Vote of the week: Which was the best decade for theme parks?
Today is not only the last day of 2009, it's the last day of a decade that we seem to be having the hardest time naming. The Oughts? The 2000s? The Voldemorts? (i.e. "The decade-that-shall-not-be-named"?)
Don't get me started on the "decade doesn't end until next year" thing, either. I'll agree that the first decade of the 21st century runs from 2001-2010. But the whatever-it-is decade runs from 2000-2009. Just like the '90s ran from 1990-1999. Saying that the "90s" ran from 1991-2000 makes no sense. The year 2000 isn't a "90." So there.
Anyway... how did the Voldemorts compare with previous decades, as far as theme parks are concerned? Let's take a look at some of the major parks we've covered on Theme Park Insider, and sort them into the decades when they were founded.
Some of these were tough calls, as parks such as Cedar Point evolved over the years. In that case, I put Cedar Point in the 1940s because that's when its oldest surviving rides were built. In other cases, such as Hersheypark and Dollywood, I put the parks into the decades when they were redeveloped into their current forms.
- Cedar Point (oldest existing rides installed then)
- Knott's Berry Farm (Ghost Town started)
- Busch Gardens Tampa
- SeaWorld San Diego
- Silver Dollar City
- Six Flags Over Georgia
- Six Flags Over Texas
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg
- Enchanted Forest (now Six Flags Great Adventure)
- Hersheypark (redeveloped from original Hershey Park in 1971)
- Kings Dominion
- Kings Island
- Magic Mountain (now Six Flags Magic Mountain)
- Marriott's Great America (now Six Flags Great America)
- SeaWorld Orlando
- Six Flags Over Mid-America (now Six Flags St. Louis)
- Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
- Canada's Wonderland
- Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios)
- Dollywood (expanded in 1986 from original Rebel Railroad/Silver Dollar City Tennessee)
- Holiday World (expanded from Santa Claus Land in 1984)
- SeaWorld San Antonio
- Tokyo Disneyland
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Disneyland Paris
- Legoland California
- Universal Studios Florida
- Universal's Islands of Adventure
- Disney's California Adventure
- Hard Rock Park (now Freestyle Music Park)
- Hong Kong Disneyland
- Tokyo DisneySea
- Universal Studios Japan
- Walt Disney Studios Paris
Which brings us to our question for the week:
Tell us which is your favorite group of parks, and why, in the comments. And be sure to check back tomorrow, as Theme Park Insider brings you its annual coverage of the Rose Parade, from our home here in Pasadena, California. Happy New Year, everyone!
IOA and DAK are two of my most favorite parks. And while I loved Marriott's Great America (when I lived in Fremont), Busch Gardens, and Kings Dominion (when I lived in Annandale) back in the 70's (and early 80's), a world without IOA/Spider-Man & DAK/Everest is not a world in which I want to live! =)
The 1990s had IOA, DAK, and Disneyland Paris so the 90s take the cheese. And where is Magic Kingdom?
Without Disneyland, our theme parks of today would not have had a standard to measure up to. My vote went towards the 1950's. Without it, there never would have been any great decades of the past or any to look forward to.
The creation of WDW and SFGA in the 70's tops my list as the best.
Great point, Amanda. Hard to argue with it.
I voted 1980's. Much of that is based on Disney's activity in that decade. 1980 opens with the United States in recession and destination parks suffering. Within two years, one of the most ambitious theme parks ever--EPCOT Center--opens, setting many new standards for attractions (including the role of food & beverage in a park) and establishes the viability of a multiple park location.
The 50's were what I would call the beginning of the resurrection of the industry. Disneyland's opening was indeed an important moment in park history. It reinforced the notion that people still wanted to be entertained in that manner, and also set the design blueprint that many future parks would follow. My issue with going with the 50's is twofold. First, Disneyland was not really the birth of the theme/amusement park industry, but rather the rebirth after the Great Depression and WW2. If you want to go to the beginning, you have to go to the 1900's and Coney Island. Second, the 40's, 50's, and 60's saw dozens of parks close due to TV, the automobile, and new entertainment trends,and rising property values in the city. Owners either couldn't keep up and went broke, or sold the parks in favor of more money in the form of commercial/real estate development. Cedar Point's rebirth was actually in the 50's as well. It was almost closed when it was bought by real estate investors in 1957. The only thing that saved it was public outcry and state intervention. Only then did the developers decide to sink big money into the park and lay the foundation for new success.
My vote goes to the 70s. That was the decade where we saw the largest countrywide expansion in parks, so it gets my vote.
1950's had to be the best decade for theme parks. Where would the theme park industry be if not for the ideals of Walt Disney. Granted there where places that offered rides and an attempted at theming, but Disney raised the bar and that was the domino the pushed other parks to create fun, safe environments.
The 1950's. Besides being born 3 days after Disneyland opened, Disney started the theme park craze. What about Freedomland in New York? I believe it opened in the 50's. That place was great.
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