Remembering Crystal Beach Park

By Tim Sykes
Photos from the author’s collection
For the first time in nearly 30 years, I found myself standing at the corner of Ridgeway and Erie Roads in the town of Crystal Beach, Ontario, where I could immediately observe the many changes for myself.  Landscaped properties and tall trees now line the street behind a tall fence.  Large homes with extended balconies stand facing Lake Erie behind an historic concrete break wall.  Electric golf carts quietly circle through the curved streets of a gated community, shuttling residents to tennis courts and swimming pools located in the centre of the property.  You could see that the laidback atmosphere of this beach community is a big attraction for the current property owners, as they casually make their way over to their private beach.  For the majority of the present residents of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club, they have purchased their homes in an attempt to find their version of paradise.  For more than 100 years, however, millions of people found their own paradise at this very spot.  The site of their quiet neighbourhood was once known as Crystal Beach Amusement Park, among the finest historic and most traditional amusement parks in North America.


Most traditional parks like Crystal Beach started life around the turn of the century, and the few that remain today have somehow survived the fickle whims of the general public, and now are looked upon as a nostalgic throw back to a more innocent era.  Sadly, after being in existence for 101 years, Crystal Beach Park closed forever after the season ended in 1989.  Many of the buildings and rides had been part of the park for decades.  The massive Crystal Ballroom opened in 1925, becoming the largest dance hall in North America, with room for 3000 dancers on its gleaming wooden dance floor.  Big bands from across North America appeared on its stage, playing before sold out crowds every week.  Park owners built a huge concrete dock that jutted out into Lake Erie.  The “Canadiana” ferry boat brought patrons from downtown Buffalo, New York to Crystal Beach for 45 years.


The earliest roller coasters to appear at the park included a simple Figure 8 coaster and the larger Switchback Scenic Railway.  The Giant, a bright yellow roller coaster was built in 1916, and was in operation for more than 70 years.  In 1927, Crystal Beach Park hired Harry Traver to design and build The Cyclone, still considered to be the most terrifying roller coaster ever built.  This magnificent thrill ride had an unorthodox track layout, which twisted and turned at steep angles throughout the entire ride, torturing its riders.  The only straight section of track was the lift hill and the break run at the end of the ride.  The extreme design and nature of this ride became a maintenance and insurance nightmare for park management.  After 20 years of operation, the Cyclone was removed and replaced with The Comet, a very tall and long roller coaster that operated from 1947 until the park closed in 1989.  With a lift hill of 95 feet and a length of more than 4000 feet, The Comet was an imposing structure.  What made it even more impressive was that it stood on top of a concrete base next to Lake Erie.  The intimidating sight of the coaster high above the water’s edge made for an unforgettable on-ride experience for any patron of the park.  Other later era roller coasters included the steel framed Galaxie and Wild Mouse, as well as a kiddie coaster.


Crystal Beach Park often boasted about having the finest rides and games of any amusement park anywhere.  With such a long and lustrous history, these claims were supported with the inclusion of such favourite and classic rides as the Scrambler, the Hey-Dey, Ferris wheel, Tilt-A-Whirl, Tumble Bug, and The Octopus, plus dozens of others.  The Laff in the Dark, with its charming two seat cars that would ferry you through this spooky dark ride was first built in 1936, and entertained for more than 50 years.  The Magic Carpet was an extremely popular fun house, located near the entrance to the park.  Built in 1947, the walk thru featured crooked rooms, moving walls, distorted mirrors, air jets, and a “magic carpet” slide at the end of the exhibit.


The wonderful Sky Ride slowly took riders across the length of the park and back over top of the ferry dock, before letting you off near the entrance to the Comet.  A classic carousel was located in its own building in the middle of the midway.  Brightly painted wooden horses circled up and down for decades, thrilling generations of riders.


