The world's most authentic roller coaster and amusement park expert!

What’s the Difference Between an “Amusement Park” and a “Theme Park?”

You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.

This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?

FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area. 

Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus

AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole.  Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.

Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point

THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.

Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure

What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!

Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!

Advertisements

Comments are closed.