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Core Memories Unlocked!

July 2024

Amusement Parks Just Aren't As "Amusing" As They Once Were

Summer for families has always meant long, sunny days that we try our best to fill to fight off the out-of-school boredom. Amusement parks are a time-honored answer for family fun and bonding, with just a hint of potential danger. For us, of course, these summer outings looked a little different than they do now. With cheaper tickets, creepy-fun park mascots, beer gardens, and - slightly - more lax ride safety regulations, we always knew our time at the amusement park would be memorable, at the very least! Here’s some of the reasons we think amusement parks today don’t quite stack up to the versions we went to as kids! 

Firstly, and more obvious to our parents, is the cost of going to an amusement park. Back then, we could go to Busch Gardens for anywhere between $10-$20 in the 80s, or even to Whalom Park in Mass. for just $15 a day as late as the 90s. Nowadays, you have to pay at least that much just to park your car. We used to pay to get into the park, but now we have to pay to park, and then pay to get into the park - ouch! Going to Europe First Class might actually be cheaper than spending a week at Disney with a visit to EPCOT. We won’t even get into the differences in food and drink prices. Going to the amusement park was always a rare treat, at least for us. But now, going feels a lot less casual and a lot more like an actual trip with all the logistics and cost. We’re less than amused so far…

There’s also the general vibe of the parks themselves. Back in the day, parents just let their kids wander the park by themselves, riding any ride they wanted to - and were tall enough to get on (when up on their tippy-toes, of course) and maybe even “get into a little trouble” along the way. Meanwhile, most of our parents were enjoying themselves on the ride sidelines, perhaps with a frosty beverage in-hand. Some parks then were built up around beer gardens, with fun entertainment for the kiddos, which definitely ensured fun for the whole family! Now, however, parents aren’t able, or as comfortable, leaving their kids on their own, so deciding which rides to go on is more of a family affair. This has its upsides, as more family time is usually the goal of these trips, but there’s a fine line between enough family time and too much. However, getting vetoed because no one else wants to ride your favorite rides is a disappointment from which only the strongest of us can recover. The atmosphere of amusement parks as a whole used to feel safer, even if the rides themselves weren’t. 

Rotor rides, funhouses, sky rides, and rickety wooden roller coasters are now largely extinct, but we lived to ride ‘em in our time, blissfully unaware of how dangerous they were. Or maybe we kinda knew and just didn’t care? Whatever the case may be, these old rides were slowly replaced by newer, fancier (and alright, sure), safer options. Now we have super-smooth giant steel roller coasters, and 4D “rides” that are basically just virtual reality video games with slightly higher adrenaline rushes. Modern parks, and their rides, do come with some new perks. Now, the truly dedicated theme parker can purchase fast-passes to skip ahead of most of the regular folks in line. But for those stuck in line, never fear! Now, there’s line entertainment. Videos of the ride’s “backstory”, art displays, and characters associated with the ride are there to keep you occupied as you stand in wait. These new ride line entertainment options might not be as nostalgic as standing in the heat and potentially getting harassed by the creepy park mascots, but we have to admit, they at least distract from the estimated 240 minute line wait.! When the family needs a carefully crafted daily park strategy, which may or may not include a paid app, to help you most efficiently navigate the park and ride times, that just doesn’t feel as amusing anymore, does it?

While amusement parks might not be what they used to be, they can still be lots of fun for the whole family! Then, it was rickety rides, kids running wild, and dropping buck after buck in the midway. Now, most of the old/original rides are extinct, families stick together (including through the extra long ride lines). Technology also plays a much larger role in our day, and that’s not even taking selfie sticks into account (don’t get us started). Though they might not be the same as we remember them being, we’re still willing to pay an arm and a leg to take the kids through our old stomping grounds, even if it’s a bit different these days. We guess they’re still amusing, especially if you don’t know the difference… 

- Maddy


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