Young children were entertained in an expansive area known as Frolicland.  Dozens of miniature rides and attractions were available for the kids and parents alike.  Next to Frolicland were a miniature golf area, a miniature train ride, and a bingo hall. Located throughout the park were food concession buildings, offering everything from popcorn, hot dogs, and drinks, to the park’s unique “sugar waffles” and a popular local beverage known as Logenberry.   Patrons were also encouraged to bring their own food and drinks to the various shaded picnic areas near the Giant coaster entrance.  Next to the Auto Skooter bumper car building was the Fun City arcade building, with its dozens of arcade games and skill.  The outside of this building featured a landmark Art Deco styled tower aglow in neon lighting.


Management of Crystal Beach Park made sure the grounds were spotless at all times.  The mature trees throughout the park created much needed shade, and the numerous gardens were well manicured.  As beautiful as the park was during the day, at night, the park became magical, bathed with bright neon lighting and signs everywhere.


With all the many previously mentioned rides and attractions, there was also nature’s attraction that was hard to pass up.  The soft sandy beach and clean fresh waters of Lake Erie that made Crystal Beach Park stand out among the many other traditional amusement parks in North America.


When Crystal Beach Park closed in 1989, there was a collective sense of shock and loss for thousands of people.  Summer was never the same without a trip to Crystal Beach Park, and even after nearly 30 years, there is still a sense of loss for many.  Several rides from Crystal Beach Park were purchased and moved to other parks.  Many original signs and other artifacts have appeared in museums and private collections.  Adventurous thrill seekers have traveled to Lake George, New York, where they stand in line to ride the Crystal Beach Comet roller coaster, now that it has been moved, restored and once again thrilling thousands of riders.  The park’s miniature train has also been restored, and is now shuttling passengers around on a winery tour in Jordan, Ontario.  The Crystal Beach Logenberry beverage can be purchased at several stores in the Buffalo, New York area.  At various large outdoor events each summer, a local entrepreneur often sets up his concession, selling the famous Crystal Beach Sugar Waffles that are still hand made using the same equipment once used at the park.  Yes, these are minor concessions, but tiny bits of Crystal Beach Park do live on.


For the current residents of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club, the paradise they have found within their gated beach community pales in comparison to the thrills, excitement and lasting memory of Crystal Beach Park, Canada’s legendary amusement park.

25 Replies to “Remembering Crystal Beach Park”

  1. Thanks for a marvellous trip down memory lane. I spent many an hour at Crystal Beach, working for Americans and often going to the amusement park. I lived in Toronto for 40 years and am back in a retirement town but I still miss going to the amusement park. How I loved the simplicity and wonder of those halcion days.

  2. William (Bill) Mack says:

    As a youth in Buffalo NY I looked forward to Walden/Bailey Day. That included a bus trip to Crystal Beach. This was in the 60’s. The greatest of times in my young years. As it turned out, we moved and ended up close to a great American park (Lakewood Park in Pennsylvania) that also ended up closing. This park had alot of similar entertaining and fun features as Crystal Beach such as huge Ballroom, great coaster, wild mouse ect. Crystal Beach was a park I loved as a kid and couldn’t wait to return. Great job on the article and pictures.

  3. Maggie ennis says:

    I grew up there my fab was the tunnel of love the mama baby and the laughing lady

    1. Miranda Grossman says:

      The Magnificent merry go round, the miniature golfing, , my family’s cottage was ten minutes from the best amusement park ever,
      Sadly, destroyed,
      Though, never my memories,,
      I never understood why it was torn down,
      Crystal beach, was never the same, without it…
      A landmark, That was utterly remarkable, and magical….

  4. Dorothea Bishop says:

    I loved Crystal Beach going once a year to my Godparents cottage (very primitive) on the waterfront sandhill of the beach. I couldn’t sleep the night before our trip from North Tonawanda to Crystal Beach. Oh how I loved that day at the beach and amusement park. That was my vacation as a kid.

