Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen – the Original Disneyland

The story of Walt Disney and the creation of Disneyland begins with a host of individuals recounting how everyone thought the man was crazy, the the concept of a theme park and a world would never work.

They perhaps however did not speak to the people in Copenhagen. Copenhageners had known about the power of amusement parks since 1583. The first amusement park in the world was Dyrehavsbakken 10 kilometres outside of Copenhagen city in 1583 and the second amusement park was opened in the heart of Copenhagen in 1843 – Tivoli Gardens. George Carstensen, the founder of Tivoli Gardens, was said to have convinced the king to give him a five year lease by saying, “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics.” Tivoli grew and grew and in 1951 Walt Disney traveled to Copenhagen to take notes and learn from the then century old amusement park using this park to inspire the creation of Disneyland in 1955.

The story was captivating. Granted Disneyland first opened in the United States still, the story had intrigue written into it. But what was it about Tivoli that inspired Disney? How did this fenced up world become a place of fond memories? That was the prompt I needed, not being an amusement park afficianado (my favourite amusement park was the one I created in Theme Park Tycoon), to check out the park.

To be honest, the park did not look spectacular in the day and not being amusement park fanatic, I did think of giving the park a skip – aren’t amusement parks all tourist traps, I thought to myself. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful on the outside but it didn’t convey that sense of magic that I always thought amusement parks needed to have.

It was the high praise and fascinating history that attracted me here. I went for the history but stayed for the fun, a pleasant surprise.

The magic of Tivoli truly shines forth after the sun sets. That’s when the lights all around are lit and the park is truly in its element.

The lights had beckoned revellers in and the queues stretched. The drawing power must have been universal for the park drew in all sorts, teens & tweens, families with young children, couples on dates, elderly folk, tourist…

In terms of entrance fee, the park charges a comparably low fee and has between 26 to 29 rides (depending on season) which are pay for play. Even compared to the less well known parks I’ve been to (Genting Highlands in Malaysia and Sentosa in Singapore) the entry fee was very competitive at 120 DKK. Think about it, a basic pølser hotdog in this city cost already about 40-50 DKK, the price of entry was three hotdogs, just about enough for one fully grown man to get full.

Impressed as I was by the price, the trip into Tivoli was to bring a child-like fascination I thought I would never experience again. The rides looked amazing, and it was awesome seeing roller coasters zoom just overhead.

Then there were the basic amusement park games, the light show and many stalls all around selling high calorie-high happiness food.

Theme parks are not just places for rides, they are also places for concerts and big stars have performed at Tivoli since the beginning of the park. From the jazz group The Mills Brothers,

to Blues singer Beth Hart,

to Kanye West. It is also a venue for the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

It would take about three hours just exploring the park as it is without going for any rides, I reckon one whole day would not be enough to try every ride in the park. I left the park converted: wonder can be had at amusement parks, the magic of fun wasn’t dead. I can see why Walt Disney was inspired by this park.

I know I was.



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