In the United States, trolley parks, which started in the 19th century, were picnic and recreation areas along or at the ends of streetcar lines in most of the larger cities. These were precursors to amusement parks. These trolley parks were created by the streetcar companies to give people a reason to use their services on weekends. These parks originally consisted of picnic groves and pavilions, and often held events such as dances, concerts and fireworks. Many eventually added features such as swimming pools, carousels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, sports fields, boats rides, restaurants and other resort facilities to become amusement parks. Various sources report the existence of between 1,500 and 2,000 amusement parks in the United States by 1919.
One such location was Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York where a horse drawn street car line brought pleasure seekers to the beach beginning in 1829. In 1875, a million passengers rode the Coney Island Railroad, and in 1876 two million reached Coney Island. Hotels and amusements were built to accommodate both the upper-classes and the working-class. The first carousel was installed in the 1870s, the first "switchback railway" in 1881. It wasn't till 1895 that the first permanent amusement park in North America opened: Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. This park was one of the first to charge admission to get into the park in addition to sell tickets for rides within the park.
In 1897, it was joined by Steeplechase Park, the first of three major amusement parks that would open in the area. George Tilyou designed the park to provide thrills and sweep away the restraints of the Victorian crowds. The combination of the nearby population center of New York City and the ease of access to the area made Coney Island the embodiment of the American amusement park. Often, it is Steeplechase Park that comes to mind when one generically thinks of the heyday of Coney Island, but there was also Luna Park (opened in 1903), and Dreamland (opened in 1904). Coney Island was a huge success, and by 1910 attendance on a Sunday could reach a million people.
Trolley parks decline
By the early 20th century, there were hundreds of amusement parks, many of them starting as trolley parks, in operation around the USA. Every major city boasted one or more parks, often based on (or named) Coney Island, Luna Park, Dreamland. This began the era of the “golden age” of amusement parks that reigned until the late 1920s. This was an era when the number of hours worked was reduced, while the amount of disposable income was rising. The amusement parks reflected the mechanization and efficiency of industrialization while serving as source of fantasy and escape from real life.
With the increasing number of automobiles in use, urban trolley parks gradually declined due to lack of parking and changing demographics in the urban areas. Although the automobile provided people with more options for satisfying their entertainment needs, amusement parks that were accessible by car continued to be successful and new parks were developed. It was urban trolley parks that saw declining attendance. By the end of the 1920s, amusement parks were to suffer steep declines for various reasons, particularly the Great Depression.
List of trolley parks still operating
In alphabetical order, followed by the year in which they opened
- Camden Park, Huntington, West Virginia, 1903
- Canobie Lake Park, Salem, New Hampshire, 1902
- Clementon Park, Clementon, New Jersey, 1907
- Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1901
- Kennywood, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1898
- Lakemont Park, Altoona, Pennsylvania, 1894
- Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver, Colorado, 1907
- Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut, 1846
- Midway Park, Maple Springs, New York, 1898
- Oaks Amusement Park, Portland, Oregon, May 30, 1905
- Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury, Connecticut, 1908
- Ravinia Park, Highland Park, Illinois, 1904
- Seabreeze Amusement Park, Rochester, New York, 1879
- Waldameer Park, Erie, Pennsylvania, 1896
List of trolley parks now closed
- Al Fresco Amusement Park, Peoria, Illinois
- Bonnie Brae Park, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
- Cascade Park, New Castle, Pennsylvania. While the rides are gone, the park remains as a site for community events.
- Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, Wilmington, Delaware (1886-1923)
- Chevy Chase Lake, Chevy Chase, Maryland
- Chutes Park, Los Angeles, California (1887-1914)
- Contoocook River Amusement Park, Penacook, New Hampshire (1893-1925)
- Council Crest Amusement Park, Portland, Oregon (1907-1929)
- Crescent Park, Riverside, Rhode Island
- Dixieland Amusement Park, South Jacksonville (Jacksonville), Florida. South Jacksonville Municipal Railways. Destroyed in a hail storm.
- Eldora Park, Eldora, Pennsylvania, (Carroll Township, Washington County), (1901-mid-1940s)
- Euclid Beach Park, Euclid, Ohio then Cleveland, Ohio (1895—1969)
- Excelsior Amusement Park, Excelsior, Minnesota (1925-1973)
- Fontaine Ferry Park, Louisville, Kentucky (1905–1975)
- Forest Park, Ballston Lake, New York (operated by the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad) (1902-1927)
- Forest Park, Genoa, Ohio
- Glen Park, west of Watertown, New York, Glen Park, New York
- Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, Maryland (early 1900s-1968)
- Golden Spur Amusement Park, Niantic, Connecticut (operated by New London and East Lyme Street Railway)
- Great Falls Park (operated by Washington and Old Dominion Railway), Great Falls, Virginia
- Idora Park, Oakland, California (1904–1929)
- Idora Park, Youngstown, Ohio (1899–1984)
- Indian Park, Montoursville, PennsylvaniaThe park remains as a site for community events.
