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Bobbejaanland, Lichtaart, Belgium

An amusement park is a collection of rides and other entertainment attractions assembled for the purpose of entertaining a fairly large group of people. An amusement park is more elaborate than a simple city park or playground and caters for all ages.

Amusement parks evolved in Europe from pleasure gardens, which existed for the recreation of the people, while charging a fee. In the United States, expositions were another influence on the amusement park. Amusement parks were the historical precursors to modern theme parks as well as the more traditional midway arcades and rides at county and state fairs (in the United States). Today, amusement parks have largely been replaced by theme parks, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The oldest amusement park in the world is Bakken, at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark, which opened in 1583.

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. Some parks charge an entry fee which allows unlimited access to all attractions, whereas others offer free admission but charge guests for each attraction.

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A typical roller coaster layout
The roller coaster is a popular amusement ride developed for amusement parks and modern theme parks. LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented the first roller coaster on January 20, 1885. In essence a specialized railroad system, a roller coaster consists of a track that rises in designed patterns, sometimes with one or more inversions (such as loops) that turn the rider briefly upside down. The track does not necessarily have to be a complete circuit, as shuttle roller coasters exhibit. Most roller coasters have multiple cars in which passengers sit and are restrained into. An entire set of cars hooked together is called a train. Some roller coasters, notably Wild Mouse roller coasters, run with single cars.

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Alpengeist's cobra roll with Griffon in background
Credit: Kyle Bundy

Alpengeist is the tallest complete circuit inverted roller coaster in the world. The ride is located at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia. Built by Swiss manufacturers Bolliger & Mabillard, Alpengeist features six inversions: an immelmann loop, a vertical loop, a cobra roll (pictured), a zero-g roll, and a wing over.

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Entrance to La Ronde
La Ronde is the largest theme park in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Canada's Wonderland, with about 2.5 million visitors in 2006. The park covers 146 acres (591,000 m²) and is located on Saint Helen's Island in Montreal, Canada. It lies on the former site of the 1967 Montreal World's Fair. The park hosts L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, an international fireworks competition.

La Ronde was opened in 1967 as a part of Expo 67 and now features 39 rides, including nine roller coasters. Among them is Le Monstre, a 40 metre (131 ft) high wooden double-tracked roller coaster which currently holds the record for highest double-tracked roller coaster in the world.

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Amusement parks • Disneyland • Roller coasters • UK theme parks

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