Amusement park and theme park are terms for a collection of rides and other entertainment attractions assembled for the purpose of entertaining a large group of people. An amusement park is more elaborate than a simple city park or playground, usually providing attractions meant to cater to children, teenagers, and adults.
A theme park is differentiated from an amusement park by its various 'lands' (sections) devoted to telling a particular story. These lands are characterized by the idea that the immersive environment they create contains architecture, landscaping, stores, rides, and even food that support a specific theme. Visual intrusion from other 'lands', or from outside the park, are considered undesirable. Non-theme amusement park rides will usually have little in terms of theming or additional design elements. Also, a single themed attraction by itself does not qualify an amusement park as a theme park. It takes a multiplicity of elements in a common area to define a 'land', and numerous lands to constitute a theme park. The original theme park, and architype of the designation is Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Amusement parks evolved in Europe from fairs and pleasure gardens which were created for people’s recreation. The oldest amusement park of the world (opened 1583) is Bakken, at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. In the United States, world's fairs and expositions were another influence on development of the amusement park industry.
Most amusement parks have a fixed location, as compared to traveling funfairs and carnivals. These temporary types of amusement parks, are usually present for a few days or weeks per year, such as funfairs in the United Kingdom, and carnivals (temporarily set up in a vacant lot or parking lots) and fairs (temporarily operated in a fair ground) in the United States. The temporary nature of these fairs helps to convey the feeling that people are in a different place or time.
Periodic fairs, such as the Bartholomew Fair which began in England in 1133, are a parent for the modern amusement park. Beginning in the Elizabethan period the fair had evolved into a center of amusement with entertainment, food, games, and carnival-like freak-show attractions. The seasonal celebration was a natural place for development of amusement attractions. Oktoberfest is not only a beer festival but also provided amusement park features beginning in 1810, when the first event was held in Munich, Germany. In the United States, the county and state fairs also played a part in the history of amusement parks. These were annual events that were usually held for a short time, a week or two, to celebrate a good harvest. These fairs featured livestock exhibits, baking and cooking competitions. 
Amusement parks also grew out of the pleasure gardens that became especially popular at the beginning of the Industrial revolution as an area where one could escape from the grim urban environment. The oldest intact still-surviving amusement park in the world (opened 1583) is Bakken ("The Hill") at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. The most well known of the parks in London, was Vauxhall Gardens founded in 1661 and closed in 1859.  Another long-standing park is Prater in Vienna, Austria, which opened in 1766. This park was conceived as a place where the common person could enjoy a respite in a pastoral setting and participate in the musical culture of the city. Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen is another example of a European park, dating from 1843, which still exists. These parks consisted of booths, entertainment, fireworks displays and some “rides” such as introduction to the modern railroad. The parks grew to accommodate the expectations of their customers -- who were increasingly familiar with the mechanical wonders of industrialization. Rides became a required part of the pleasure garden and by 1896 there were 65 such pleasure parks in London.
Another type of fair is the exposition or world’s fair. World's fairs began in 1851 with the construction of the landmark Crystal Palace in London, England. The purpose of the exposition was to celebrate the industrial achievement of the nations of the world (of which Britain just so happened to be the leader). America cities and business saw the world’s fair as a way of demonstrating economic and industrial success.  People particularly point to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Illinois as an early precursor to the modern amusement park. This fair was an enclosed site that merged entertainment, engineering and education to entertain the masses. It set out to bedazzle the visitors, and successfully did so with a blaze of lights from the “White City.”  To make sure that the fair was a financial success, the planners included a dedicated amusement concessions area called the Midway Plaisance.  Rides from this fair captured imagination of the visitors and of amusement parks around the world, such as the first Ferris wheel, which was found in many other amusement areas, such as the Prater by 1896. Also, the experience of the enclosed ideal city with wonder, rides, culture and progress (electricity), was based on the creation of an illusory place. Certainly the precursor of the amusement park experience to come.
The “midway” introduced at the Columbian Exposition would become a standard part of most amusement parks, fairs, carnivals and circuses. The midway contained not only the rides, but other concessions and entertainments such as shooting galleries, penny arcades, games of chance and shows. 
In the final decade of the 19th century, the electric trolley lines were developed in most of the larger American cities. Companies that established the trolley lines were directly responsible for establishing amusement parks -- trolley parks -- as destinations of these lines. Trolley parks like Atlanta's Ponce de Leon Park, or Reading's Carsonia Park were initially popular natural leisure spots before local streetcar companies purchased the sites, expanding them from picnic groves to include regular entertainments, mechanical amusements, dance halls, sports fields, boats rides, restaurants and other resort facilities. Various sources report the existence of between 1500 and 2000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919. 
