One of the earliest parks, Chicago’s White City, grew out of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. White City was the common name for dozens of amusement parks in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Inspired by the White City and Midway Plaisance sections of the World's Columbian Exposition, the parks started gaining in popularity in the last few years of the 19th century.
The enormously successful World's Columbian Exposition attracted 26 million visitors and featured a section that is now commonly considered the first amusement park: a midway, the mile-long Midway Plaisance, the first Ferris wheel constructed by George Ferris, Thomas Rankin's Snow and Ice Railway, a forerunner of the modern roller coaster, which was later moved to Coney Island as well as lighting and attractions powered by alternating current. Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti had just completed the first power plant with AC power in London only the year before.
The Columbian Exposition also featured the debut of several foods that became popular in the United States: the hamburger, shredded wheat, Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and pancakes made using Aunt Jemima pancake mix. The Zoopraxographical Hall was the first commercial theater. Ragtime music composed and performed by Scott Joplin exposed millions of people to a new form of music and it instantly became a staple for fairs and carnivals.
While the Midway Plaisance became the Exposition's main drawing card, it was not the primary purpose of the World's Fair in the eyes of its founders, who pictured it to be the beginning of a classical renaissance featuring electrically-lit white stucco buildings collectively known as White City occupying the main court.
While White City gave the park its visual identity, the throngs who attended the Columbian Exposition tended to collect at the Midway Plaisance and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which set up shop just outside the park grounds after the fair's founders rejected Buffalo Bill Cody's attempt to become an official Columbian Exposition exhibitor.
Chicago’s Columbian Exposition was destined to be remembered primarily for two ironic visions, that of the crowds at the Midway Plaisance, with exhibitions of boxer John L. Sullivan and exotic dancer Little Egypt as well as its games and its rides, and the architecture of White City.
Paul Boyton's Water Chutes, featuring a shoot-the-chutes ride that wasn't present in the Columbian Exposition, was the first amusement ride to charge admission when it opened in 1894. Inspired by the immediate success of his Water Chutes with 500,000 people visiting in its first year of operation, Boyton moved and expanded his Water Chutes in 1896. In 1895, Boyton also opened Sea Lion Park, one of the earliest embodiments of an amusement park, at Coney Island with several rides, including a shoot-the-chutes, an old mill ride and a sea lion show.