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What's your earliest theme park memory?

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Published: April 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

What is your earliest memory of visiting a theme park?

Here's mine:

Robert at It's a Small World

That's me, at the bottom of the photo, chowing down on the ice cream bar my mom is holding. My grandfather is to the left, and I will leave to the reader to determine the park and attraction we just visited. (Degree of difficulty: 0.2)

Actually, that's not the exact moment I remember. My only memory of that first trip to Disneyland (darn, gave it away!) was later that night, walking under the monorail beam in the old parking lot as my grandfather carried me and my parents tried to remember where the car was parked.

To humiliate myself in the hopes of sparking a few more memories among TPI readers, here I am, decked out in my Disney finest, a few years later.

Robert in Disneyland  gear

Not to leave out the regional parks, here's a mid-1970s view of Kings Island (anyone recognize the rides in the background?), as I chow down again, this time on cotton candy.

Robert at Kings Island

What's your first theme park memory?

Readers' Opinions

From 68.202.244.235 on April 22, 2010 at 12:22 PM
My first memory was not until 1981 at the Magic Kingdom. We lived in N.Y. so this was the first time my parents could afford the trip. My fist memory is of walking through the main gate onto Main Street and seeing the horses pulling the carts with people. It's also the first picture we took of the trip.
From 209.172.76.50 on April 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM
The long gone, Frontier Village in San Jose, CA...Unfortunately, I have no pictures of those days, but I can remember fishing for real trout in their man-made lake and my brother and I up in the towers on either side of the main gate pretending to shoot all those hoards of attackers coming into the park that day.
From luis gonzalez on April 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM
the first vivid memmories i have is walking up the old universal parking lot, way before citywalk. I also remember eating cheetos and sipping Hi-C ecto cooler in MGM studios. This was probably like 89' or 90'

WORD!!!!!!!!!!!

From Joshua Counsil on April 22, 2010 at 12:57 PM
Riding my first roller coaster at Marineland in Niagara Falls: The Dragon (if I'm not mistaken). My grandpa rode with me. What a rush. The entire lift hill, I kept bothering him, asking if it was going to be scary, whether I could fall out of the seat, how big the drop was... I remember the coaster circling around and through a mountain. I haven't seen any pictures or watched any videos of it since then. I want to preserve my sense of awe that I received on my first real roller coaster.

Though I don't remember it, my kindergarten teacher claims I used to watch the annual carnival being constructed, then draw pictures of the rides being set up. Guess I was destined for this.

From Anthony O'Neal on April 22, 2010 at 1:25 PM
I remember riding the rides at Deer Park Funland, now Michigan's Adventure. It's 10 minutes from the house I grew up in. I remember riding the train, Mutley's Putt Putts, and the Tilt-A-Whirl. The Corkscrew there is the first roller coaster I ever rode, but that wasn't during my first visit there.

I have some great memories, too, of our first and second trips to Disney World (Space Mountain was my favorite), the first time I went to Cedar Point (Magnum was pretty new still, and it was CRAZY!), and the first time I went to Six Flags (Batman: The Ride was new and it blew my mind). Some of those trips happened because of Michigan's Adventure.

From Rod Whitenack on April 22, 2010 at 1:26 PM
Robert, in that King's Island photo, it looks like you're sitting in front of Hanna Barbera Land with the wonderful Enchanted Voyage to the right of the frame. The big mushroom in the background, I believe, was just a large trash recepticle.

My first theme park memory involves my parents taking me to Santa Claus Land (now Holiday World) during a huge snowstorm. All the rides were closed due to the freak snowstorm, but I didn't even know they had rides at the time. I thought they had taken me to the actual NORTH POLE! We looked at a room full of vintage toys (which I thought was Santa's toyshop), and I vividly remember seeing a large mini circus display with moving parts. I rode on a playground dolphin (or some animal) after dad cleared off the snow, and then we had hot chocolate in Santa's house and I met the real Santa Claus!

From Paul Jeffs on April 22, 2010 at 2:20 PM
My earliest memory is from the only time I've visited Disneyland. I was 6 and my brother a couple of years younger. I remember being amazed by the talking statues in the Tiki Room and then playing "Duck Duck Goose" with Snow White, a bunch of other kids and some Dwarves. Then we got our names sewn on to some hats. A perfect day!
From Betty Rohrer on April 22, 2010 at 2:26 PM
spending all afternoon at Knott's. grandpa would pay for 2 or 3 rides for my brother and I to ride. If we worked it right we might get 5 rides altogether. I always choose the mule train ride which my brother hated. never got to eat there but grew up hearing about my grandmother who baked pies there.
From Thomas Caselli on April 22, 2010 at 2:29 PM
I don't remember a whole lot of what we did, but I do remember going to Walt Disney World and Sea World for the first time in April of 1977. That started for me what has become wonderful Walt Disney World times for me, having gone a total of 19 times, the last time being June 2009.
From Paula Werne on April 22, 2010 at 3:24 PM
Lake Quassapaug (now called Quassy Lake) in Connecticut, early 1960s. Begged my folks to let me on the kiddie helicopter ride.

