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An amusement park is a park that features various attractions , such as rides and games , as well as other events for entertainment purposes. A theme park is a type of amusement park that bases its structures and attractions around a central theme, often featuring multiple areas with different themes. Unlike temporary and mobile funfairs and carnivals, amusement parks are stationary and built for long-lasting operation. They are more elaborate than city parks and playgrounds , usually providing attractions that cater to a variety of age groups. While amusement parks often contain themed areas, theme parks place a heavier focus with more intricately-designed themes that revolve around a particular subject or group of subjects. Amusement parks evolved from European fairs, pleasure gardens and large picnic areas, which were created for people 's recreation . World 's fairs and other types of international expositions also influenced the emergence of the amusement park industry . Lake Compounce opened in 1846 and is considered the oldest continuously-operating amusement park in North America . The first theme parks emerged in the mid-twentieth century with the opening of Santa Claus Land in 1946 and the popular Disneyland theme park in 1955.