Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicago Area Amusement Parks

kiddieland1 signThere was an article in today’s Chicago Tribune Kiddieland rides: Where Are They now?  This sparked memories of Kiddieland and other Chicago area amusement parks I remember.

Storybookland-adventurelandAdventureland on Lake St. and Medinah Road in Addison operated from 1961 to 1977 and was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967 to 1976 and boasted parking for 3,000 cars. 

I remember one family outing to Adventureland. I must have been in junior high and I wanted to go on a Ferris Wheel-like ride that had a cage you could spin and hang upside down.  Well, sister, Sharon, didn’t ride with me.  Don’t know why—fear or height restrictions, I don’t know.  The operator couldn’t let a car go up with only one passenger so they loaded up a teenage boy.  As I remember he was a nice looking teenage boy.  So the ride started up and the car began to revolve.  At one point we were suspended upside down and screams commenced, from me.  My Dad, bless his heart, thought I was in distress and had the operator bring me down.  How embarrassing.  I don’t really remember any more of that little outing.  I was probably trying very hard not to bump into the nice looking teenage boy.

Kiddieland carousel horse angleAnother park we frequented was Kiddieland.  Kiddieland was located in Melrose Park.  The park opened in 1929 and had pony rides, Ferris wheel, “Little Auto Ride”,bumper cars, the “Roto Whip” and a beautiful German Carousel that was installed in 1940. There were two mini steam locomotives that offered train rides around the perimeter of the park.  Kiddieland closed in 2009. The rides were auctioned. It was a sad day. This was a park that my son, Joe, and nieces and nephews were able to enjoy as well.

kiddieland rideskiddieland bumber cars







Hillcrest Park, Archer Ave., Lemont,  was an amusement park and picnic grounds.  Clark Equipment Company, where Tom worked, would have its company picnic there each year.  They would rent the entire park for a day.  Everything was free.  We attended a picnic there when Joe was just an infant but I didn’t go on any rides.

Hillcrest Park closed in 2003 because the land it was on became more valuable than the park itself. The Little Dipper roller coaster was sold to Little Americka Amusement Park in Marshall, WI. 

Playland Park was located in Willow Springs and Fairyland Park in Lyons. I am sure we went to both of these as they were close to home but don’t remember specifics.

Santa’s Village in Dundee. This was a bit more of a drive from home but I do remember the Christmas theme complete with Santa and Elves. Santa’s Village in Dundee was one of three. The others were located in Texas and California. They were the first theme park chain.

.snow-man-santas-village-elgin-illinoisThe three “worlds” of Santa’s Village were Coney Island, where you could find rides including the Tilt-a-Whirl (my all-time favorite ride). Old McDonald’s Farm was a petting zoo. As the name Santa’s Village implies, it was about Santa and Santa’s World was the main attraction. Santa’s World housed an ice rink, balloon ride, snowball ride, and Santa himself.

Santas Villiage was in continuous operation from 1959 to 2006. Then Had a reboot in 2011 with Paintball Explosion opening on April 30 and Santa’s Village Azoosmentpark opening on May 27.

Dispensa’s Castle of Toys and Kiddie Kingdom Amusement Park was located near Oakbrook Center shopping mall, in Oak Brook. The amusement park had a relatively short lifespan, 1975 to 1984. The park was a natural progression of the carnival business the Dispensa family owned.

Dispensa’s was great for a family on a budget.  The rides were a quarter or six for a dollar. I never went to the amusement park or toy store but I do remember the commercials.  Click here for a1979 commercial on YouTube.    Click here for a 1978 commercial for Dispensa’s Castle of Toys.

old chicago

Old Chicago, Route 53, Bolingbrook was ahead of it’s time. 

Old Chicago was billed as “The world’s first indoor amusement park.”  Not only was Old Chicago an amusement park but it was also a shopping mall.  Sound familiar.  The mall had cobblestone streets and storefronts reminiscent of streets of years gone by. 

It opened in June of 1975 to huge crowds but from the very beginning there were financial problems resulting from construction cost overruns.  Additionally, there weren’t any large anchor stores such as Sears and the specialty shops couldn’t sustain customers.  By 1980 everything was shut down.  After efforts to find a use for the enormous building failed, it was demolished in 1986.  It was a shame.  I found the place fascinating but like many others, I was not a repeat customer in spite of living only a few miles away.


Riverview Park in Chicago is a legend.  For generations of Chicagoans, a trip to Riverview Park was must.

I remember our visit to the famous park.  Riding the Shoot the Chutes, the Wild Mouse, the Flying Turns, Tunnel of Love, and the Rotor.  Aladdin's Castle fun house was a hoot.  As you entered there was a large rotating barrel you would walk through, if you could.  Also there were distortion mirrors and a maze.  I also remember to enter  you walked up the steps and across a raised walkway where there was a spot that blew air up and if you had a skirt on . . . guess what?  That’s right.  I also remember the benches opposite this nifty feature were filled with men of all ages. 

Riverview park opened in 1904 and closed unexpectedly in 1967. 

parachute ride riverview parkalladins castle

It is sad that most of the old-style parks have closed and families must pay top dollar for this type of entertainment. 

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