From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Amusement park is the generic term for a collection of rides and other entertainment attractions assembled for the purpose of entertaining a large group of people. An amusement park is more elaborate than a simple city park or playground, usually providing attractions meant to cater to adults, teenagers, and small children. A theme park is a type of amusement park which has been built around one or more themes, such as an American West theme, or Atlantis. Today, the terms amusement parks and theme parks are often used interchangeably.
Amusement parks evolved in Europe from fairs and pleasure gardens which were created for people’s recreation. The oldest amusement park of the world (opened 1583) is Bakken, at Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. In the United States, world's fairs and expositions were another influence on development of the amusement park industry.
Most amusement parks have a fixed location, as compared to travelling funfairs and carnivals. These temporary types of amusement parks, are usually present for a few days or weeks per year, such as funfairs in the United Kingdom, and carnivals (temporarily set up in a vacant lot or parking lots) and fairs (temporarily operated in a fair ground) in the United States. The temporary nature of these fairs helps to convey the feeling that people are in a different place or time.
Often a theme park will have various 'lands' (sections) of the park devoted to telling a particular story. Non-theme amusement parks rides will usually have little in terms of theming or additional design elements while in a theme park all the rides go all with the theme of the park, for example Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.