Some of these parks were developed in resort locations, such as bathing resorts at the seaside in New Jersey and New York. Others were found along rivers and lakes that provided bathing and water sports such as Riverside Park in Massachusetts, which was founded along the Connecticut River in the 1840s, and Lake Compounce in Connecticut, first established as a bathing beach in 1846.
Another such location was Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, where a horse-drawn streetcar line brought pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two million reached Coney Island. Hotels and amusements were built to accommodate both the upper-classes and the working-class. The first carousel was installed in the 1870s, the first roller coaster, the "Switchback Railway", in 1884. It wasn't till 1895 that the first permanent amusement park in North America opened: Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn. This park was one of the first to charge admission to get into the park in addition to sell tickets for rides within the park.
In 1897, Sea Lion Park was joined by Steeplechase Park, the first of three major amusement parks that would open in the Coney Island area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and sweep away the restraints of the Victorian crowds. The combination of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American amusement park. Often, it is Steeplechase Park that comes to mind when one generically thinks of the heyday of Coney Island, but there was also Luna Park (opened in 1903), and Dreamland (opened in 1904). Coney Island was a huge success and by year 1910 attendance on a Sunday could reach a million people. Fueled by the efforts of Frederick Ingersoll, other "Luna Parks" (starting with ones in Pittsburgh and Cleveland in 1905) were quickly erected worldwide and opened to rave reviews.
Fire was a constant threat in those days, as much of the construction within the amusement parks of the era was wooden. In 1911, Dreamland was the first Coney Island amusement park to completely burn down; in 1944, Luna Park also burned to the ground. Most of Ingersoll's Luna Parks were similarly destroyed (usually by arson) before his death in 1927.
During the Gilded Age, many Americans began working fewer hours and had more disposable income. With new-found money and time to spend on leisure activities, Americans sought new venues for entertainment. Amusement parks, set up outside major cities and in rural areas, emerged to meet this new economic opportunity. These parks reflected the mechanization and efficiency of industrialization while serving as source of fantasy and escape from real life. By the early 1900s, hundreds of amusement parks were operating in the United States and Canada. Trolley parks (established at the end of the trolley line by enterprising streetcar companies) stood outside many cities. Parks like Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, GA and Idora Park near Youngstown, OH took passengers to traditionally popular picnic grounds, which by the late 1890s also often included rides like the Giant Swing, Carousel, and Shoot-the-Chutes. These amusement parks were often based on nationally-known parks or world's fairs: they had names like Coney Island, White City, Luna Park, or Dreamland. The American Gilded Age was, in fact, amusement parks' “golden age” that reigned until the late 1920s.
The Golden Age of amusement parks also included the advent of the Kiddie Park. Founded in 1925, the original Kiddie Park is located in San Antonio, Texas and is still in operation today. The Kiddie Parks became popular all over America after World War II. 
This era saw the development of the new innovations in roller coasters that encouraged extreme drops and speeds to thrill the riders. By the end of the First World War, people seemed to want an even more exciting entertainment, a need met by the roller coasters.  Although the development of the automobile provided people with more options for satisfying their entertainment needs, the amusement parks after the war continued to be successful, while urban amusement parks saw declining attendance. The 1920s is more properly known as the “Golden Age” of roller coasters, being the decade of frenetic building of these rides. 
The Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II during the 1940s saw the decline of the amusement park industry. War saw the affluent urban population move to the suburbs, television became a source of entertainment, and families went to amusement parks less often.
By the 1950s, factors such as urban decay, crime, and even desegregation in the ghettos led to changing patterns in how people chose to spend their free time. Many of the older, traditional amusement parks closed or burned to the ground. Many would be taken out by the wrecking ball to make way for suburban living and development. In 1964, Steeplechase Park, once the king of all amusement parks, closed down for good. The traditional amusement parks which survived, for example, Kennywood, in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, and Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, did so in spite of the odds.
First parks devoted to a particular theme are precursors for the modern amusement park. A Blackgang Chine amusement park, established in 1843 by Victorian entrepreneur Alexander Dabell, on the Isle of Wight, UK can be considered the oldest existing theme park in the world. The first amusement park on Coney Island, Sea Lion Park was built around a nautical theme.
