Great Adventure

BACKSTORY: Disneyland has always been my favorite theme/amusement park, but since I grew up on the east coast, sometimes I had to settle for less. As of 1974, another option appeared on the scene besides Hershey Park: Great Adventure in New Jersey. This batch of photos is from a visit during the summer of 1982 before I went off to Indiana for college. One of the coolest things about Great Adventure was that they had a drive-through safari, kind of like what they had in the classic horror flick “The Omen.” I remember that cars with vinyl tops were not allowed through, as the baboons (or some other animal) enjoyed ripping them up. Imagine driving through a street and the animals being able to come right up to the car. Looking back on it, this is really a wacky idea. Apparently, the 4.5 mile drive-through safari is still open today and contains about 1200 animals (and I’d like to know who takes THAT census!!). At the time, the ferris wheel (called “The Giant Wheel”) was the biggest one in the world. Who says size doesn’t matter?? In addition, Great Adventure had a double sky ride that was originally from the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The Haunted Castle was the scene of a very tragic accident. Eight teens were killed in a fire when one ignited his cigarette lighter in the dark rooms and it ignited the polyurethane padding on the walls. There was no emergency lighting, no fire extinguishers, no emergency exits, and no fire sprinklers. Like Knott’s Berry Farm, there was a photo studio where you could dress up in old time costumes. I don’t have too many specific memories of Great Adventure, other than thinking it was really cool that first summer that I went. It was clean, it was colorful, and there were a number of fun things to do. From what I have read, the original concept by founder Warner LeRoy (1974-1977) made it sound like an east coast version of Disneyland. By 1977, Six Flags had taken over and most of the ambitious initial plans were changed.

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