Do you remember Geauga Lake?
Geauga Lake was originally known as “Picnic Lake” or “Giles Pond.” Sullivan Giles chose this area for his log cabin in 1817. He later built a large frame home on the spot behind Geauga Lake depot on the north side of the lake. When the railroad came to town in 1856, it made a stop at “pond station”. Giles took advantage of his scenic lake location and, in the last half of the 19th century, established picnic grounds, a dance hall, and other entertainment near his home for the all-day pleasure of residents and those taking the train to the country. Geauga Lake first stared in 1872 as picnic and swimming. At the time, a full-sized steamboat circled the lake, towing a large scow, topped with a dance floor. The boat, first owned by William Banford and Rowe Fuller, was later purchased by the Kents.
Remembering the Magic: Exploring the History of Geauga Lake Amusement Park
Geauga Lake Amusement Park holds a special place in the hearts of many who experienced its magical charm and thrilling attractions. Nestled in Aurora, Ohio, this beloved park created lasting memories for generations of visitors. In this blog post, we delve into the rich history of Geauga Lake, highlighting its iconic moments and cherished attractions.
The Early Years: Geauga Lake Amusement Park first opened its gates in 1887 as a small lakeside picnic park. Boasting picturesque surroundings and charming entertainment, it quickly grew in popularity. The park featured boating, live music, and a grand dance hall, captivating guests with its tranquil atmosphere.
Expansion and Thrilling Rides: As the years passed, Geauga Lake expanded its offerings to include thrilling rides and attractions. In the 1920s, the Big Dipper roller coaster was introduced, becoming an instant favorite among visitors. This wooden coaster, known for its steep drops and exhilarating twists, became an iconic symbol of the park.
The Funtime Era: In the 1970s, Geauga Lake entered a new era under the ownership of Funtime Inc. The park underwent significant renovations, adding modern rides, water attractions, and live entertainment. The introduction of attractions like Raging Wolf Bobs roller coaster and Wildwater Kingdom water park brought excitement and adventure to visitors of all ages.
Cedar Fair Acquisition: In 2000, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company acquired Geauga Lake, merging it with neighboring SeaWorld Ohio to create a larger entertainment complex. The park underwent further expansion and rebranding, introducing new roller coasters such as X-Flight and Dominator. The combination of thrilling rides and marine life exhibits made it a popular destination for families.
Closure and Legacy: Despite efforts to revitalize the park, Geauga Lake faced challenges in the early 2000s. In 2007, the decision was made to close the amusement park, leaving behind cherished memories and a void in the local community. The remaining water park, Wildwater Kingdom, operated for a few more years before its closure in 2016.
The Amusement Park
“Geauga Lake Park” was officially established in 1887. Three major league baseball games were the parks main attraction and played on Sundays at Geauga Lake in 1888 (plus a Thursday exhibition game) by the Cleveland Forest Citys of the major league American Association. By 1889, the land took a big shift into an amusement park when it officially installed its first ride, a classic steam-powered carousel. More rides would soon follow. In 1925, William J. Kuhlman expanded the park and added the “Big Dipper” wooden roller coaster (the largest coaster in the world at that time) and the park’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. Lake swimming also continued over the coming decades. Many amusement parks at the time had race tracks, dance halls, and sometimes a theater and bowling alley, making them year-round attractions. The race track was added in 1931, although it closed in the late 60s. The original carousel was removed and in 1937, the park’s 1926 hand-carved Marcus Illions Grand Carousel was added, after having been located in Philadelphia and Birmingham, at a cost of $35,000.
In 1942, a tornado attacked the park, injuring six, and damaging the Big Dipper. The park had to spend $50,000 to quickly rebuild it. Then ten years later, a fire broke out, destroying the bowling alley, theater, dancehall, and roller rink with an estimated $500,000. At that time the park became strictly a seasonal amusement park, beach, and swimming area.