Modern amusement parks now run differently than those of years past. Amusement parks are usually owned by a large corporate conglomerate which allows capital investment unknown by the traditional family-owned parks. Starting with Disneyland in the 1950s, the park experience became part of a larger package, reflected in a television show, movies, lunch boxes, action figures and finally park rides and costumed characters that make up the "theme." These parks offer a world with no violence or social problems. The thrills of the theme parks are often obscured from the outside by high fences or barriers re-enforcing the feeling of escape, they are kept clean and new thrill rides are frequently added to keep people coming back. In addition to this experience, the theme park is either based on a central theme or, divided into several distinctly themed areas, lands or "spaces." Large resorts, such as Walt Disney World in Florida (United States), actually house several different theme parks within their confines.
Today, central Florida and most notably Orlando boasts more theme parks than any other worldwide destination. The northeastern USA region, most notably Pennsylvania, is now a hotbed of traditional surviving amusement parks. In its truest traditional form is Conneaut Lake Park in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania. Others include Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Knoebels Groves in Elysburg, Pennsylvania; Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania; Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania; Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania; Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania; and DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton, Pennsylvania.
Some theme parks did evolve from more traditional amusement park enterprises, such as Knott's Berry Farm. In the 1920s, Walter Knott and his family sold berries from a roadside stand, which grew to include a restaurant serving fried chicken dinners. Within a few years, lines outside the restaurant were often several hours long. To entertain the waiting crowds, Walter Knott built a Ghost Town in 1940, using buildings relocated from real old west towns such as the Calico, California ghost town and Prescott, Arizona. In 1968, the Knott family fenced the farm, charged admission for the first time, and Knott's Berry Farm officially became an amusement park. Because of its long history, Knott's Berry Farm currently claims to be "America's First Theme Park." Knott's Berry Farm is now owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut may be the true oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States, open since 1846. Santa Claus Town, which opened in Santa Claus, Indiana in 1935 and included Santa's Candy Castle and other Santa Claus-themed attractions, is considered the first themed attraction in the United States: a pre-cursor to the modern day theme park. Santa Claus Land (renamed Holiday World in 1984) opened in 1946 in Santa Claus, Indiana and many people will argue that it was the first true Theme Park despite Knott's history. In the 1950’s the Herschend family took over operation of the tourist attraction, Marvel Cave near Branson, Missouri. Over the next decade they modernized the cave, which led to large numbers of people waiting to take the tour. The Herschend family opened a recreation of the old mining town that once existed atop Marvel Cave. The small village eventually became the theme park, Silver Dollar City. The park is still owned and operated by the Herschends and the family has several other parks including Dollywood, Celebration City and Wild Adventures.
Other theme parks include: Children's Fairyland opened in 1950 in Oakland, California. Another variation of the theme park were the animal theme parks that reintroduced the concept of Sea Lion Park such as Marineland of the Pacific which opened in 1954 which paved the way for SeaWorld parks which eventually added thrill rides.
Walt Disney, however, is often credited with having originated the concept of the themed amusement park, although he was obviously influenced by Knotts Berry Farm owned by Walter Knott (at the time owner of Calico Ghost town) who brought buildings from Calico to increase business at his berry stand located in nearby Buena Park, CA, as well as Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and De Efteling, opened in 1952 in the Netherlands, to which Walt Disney was a regular visitor. Disney took these influences and melded them with the popular Disney animated characters and his unique vision, and "Disneyland" was born. Disneyland officially opened in Anaheim, California in 1955 and changed the amusement industry forever. Key to the design process of Disney's new park was the replacement of architects with art directors from the film industry.
The years in which Disneyland opened were a sort of stopgap period for the amusement park industry, as many of the older, traditional amusement parks had already closed and many were close to closing their doors. Cedar Point was set to be torn down in the 1950s when local businesspeople were intrigued by the success of Disneyland and saved it from destruction. Other parks were not as lucky, with Steeplechase Park at Coney Island closing in 1964; Riverview Park, Chicago, Illinois, closed in 1967. Some traditional parks were able to borrow a page from Disneyland and use television to its advantage, such as Kennywood, a park started in 1898 and continuing to operate to the present which used television advertising and featured television personalities at the park.
