If you only go to Sydney’s Luna Park to have your photo taken in front of the funfair’s iconic clown face (based on Old King Cole) entrance then it’s worth the trip.
Luna Park is modeled, in art deco style (look at the towers by the entrance), on similar parks in Melbourne and Adelaide (the latter of which closed as Sydney was opening) and on the world’s first Luna Park which opened on Coney Island, New York in 1903. Sydney’s Luna Park opened in 1935 on this site, by the Harbour Bridge, which had previously been used for workshops, etc during the construction of the bridge, now a backdrop to the funfair.
A visit here is truly a trip down memory lane for the older visitor and good clean innocent fun for the younger visitor. Everyone can enjoy the wonderful old style funfair rides made even better by the views from the park, located on the banks of the world’s most beautiful harbour.
If you are looking for high speed ultramodern rides then this is not the place for you. Here in this temple of urban frivolity you will find old style dodgem cars, a Ferris wheel (with fantastic views across to city centre), Coney Island – Funnyland which is the only 1930s fun-house still in existence in the world, a beautiful carousel, a magic castle, mirror maze, clowns and lots more. Sadly no more are the Park’s famous Big Dipper (lost to noise-Nazi local residents who incidentally moved into the area long after the Park was built) and the Ghost Train which burned down in 1979.
Over the years the Park has had more ups and downs than its Big Dipper. It has opened and closed numerous times due to a combination of accidents and changes in taste. Each time it has closed (and indeed when it has been open) hungry vultures in the form of real estate developers have hovered close by. Without doubt the land on which the Park is built is worth a mint from a development perspective. To keep developers at bay, in 1990 the Luna Park Site Act was passed restricting the the site’s use to amusement and public recreation. Luna Park is one of only two amusement parks in the world protected by government legislation. The other, which I had the pleasure of visiting mid 2015, is Tivoili Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark.
One thing that I particularly admire within Luna Park is the artwork.
Art (Arthur)Barton became the resident artist in Luna Park funfair in 1937, a couple of years after it opened and when he joined it as one of its many artists. By that stage he was already 50 years old. Often referred to as the “Rembrandt of Luna Park”, he retired in 1970 aged 83 due to failing eyesight. Over his 35 years with Luna Park he became one of Australia’s finest exponents of fairground art and set the style of the artwork at Luna Park, drawing on the work of Australian cartoonists such as Syd Nicholls and Stan Cross, as well as British artists Bruce Bairnsfather and Heath Robinson.
Apart from a number of pieces (some depicted in the two pictures above) in the Coney Island Funnyland building none of his actual work remains today – though today’s murals, artwork and signage very clearly follow Barton’s style and exuberance in colour.
Barton will always be best remembered for his 1950s creation of Luna Park’s now iconic entrance face, based on Ole King Cole and flanked by its two art deco US Chrysler Building inspired towers, through the mouth of which thousands have passed to indulge in the pleasures of the Park ever since. Pictured above is the current reincarnation of the entrance – front and rear – created in 1994.
If you visit Luna Park do take time to look at the artwork.
To actually enter the Coney Island Funnyland, where the original Barton artwork is, you need a ticket covering the rides/amusements therein. If you just want to see the artwork, go into the free Funnyland viewing area just to the right of this building’s main entrance
Unlike most similar facilities, entry to the park itself is free so even if you are not the ‘ride type’ do walk through for a look. If you want to enjoy the rides, naturally you will have to pay to do so. At A$10 per ride, the cost of buying individual tickets is prohibitive so you really do have to spend at least a few hours here and buy an unlimited ride arm band to get value for money. There is a wide range of options in terms of tickets, the price of which are based on one’s height. The most expensive (Sept 2017 prices) all day pass is A$52 if bought at the Park (A$48 online.) See the website below for full details on tickets and opening hours, the latter of which are all over the place.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Luna Park from Circular Quay is to take the ferry to Milsons Point wharf, less than 50 metres from the Park entrance. I prefer to catch the train to Milsons Point station (or indeed walk across the Harbour Bridge) and walk from there along the Harbour’s edge to Luna Park and beyond. A beautiful walk.
While there is food available on-site it is expensive and certainly nothing to write home about.
Do treat your kids and the kid in you to a visit to Luna Park.
Address: Milsons Point
Phone: +61 2 9033 7676