Funtime Park (1969-1994)
In 1969, Funtime Parks Incorporated purchased the park. This meant that the focus continued with rides and swimming. In 1970 a marine life park, SeaWorld Ohio, was built across the lake from the amusement park after Funtime persuaded SeaWorld to build the marine park on the other side of the lake. Despite SeaWorld and Geauga being close, the two neighboring venues did not compete, infact they were best friends for 30 years. In 1972, the Gold Rush log flume water ride was added, and two years later Geauga Lake added the Skyscraper, an Observation tower which took passengers up 21 stories for views of the park. Admission to the park was free until 1972. Until then, rides on various attractions were purchased on a pay-as-you-go basis. Beginning in 1973, the park converted to an admission charge with a pay-one-price for all the rides and attractions. The Geauga Dog became the park’s mascot and would remain so until 1999. In 1976, the park added the Wildcat compact steel roller coaster, and a year later the park added the Double Loop (an Arrow looping steel coaster) in 1977. Corkscrew (an Arrow Dynamics corkscrew coaster) made its debut in 1978, making Geauga Lake the first amusement park in Ohio and one of the first amusement parks anywhere to have two looping coasters. Swimming in the lake continued to be a feature at the park, and in 1983, the park added Boardwalk Shores, which featured a paddleboat marina, a new bath house, a children’s swimming pool area and water slides. A year later, The Wave, the only authentic tsunami wave pool in the Midwest at the time, opened to rave reviews. In 1986, more children’s rides were added and themed as “Rainbow Island”, a children’s dry area. Stingray water slides and the Euroracer Grand Prix rides were added.
In 1988, Geauga Lake celebrated its centennial 100 year anniversary by introducing the “Raging Wolf Bobs” wooden coaster with a hybrid twist/out. This coaster would be the centerpiece coaster. Two years later, the park re-themed the children’s water area as Turtle Beach, which was advertised as the ultimate children’s water playground. Geauga Lake expanded its midway with “The Mirage” and the $2.1 million “Texas Twister” in the early 1990s.
Premier Parks (1995-1998)
A corporate deal in 1995 saw Premier Parks acquiring Funtime, giving Geauga Lake a new owner. Premier Parks invested $9 million in new rides, including the “Mind Eraser” (a Vekoma Boomerang coaster), and Grizzly Run, a water rapids ride designed by Intamin. These attractions opened in 1996, and the Corkscrew was closed and sold and moved to Dizzee World in Chennai, Tamil Nadu India. In 1998, Premier Parks purchased Six Flags from Time Warner, allowing many of the parks the Premier purchased to be given the “Six Flags” name. During that same year, Serial Thriller (a Vekoma SLC/Suspended Looping Coaster) was added. In the following year, Americana (a ferris wheel), Time Warp (a Chance Inverter), and an up-charge attraction Skycoaster were added.
Six Flags (2000-2004)
In 2000, Geauga Lake received a $40 million expansion and was renamed “Six Flags Ohio“. This expansion received 20 new rides including 4 new roller coasters. Roadrunner Express (a Zierer junior coaster), the Villain (a CCI wooden coaster with steel supports), Batman: Knight Flight (a B&M floorless coaster), and Superman: Ultimate Flight (an Intamin impulse coaster. Also added was a new shoot the chute water ride named Shipwreck Falls and a new wave pool in the water park. The old wave pool was razed, filled, and used for a new Looney Tunes themed kids’ area known as Looney Tunes Boomtown. The park also added the DC Comics section. Busch Entertainment determined that its SeaWorld parks should feature roller coasters, water rides, and other attractions to supplement the marine displays and shows, and the company began de-emphasizing the educational aspects of its parks. They began modifying their Orlando, San Antonio, and to a lesser extent their San Diego parks to reflect this. Due to Six Flags Ohio’s close proximity, as well as the fact that the SeaWorld side of the lake had height restrictions, Busch approached Six Flags about buying the Six Flags park. Six Flags then made a counter offer to instead buy SeaWorld Ohio. That winter, Six Flags purchased SeaWorld for $110 million in cash, merging the two complexes into one, and changing the entire complex’s name to Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. This made the site an amount of 700 acres. The original ride section became known as the “Wild Rides” area, while the SeaWorld side became known as the “Wild Life” area and remained primarily marine life shows, with a few portable children’s rides placed throughout. In 2001, the park had plans to construct a 200-foot tall hypercoaster on the SeaWorld side of the park, but later abandoned those plans due to height restrictions and other conflicts with the city of Aurora. In 2002, Shamu was replaced by Shouka, who came on a breeding loan from Marineland in Antibes, France. The original amusement park area became known as the “Wild Rides” area and continued expansion with X-Flight (a Vekoma Flying Dutchman coaster). The small water park area also continued, so the park was marketed as “Three Parks for One Price”.