The first regional theme park, as well as the first Six Flags park, Six Flags over Texas was officially opened in 1961 in Arlington, Texas near Dallas. The first Six Flags theme park was the vision of Angus Wynne, Jr. and helped create the modern, competitive theme park industry. By 1968, the second Six Flags park, Six Flags Over Georgia, opened, and in 1971, Six Flags Over Mid-America (now Six Flags St. Louis) opened near St. Louis, Missouri. Also in 1971 was the opening of the Walt Disney World resort complex in Florida, which is still the largest theme park and resort complex in the world with the Magic Kingdom (1971), Epcot (1982), Disney's Hollywood Studios (1989) and Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998).
During the 1970s, the theme park industry started to mature as a combination of revitalized traditional amusement parks and new ventures funded by larger corporations emerged. Magic Mountain (now a Six Flags park) opened in Valencia, California. Regional parks such as Cedar Point and Kings Island, popular amusement parks in Ohio, moved towards the more modern theme park-concept as well as rotating new roller coasters and modern thrill rides. Also during the mid-1970s, Marriott Corporation built two identical theme parks named "Great America" in northern California and Illinois. The former is now California's Great America and is owned by Cedar Fair, L.P., which now also owns Kings Island and Cedar Point; and the latter is now Six Flags Great America. Many theme parks were hit badly by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and a number of planned theme parks were scrapped during this time. Most of today’s major amusement parks were built in the 1970s.
Perhaps the most indirect evolution of an attraction into a full-fledged theme park is that of Universal Studios Hollywood. Originally just a backlot tram ride tour of the actual studios in Hollywood, California, the train ride that started in 1964 slowly evolved into a larger attraction with a western stunt show in 1967, "The Parting of the Red Sea" in 1973, a look at props from the movie Jaws in 1975, and the "Conan the Barbarian" show in 1984. By 1985, the modern era of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park began with the "King Kong" ride and, in 1990, Universal Studios Florida in Orlando opened. Universal Studios is now the third-largest theme park company in the world, behind Disney and Merlin.
Since the 1980s, the amusement park industry has become larger than ever before, with everything from large, worldwide type theme parks such as Disneyworld and Universal Studios Hollywood to smaller and medium-sized theme parks such as the Six Flags parks and countless smaller ventures in many of the states of the U.S. and in countries around the world. Even simpler theme parks directly aimed at smaller children have emerged, including Legoland opened in 1999 in Carlsbad, California (the first Legoland opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark). The only limit to future theme park ventures is one's imagination.
Amusement parks in shopping malls began in the 1990s, blending traditional amusement park entertainments -- roller coasters, water parks, carousels, and live entertainment -- with hotels, movie theaters, and shopping facilities. Examples of giant mall parks are West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, Canada; Pier 39, San Francisco; Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota.
Amusement park owners are also aware of the need to satisfy their aging baby boomer customer base with more restaurants, landscaping, gardens and live entertainment. Kennywood has created in 1995 the "Lost Kennywood" area with classic rides that recall the possibly more tranquil times of the early twentieth century. In 2001, Disney opened the Disney's California Adventure which includes Paradise Pier, a recreation of the traditional seaside amusement park of yesteryear.
Family fun parks starting as miniature golf courses have begun to grow to include batting cages, go-karts, bumper cars, bumper boats and water slides. Some of these parks have grown to include even roller coasters, and traditional amusement parks now also have these competition areas in addition to their thrill rides.
The popularity of theme parks has led to the increase of theming -- "the use of an overarching theme, such as western, to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue" -- in non-theme park venues. While theme restaurants, casinos, and other themed spaces lack the rides and other features of theme parks, they owe much to the legacy of the theme lands and spatial organization that became popular in theme parks.
Although domestic visitors still make up around 80 percent of admissions to theme and amusement parks, an aging population in the U.S. and a slowing economy in 2008 are forcing The Walt Disney Company and its competitors to seek their fortunes in emerging tourist markets such as in the Middle East and in China. The Walt Disney Company, accounts for around half of the total industry's revenue in the US as a result of more than 50 million adventure seekers pouring through the gates of its U.S.-based attractions each year.
Amusement parks collect much of their revenue from admission fees paid by guests attending the park. Other revenue sources include parking fees, food and beverage sales and souvenirs.
Practically all amusement parks operate using one of two admission principles:
In this format, a guest enters the park at little or no charge. The guest must then purchase rides individually, either at the attraction's entrance or by purchasing ride tickets (or a similar exchange method, like a token). The cost of the attraction is often based on its complexity or popularity. For example, a guest might pay one ticket to ride a carousel, but would pay four tickets to ride a roller coaster. The park may allow guests to purchase unlimited admissions to all attractions within the park. A wristband or pass is then shown at the attraction entrance to gain admission.
