Many Houstonians and people from surrounding areas in Texas, myself included, have fond memories of AstroWorld. The theme park was created by Roy Hofheinz and opened in 1968. In many ways, it was an extension of his other famous nearby project, the Astrodome. In true Hofheinz style, AstroWorld reflected his over-the-top personality and ideas. The park initially featured eight themed areas, each with their own distinctive look and employee uniforms. Alpine Valley and Western Junction were two of the most memorable areas of the park. The Western Junction also featured the Crystal Palace Theater where visitors to the park could watch live shows and enjoy a little air conditioning. Of course, AstroWorld is also remembered for its rollercoasters and other rides, from the adrenaline inducing Greezed Lightnin’ to the carnival-like attractions such as the Wagon Wheel, among many others. There was truly something for everyone at AstroWorld.
I grew up going to AstroWorld every summer with my cousins. We even had season passes at one point. To us, AstroWorld was like our very own version of Disneyland. It was fun every time we went, and we loved riding our favorite rides and seeing the shows. The Bamboo Shoot, XLR-8, and the Viper were must-rides. We also loved the Astroway gondola cars that would take you high up in the air from one side of the park to the other. The live shows at the Aquareana Theatre and the 180-degree movie at the Horizon Theater were also favorites. On some days we had to pick which rides and shows we really, really wanted to go to because there was just that much fun to be had. For us, it really was a wonderful world of fun.
Although many of those attractions were added in the 1980s, all of these memories came back to me when I recently added the original AstroWorld: A Pictorial Souvenir Booklet to the Houston Area Digital Archives. It features photos from the park when it first opened. Thinking back to all the fun times I spent there with my family, it’s pretty amazing to think that something like AstroWorld once existed in Houston. Although the park closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2006, it continues to be remembered as one of Houston’s most loved attractions.
Please join the Houston Public Library on April 6 from 6 PM – 8 PM at the Central Library as we unveil the restored original 1967 model of AstroWorld that was designed by Ed Henderson productions. The model was used to visualize the park’s landscape during construction and will remain on permanent view following the unveiling. Come share your memories and enthusiasm as we revive this wonderful piece of Houston history.
--Jeanette Sewell, Central Library