Freedomland was a theme park
, intended as New York's answer to Disneyland
, which opened in the Bronx
. The park's layout was similar in shape to the 48 conterminous states, with large shallow ponds for The Great Lakes
, and was divided into sections called Little Old New York, Chicago
, The Great Plains
, New Orleans
, Old Southwest, San Francisco
, and Rocket City (Florida
, natch). Each section featured historical and regional exhibits, food, and reenactments as well as more traditional amusement-park rides and gimcrackery.
I remember well the Dragon, a wonderful ride-on-rails that was just far enough off the ground and wove back and forth in just the right gentle, serpentine motion to suggest, yes, riding a REALLY big lizard over water and through woods and gardens. Oddly enough it was in New Orleans (certainly it should have been in San Francisco's Chinatown) to represent a Mardi Gras float. Another thing I could remember was the farm exhibit (in the Great Plains) where I saw Elsie the Borden Cow in a satin-lined stall (no lie!) and the Chicago Fire, a great participatory event where the firemen asked for volunteers to help pump the water. I was too young to do much pumping, but it was fascinating nonetheless (firefighting interested me at the time -- I was pretty far out for a five year old girl). There was a German band playing oompah music, and a few other musical events, like Dixieland jazz, and such. I tried most of the food, didn't like it much, but then, I was a picky eater. Other parts that didn't make much impression on me were the Civil War and the Wild West -- too young to care, I suppose. As a grand climax to the trip through we got on a skycar and rode up, up, over the park back to where we started.
Freedomland was plagued from the start with accidents, robberies, and basic bad luck -- after two years of operation, it dropped the "educational" slant, and went for basic amusement-park stuff with shameless huckstering from any and all corporate sponsors who wanted to plug their products, resulting in such weird venues as "The Smoke Ring", a cafe run by a tobacco company with a machine blowing rings out of the roof. (Let's see anyone try to get away with that one nowadays!) It closed a few weeks after Robert Moses opened the New York World's Fair in 1964, to be replaced by Co-op City, a set of eight (or is it nine?) high-rise apartment buildings. One wonders whether it was an improvement...