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This Rare Footage Of A San Francisco Amusement Park Will Have You Longing For The Good Old Days

Back in the good old days, San Francisco had an amusement park! Next to Ocean Beach! The scenic, seaside fun zone was simply called Playland (aka Playland at the Beach, formerly Chutes at the Beach) and sat along the Great Highway. As far back as the 19th century, a roller coaster (the “Gravity Railroad”) was the first ride constructed. As trolley lines developed—making it easier for San Francisco residents to make a trip out to the beach—and the Cliff House opened (in 1863), followed by the extravagant Sutro Baths (in 1896), more rides and attractions filled up the area, including a carousel, Ferris wheel, the “Big Dipper” roller coaster, and “The Whip.” In 1926, new manager George Whitney changed the name to Playland-at-the-Beach.

This video by YouTube user Geoff Svendsgaard captures the amusement park during its heyday with old film footage and photos, all set to the sweet sounds of the Grateful Dead. The Fun House is perhaps the coolest thing to see (and, in fact, you can still catch a glimpse of the totally creepy “Laffing Sal” mechanical character at the Musee Mecanique on Fisherman’s Wharf). And that indoor slide needs to be resurrected!

Sadly, Playland closed Labor Day weekend in 1972—44 years ago. If you’re really feeling nostalgic, you can head to El Cerrito to the Playland-Not-At-The-Beach museum, which features artifacts from the amusement park. Or just enjoy an It’s It ice cream sandwich—invented by Mr. Whitney himself—which was once an exclusive Playland treat.

Stephanie Garr
Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco, California. When she's not tapping at a keyboard, she can be found leading groups on gourmet chocolate walking tours (best job ever) or running the many lovely hills and stairs of the city (to burn off all that chocolate, of course). She also runs a travel blog with her husband at Big & Small Travel (bigandsmalltravel.com).