They finally gave in and I climbed in my 'copter.

When it started moving and lifted up, oh probably 3-4 feet, I was terrified and immediately started screaming.

The had to *stop* the ride and let me off. Hardly more than a toddler, I vowed to never ride another amusement park ride.

And here I am, 19 years as Holiday World's PR director, looking forward to another season and trying out those new Voyage trains.

How the worm doth turn. :0)

From brian lochridge on April 22, 2010 at 3:35 PM
Probably 1982-1983 I was 4-5 and we were at Busch Gardens and I got to ride on an Elephant. I remember I was crying because I last in line and thought I'd have to ride on the back of the Elephant. The guy loaded the kids backwards and I got to ride in the very front. I just remember being as happy as I could be and that huge truck comming right at me.
From Alex Gamso on April 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM
My first memory was being chased out of Walt Disney World by a hurricane that turned and didn't hit the area. I was rather sad (well who wouldn't be) because of it...
From Derek Potter on April 22, 2010 at 4:53 PM
A couple, both in 1984. I was about 4 at the time. The first was at Universal Studios in California. I vividly remember seeing the house from "Psycho" on the movie ride. The second would be my first roller coaster...The Beastie at Kings Island. I kept running off the exit ramp and right back into the entrance. I have some priceless pictures of that last moment.
From Manny Barron on April 22, 2010 at 6:56 PM
I can't really recollect a memory inside the park, but i do remember my first vacation memory. Back in the day we stopped at a Texaco in a desolate part of Arizona on our way to Disneyland/Universal Studios Hollywood. Living in the middle of a city I never get to see the stars and I remember seeing a bunch of stars in the sky and being amazed while lying in the backseat. The Texaco was also completely empty and no cars passed. It was just a special moment with my family I will never forget.
From James Rao on April 22, 2010 at 8:02 PM
Disneyland, early 70's. I remember the end of the day when my older brother and I agreed that Pirates of the Caribbean was simply the greatest ride in the world!

Also remember my first visit to Knotts Berry Farm and not being tall enough to ride a coaster called "Corkscrew." Cried my eyes out.

From rick stevens on April 22, 2010 at 9:29 PM
Disneyland around 1959, home movies. Knott's throughout the 60's and Disney once a year. We would go to DL around Feb/Mar to celebrate my brothers, mine, and my mom's best friends kid's B'days. I remember my dad wearing a suit since it was a special outing.

The Knotts trips were with Cub Scouts since enterance was free, we only had to pay for the rides we went on. Disney was special, that's why it was only once a year.

From Anthony Murphy on April 23, 2010 at 5:42 AM
Being scared of Malestron (and not the movie portion) when I was 4.

I also met Mary Poppins at the Grand Floridian. I literally stopped breathing because I was so excited.

That was last year.......no I am kidding, I was like 4 too!

From Bill Lohr on April 23, 2010 at 6:14 AM
I had just gotten my license and I drove with my mother to the new park Kings Dominion. I walked into the front gate and saw the tower and fountains and chills just ran up and down my back. I was in love! I had never seen anything like it and I remember that day so well. Riding the coasters, the train and seeing the Masson Dixon Music Hall show (We went 2 times to that show). I had never seen anything like that before. The park will always hold a very special place in my heart but its not the place it was back in that day. Paramount changed all that in my view. That day started my addiction and today I have been to almost every major park in the nation.
From 74.130.161.134 on April 23, 2010 at 6:33 AM
My first trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Don't exactly remember what my first ride was, but I remember being so proud of myself for going on Space Mountain, we went on the Buzz Lightyear ride quite a few times, I was terrified of the Haunted Mansion (now my favorite ride), was too chicken to go on Splash Mountain, was caught rather off-guard by the drop on Pirates of the Caribbean, and the only meet 'n greet I had was with Buzz Lightyear. One of the best days of my child life
From 58.108.242.114 on April 23, 2010 at 6:34 AM
I'm only 4 years old. The park is Coney Island in Cincinnati, Ohio - the location which now floods frequently. I'm too young to ride the Red Racer or Blue Racer, but my brother and father ride it several times. We name our car the "Blue Racer" in honor of that fine little coaster.

It must have been the 4th of July, because when the fireworks go off (I think Coney wasn't doing fireworks every night like King's Island does)I scream and scream from the noise because it frightens me. Dad is holding me, and it's time to go home.

I remember a sun soaked, crowded, festive day.

