According to the National Amusement Park Historical Association, the concept of the amusement park originated in Europe circa 1550, when outdoor entertainment sites called Pleasure Gardens were created to entertain the entire family with outdoor games, dancing and natural displays. Today, there are a large number of amusement parks across the United States that offer roller coasters and other rides and various forms of entertainment for people of all ages. While amusement parks have many draws, they also pose a few disadvantages that families should consider before spending their time and money at these vacation destinations.
Most theme parks are priced at well over $20 per person, per day. This can add up quickly for families, especially those who wish to spend more than one day exploring a park. In addition to entrance fees, many parks charge additional fees for individual rides and events. And food booths at amusement parks tend to be exorbitantly priced. Feeding a family can easily cost more than $10 per person for a single meal. Add on hotel expenses and flight or gas prices and you have a considerable expense for a family outing.
A theme park is comprised of man-made rides and attractions. For this reason, amusement parks do not offer much in the way of natural beauty or rustic charm. While a national park provides numerous environmental learning opportunities, theme parks are primarily geared toward titillating an individual's senses. Rides, shows and attractions create numerous passive entertainment opportunities, which do not require much physical or mental effort on the part of family members.
If you plan a trip to an amusement park during the peak summer season, you can expect to wait in line for each ride anywhere from a half hour to three hours. It can be difficult to keep younger children on good behavior while they are packed like sardines in a slow-moving queue. Wait times for rides are significantly shorter during off-peak seasons, but environmental factors like rain and cold weather need to be considered when deciding which month is best for your vacation.
Many amusement park rides have signs that read, "You must be this tall to ride this ride." This means that if you are bringing small children with you to the amusement park, they will not be able to enjoy many of the roller coasters or other "big kid" rides. Parents may need to split up in order to entertain children while the rest of the family gets a thrill ride on a coaster or other ride. This can diminish the number of overall family bonding opportunities during your vacation and make younger kids feel left out.