This Rare Footage Of An Arizona Amusement Park Will Have You Longing For The Good Old Days
Considered the “Disneyland of the Desert,” Legend City was an amusement park located at the border of Tempe and Phoenix, near Papago Park and the Phoenix Zoo. The park opened its doors in 1963 to much fanfare from the community and brought two decades of fun to the Valley of the Sun.
I was born just a couple of weeks after the park closed its doors for good, so for me and many other Arizonans, it’s kind of difficult to imagine an amusement park sitting where corporate offices now do. Thankfully, there’s plenty of photos, videos, and memories of Legend City to help us see it in its former glory. Today, we’re going to take a look at a couple of videos that show Legend City in its heyday.
This first video was put together by the Tempe Historical Museum and it gives a short overview of Legend City’s history and some of the iconic sights you would see when visiting.
Here’s another video that shows events from Legend City’s opening day in 1963. How many of those rides do you recognize? (Note: The video does not have sound.)
In all, the park helped bring to life the romantic, legendary side of Arizona with cowboys, miners, train robberies, and other people and events you would find in any Western film. Rides and other attractions were built around these ideas, such as transforming the saloon into a family friendly place to enjoy a soda with some entertainment (very toned down compared to the entertainment their cowboy counterparts enjoyed a half century earlier). And, of course, there was the Wallace and Ladmo stage where kids could enjoy the silly hosts of the long running TV show.
Unfortunately, the amusement park suffered from quite a bit of financial problems. Within less than two years of opening, the owner went bankrupt and the park went through a series of new owners. The final owners, a carnival business family, began restoring the park and making a profit but eventually sold the land to the Salt River Project for new corporate offices.
Legend City eventually closed in 1983, just a couple of months after its 20-year anniversary. The following year, the rides, buildings, and other parts of the park were put up for auction and the land was bulldozed.
The park continues to live on in both memory and museum exhibits. The Tempe History Museum currently has an exhibition of the park running through October 2016. The museum is located at 809 East Southern Road in Tempe.
Want to read more bits of Arizona history? You won’t want to miss reading one of our most recent articles, The Legend of Arizona’s Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Is Downright Deadly.