which would set adults back 50 cents for themselves and 25 cents for a child. In other words, it was still way cheaper back then.
8 VIP passes weren’t handed out often
Today, VIP passes are handed out all the time, which is why we often see celebrities pictured in places like Disneyland and other well-known amusement parks. In the mid 19th century, however, VIP passes were limited. They were not handed out as sparingly back then as they are now. Maybe it’s because at the time, amusements parks were still new and advancing, so they only gave a select few VIP passes. Today, we see celebrities pictured at theme parks all the time. Back in the heyday of amusement parks, we didn’t see celebrities at theme parks as often as we do now.
7 Now there are all kinds of ticket levels
In the 1950s, Disneyland visitors were all on the same ticket level when they visited the park. There was the exception of a few major VIPS, but there weren’t many. Generally, everybody was on the same level. Now with its on-site hotels, Disney has created two levels of guests.
First we have the top tier, for those people staying on site. These guests receive extra perks and ability to book fast passes. Then there’s the bottom tier, who can still experience the fun of the park but they’ll probably have to wait longer to get on rides than those on the top tier.
6 But celebrities were still seen at amusement parks
While the supply of VIP passes may have been limited 60 years ago, that doesn’t mean celebrities weren’t seen at amusement parks. Many celebrities were pictured at Disneyland and other amusement parks. From Ronald Reagan to Sophia Loren, countless celebrities visited Disneyland in the 19th century. Celebrities are still people and even if some of them didn’t benefit from the ticket system, they also wanted to have fun just like the rest of us.
Having no VIP ticket wouldn’t have stopped them from heading to an amusement park and having the time of their life. Disneyland especially was like a magnet for all people.
5 Hot dogs were the main menu
Even though hot dogs are a theme park food staple today, in the 19th century they were the main food source at amusement parks. Now, we have a huge selection of food stalls to visit for whatever we fancy, but back then the choice wasn’t so large. Not that there was anything wrong with hot dogs. Hot dogs are hot dogs, right?
At Coney Island in the 1950s for instance, hot dogs were a popular snack for guests in the park. It wasn’t as if anyone wanted a three-course meal between rides. They just wanted a quick snack that wasn’t too heavy to feed their appetite.
4 People didn’t snap photographs so often – they just enjoyed the moment
Look around any amusement park today and we’ll see dozens of people on their phones. Whether they’re snapping photos, talking, or using it to check social media, there aren’t enough people just enjoying the moment. In the 1950s, people preferred enjoying the moment rather than taking endless photos.
Even in amusement parks, we still find people glued to their cell phones today. Back then, people didn’t have this technology so they couldn’t have been attached to their phones. Even so, they seemed just to enjoy the moment and focus on the fun they were having. Isn’t that the best way?
3 The carousel used to be the most popular ride
Since amusement parks first began, the rides have advanced significantly. During the early 19th century, there was not a huge choice of rides. That is why, at the time, the carousel and the wheel were the most popular rides. They are probably some of the most classic rides around in fact.
We’re not sure if either of them would be anyone’s favorite ride today but they are both still classics. They’re also not scary rides, so they suit pretty much every type of person. When we look at the pictures, they still do look like a lot of fun and the guests look like they’re having a great time.
2 Mickey and Minnie mouse look more like cartoons now
If we look at the pictures of Mickey Mouse on the opening day of Disneyland, he looks far different to how he looks now. Today, he looks more like the cartoon version of himself. Clearly, his costume has progressed a great deal since the early days of Disneyland. When we go to Disneyland now, we are looking at Disney characters that look pretty much the same as their cartoon counterparts.
Today, Mickey Mouse can also talk to guests when he meets and greets them at the Magic Kingdom. When we think about it, there’s a lot Mickey can do now compared to what he could do when he first came to Disneyland.
1 People used to be able to pose with wild animals
In this picture, actress Kathleen Case is posing with a monkey at Disneyland. Nowadays, this kind of thing wouldn’t always be allowed at amusement parks around the world. That’s because it’s generally frowned upon to use wild animals for entertainment.
At the time, it wasn’t considered anything bad, but today we can imagine the number of animal rights activists flocking to Disneyland to protest against the use of wild monkeys. We know amusement parks still do use wild animals but not the extent to how they did back in the mid 19th century. It was way more common back then.
References: pastemagazine.com, aceonline.org, themeparkincorporated.co.uk, cnbc.com