  5. Dorothea (Voelker) Bishop says:

    Loved the day at Crystal Beach – if I could just see the Meisner’s cottage again, swim at the beach and walk through the amusement park 🥰

  6. Dorothea (Voelker) Bishop says:

    Loved going to Crystal Beach to the Meisner’s cottage on the beach front – I’d give anything to swim at the beach again, go to the amusement park and sit on their deck as the lights of the Canadiana would pull into the pier for its final trip of the day back to Buffalo.
    Beautiful memories I’ll treasure forever 😍

  7. Lorraine Crawford says:

    My father was an employee for Proctor & Gamble for 40 years.
    In the 60s, this company would have employees board the train from Hamilton to Crystal Beach.
    My favourite childhood memories revolve around this magical excursion.

  8. Great memories every summer at our cottage in Crystal Beach. I remember the cotton candy and the loganberry from the park. I was 12 my first time to ride on the Comet .

  9. Does anyone know what happened to the Heydey after the park closed?

  10. I had the privilege of being one of the last soles in the park in 1989. When the park closed to the public, a week later a friend of mind worked for Stelco in Hamilton at the time and Stelco rented the park for their company picnic. Must of been 500-600 children and adults having the greatest time of their lives. All rides were free for any child or adult. Will never forget that time at the park..

  11. Chris Evans says:

    My greatest memory was riding the Comet. I will never forget it and this has brought back those memories. It is so sad that all those great places where memories were made are gone.

  12. I had a friend in the mid 70’s that died falling off the Comet roller coaster.
    I don’t see it mentioned anywhere on the internet.
    Does anyone have any record of Kieran Glen dying at Crystal Beach?

  13. I miss Crystal Beach so much! I use to go every year with my family. It was such a great place! My dad had his company picnics there. I wish they would create another park to resemble the old one

  14. Ron Evans says:

    I lived in Buffalo for a time. I visited the amusement park with two friends in 1982 or ’83. A pleasant summer afternoon was had by all. No passports needed then.
    Free parking too. 😁👍

  15. Jack melanson says:

    My dad worked the giant, mom worked the cafeteria aunt the tasty freeze uncle worked the comet and i ran rides and games when I got out of school for was a great magical time

  16. I miss Crystal Beach. While my grandfather was alive, we would go to crystal beach from Welland . It took one hour. He died in 1978. But in 1983 was the last time I visited the park with my sister her husband and his friends. If you went after eleven the park was free. It no longer held the magic when my grandfather was alive.

  17. Martin Stompne says:

    I managed the food operations for two years in the 1980’s and have many fond memories of the park. We served B.B.Q. chicken to 4,000 employees for a company picnic once and even draft beer for 8,000 Stelco employees.
    The park was unique for it’s mature trees everywhere offering a comfortable shade for it’s patrons.
    My favourite ride was the flume which climbed up a slope and descended down through a setting of trees.
    P.S. the recipe for the Sugar Puffs (waffles), was locked away in a safe.

  18. Jessica Chmielewski says:

    R Edwards
    Can you contact me
    It’s about your friend Kieran Glynn

  19. I visited a very large scrape and vintage facility outside of Pittsburg, PA in the early 80’s. We heard there was an old Merry-Go-Round with the original wooden horses stored there. Upon wondering around a saw this large stack of yellowish wood with parts still identifiable as what we called as kids–the” Rollie Coaster”. I wondered is it possible this could be from our favorite place as kids— Crystal Beach in Ontario, Canada.
    Sure enough in speaking with the owner of the company, they got the contract to dismantle much of the amusement park and actually purchased many of the games and rides in the final days of the park. Over the years some of the rides were sold down south and Mexico.

  20. Jerry Peters says:

    I grew up at Crystal Beach between 1965-1970 summers. I lived in Buffalo and traveled back and forth every day during the summer. We (The Leper Colony, that was the name of our cottage) along with as many as 25-30 other cottages of men and women (25 thru ???#) We had some great memories and summers at Crystal Beach. Going to miss it. NOTHING like that NOW. Sad to say. Thx for the MEMORIES. Jerry Peters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *