What is the difference between a theme park and an amusement park?
Is Disney World a theme park or an amusement park? What about Cedar Point? Is there really a difference or do these two terms mean the same thing? Does it even matter? Well, it may not be as important as some things out there, but park and amusement park enthusiasts will find it interesting, if not important. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity in this article to clear up some of the confusion.
Let’s start by first defining the term “Amusement Park” because amusement parks were the first to appear on the scene. By most definitions, the amusement park has been around for hundreds of years, roughly since the 16th century. It can be simply defined as a fixed location where multiple rides and attractions are assembled to entertain people. Simple enough.
However, over the years, the definition of amusement park has been clouded by changes in amusement design, the invention of the automobile and the media, and the need for entertainment to meet or exceed expectations. of your audience. These changes have led to improvements and innovations in some parks and bankruptcies and closures in many others. But, one thing remained constant, the parks, themselves, were always just collections of attractions, no matter how disjointed or tacky the collection seemed. Excellent examples of these include Coney Island in Brooklyn or Riverview Park in Chicago … neither of which exists today by the way.
While it is debatable when the “theme park” was introduced, most experts believe that Walt Disney was its inventor. Disney, however, was heavily influenced by Knott’s Berry Farm and the amusement parks of Europe. So you could claim that Knott’s Berry Farm was the first theme park, but certainly Walt Disney took the theme park to a whole new level. So what makes a theme park different from an amusement park?
A true “theme” park consists of different thematic lands or regions. Great efforts are made to create the illusion of another world or culture using landscaping, architecture, music, food, employees, and attractions. In a theme park, attractions often take second place in the environment in which they are located. The more a park can take its visitors out of the “real world” and into a fantasy world, the truer the label “theme” becomes. Because Walt Disney used film directors rather than architects for his park design, he was able to create a true escape from reality, as if the theme park were a movie on a screen.
Theme resorts take theme parks to a whole new level
With the opening of Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971, the next step in the evolution of the theme park took place. Beyond the rides and attractions of Walt Disney World, Disney combined the theme park with hotels, golf courses, water recreation, and (eventually) more theme parks. We like to call this the “Theme Resort”.
The idea of the themed resort is to attract guests and then keep them on their property for whatever they may want or imagine. It is quite possible, with the advent of Disney’s Wide World of Sports, sport fishing, water and field sports, and tournament capabilities, that almost everything one can do on a vacation can now be found in one place. The themed resort has become a one-stop shop for dream vacations and the numbers are showing that the Disney idea is the right way to think. Disney is not alone in this market. Universal Studios in Orlando consists of two separate theme parks, hotels and restaurants to create the Universal Orlando Resort. Disney learned in the 1980s that keeping people close was the key to profits and that is certainly proving to be true.
It’s easy to get frustrated by the comparisons that are commonly made between amusement parks and theme parks, although those comparisons, by definition, shouldn’t be made. When someone says “I think Cedar Point is a much better amusement park than Disney World,” they are right in a way because Walt Disney World is not an amusement park and will never claim to be a roller coaster enthusiast’s paradise. At the same time, however, they are also wrong because they compare apples to oranges. To make things even more confusing, Cedar Point sometimes calls itself a theme park simply because different areas of the park are labeled. Sorry Cedar Point. The theme is more than just labels.
So the next time someone says they enjoyed Dollywood or Six Flags much more than Disney World, don’t bother arguing. They can also say that they like sushi more than a bicycle.