This week the Time Travel series celebrates the history of amusement parks.
Amusement parks developed after centuries of folly at fairs and pleasure gardens, where troves of people sought entertainment in the form of live performances and competitions.
The idea of a fixed amusement park came with the rise of world’s fairs in the 19th century. Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 birthed the midway, a enclosed area filled with games and rides including the world’s first Ferris wheel.
Once the midway became a staple, amusement parks increased in size and number. Parks from Coney Island to Disneyland brought more advanced rides and transformed amusement into a massive industry. Today, theme parks capitalize on immersive experiences and partner with top franchises to create irresistible attractions.
Flip through the gallery above to see how amusement parks have evolved over centuries.
Sarra Sedghi is a freelancer based in Athens, Ga.
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During the Middle Ages, people sought entertainment at fairs such as England's Bartholomew Fair. Over the next several centuries, these fairs integrated demonstrations like acrobatics and freak shows, competitions and menageries to their roster.
Image: Culture Club /Getty
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Pleasure gardens such as London's Vauxhall Gardens hit the entertainment scene during the early modern period. The gardens drew huge crowds and featured entertainment ranging from live music to hot air balloon ascents and acrobatic shows.
Image: Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Getty
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In 1851, the first world's fair was held at London's Crystal Palace. The fair, which amassed huge educational exhibitions, helped start the concept of fixed entertainment parks.
Image: Photo 12/Getty
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Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition became a precursor to the modern amusement park with its institution of the Midway Plaisance, a separate area for rides and games. The midway model persisted in following parks and fairs and became a standard in amusement.
Image: Stock Montage/Getty
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By the end of the 19th century, Brooklyn's Coney Island had evolved from a beach for pleasure seekers to an amusement park. Coney Island got its first carousel in the 1870s and its first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, in 1884.
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In 1895, Coney Island founded its Sea Lion Park, the first permanently enclosed entertainment area regulated by a single company. Like its followers, Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland (pictured), Sea Lion Park charged visitors admission as well as ride tickets.
Photo: Wallace G. Levison/Getty
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The Gilded Age brought an increase in disposable income, which fueled the amusement parks that popped up at popular leisure destinations. A desire for greater entertainment following World War I led to the golden age of roller coasters in the 1920s.
Photo: General Photographic Agency/Getty
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In 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland after visiting amusement parks with his daughters over the previous two decades. Over more than 60 years of operation, Disneyland has drawn more than 650 million guests and inspired a theme park empire spanning multiple continents.
Photo: Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
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Today, theme parks are incorporating immersive experiences alongside games and rides. Major entertainment companies such as Universal and Disney capitalize on successful franchises through areas like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney World's Star Wars Launch Bay.
Photo: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disney Parks/Getty