Long before Disneyland or a Walt Disney World thrilled this earth, a charming amusement park and gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark opened on August 15, 1843. Tivoli Gardens (or simply Tivoli) is the second oldest amusement park in the world. Having an eclectic mix of exquisite gardens, dining areas, performance venues and amusement park rides, Tivoli brought in 3.9 million visitors in 2011. It is the second most visited seasonal theme park in the world.
Founded by Georg Carstensen, Tivoli has always included a variety of attractions. Carstensen was granted 15 acres to build his amusement park from King Christian VIII. He proposed to the king that “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics”. “Escapism” through the enjoyment of an amusement park had been born. Carstensen built his amusement park with exotic Oriental-imagined buildings, theatres, band stands, restaurants and cafes, flower gardens and mechanical amusement rides. A merry-go-round and primitive scenic railway were two of the most popular attractions.
In 1844, Carstensen was quoted saying a most familiar sentiment, “Tivoli will never, so to speak, be finished.” He lived by his promise to keep Tivoli evolving without losing its original charm or traditions. Ironically, Mr. Walt Disney visited Tivoli almost a century later. He and wife Lillian toured Tivoli Gardens during one of several overseas research trips. He had been depressed by what he had seen at Coney Island, but Tivoli Gardens renewed his desire to create a family amusement park. Immediately, Walt was enamoured by Tivoli’s delightfulness. He loved how it was so spotless, brightly colored and priced within the reach of everyone. Walt also enjoyed the gaiety of the music, the quality of the food and drink and the politeness of the employees. He told Lillian, “Now this is what an amusement place should be!” When he finally decided to build Disneyland, he stated that he desired to emulate Tivoli’s “happy and unbuttoned air of relaxed fun.” We may never know whether Walt knew of Carstensen’s hopeful park evolution, but we do know that Walt indeed had his own parallel theme, “Disneyland will never be finished as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
Just this past month, my parents visited Tivoli while traveling in Europe. Upon their revelation that Tivoli helped inspire the most influential theme parks in the world, the Disney Parks and Resorts, they vowed to enlighten me when they got home. What a disappointment for my dad when he said, “and we went to this park called Tivoli.” And I screamed, “NO WAY, that’s the park that inspired Walt to build Disneyland!!!” I knew then that I must share their pictures with you.
At first glance of these pictures, I knew that Tivoli is still a very special place. I cannot get over its unique, internationally-themed architecture, its lush landscaping and extreme edgy thrill rides. There isn’t the razzle, dazzle you often associate with a Disney Park, but certain elements undeniably are reminiscent of a Flower and Garden exhibit or a World Showcase structure. The park is well-tended and clean. The locals visit often too and savor the extensive music offerings of the park. From classical to jazz, there are virtually non-stop musical performances throughout the park from noon until closing. Unfortunately, my parents did not stay into the evening. Tivoli’s nighttime popcorn lights are infamous and apparently inspired similar lights along a certain Main Street.
Now, sit back and enjoy your stroll through Tivoli Gardens.
The Chinese style Pantomimeteatret (The Pantomime Theatre) is the home of Italian pantomimes and the traditional Italian Commedia dell’Arte since 1874. The famous characters in the comedy are Cassander (the old father), Columbine (his beautiful daughter), Harlequin (her lover) and the most beloved with children, Pierrot (the stupid servant). Since Tivoli is an international tourist attraction, the absence of spoken dialogue through pantomime is used to its advantage.
Now let’s check out some of the rides.
Daemonen (The Demon) features an Immelmann loop, a loop, and a Zero-G roll all during the ride time of just one minute and forty-six seconds.
Vertigo opened in May 2009. It’ s a looping plane ride where the rider pilots the ride and controls the plane. Oy!
The Star Flyer is the world’s tallest carousel. The Silly Symphony Swings sure do look silly compared to this. The structure is 80 meters high and gives breathtaking views of the city.
Tivoli’s own free-fall mammoth tower.
Check out these adorable vehicles…trolley, postman and fire truck.
With over 20 restaurants, Tivoli offers a wide range of dining.
Your day in Tivoli is sadly coming to an end.
As you can see, Tivoli is a must-do, historically-significant park. It is a jewel of Denmark. Obviously, it is hard to beat the theming and attractions of a Disney Park. However, how many parks can actually say they inspired Disneyland? It has a charming, old world allure that takes you back to days gone by, but also has one step into the future with its extremely thrilling rides. A visit to Tivoli may sound outlandish, but I think it deserves to be on the bucket list of any diehard Disney fan.Share