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Days Gone By: The Amusement Parks Of Columbus

What ever happened to the amusement parks of Columbus?

Did you know that Columbus, Ohio was once home to four different amusement parks? Sure, today we have Zoombezi Bay, the Columbus Zoo, and other awesome attractions. But these parks of the past were something else! Swimming pools could hold 5,000 people at the same time, state-of-the-art thrill rides made people squeal with glee, men and women jitterbugged in dance pavilions for hours, and people had a blast.

Can’t imagine it? Well, you can read about the amusement parks of Columbus’ past and see pictures below!

Minerva Amusement Park

Minerva Amusement Park opened in the summer of 1895 and was the first amusement park in Franklin County. The park had a zoological garden, ornithological museum, the Scenic Railway roller coaster, a water slide, and many other areas for entertaining activities. Minerva Amusement Park’s original dance hall burned down in 1896, and a casino took its place. This casino wasn’t a place to gamble, but a place to enjoy vaudeville acts, orchestral performances, and other high-class entertainment.

The park was forced to close its gates in 1902 because Minerva Amusement Park could not compete with the popularity of Olentangy Park. The new park was much closer to downtown and was easier to get to. The Village of Minerva Park pays tribute to Franklin County’s first amusement park by taking its name.

The Minerva Amusement Park Gate via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
Minerva Amusement Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
The Scenic Railway Roller Coaster via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
The Minerva Amusement Park Casino via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Olentangy Park

The amusement park was first opened in 1899. It was run by the Dusenbury Brothers who wanted their park to be a wonderful family-friendly place to visit. Olentangy Park was a sight to be seen and featured a beautiful theater, a Loop-the-Loop ride, a Shoot-the-Chutes ride, Ferris wheels, and many other thrills in its 44 years open.

In its heyday, Olentangy Park was the largest amusement park in the country.

Daily visitors started to dwindle during the Great Depression. Many amusement parks across the nation were forced shut down and Olentangy Park was no exception. The park finally closed in 1938 and its rides were sold to various other parks. Today, the Olentangy Village apartment complex is located where the amusement park stood. Though Olentangy Park may be long gone, you can still ride its whimsical carousel at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Olentangy Park was featured in the WOSU Columbus Neighborhoods Series. You can learn more about it by watching the video.

The Olentangy Park Theater via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
The Loop-the-Loop ride at Olentangy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
The Shoot-the-Chutes ride at Olentandy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
Olentandy Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Indianola Park

Opened in 1905, Indianola Park called the University District home. It stretched from 18th Avenue to Norwich Avenue and 4th Street to Big Four Street–a total of 30 acres. Not only did this amusement park have numerous rides and coasters, it boasted a huge swimming pool, a dance hall, and later, a stage for touring music groups to perform on. The park was extremely popular and it wasn’t uncommon for thousands of Columbusites to go for a dip in the pool in a single day.

The park was closed in 1937 due to hard financial times, yet another victim of the Great Depression. 11 years later the property got a second chance at life and the Indianola Park Shopping Center was built.

The Indianola Park Gate via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
The massive pool and dance hall at Indianola Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
Indianola Park’s carousel via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection
A concert being performed at Indianola Park via Columbus Metropolitan Library Collection

Norwood Amusement Park

Right on the corner of Alum Creek Drive and East Main Street sat a quaint amusement park. This popular destination in Bexley had over 20 attractions. Norwood had multiple kiddie rides, a small Ferris wheel, a swimming pool, and other exciting attractions.

The park remained open until the late 1950s and was the last remaining amusement park in the Columbus area. Norwood was reportedly torn down to make way for the I-70 ramp off of Alum Creek Drive. Today, the space where the park once stood is known as Pump House Park.

An overhead view showing a very general area of where Norwood Amusement Park was located via Facebook
Children on a boat ride at Norwood Amusement Park via Facebook
A little boy on a racecar ride at Norwood Amusement Park via Facebook

Do you have any old pictures of family members hanging out at any of these amusement parks? We’d love to see them! Share the photos with us on Facebook and Twitter

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