Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Amusement Parks & Me

My history with amusements parks is storied.  I grew up in Ventura County California, near three top tier Parks on the west coast.  I also went to one park that back then, the mid 1980’s that was still considered second tier park and had not been elevated to first tier yet.  I went to these parks from 1970 to 1985.  Having attended these kinds of Amusement Parks with permanent attractions, I have always been leery of county/state fair rides and carnival rides.  It has always been a safety concern to me.  I am going to break it down by park.  There is also a big local institution on the list.


This was my first Amusement park.  It was my favorite as a pre-pubescent kid.  As a tween and teen I found it a little too kiddie, especially Fantasyland.  The first few visits were during the old Coupon or ticket system.  You had to buy tickets for each ride.  In the 1980’s when I started going almost regularly, from 1982 to 1985, that system was replaced by the park day pass.  I have not been back since 1984 or 1985.  I know the park has changed considerably in almost 30 years.  I loved The Enchanted Tiki Room, Bear Country Jamboree, Mister Toad’s Wild Ride, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, The Matterhorn, The Pirate of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion the most.   I know of those, the Country Bear Jamboree, one is no longer there.  It is at Disney World.  There are many attractions gone from my day, mostly from Tomorrowland (Mission to Mars, People Mover, Skyway to Fantsyland, Rocket Jets, Submarine Voyage, Adventure through Inner Space, America Sings Circle Vision 360, and more).  There are many newer attractions I never got the chance to experience. I have not been east of Utah, so that Park is not one I am familiar with.  In the 1980’s there were very few non fast food type places, from what I understand that has changed.  I have fond memories of going with My Great Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends during those years.  Since I left Southern California, they added a new park to Disneyland and there are Disneylands all over the world.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

This park was the closest to my hometown of Oxnard, California.  It was less than an hour drive to this park.  My family first went here for my brother’s fifth birthday in 1976.  It was more a thrill ride park than Disneyland.  It stated with its own in house characters, after it was purchased by Six Flags in 1979 it moved more towards Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes characters, at least for the area dedicated for the smaller kids.  Between the ages of 12 and 17, I preferred Magic Mountain.  I was even thrilled to find out they filmed the Wally World scenes of National Lampoon’s Vacation there. As a 12 to 17 year old, I had few vices, but thrill rides were among the ones I had.  Magic Mountain was known for its thrill rides.  There is also a category of rides where you spin around in a circle in various ways; I called these rides spin and pukes. In the eighties they had concerts that were free with admission to the park.  Bands that played were Flock of Seagulls, Cheap Trick, Quiet Riot, Berlin, and more. Since I left they have branded a section of the park as DC Universe and renamed many of the rides after DC superheroes.  The concerts from what I heard were toned down after gang issues in the 1990’s.  In August of 2014 they closed the Colossus, one of the largest wooden roller coasters down for a refit.  Like with all of Southern California, I have not been back since 1985. 

Knott’s Berry Farm

Of the top three Amusement parks, I considered Knott’s Berry Farm number three.  When I left, it had not licensed the Peanuts characters for it younger kids’ section.  It had Montezuma’s Revenge, a rollercoaster that was a single loop de loop that repeated multiple times forwards and backwards.  It was a decent park, but was not as thrilling and teen oriented as Magic Mountain or as family oriented as Disneyland.  Since then, they have done more with the old west theme and the kids themes with Camp Snoopy.  From what I have been able to find out lest that 30 percent of the attractions from my day are still there.  Knott’s also did concerts and teen events during my day.  There were a number of good thrill rides including the roller coaster called the Corkscrew, which has since been replaced.

Universal Studios Hollywood

In the 1980’s, Universal Studios Hollywood was called Universal Studios Tours.  It was mostly the Tour ride with a couple of live shows.  At the time it was a tier two Amusement Park.  Since 1985, the expansion of the Lower lot, in 1991, it has grown to become the fourth of the Southern Californian Tier One Amusement Parks.  When I went at 17, I was not impressed.  This was after years of Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Knott’s.  From what I understand that has changed considerable in the close to 30 years since. 

Busch Gardens, Van Nuys California

I only went once to the Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, California.  It was in 1974.  We went with my paternal Great Aunt and Uncle.  I believe we went, because it was the only Amusement Park with a beer garden.  This must have been difficult for my father who was 3 years sober at the time.  There were some attractions, but they were tier two or three variety stuff.  The gardens and the bird sanctuary were fun, but not what a 6 year old would find fun.  I have very vague memories of the place and would find it hard to describe the rides.  The Amusements closed down in 1976 and the whole park closed in 1979. 

Enchanted Forest, Turner, Oregon

Enchanted Forest is just south of Salem, Oregon.  It has always been a kid’s oriented place, especially under 10. It was opened in 1971 and the family who built still owns it.  I went at 10 or 11, so for me it was a little cheesy.  It does not have the money behind it like the other parks mentioned here, so it may not be as polished.  It is a still fun little park.  It is more like the smaller parks found in the mid west and east coast.  During the 90’s to early 2000’s next door was a thrill ride park called Thrillville USA.  That has since closed.  I did not visit Thrillville, hence why it does not have its own entry. Enchanted Forest does the best on the budget they have, which is still fun.  I remind folks I have only been once.   

There you go my history with Amusement Parks based on a Park to Park basis.  That Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

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