- Kaydeross Park Saratoga Springs, New York (operated by the Delaware and Hudson Railway).
- Lake Lansing Amusement Park, Haslett, Michigan (Demolished 1972) Haslett, Michigan
- Lake View Park, Sheboygan, Wisconsin 
- Lakeview Park (Lake Nipmuc Amusement Park), Mendon, Massachusetts
- Lakewood Amusement, Atlanta, GA (1906-1985)
- Lincoln Park, Dartmouth, Massachusetts (1894-1987)
- Lincoln Park, Hallville, Connecticut (operated by Norwich and Westerly Railway)
- Luna Park, Arlington, Virginia (1906-1915)
- Luna Park, Cleveland, Ohio (1905-1929)
- Luna Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1905-1909)
- Luna Park, Scranton, Pennsylvania (1906-1916)
- Manawa Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa, closed in 1928
- Mountain Park, Holyoke, Massachusetts (1897-1987)
- Norumbega Park, Newton, Massachusetts (1897-1963)
- Ocean View Park, Norfolk, Virginia (1879–1979)
- Olentangy Park, Columbus, Ohio
- Olympic Park, Irvington/Maplewood, New Jersey
- Ondawa Park Greenwich, New York (operated by the Delaware and Hudson Railway).
- Palisades Amusement Park, Cliffside Park, New Jersey and Fort Lee, New Jersey, (1898–1971)
- Paxtang Park, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Pine Island Park, Manchester, New Hampshire
- Piney Ridge Park, Broad Brook, Connecticut, located on a branch of the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway, now along the line of the Connecticut Trolley Museum
- Playland, San Francisco, California (1927–1972)
- Ponce de Leon Springs Park, Atlanta, Georgia
- Riverhurst Park, Weston Mills, New York
- Riverside Amusement Park, Indianapolis, Indiana (1903–1970)
- Riverside Amusement Park, now Six Flags New England, Agawam, Massachusetts
- Rock City Park, Allegany, New York
- Rock Springs Park, Chester, West Virginia
- Rocky Glen Park, near Moosic, Pennsylvania—later became Ghost Town at the Glen before becoming New Rocky Glen
- Ramona Park, East Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Shady Grove, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
- Shellpot Park, near Wilmington, Delaware
- Suburban Gardens, Washington, D.C.
- Terrapin Park, Parkersburg, West Virginia
- Vanity Fair, East Providence, Rhode Island
- West View Park, West View, Pennsylvania
- Whalom Park, Lunenburg, Massachusetts
- White City, Atlanta, GA (1910-1925)
- White City, Indianapolis, Indiana (1906-1908)
- White City, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
- Wildwood Amusement Park, Mahtomedi, Minnesota
- Willow Grove Park, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania (1896–1976)
- Wonderland Amusement Park, Indianapolis, Indiana (1906-1911)
- Wonderland Amusement Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1905-1911)
- Oregon Electric Railway Museum—a trolley museum that, at its original location, was called the "Trolley Park"
- Harpaz, Beth J. (July 21, 2010). "Survivors of earlier era: 11 beloved trolley parks". Associated Press via The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2010-09-17.
- Adams, Judith A. (1991). The American Amusement Park Industry: A History of Technology and Thrills. Boston: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-9821-8.
- Camden Park website
- Seed, Douglas, & Khalife, Katherine (1996). Salem, NH. Volume II—Trolleys, Canobie Lake, and Rockingham Park, Images Of America. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-0438-5.
- Reynolds, Rick. "An Amusement Park on Ballston Lake?" (PDF). Retrieved July 31, 2013.
- Don King. "Narrative: Montoursville's history presented by chapter". Christopher Garneau. Archived from the original on 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- Delaware and Hudson Company (1901). Seventy-second Annual report of the Delaware and Hudson Company. p. 56.
- "Coasting to a stop at Whalom Park", The Boston Globe (Boston, MA), October 19, 2006, Jenna Russell
- "Street Railway Parks". Transit Journal. 17 (5): 186. February 2, 1901.