A History of Kiddieland and the Pleasure Pier in East Omaha

Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier, North Omaha, Nebraska

Driving along Carter Lake Drive in East Omaha today, you might think the place has always been stark, boring, and a more than a little depressing. But that hasn’t always been the case. In the 1950s and 60s, the Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier at Carter Lake Park in Omaha, Nebraska, were a veritable wonderful of fun and good times.    

Dreaming Up New Fun

This t-shirt for the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier and Kiddieland is an originaly that belongs to Lane Levi from when he worked there.
This t-shirt for the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier and Kiddieland is an originaly that belongs to Lane Levi from when he worked there.

After World War II, the City of Omaha became determined to capitalize on the land around Carter Lake. They opened it up for a lease to establish an amusement park to serve North Omaha that could compete with Peony Park, which was a private park on the western edge of the city.

That’s how the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier and Carter Lake Kiddieland came to be. Imagine the sounds of kids screaming in happiness as they whirred around in amusement rides. Visualize families ramming baskets full of food into their mouths in packed picnic areas.

But somewhere along the way, Omaha lost the Pleasure Pier and Kiddieland. There are very few mentions of it in the history of the city, and there is no trace of either one today. So, for the first time, here’s the history of Omaha’s lost amusement park.

Carter Lake Pleasure Pier

In late 1948, the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Commission put out a bid for a business to operate an amusement park on the lake. Jim and Dorothy Carpenter submitted their plan, and were awarded a land lease.

Built along Carter Lake Drive, the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier opened in May 1949 on the lake’s edge. With 150,000 feet of land, the adult-oriented park advertised fancy landscaping, concession buildings, speed boating, swimming, boat rentals, airplane rides, and more. The adult rides included the Rock-o-Plane, Rolloplane, Fly-o-Plane, and an Octopus. There were also Drive-Ur-Self boats and a 40-passenger cruiser on the lake, along with a miniature golf course, archery, badminton, shuffleboards, and bike rentals.

Picnic facilities operated by the Pleasure Pier could hold up to 20,000 people. Along with a drive-in restaurant, there was parking for 1,500 cars.

Carter Lake Kiddieland


The Pleasure Pier was also the site of a Kiddieland, a child-centered amusement park. Originally, there were eight rides for kids, including a Little Dipper, an auto ride, a merry-go-round, pony carts, a ferris wheel, a boat ride, a miniature train, and a ride called a doodle bug. The Kiddieland eventually added a Midge-o-Racer and Bulgy, as well as a Hodges Kiddie Handcar and a live pony track.

In the 1950s, Kiddieland hosted daily 15-minute television shows that appeared on a local station. In 1951 it boasted eight concession games and 14 rides.

The park was offered for sale by the Carpenters in 1959. In 1960, it was reported that the Pleasure Pier and Kiddiepark were sold to H.V. Peterson, who planned to open a marina. That year, the park reported having a three-abreast merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, 16-car Lusse Auto Scooter, a Herschell Roller Coaster, boat ride, a kiddie auto ride, train, pony rides, and “speedway racers”.


The entrance to Kiddieland, circa 1955.

After just a decade, Kiddieland and the Pleasure Pier were officially closed and auctioned off in 1962. Rides, concessions and restaurant equipment were all on the block, and the place lived no more.

By the time I was old enough to scour around the park in the 1990s, I could not identify any remnants. No signs of a restaurant, amusement park, parking for 1,500 cars, or a picnic area for 20,000 people are left.

The only thing that remains now are the memories of the visitors and workers who remember it.

Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier may have truly been fun for the whole family, and now they they are all gone.

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Bonus Pics!

1957 ad for the Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier, North Omaha, Nebraska.
1957 ad for the Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier.
1950 ad for the City of Omaha’s Mayor’s Old-Fashioned Family Picnic at the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier and Kiddland
Listen to our podcast about the Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier!


Special thanks to Cynthia Carpenter Walling and Yvonne Adams Bechtold for their contributions to this article!

Most of my sources for this information were from Billboard magazine. They include…

  • (May 21 1949) “Carpenter Amusements announces grand opening”, p. 63.
  • (July 23, 1949) “Outstanding Kiddielands: Jim and Dorothy Carpenter’s Moppetland in Omaha is just an infant – but it’s growing,” p 68.
  • (April 7, 1951) “Omaha Ops Prep Pleasure Pier”, p. 63.
  • (April 20, 1959) “Carpenter offers to sell park; to keep ride factory”, p 87.
  • (June 20, 1960) “Carter Lake opens strong”, ”The Billboard”. p 71.


    1. The Omaha Police Dept had their annual picnic at Kiddieland. My Dad was an Omaha Policeman so two of my sisters and I got to enjoy those rides until it closed down and the annual picnic was moved to Playland on the Iowa side of the river.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I remember the amusement park at Carter Lake very vaguely. If it closed in 1960, I was 6 years old. I do remember going there at least once and I remember seeing it there when we would go to Carter Lake for picnics. Do you know anything about a ship that was docked along Carter Lake at one time? I remember when we were at the playground in the park, it was across the lake. You may have information on it, but I have not looked to closely for it on your site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that what you saw was a simulated ship owned by the Sea Scouts. My dad was a member. I have a picture of him on that structure built, I think, to look like ship. That’s my best recollection.
      It was a big deal when our parents took us to Kiddieland.


