Coney Island in Cincinnati started in 1886 as a steamboat park as a way to encourage ridership on the ships. During the 1890s, the park added a Giant Circle Swing, a shoot-the-chutes water ride and a wooden Ferris wheel. In the early 1900s, Coney Island added a trio of coasters: Figure Eight, Dip the Dips and Little Dipper. The park upped the coaster ante in the 1920s with the double out-and-back Wildcat and the unique Twister with a track enclosed in a tunnel.
Conneaut Lake Park
Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania dates to 1892 as a lakefront picnic area. Following a fire in 1908 that destroyed most of the midway, the park built a Scenic Railway roller coaster and a merry-go-round. The 1938 Blue Streak wooden coaster remains the park's centerpiece.
Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pa., opened in 1894 as a trolley park, a precursor to the amusement parks created by streetcar lines as incentives to increase weekend ridership. Lakemont's most prized possession remains the 1902 Leap-the-Dips, the world's oldest operating roller coaster. The ride was named a national historic landmark in 1996.
Waldameer Park in Erie, Pa., began life as a picnic area until the park was leased by a trolley company in 1896. Over the next couple of decades, the trolley park added three roller coasters: Figure Eight (1902), Scenic Railway (1907) and Ravine Flyer (1922). An Old Mill dark ride soon followed.
Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pa., was transformed in 1898 from "Kenny's Grove" picnic area into a trolley park with the addition of a carousel, casino and dance hall. Over the next few years, the park added an Old Mill dark ride and a figure-eight toboggan coaster.
During the amusement park boom period of the early 20th century, Kennywood added four roller coasters: Racer (1910), Speed-O-Plane (1911), Jack Rabbit (1920) and Pippin (1924). Three of the coasters remain today: Jack Rabbit, a rebuilt Racer and a renamed Pippin (now Thunderbolt).
In 1995, the park introduced the Lost Kennywood area , which included vintage rides such as the whip, wave swinger and shoot-the-chutes. Kennywood was designated a national historic landmark in 1987.
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., debuted in 1907 as a leisure park for Hershey employees that the chocolate company later opened to the public. Under an entrance sign that proclaimed "Ye who enter here leave dull cares behind," the park installed a merry-go-round in 1908, a carousel in 1912 and the Wild Cat coaster in 1923. The 1930s saw the addition of a penny arcade, fun house and a Mill Chute log flume ride.
Knoebels in Elysburg, Pa., opened toward the tail end of the golden age of amusement parks but still manages to exemplify that historic era. The one-time swimming hole and picnic grove attracted horse-drawn hayride wagons until Henry Knoebel added a carousel and few games in 1926. Today, the park still recalls an earlier time with classic rides including the Whip, the Looper and hand cars (for both kids and adults).