There are many vintage amusement and theme parks in the United States that you might want to consider for your next family vacation. While some might not quite compare to the latest and greatest in terms of thrill rides or modern amenities, most of the ones on this list still have a great nostalgic feel to them. If you would like to experience a little history while you vacation, perhaps some of these old amusement and theme parks would be a great place to visit. Please note that this list is not just of the oldest ones; it is mean to take the vintage, classic theme into account as well as the age.
Lake Compounce - Bristol, Connecticut
The oldest amusement park open and continuously operated in the United States is Lake Compounce of Bristol, Connecticut. The 332 acre park first opened up in 1846 and has been open ever since that time. While the park has changed hands several times over years, it has remained open and running strong. In fact, construction is underway for the expansion of the Splash Harbor waterpark, part of the amusement park. With three roller coasters and over forty attractions, it’s not quite as ‘packed’ as some of the others, but it is definitely a classic example of a vintage amusement or theme park in the United States.
Cedar Point - Sandusky, Ohio
I was very surprised to learn that Cedar Point amusement park opened up in 1870. This makes it a classic and many people rate it among the top three of all amusement parks in the United States, due at least in part to the superior roller coaster rides at the 364 acre site. In fact, I have seen it listed as number one, even over Disney World, on many of the lists I checked. Now that speaks highly of any amusement park. Since it is located in Ohio with cold winters, it is generally only open from early to mid-May until the end of October.
While Soak City and Challenge park are technically outside of the Cedar Point park, they help add to the vintage appeal that you can only get from a classic theme park. With over 75 rides, a world record according to Wikipedia, the park has more than enough to entertain the entire family.
Idlewild and Soak Zone - Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Known as the best children’s park in the world, it started out in 1878 as a campground. What a transformation that has taken place over the years at Idlewild in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Like Disney, the park has multiple animatronic figures and rides to help enhance the experience.
One of the best features of the park is the Raccoon Lagoon, which is 9 acres and patterned after Mr. Roger’s land of make believe. This one has won many different awards and honors over the years and is always considered among the best for families with small children. If you are in Pennsylvania, you will find there are many different amusement parks you can visit, all within a few hours drive.
Seabreeze Amusement Park - Rochester, New York
Technically, Seabreeze is located in Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, New York. It opened in 1879 has remained open ever since. So popular is this park, it is often referred to by many that blog about nostalgic theme parks and attractions. It has many features, but the most popular are a couple of very old rides.
The park has what is recognized as the fourth oldest roller coaster in the world and the centerpiece is a carousel that was added in 1915, although it did suffer substantial fire damage in 1994, which has since been repaired. While the park is not nearly as big as some of the others on this list, it is among the best and certainly worth visiting if you are in the area or planning a trip to New York. With all the rides and attractions, you are sure to have a blast while you vacation there.
Coney Island - Cincinnati, Ohio
You’ll find a blend of modern and vintage amusement park rides and attractions at this relatively small theme park. The Coney Island park of Cincinnati opened up in 1867 with very humble beginnings. The Pepsi Typhoon roller coaster and multiple waterslides make it a fun attraction for most families. While it doesn’t feature nearly as many bells and whistles as some of the others on this list, it is still one of the better vintage theme and amusement parks you will find out there today. With almost 150 years of history, you cannot help but feel some of it as you enter and visit the park, even with the modern amenities.
Hersheypark - Hershey, Pennsylvania
Hersheypark, formerly known as Hershey Park, is located in Pennsylvania, along with so many other great amusement and theme parks. It was founded in 1907 as a leisure park solely for the employees of the Hershey Chocolate Company. You would never see such a thing these days. There are many different attractions at this location that are worth taking a look at.
Among the best attractions of Hersheypark is the Kissing Tower, a 330 foot tall observation tower. Also worth checking out are the Boardwalk and ZOOAMERICA . Check out the many chocolate factory themed rides while you are there.
Knoebels Park - Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Since it opened in 1926, the park has grown to include 57 rides and two wooden roller coasters. One of the things that makes this one different than other parks is the free admission and free entertainment. It seems Knoebels Amusement Park is content with selling wristbands for rides and selling food, since they have won the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award for best food for 14 straight years running. The 110 foot tall Ferris wheel is the tallest in Pennsylvania. It is well worth the trip if you are planning a little family vacation. It seems that Pennsylvania is home to many vintage theme and amusement parks.