Return to The 1950s - a look back

A commentary copied from a Cincinnati blog
Moonlight Cardens
at Cincinnati's Coney Island
My Disclaimer
Sid note:

Aside from the brief mention HERE there is not much about Moonlight Gardens on the net. For now - this will have to do.

The following is a copy of a posting made by a blogger on a Cincinnati blog forum.  They are in his words (first person). Although most who experienced Coney Island (Cincinnati) and Moonlight Gardens would likely be in agreement with this poster.

The source is:

"Back when Walt Disney was developing Disneyland in Anaheim California in 1955, he sent teams of people to Cincinnati to interface with the Coney Island people to get their advice on what was required to operate a first rate amusement park. Coney was well regarded in the business far outside of Cincinnati.

Some of their attractions will never be duplicated. Start with the Island Queen, the river steamboat which plied between the public landing downtown and the landing at Coney Island. My mother and father danced their way up and down the river on most Friday nights on the Island Queen. Name me another amusement park anywhere in the country where one of the main access methods was by river steamboat. There were none. When the Island Queen burned one winter while docked in Pittsburgh I knew an era had come to an end. There was no way the finances would permit it to be replaced.

The second major attraction was Moonlight Gardens, the semi-enclosed dance hall which hosted so many of the big band era bands. My parents would talk about dancing their way up the river on the Island Queen, going to Moonlight Gardens and dancing for several hours more, then dancing their way back down the river on the Island Queen. It was no wonder they were totally worn out by the time they caught the streetcar downtown to their apartment in Norwood, sometimes only arriving home when it was becoming dawn.

I was lucky enough to experience Moonlight Gardens near the end of its glory days. This would in the late 1950s . The big bands were dying off but there were still enough touring during the summer to fill Moonlight Gardens. What a blast it was.

Go to Coney early on a weekend morning. Go to Sunlight Pool and swim the morning and afternoon away. Later in the afternoon change clothes and go to the dinner restaurant in a building out in front of Moonlight Gardens. Then go to Moonlight Gardens when the band started. During band breaks, go out and ride the Shooting Star in your dancing clothes, or rent a boat on Lake Como. Keep dancing until the last set of the band. Then go home, thoroughly exhausted. If there was a better weekend date place other than Coney Island, I never saw it.

I had a 2nd cousin whose company dealt worldwide in machinery. He of course traveled extensively. I remember him saying people in Cincinnati do not realize how unique Coney Island is. And they certainly do not realize Moonlight Gardens is absolutely the best outdoor dancing, big band venue in the country. 

When they finally closed the original Gardens it saddened me deeply. When they closed Coney to replace it with Kings Island I was doubly saddened. I at least saw the tale end of an era today's youth will never experience. It was just a kindlier, gentler place back then. OH YES, and a WHOLE LOT SEXIER!"

Images below of Moonlight Gardens from various sources and depict various times.

ca. 1940s

June 1959
Other newer views of  Moonlight Gardens