Washington April 14, 2020
Most Washingtonians Have No Idea This Amusement Park In Seattle Ever Existed
If you grew up in Washington, you know that it was a bittersweet day when the Seattle Center’s amusement park, the Fun Forest, closed down in 2009. Plenty of us can recall spending many a day dragging our families through the entertainment area, begging for one more ride or game.
But Washingtonians who are a little older might recall a different amusement park in Seattle, one that had a 31-year run before a series of unfortunate events shut it down forever. Allow us to introduce you to Playland.
This is Seattle's Bitter Lake, which sits in a growing neighborhood located up north between Northgate and Shoreline.
But while it's populated now, it was once a rural community that was home to a bustling amusement park.
Playland was built on the shores of Bitter Lake, opening in May of 1930.
Bitter Lake was not officially a part of the city at that time.
Playland was an instant hit, touting itself as the biggest and finest amusement park in the Pacific Northwest.
The park was constructed for $750,000, which was not a small amount at the time. But even though the United States had entered the Great Depression, the business proceeded as planned. And when the under-capitalized Washington Amusement Company failed after just a year, the amusement park was saved by Carl E. Phare, a Pacific Northwest local who built roller coasters for a living. He and his business partners kept the park going for another 30 years.
There were plenty of amazing rides and games at the park, the highlight being The Dipper (built by Phare).
The Dipper was a state-of-the-art roller coaster that would send riders soaring 85 feet into the air and through a virtual somersault. Other popular attractions included a merry-go-round, a Penny Arcade, and the Canals of Venice ride, which took people through a long, dark tunnel (and was the site of many a first kiss).
Unfortunately, Playland's Aurora Stadium Speedway grandstand was destroyed by a fire in 1950.
It was eventually rebuilt, but in 1953, more of Playland caught on fire, including The Dipper itself.
That second fire took out the concession buildings, Phare's office, and several prominent attractions. It took 15 fire trucks to put it out.
Most of the park was rebuilt in its off-season. But by then, interest was fading, and the city of Seattle had annexed Bitter Lake. The park was officially condemned in 1961. Carl Phare died the next year.
While many Washingtonians were sad to see Playland go, it seemed to have served its purpose well.
During troubled times of the Great Depression, World War II, and more, it brought people of all ages a welcomed distraction and a lot of joy.
Had you ever heard of Seattle’s Playland? While it had a long run, it actually wasn’t the city’s first amusement park. Check out
Luna Park’s story. Address: Seattle, WA, USA