Images of Modern America – Magic Mountain Chronicles America’s First Theme Park After Disney

Most likely if you hear Magic Mountain, you think of the Six Flags Park in California, right? Nothing wrong with that, but today we are going to take a history lesson about an entirely different Magic Mountain. This one so happens to be in Denver, Colorado and opened in 1957.

Keep in mind, after Disneyland opened, while many people saw the park open on television, most of America couldn’t afford a trip to California. Unless you lived nearby or were particularly well off, air travel wasn’t an option and cross country car trips were time consuming. Therefore, entrepreneurs were looking to develop their own theme parks in other locations across the country and Denver just so happened to be the first to do so.

Keep in mind, Denver was no stranger to amusement parks in its time. Seen above, Lakeside Park had an original chute-the-chutes attraction.

Lakeside Amusement Park also had a California Zephyr that ran a 1.25-mile loop around Lake Rhoda. Developers for Magic Mountain were well aware of parks like this that proceeded it and wanted to up the game in order to keep up with the times and Disneyland, while setting a new standard.

The entire story of this park is lovingly detailed in the book Images of Modern America – Magic Mountain by Robert McLaughlin. For example, if you notice in the rendering above, the designers for the park lumped several shops and restaurants together in their main entrance area known as Market Street, much like Main Street USA in Disneyland.

The similarities between Disneyland and Denver’s Magic Mountain run rampant throughout the book. For example, the park designed a River Ride which was inspired from the Jungle Cruise. This version actually used much of the natural Colorado landscape and was to add animatronic native creatures. Seen above, they designed a tree falling that narrowly missed your boat!

The photograph above was taken in 1959 after the restoration of Engine 42, which carried visitors around the park. Just behind the tracks is construction for Magic Mountain’s River Ride, which was mentioned above.

Alas, the park closed not even a year after it opened and many attractions were never finished. Seen above were two Indians in a canoe which was later sold to Six Flags to use in one of their own attractions. I’m betting that while reading this article, you have never even heard of a Magic Mountain park in Colorado. Neither had I! This is why books like Images of Modern America – Magic Mountain are so vitally important to theme park history buffs. There are pages upon pages of amazing concept art, development and lessons on how difficult it was (and still is!) to start a theme park from the ground up.

If you have a love for theme park history, you have to pick up a copy of Images of Modern America – Magic Mountain by clicking the link below. My thanks to Arcadia Publishing for sending me over a copy and I’m proud to have it as part of my growing theme park book collection!


Make sure to follow Theme Park University on Instagram on Twitter, subscribe on YouTube and like our Facebook page! Doing any online shopping? Click on any Amazon link on this page and it helps TPU pay the bills and costs you nothing extra!

Images Reprinted from Images of Modern America – Magic Mountain by Robert McLaughlin (Arcadia Publishing, 2016)

Comment Below


This entry was posted in Theme Parks 101 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Search Theme Park University

  • Categories

  • About Theme Park University

    TPU covers how attractions are designed, constructed, operated and maintained.

    In addition to theme parks, we cover anything in the world of themed entertainment from dinner shows to immersive theater, haunted attractions to miniature golf and much much more.

    Contact Us

  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 14,860 other subscribers

  • Log in to comment

Powered by WordPress. Built on the Thematic Theme Framework.

The views and opinions of Theme Park University Staff are not associated with any themed entertainment company and are clearly our own. Please don't sue us.

%d bloggers like this: