Started in 1952, Frontier Town was a theme park built for kids, and for their folks who use to be kids. For more than four decades, with trick riders, bucking broncos, horses and buggies and stagecoach bandits, this rural entertainment destination in New York’s Adirondack Mountains scratched their cowboy itch.
Founded by Arthur Bensen, an enterprising phone technician from Staten Island, the park had a Pioneer Village (with lots of calico dresses and butter churning), Prairie Junction (modeled after a Wild West main street), an Indian Village, a rodeo arena, and even a narrow gauge railroad. It drew steady crowds to the decidedly un-Western part of the world that is the Adirondack Mountains, until a combination of factors led to financial troubles in the mid-1980s, including a waning interest in Westerns and easier access to bigger and grander theme parks in sunnier climates.
After a couple of dark years the park rebounded, refinanced and eventually reopened, managing to stay in business until 1998, but by then the crowds had thinned to a trickle. Frontier Town shut down for good, with the property eventually taken over by the county for unpaid taxes.
For many years it sat dormant, overgrown, and rotting under the burden of almost 20 years of decline and neglect. Aside from a few enterprising explorers, there were no visitors to the site for many years.
Eventually New York State purchased the site, and Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed to redevelop the rotting theme park into a “Gateway to the Adirondacks.”
The first camping reservations opened in Fall 2018, and since then the site has remained a state run park featuring campsites, picnicking areas, and trails for biking and equestrian use. Some of the trails stray through the original theme parks remains, which are technically off-limits to the public (though that doesn’t stop many from exploring all the same).
There’s no telling how much longer the remains of the theme park will stay standing, but for now the spirit of Arthur Bensen’s park lives on.
Know Before You Go
For reservations at the campground, visit the NY DEC parks website.