Michigan’s Old Amusement Parks, 1890s-1960s
What does summer mean to many of us? AMUSEMENT PARKS.
Michiganders love their roller coasters, ferris wheels, dodgem cars, merry-go-rounds, and other amusement park rides. In fact, we love amusement parks PERIOD. Even those who don’t like the rides, the amusement park has always been a great getaway for a day to eat greasy sausages, cotton candy, elephant ears, over-priced small Dixie cups of flat pop, and to flirt with members of the opposite sex.
The mid-to-late 1800s saw the boom of amusement parks and it became a craze by the end of the 19th century, well into the 1900s. Rides, concession stands, arcades, shooting galleries, “ring the bell,” side shows, picnic areas, swimming, dance halls, sports areas, hot-air balloon rides, boat rides, mini-trains…..so amazingly intricate and unlike the few we have left.
Travel to many of these parks were provided by streetcars, and many of the streetcar companies built their own theme parks at the end of their lines to generate even more income from travelers.
Taking cues from New York’s Coney Island and other parks in neighboring states, Michigan soon had its own influx of amusement areas. The “Golden Age” of Michigan fun parks is said to be from the 1890s to 1930. By the 1930s, the number of U.S. amusement parks had dwindled from over 2,000 to 350. Even so, they were still going strong in Michigan for another few decades.
After World War 2, even more parks closed down. A few managed to linger throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and into the 2,000s. In this age of home entertainment, gaming, computers, internet, etc., we’re lucky to have any left at all.
Rather than try to list all the ones from the past, I’ll just show you pictures of a handful of ‘em. Check out the photo gallery of long-gone amusement parks below and try to imagine what it would’ve been like to attend one of these!
All photos below are available at worthpoint.com