From 66.244.86.241 on April 23, 2010 at 6:40 AM
Being almost 4 and tall enough to ride the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags, St. Louis...and insisting on riding in the front car with my dad. I didn't ride another roller coaster again until I was a Sophmore in college.
From 68.73.149.161 on April 23, 2010 at 7:50 AM
My first theme park memory is definitely of Teamster Day at Kentucky Kingdom, in Louisville, long before it was bought by Six Flags. My Granddaddy was a truck driver, and it was just the first of many Teamster days at the Kingdom we made it to. I loved every second of it, from riding the musical instrument carousel to getting an old time photograph taken, decked out in saloon attire. There is one reason, though, that the memory is so vivid. It was the day of my very first roller coaster ride. The coaster was The Vampire, which was brand new, and none of my family was brave enough to ride with me. So on I boarded, a 7-year-old unaccompanied by adults. And I LOVED every second of it! So much so, actually, that I proceeded to whiz past my waiting family to ride it again THREE more times. Needless to say, they were not happy with me, and I actually got grounded, 1 day for each time I got back in line. Totally worth it, imho.
From Brian Collins on April 23, 2010 at 7:57 AM
It was 1967 and Six Flags over Georgia was brand new. We had just come into the park and were walking up towards the log flume. It was a hot southern summer day and the whole park smelled of the creosote-soaked railroad ties that lined all of the new asphalt pathways.

To this day, every time I smell creosote, I'm 5-years-old at Six Flags and life is really groovy.

From 137.220.20.54 on April 23, 2010 at 8:27 AM
oddly enough it's of Riding the Swan Boats in MK about 1974/5?? I also remeber how cool it was to fly in Dumbo!
From TH Creative on April 23, 2010 at 8:35 AM
Disneyland 1969. The submarines and Peter Pans Flight.
From Erin B on April 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM
My earliest park memories are from my home park, Cedar Point. I remember riding Jr. Gemini with my cousin & thinking it was so fast & scary. We would spend the rest of our day playing in the Berenstain Bear playground & my favorite part of that was the little dinosaur boneyard they had. You could dig around in the gravel with different shovels. Another favorite area of ours was Kid Arthur's Court, which was a giant climbing structure & ball pit. I even enjoyed playing in that area once my younger sister was around & old enough to come with us to the park & was so sad when the area was removed.
From 65.189.250.181 on April 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM
Americana in Middletown Ohio (the currently SBNO park with a Miller classic) when I was probably 3 or 4. I remember my mom and older brother talking me into riding the kiddie coaster, Little Dipper. I specifically remember my mom telling me that it went around twice and I couldn't get off in between times, no matter how scared I was! I don't remember being that scared when riding, but my young mind never equated that to being a roller coaster, as the idea of riding a roller coaster terrified me until I was ten years old and finally braved that noisy thing in Hanna Barbara Land known as the Beastie.

Sadly, that year was the last time I went to Americana. I'm not really sure why we stopped going, as that was in the late 80's. For some reason Kings Island, which was further away, became our new home park. I have never ridden the Screechin' Eagle, something I always have deeply regretted.

From Curtis Young on April 23, 2010 at 8:55 PM
If I'm not mistaken, my first theme park memory is of riding the long tram through the parking lot of Opryland USA in 1978. Getting from the car to the gate was always a thrill!
From 72.50.27.110 on April 23, 2010 at 11:24 PM
I remember back in 95. My brother, mother and i went on a guided tour. We live in Puerto Rico and back then you could pay and you and your group of about 40 would get a tour guide. It was a package. (Not that expensive)
So it would be your family an about 40 other strangers.

Anyway, we were at Busch Gardens we were heading towards Tanganyika Tidal Wave, the tour guide then said to us and a couple of others that were leading at the front of the group, to hurry. Hurry, hurry!!! The line is short he said pointing towards the bridge. They were people at the bridge and no ones was moving so my family and a couple of others figure it was a queue and hurried. I didn't, cause i was in that good of a mood.

What happened next?

You heard the rumble of the big log coming down the ramp and you get soooaked!!!

I didn't, but my family were foooooled!!! Badly. When my mom came back with water dripping of her hair the tour guide ask her:
Did you get wet?
Needless to say my mom was really piss off. It wasn't my first memory, but it was the funniest that first trip.

~The next year we went again and a different tour guide tried to pull that stunt again. I rat him out!!!

From Chelsea Vargas on April 24, 2010 at 12:18 PM
My first visit to Disney World in Orlando,Florida. It was Christmas of 1996. All I really remember was getting a whole bunch of autographs from alot of the disney characters. One of my favorite rides there was the voyage of the little mermaid. I really liked the Bubbles coming toward the audience.
From 81.156.217.243 on April 24, 2010 at 1:44 PM
I think it must have been about 1981. I remember (aged 3) riding the skyway cable cars that used to connect Fantasyland with Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, Florida. I also remember being fearless. By the time I rode them again aged 6 I was terrified!
From 69.108.238.126 on April 25, 2010 at 12:56 AM
Wow! Someone else remembers ... "Frontier Village, that's where the action is, the fastest fun in the West!" Loved it, miss it, remember it fondly.
From 173.14.78.109 on April 26, 2010 at 9:44 AM
I too remember Frontier Village.

I was six. We were fishing at the trout pond and I had already caught a fish, so I was standing near the edge.

Just a my father told me to back away from the edge before I fell in...I fell in.

My dad grabbed me by the arm as I sunk and pulled me back up. And both my parents were irritated at me for the rest of the visit.

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