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Arts & Culture

Great Old Amusement Parks

The Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. Long before giant theme parks and computer-controlled thrill rides, America had lots of charming and beautiful amusement parks like Coney Island in New York.
WQED Pittsburgh
The Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. Long before giant theme parks and computer-controlled thrill rides, America had lots of charming and beautiful amusement parks like Coney Island in New York.

Stream now with KPBS Passport or tune in Friday, July 24, 2020 at 7 p.m. on KPBS 2

Long before the days of giant theme parks, the United States had many amusement parks where families gathered for a cool escape on a hot summer day.

"Great Old Amusement Parks" celebrates these pre-Disney parks, visiting Playland in Rye, New York; Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana; and California's Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where vacationers can still reach for the brass ring on the merry-go-round. Rick Sebak narrates.

The one-hour special takes you on old wooden roller coasters, vintage bumper cars and many other cool classic rides. We look at some amusing history and discover what's special about these amazing parks that bring people together and keep them coming back.

During the special, Sebak mixes historical footage, old postcards, vintage music and new video that was shot from California to Connecticut, from Chattanooga to Altoona to create his trademark "scrapbook documentary."

Sebak takes viewers across the country to check out the quirky joys of some of these parks. We hop on fun old rides and find out how these places have changed over the years and how they've remained the same. We celebrate these wooden and mechanical old getaways and the communities that support them.

This program originally aired in 2010. Produced by WQED Pittsburgh