The Secret, Private, and Lost Amusement Parks of Ohio
What can be better than going to an amusement park to ride roller-coasters? How about going to a park with coasters but it’s rarely open to the public. Ah, anyone getting an image of golden tickets to enter the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory?
Well, it’s kind of like that.
Stricker’s Grove in Hamilton, Ohio is open to the public only four times a year: Fourth of July; Family Day, which is always the second Sunday in August; Labor Day; and Customer Appreciation Day, which is in October.
Ralph Stricker is the only person in the United States to build his own coaster. Construction was started in November 1990 and completed in June 1993. The Tornado is a wooden roller coaster. The second roller coaster at this little-known amusement park is the Teddy Bear. The original Teddy Bear was located in kiddie land at Coney Island in Cincinnati. Ralph Stricker obtained the blueprints and rebuilt the Teddy Bear at Stricker’s Grove.
The park also has a train, Ferris wheel, Merry Go Round, Scrambler, Tilt A Whirl, pirate ship, flying scooters, and other rides, including kiddie cars, boats, and rockets. In addition to the rides, Stricker’s Grove also has an 18 hole miniature golf course, arcade with video games and skeeball, shooting gallery, horseshoes, and more.
Stricker’s Grove is a family-owned and operated private amusement park available to rent to groups, organizations, and churches for family picnics, wedding receptions, meetings, etc. for groups of 500 or more from mid-May to early October. Unlike most other parks, Stricker’s Grove only rents to one group most of the time, therefore, guaranteeing complete privacy without the hassle of sharing the park and picnic facilities. For more park information, click here.
Stricker’s Grove maybe Ohio’s best-kept secret as far as amusement parks go but some parks of its nature are forever lost to time.
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Chippewa Lake Amusement Park was located at Chippewa Lake south of Cleveland. It operated for 100 years, finally closing in 1978 due to the lack of attendance. After the park died, it birthed renewed interest but for all the wrong reasons. Although it closed for good, its rides remained largely intact but neglected for the next 30 years. It became a stunning site as nature grew around the fun park’s once colorful rides. Perhaps the most picturesque scene today is the Ferris wheel that still stands but with an enormous tree that grew up from the ground, dead center, and now shoots through the top, towering over the rusted metal frame. Much of the decay began to pose such safety issues for trespassers that over recent years, rides such as the old wooden roller-coaster were turned to rubble. Here is a video of what was still left behind as recently as just a few years ago.
LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park was located in Middletown, Ohio where signs of its past are still there. The park dates back to 1922 when it was a family retreat for picnicking, mostly. It added rides in the 1940s and became a regional amusement park that served up summer memories for generations. In the 1970s it changed its name to Americana Amusement Park. But in 1990 a freak electrical fire did millions of dollars worth of damage. It struggled afterward. Nearby Kings Island contributed to that. Finally, it closed its turnstiles in 1999. It came up for one last gasp of air in 2002, reclaiming its original name but this rebirth was short-lived. Since then, its rides were demolished and sold off.
A more recent casualty of the amusement park world is Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio. It was one of the big-3 amusement parks in the state and was also one of the oldest. It had major roller-coasters that competed with Cedar Point. But with Cedar Point’s world acclaim, perhaps the northern part of Ohio just wasn’t big enough to support the two major parks. However, it wasn’t the first major park to shutter its doors at Geauga Lake. There was a time in the 1970s when one side of the lake hosted the amusement park and the other was home to Sea World. Sea World Ohio lasted from 1970 to 2000. The site later became a water park. As for Geauga Lake Park (which was renamed Six Flags Worlds of Adventure for a time), its rides were auctioned off and the park stripped down to its skeleton leaving modern-day ruins still awaiting new development.
One survivor of the small and regional amusement park mass extinction that has occurred over the past several decades is Memphis Kiddie Park.
Memphis Kiddie Park in Brooklyn, Ohio is an amusement park for toddlers and preschoolers. Here, you hope that you’re shorter than the height stick! There are about a dozen rides, including North America’s oldest steel kiddie roller-coaster. Other nostalgic favorites include the train ride, airplane ride, boat ride, a little Ferris wheel, Merry-Go-Round and more. It’s a survivor of a bygone era when kiddie parks thrived. This one remains family-operated. Located in an old Cleveland neighborhood, it is a delight for generations of tiny thrill-seekers and parents alike. But this decades-old secret is getting out and folks from afar are making the trek to this little amusement wonder for their toddlers to enjoy. For park information, click here.
And then there are the two modern-day mega amusement parks thriving to this day in Ohio – Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point Amusement Park is the reigning “Roller Coaster Capital of the World!”
There’s no secret about that.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!