Cedar Fair (2004-2007)
Facing financial difficulties across its chain and high debt, Six Flags considered selling the park. Two months before the 2004 season, a sale to Cedar Fair, owner of Cedar Point located 85 miles away, was announced. The deal was finalized less than a month later for $145 million. The Geauga Lake name was promptly restored to the park. To conform with copyright and trademark laws, all Looney Tunes and DC Comics branding was removed from the names of rides, roller coasters, and attractions, as well as walk-around character costumes which were replaced with Peanuts characters. The Looney Tunes Boomtown kids area was renamed Kidworks. The Hurricane Harbor water park area was renamed Hurricane Hannah’s Waterpark. The marine life portion of the park was closed and demolished, and the animals were relocated to other Six Flags parks such as Six Flags Marine World and Great Adventure. Roadrunner Express was renamed “Beaver Land Mine”, Superman: Ultimate Escape was renamed “Steel Venom” (although the ride retained its red and blue paint scheme), and Batman: Knight Flight was renamed “Dominator”. Some of the rides were also renamed even though they didn’t contain any copyright licensing: Serial Thriller was renamed “Thunderhawk”, and Mind Eraser was renamed “Head Spin”.
In 2005, Cedar Fair invested $26 million in Wildwater Kingdom, a new water park on the former SeaWorld site, which resulted in the name being altered slightly to Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom. The Wildwater Kingdom side had about six water slides and a children’s water play area. The Hurricane Hannah area remained. Mr. Hyde’s Nasty Fall was closed at the end of 2005. Usable parts were salvaged for Demon Drop, then at Cedar Point, and the rest was scrapped.
In 2006, Wildwater Kingdom was expanded to include Tidal Wave Bay. The Hurricane Hannah area was then shut down, leaving Wildwater Kingdom as the remaining water park. The season was also scaled back, eliminating the spring and fall weekend operations and opening strictly between Memorial Day and Labor Day with one last weekend in mid-September. At the end of the season, many peoples fears came true when X-Flight was removed, as well as Steel Venom.
The Rise & Fall of Geauga Lake
Geauga Lake Amusement Park will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those who experienced its wonder. From its humble beginnings as a picnic park to its evolution into a premier amusement destination, Geauga Lake provided joy and excitement for generations. While the park may no longer exist in its original form, its legacy lives on through cherished memories and the lasting impact it had on the community.
Click through the gallery above to embark on a nostalgic journey through some of the most beloved and now-vanished fun spots and entertainment places that hold a special place in our hearts. Remember the days of bustling bowling alleys, thrilling sports complexes, charming drive-ins, and refreshing waterparks? These hidden gems may be gone, but they are never forgotten.
We invite you to join the conversation and be a part of this collective trip down memory lane. If you have any information or anecdotes about these forgotten spots, we’d love to hear from you! Share your knowledge, stories, and cherished memories in the comments below.
Did we miss one of your favorite childhood hangouts or cherished spots? Don’t hesitate to let us know! Your contribution will help preserve the rich tapestry of these lost treasures and keep their legacy alive.
Together, let’s celebrate the joy, laughter, and shared experiences that these forgotten fun spots brought into our lives. Join us in the comments section and let the nostalgia flow!