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New Orleans' Classic City Park Reopens and Oaks Amusement Park in Portland is Ready for Fun
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Reopened just in time for the 4th of July weekend, New Orleans' iconic City Park which includes the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park with its park-navigating train ride, reopened on July 3rd, following a preview day for first responders offered at no charge to thank them for their efforts over the last difficult year.

According to City Park CEO Cara Lambright, “Reopening the beloved Carousel Gardens Amusement Park is a great testament to the work of our team and the support of our community.”

The holiday weekend brought a number of celebrations to the park, along with the amusement park's opening. These including food trucks, fireworks, and a Marine Forces Reserve band performance, as well as testimonials from the governor of Louisiana, who described the celebration as a “special show of unity.” In further evidence of a post-pandemic recovery, City Park and Carousel Gardens have posted numerous job listings.

New Orleans' Deputy Director of the Mayor's Office of Youth & Families, Candice Henderson, relates that “During the summer months, we all look forward to utilizing and visiting New Orleans' great family and recreational spaces, including City Park, and we gladly welcome the return of these two great attractions.”

All reopening hyperbole aside, the park's 1300 acres make it one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., and it's also an historic one, having been established over 170 years. While the amusement attractions were closed during the pandemic, the park's nature trails and open spaces were accessible to the public.

In Carousel Gardens, which was closed throughout 2020, rides like the classic Ladybug roller coaster and the enormous Ferris Wheel are eagerly welcomed back by city residents and out of town visitors alike. Carousel Gardens Amusement Park has two cafes and 18 rides in all.

The Ferris Wheel is known for its soaring view of the city skyline from 55-feet in the air. The Ladybug offers a lively 40 miles per hour speed on its curving track. Another classic ride is the wooden carousel, which is still under repair. The wooden horses and infrastructure of the ride are both currently under complete renovation, and the ride should be ready to reopen in fall of this year. The historic carousel is 100 years old and is one of the hundred hand-carved carousels in the U.S. from master carvers Looff and Carmel. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The park is also home to Storyland, where small park guests can enjoy a climb aboard Captain Hook's pirate ship, or traverse Pinocchio's footsteps into the mouth of a whale. In all there are 20 large-scale storybook sculptures in the attraction, featuring classic fairytale characters.

The Historic New Orleans Train Garden is another traditional and beloved attraction, featuring replicas of street cars and trains winding around the track past botanically constructed replicas of New Orleans style architecture. Visitors take in 1300 feet of track carrying streetcars and trains similar to those in the city during the late 1800s to the early 1900s period.

And last but not least in the park's reopening fun is the City Putt, a 36-hole mini golf complex with two themed courses: the Louisiana Course and the New Orleans. The first highlights cultural themes and cities from around the state while the New Orleans Course provides players a look at the streets and sights of the city.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Ore., another city amusement park has reopened after a long closure, Oaks Amusement Park. It, too, is located in the heart of the city, and includes an historic carousel. The carousel ride in Portland is free to ride with no ride wrist band required. The American-made 1912 Herschell-Spillman hand-carved menagerie carousel is featured on the National Historic Register as well. Ride bracelets for  admission to the other rides at the park are available for $39.95 general admission; for riders under 48”, ride admission bracelets are priced at $19.95.

There's a new ride in the park's amusement quiver, according to park marketing and events director Emily McKay. The extreme thrill ride AtmosFear has replaced the old Scream'n Eagle. The new attraction has two different ride experience options. One choice takes riders 100 feet in the air on both sides of a swinging pendulum, while the other lifts guests all the way over the top for a 360° ride experience. Riders must be 48” or taller to ride the 180-degree option, 52” to go all the way over the top. Having two ride experience options lends itself to multiple rides for the new attraction.

While it was constructed and tested last year, it had no riders until the park reopened in mid-April. All rides, midway games, and the park's mini golf course are now open, with attendance levels dictated by current Oregon state COVID-19 mandates. Like its counterpart in New Orleans, Oaks Park is looking for new employees to fulfill a variety of roles at the location after having had to lay off staff during the pandemic.

Once a trolley park established in 1905, Oaks Park, like New Orleans' City Park, is one of the oldest in the nation. McKay notes that the classic attraction spans generations in terms of its appeal. “You're sharing something of your childhood with your children. That's the thing we hear over and over is that you step in here and suddenly it's like you were a kid again.”

Increasing the sense of nostalgia, many structures date back to 1905; McKay describes the midway as a “time capsule.”

Visiting both historic parks in city-central green spaces marks a strong step toward bidding pandemic times farewell.
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