Will Hoffman’s Playland Go the Way of America’s Lost Amusement Parks?

by Sandra Foyt on June 23, 2013

in Arts and Culture

Hoffmans Playland signNostalgia is a powerful motivator as was seen last week when The Business Review reported that owners of the popular Albany amusement park, Hoffman’s Playland, were “actively pursuing offers for the land.” Within a day, the Save Hoffman’s Playland Facebook Page set up by Mike Clute of Niskayuna had gathered 12,000 fans; now it’s well over 17,000. But will popular sentiment be enough to keep the beloved attraction going when the land is worth more than the theme park?

Could Hoffman’s Playland go the way of America’s Lost Amusement Parks? The National Amusement Park Historical Society documents 1000 defunct amusement parks, lost for a myriad of reasons: competition from bigger and better parks pushes out small family owned traditional parks; retirement or death of park owner; fire; the Great Depression; war-time shortages of necessary materials; public antipathy to “honkey tonk” character of amusement parks; new highways; and changing tastes in entertainment.

Which begs the question: what will it take to keep Hoffman’s Playland open? It wasn’t that long ago that we helped save Coney Island, one of America’s first amusement parks. And there’s room to hope here too. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is exploring all options for preserving the park; and Justin and Leanne Maine of  MagicWig Productions have started a “documentary film project about the grassroots movement to save an iconic amusement park destination close to the hearts of many Upstate New Yorkers.”

Paratrooper ride | Hoffmans Playland | Latham - NY - Albany

Hoffman’s Playland

Family owned, Hoffman’s Playland opened in 1952 and features such classic rides as the Paratrooper, Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris wheel, and Scrambler. A locomotive weaves through the park, offering views of all 19 rides, including 5 major rides and 14 kiddie rides.

Hoffmans Playland train

Amusement Parks and Other Fun Parks In and Near Albany

There are a couple of big theme parks within easy driving distance of Albany: Six Flags Great Escape Park and Splashwater Kingdom in Queensbury, NY and Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA. And a number of smaller venues for family fun within the Capital Region:

Amusement Parks along the Lincoln Highway

I’m compiling a list of amusement parks along or near the Lincoln Highway:

  • Rye Playland – Rye, NY
  • Six Flags Great Adventure – Jackson, NJ
  • Idlewild – Ligonier, PA
  • Kennywood Park – near Pittsburgh, PA

Any more that we should include on this list?

I hope there is a plan in place to preserve Hoffman’s Playland by the time we return from our Lincoln Highway road trip. Meanwhile, I plan to check out as many amusement parks as we can squeeze into this summer. Have to do our part to support our nation’s heritage, after all.

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| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: sandrafoyt@albanykid.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

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