Remembering American Adventure, the closest we got to the USA in the Midlands
Horses, guns and rollercoasters. What more could you want?
In the South they have Thorpe Park, and everyone knows Alton Towers is the jewel of the West Midlands. But for anyone from Derby or Nottingham, we had American Adventure. A theme park with (fake) guns and horses right on our doorstep.
I went with friends. I went with cousins. I went on a trip with summer school. I went because we had nothing else to do, and I loved it.
American Adventure was the embodiment of an Old Western in theme park form. The only thing it lacked was a gigantic statue of Clint Eastwood asking you if you felt lucky at the door.
As far as theme parks go, it was as 90s as they come
Yes, this is Boyzone opening a ride called “Flying Island” back in 1998.
It’s unclear why an Irish boyband were at an American style theme park in Derbyshire, but it seems like a strangely good fit.
You could walk around in Adidas track jacket and a fluorescent FILA t-shirt without anyone calling it vintage. The hot dogs and pretzels were never healthy, but nobody cared then.
We got to peak 90s when Coronation Street storylines spilled out onto the park. If you ever see a photo of “Free Deirdre” and don’t know whats going on, just be glad you didn’t have to experience it.
Panning for gold got us hooked on gambling at an early age
Here’s the premise. Drop a pan in water, shake it and try and find a bit of plastic which is painted to look like gold. Repeat.
American Adventure was actually built on top of an old coal mine, but of course a seven year old only wants to work for something shiny.
I would have done it all day if my parents had let me. It was a pointless fruit machine for kids, but I loved it.
Your parents wanted to go on the Mississippi Boat. You wanted the rapids
Looking back, they did a really good job of putting together an old Mississippi steam boat in a Derbyshire lake and making it look half realistic. Hands down the most boring attraction of the park though.
There might have been a big lake in the middle of American Adventure, but we wanted to be on the rapids. Make casual conversation with other people on the boat, get splashed by some freezing water and have it all captured on camera. I’ve still got a keyring of that somewhere.
It had more than its fair share of cultural appropriation
They laid on the Native American themes pretty thickly. That’s something you had to prepare yourself for when stepping into Aztec Kingdom.
Buffalo Stampede was the first ride which greeted you as you walked in, littered with totem poles and a big statue of an angry chief. Unfortunately the Runaway Train was a lot better.
The Missile was terrifying
It propelled you through three gravity-defying loops, then it went it reverse and made you do it backwards.
As a kid the thought of going backwards through the abyss was scarier than anything Alton Towers had to offer. I just couldn’t handle it.
We all thought the motion master cinema was futuristic
A room that moves along with the screen sounded completely space age. They didn’t even have these at Disneyland, but they had them at a theme park dedicated to the past.
Here in 2016 with our virtual reality and IMAX, it’s hard to believe this was only a few years ago.
The shoot out was one of the highlights of the day
Cowboys always won. We knew exactly what was going to happen when the hourly gun show popped off. The good guy would kill the fugitive or the Indians, and that’s just the way it was.
Still, I got a kick out of watching adults reenact the games we were playing in the playground with more realistic problems. Just like old reruns of children’s cartoons, it was gripping at the time.
There’s a new petition to bring it back
And it’s got nearly 6,000 signatures. Nine years after American Adventure closed for good, the people still want it back and are lobbying the council to take action. Those behind the campaign argue that a revamped East Midlands theme park would be huge for tourism in the area – since we don’t really have any.
Whether you think the UK’s only wild west theme park should be resurrected or be signed over to the legend it represents, American Adventure will always have a cowboy hat-shaped place in our hearts.