19th Century Theme Park Thrills at the Museum of Fairground Arts in Paris

19th Century Theme Park Thrills at the Museum of Fairground Arts in Paris

There was a time when a simple carousel merry-go-round was a center of excitement for children at a theme park or amusement park.

In the digital era, fantastic marvels that can thrill children of all ages can be constructed with a few keyboard taps into the new generation weightless and paper-then laptop smart device.

No one can halt the onslaught of technology and modernity. No one should.

Yet, there is something to be said about the era of analog creativity when it came to the amusement park industry.

Like, “Too bad such a concept is outdated.”

If you know where to look, you can take a literal step into the past and enjoy a 19th century French version of what we call an amusement park today.

Musée des Arts Forains, or roughly, “Museum of Fairground Arts,” is a French-themed amusement park and living museum dedicated to preserving and recreating amusement experiences from yester-century.

The living museums with 19th century recreational themes are the brainchild of antiques collector and dealer and actor Jean Paul Favand.

Favand spent 35 years collecting and restoring over 29,000 objects related to fairs, amusement parks, theme parks, museums and open air recreation.

All of the amusement rides, carousels, automatons and attractions found at the museum are dated from 1850 to 1950.

That is the idea. Favand wants to actually transport visitors to an atmosphere that matches the vintage of the attractions.

There are actually 5 unique 19th century/Early 20th century amusement experiences to choose from. The Museum of Fairground Arts features fairground attractions from the Belle-Époque, or, “Beautiful Era,” which stretched from the Franco-Prussian War to the start of WWI.  Le Théâtre du Merveilleux or, “The Theatre of Marvels,” pays tribute to turn of the century film projection and curiosity exhibition shows. Les Salons Vénitiens, or, “The Venetian rooms,” hearkens back to late 19th century and early 20th century carnival shows and rides. Le Théâtre de Verdure, or roughly, “The Greenery Theatre,” is a recreation of the lush, verdant and meticulously tended gardens and topiary path walkways popular in the last century.

There is also the, “Magic Mirror,” theme experience that lovingly re-creates the Ballroom dancehall experience of the roaring 1920’s.

All living museum experiences are operated under the auspices of the Pavillons de Bercy cultural and living museum initiative.

These museum experiences can be hired out for corporate and private functions upon request.

You can only visit the museum by appointment for 90 minutes-a-visit. It is open to the public during most holidays and public observances.

Starting in December 2016 the museum will be opened on much more regular basis.

The living museum experiences receives well over 250,000 visitors a year.

Admission for adults is USD $17.75 (€ 16) and $8.87 (€ 8) for children aged 4 – 11. Children under four years of age are admitted free.

Go to the official website for more information.

Yes, old-school types of traveling amusement parks do still exist, but mainly as a niche business realm industry. Or as a boutique thrill alternative choice to mull against the standard, ubiquitously-known, global corporate-owned theme park franchises.

And those fly-by-night traveling theme-park shows are about a quick buck and cheap thrills, not creating an atmosphere of child-like wonder and excitement.

We all remember our first time at an amusement park or theme park for a reason.

It was a timeless period of wonder, where fun and recreation and good times seemed to be on tap and it seemed as if it would never end.

Perhaps that type of fun is truly gone. But at Le Musée des Arts Forains, at least you can go back in time, for a few hours at a time.


A. A. Francis

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