Riverview Amusement Park

Iowa's Coney Island

Riverview Amusement Park opened on Saturday, June 5, 1915, with an admission of five cents. The June 6th, 1915, Register and Leader reported live music by T. Fred Henry and his band, as well as The Four Lamys who performed “sensational aerial novelty acts”.  It also called Riverview Park  “Iowa’s Coney Island” just as the later ad above does.

In 1912, local businessmen became interested in creating an amusement park in Des Moines.  The Zoological Gardens were no longer in use and became the chosen property for Riverview Amusement Park. It consisted of 40 acres almost completely surrounded by East and West Zoo Lakes.  The Riverview Amusement Company was led by Abe Frankel, C.C. Taft, and Frank Walrath. 

News articles document many memories of the park, including the old fun house called Joy Land, the merry-go-round, Tunnel of Love, the Tumble Bug, the steam train, and the roller coaster.  Ella Fitzgerald performed at the Riverview Park ballroom in 1938. This became a penny arcade in 1940 when the Riviera Ballroom opened.  It eventually hosted numerous rock bands, including Chicago.  Images of the park and its features can be found on the websites listed at the end of this post.

Through the years, the park had its ups and downs. In 1933, the park suffered fire damage at around $100,000 and in 1944 a flood put it underwater.  Inflation and operating costs went up and competition moved into the area.

In 1979, Adventure Lands of America purchased Riverview Amusement Park. At that time, some of Riverview Park’s features were moved to create a theme destination at Adventureland. Riverview Park is now part of the Des Moines park system.