Disneyland opened in 1955 using the pay-as-you-go format. Initially, guests paid the ride admission fees at the attractions. Within a short time, the problems of handling such large amounts of coins led to the development of a ticket system that, while now out of use, is still part of the amusement-park lexicon. In this new format, guests purchased ticket books that contained a number of tickets, labeled "A," "B" and "C." Rides and attractions using an "A-ticket" were generally simple, with "B-tickets" and "C-tickets" used for the larger, more popular rides. Later, the "D-ticket" was added, then finally the now-famous "E-ticket," which was used on the biggest and most elaborate rides, like Space Mountain. Smaller tickets could be traded up for use on larger rides (i.e., two or three A-tickets would equal a single B-ticket). Disneyland, as well as the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, abandoned this practice in 1982.
The advantages of pay-as-you-go include:
The disadvantages of pay-as-you-go include:
An amusement park using the pay-one-price format will charge guests a single, large admission fee. The guest is then entitled to use almost all of the attractions in the park as often as they wish during their visit. The park might have some attractions that are not included in the admission charge; these are called "up-charge attractions" and can include bungee jumping or go-kart tracks or games of skill. However, the majority of the park's attractions are included in the admission cost.
The “pay-one-price” ticket was first used by George Tilyou at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island in 1897. The entrance fee was 25 cents for entrance to the 15-acre (61,000 m2) park and visitors could enjoy all of the attractions as much as they wanted.
When Angus Wynne, founder of Six Flags Over Texas, first visited Disneyland in 1959, he noted that park's pay-as-you-go format as a reason to make his park pay-one-price. He felt that a family would be more likely to visit his park if they knew, up front, how much it would cost to attend.
The advantages of pay-one-price include:
The disadvantages of pay-one-price include:
Today's modern theme parks typically charge a single admission fee for admission and unlimited use of attractions, rides, and shows, where as most modern amusement parks offer free admission yet charge separate fees per attraction.
Mechanized thrill machines are what makes an amusement park out of a pastoral, relaxing picnic grove or retreat. Earliest rides include the carousel which was originally developed as a way of practicing and then showing-off expertise at tournament skills such as riding and spearing the ring. By the 19th century, carousels were common in parks around the world. Another such ride which shaped the future of the amusement park was the roller coaster. Beginning as a winter sport in 17th century Russia, these gravity driven railroads were the beginning of the search for even more thrilling amusement park rides. The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a particular fertile testing ground for amusement rides. The Ferris wheel is the most recognized product of the fair. All rides are set round a theme.
A park contains a mixture of attractions which can be divided into several categories.
There is a core set of thrill rides which most amusement parks have, including the enterprise, tilt-a-whirl, the gravitron, chairswing, swinging inverter ship, twister, and the top spin. However, there is constant innovation, with new variations on ways to spin and throw passengers around appearing in an effort to keep attracting customers.
Since the late 19th century, amusement parks have featured roller coasters. Roller coasters feature steep drops, sharp curves, and inversions. Roller coasters may be the most attractive aspect of a park, but many people come for other reasons. Amusement parks generally have anywhere from two to seven coasters, depending on space and budget. As of 2009, the record for the most coasters in one park is held by Cedar Point with 17; followed by Six Flags Magic Mountain with 16, Canada's Wonderland with 15, and Kings Island with also 15.
Amusement park trains have had long and varied history in American amusement parks as well as overseas. According to various websites and historians, the earliest park trains weren't really trains -- they were trolleys. The earliest park trains were mostly custom built. Some of the most common manufacturers were:
Amusement parks with water resources generally feature a few water rides, such as the log flume, bumper boats, and rowing boats. Such rides are usually gentler and shorter than roller coasters and many are suitable for all ages. Water rides are especially popular on hot days.
Transport rides are used to take large amounts of guests from one area in the park to another. They usually cost extra, even in parks where rides are free. They are generally popular as they offer an alternative to walking (riding on a train). Transport rides include chairlifts, monorails, and train rides.
Amusement parks generate a portion of their income through the sale of food and drink to their patrons. Food is routinely sold through food booths, push carts and indoor restaurants. The offerings vary as widely as the amusement parks themselves, and range from common fast food items, like hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, candy apples, donuts and local street foods up to full-service gourmet dishes. Amusement parks with exotic themes may include specialty items or delicacies related to the park's theme. Many restaurants and food stands are operated by the amusement parks themselves, while others are branches of regional or national chains.