Sydney is synonymous with two iconic man made structures. Everyone the world over will shout them out as soon as the city’s name is mentioned. One is the harbour bridge and the other would be the Opera House. But there is a third. And for me, this one is more interesting than the other two and no doubt has far more visitors. I am talking about Luna Park amusement park.
OK I know what you are thinking. An amusement park? How can that be compared with the bridge and opera house? Well first of all let me say this. Not only do I think it is right up there, I would actually place Luna Park above those other two. That said, my immediate reaction when we visited was; What a waste of money! More on that contradiction to come. First, let’s look at this fantastic landmark…
Luna Park – Quick History.
First thing: Get a perspective of exactly where Luna Park is and go to that trusty favourite – google maps. It is located at Milson’s Point right on the north side of the harbour bridge. It is visible from various points on the south side of the bridge (namely The Rocks observatory and Circular Quay in the CBD).
If you zoom in on google maps you can still see the (original) ‘Olympic Pool’ right next to Luna Park. An old open air, Olympic-sized swimming pool right at one end to the harbour bridge was itself an iconic landmark for many years. The old pool is now being refurbished (work started some time ago) so we never got to swim in the original. But I am sure it will be equally spectacular when work is complete.
The park opened in 1935 just a few years after the harbour bridge opened. Most of the original has been replaced or rebuilt over the years but it has managed to maintain it’s art deco charm and many of (what some might call) the old fashioned rides and attractions.
There is a definite historical feel about the place coupled with that eye-catching retro styling that can transport us older people back in time to our own childhoods. There is certainly something appealing about the park that makes it as exciting a place for adults as it is for kids.
Should we pity the residents who live in this ‘highly desirable’ part of Sydney? Who wants a roller coaster running past your windows and balcony? Then there is the noise and the flashing lights. These apartments must cost millions of dollars. Or is it a case of ‘more fool them’?
Luna Park could have been demolished. In fact it is nothing short of a miracle, in a city with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, that it has survived at all. In fact it came close to disappearing when in the late 1970s most of it was demolished and then rebuilt following protests to save the park. It was only saved when the Luna Park entrance face became an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia. The park as a whole was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 5th March 2010. That should protect it for many generations to come (and probably beyond).
Why a ‘Waste of Money’?
OK let’s now address that seemingly contradictory point. We paid in advance. Online. Like pretty much everyone else who was there – and it was busy. Yet when we arrived there was an horrendously long queue to pick up your tickets – actually bar-coded wrist bands to allow access to rides. Although the cost was more if you pay on the day, there was hardly any queue, so effectively you spend less time waiting in line and more time in the park having fun. We waited almost 40 minutes!
As just about everyone queueing said out loud; “what a waste of time booking online!” You pay up front but lose time in the park hence there is a slight waste of time/money involved. But there is another reason I said “what a waste…!”
Basically, as an adult, it is unlikely that there will be any ride in this park the likes of which you have not been on in the past. It is mainly for the kids. I would have been quite happy to just watch the kids having fun. There is nothing stopping you entering and walking freely around the park. Free entry into a world of nostalgia. Why pay? So for adults it is pretty much a waste of money. But of course there is another side to the story…
As fate would have it Dani is still too small for some rides and there were others where the smaller kids needed adult to accompany them. I was that accompanying adult of course.
So if your budget is tight and you have done these rides before I would say do not “waste” your money. But then there is no substitute for sitting next to your child when it is their first time on a scary ride. Not quite seeing them take their first steps or say your name for the first time but it is up there…
Light Up The Park…
As interesting as the park looks during the day it almost takes on another identity when the sun goes down and the lights come on. The mix of the coloured lights on those 1930s style buildings (and amusements) is sure to make you want to walk around the whole park again.
Comparing Sydney Icons
Look the bridge is just a bridge. Get used to it. There are plenty of bigger and more eye-catching bridges the world over. It serves a transportation process in a big city. For me that’s more or less it.
As for the Opera House I have to say it is impressive and certainly different. But it is only adults that are impressed. Ask any child under (say) 12 where they would rather visit. Make that under 18 even, who knows? My point is that the Opera House is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Photogenic, yes. But to go inside? Most people who make a B-line for the Opera House to photograph it do not go inside. It may as well be a sculpture.
On the other hand: They just don’t make places like Luna Park any more. It is a place for all the family, young and old. You really cannot say that about the Opera House. Of course both the Opera House and bridge will be by far the more photographed (often together) but Luna Park will have more paying visitors. (A bridge technically does not have visitors in the same way.) And for it to be located smack in the middle of a city of 5 million people!? That has to be near impossible nowadays.
Of course all this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to comment if you disagree… or comment even if you agree…