  2. My father Jim Carpenter owned kiddieland in Carter Lake. I have one of the original tshirts from the opening. The carousel was exquizite with all of it hand carved horses.

    Cynthia Carpenter Walling

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember going to Kiddieland a couple of times, I specifically remember the boat ride, but I recall the location being a bit further east, across the road from where there still is a structure near the lake.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a collector, too, of historical objects, and just memories, if there’s nothing material left of certain attractions and landmarks–like Kiddieland! I do applaud your interest in this subject, your research and the work you’ve done to construct this website. I’ll just admit, I am 66 years old, a native Omahan and a graduate of Dundee School (my family moved a few times around the Midwest–Illinois and Wisconsin, beginning when I was 13)–and for a few years I have been asking people in my age group if they remember Kiddieland. The answer from everybody I’ve asked has been a blank stare–until now, when I just discovered your website. I don’t know why I didn’t think of consulting the web until now. I must be like Catherine Moreland, the heroine of Jane Austen’s first novel, “Northanger Abbey.” Catherine is described by the narrator as being “occasionally stupid.”
    Anyway, maybe there are two other Omaha features you can enlighten me about– or that maybe I enlighten you about! I’m sure you must be a frequent visitor to the Durham Museum. Did you notice a whole bunch of staves (red in color, I think) just grouped together? I think they may be the remains of the giant birthday cake made to celebrate the Omaha centennial in 1954. Maybe you know the right people to ask on that. I’m just a retired journalist living in New Cassel Retirement Center and I don’t have the ambition or even the transportation. (I have not driven or had a car since 2001.) Then the other thing nobody else seems to remember is the two-or-three story structure resembling the famous Watts Tower in Los Angeles, that stood in a square tile-floored pool of water right in the middle of the first floor of Brandeis, from its beginning. I hope to hear from you with some good memories!


    1. Hi David, and thanks for your note.

      I’m glad someone else is interested in Kiddieland – it intrigues me! However, as a youngin’ I don’t really have any memories of a lot of these places – I’m /only/ 42. I do a lot of research in the Omaha World-Herald archives, conduct interviews on the web and use a bunch of other sources to construct my stories.

      On your other note, since I’m only focused on the area north of Dodge and east of 72nd Streets, so your questions about Brandeis and the giant b-day cake are outside of my interest.

      However, you should join the Forgotten Omaha group on Facebook and ask there – you’d love it! More than 57,000 people share their memories of the city, and there are new conversations everyday. Its at facebook.com/groups/ForgottenOmaha/


    2. I am 72 years old and remember the birthday cake that was in what is now a huge park in Midtown where many events were held. We would go down Dodge, which then circled to the right just like it does not, allowing downtown traffic one-way west driving. I believe that is what the staves were part of. The rebirth of the park east of an enlarged retail area east of Mutual of Omaha has been handled beautifully. Old trees were saved, as was the historical marker, and it is the site of many concerts and events, from a farmer’s market to yoga.


    3. My folks took us to Kiddieland at least one evening every summer. I remember that the tracks for the tiny railroad ran across the wide sidewalk one entered from. It was never crowded, always clean, we rode on the little kid-sized roller coaster often, rode the ponies that went along a narrow trail with log fence on both sides to make kids feel secure. The carved horses on the merry-go-round may be why I fell in love with horses because of their beauty. Thankful that Adam created this original site, since he told me way back when it was just “North Omaha . . . remembered” that he had never heard of Kiddieland. But then he is quite young compared to me. I am imagining the aroma of buttered popcorn right now. Mmm.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We lived on 26th and Hamilton in Omaha and on Sundays all of us neighbor kids would walk to Kiddieland with 50 cents in our pockets and have a great time! The Merry-Go-Round and the bumper cars were the star attractions, oh how we loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I and my siblings loved KiddieLand. Born 1947 so I was the right age. Those little rides were exciting for us. But you had to wait too long to get your turn! The other side of the road, by Carter Lake, was almost beyond my ken, although I remember seeing the big rides, like the Octopus, from afar. A bit scary. I must have gotten over there because I remember the “big” ship. Thanks for clearing up what that was. I thought it had come there from the war (WWII). This is wonderful stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My Mother was the hostess in the restaurant at the airport. Occasionally Dad would take me with him to pick her up after work. It was not unusual for us to stop at Kiddieland so I could ride the live ponies. I’ve never heard anyone else mention it before. I was born in1947and lived near Fontenelle Park.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember Kiddieland very well, and believe I have even posted a couple memories about it on this blog before. I was born in 1951. When I was little my mother had a weekly cleaning lady, Mrs. Pearl Scott. One time Pearl and her husband took me on their church picnic being held at Kiddieland. I am not sure I remember the occasion or was just told so many times about it afterwards that I only *think* I remember. But my father, whenever he would tell the story about the Scotts taking me to their picnic, and then picking me up afterwards (so the Scotts would be spared the expense of making a whole round trip), would end by saying I was very easy to pick out of the crowd. And the airport restaurant where your mother served as hostess, I remember it very well, too. I’m sure it was called the Hayden House and that there was also a Hayden House restaurant at the big train station downtown. I loved going to both places with my parents and grandparents. There was a treasure chest of toys for children to make a selection from on their way out. (I may not have spelled that name, “Hayden,” correctly. Yours, David Bittner

      On Sun, Sep 6, 2020 at 3:54 PM North Omaha History wrote:

      > Cheryl Maddalena commented: “My Mother was the hostess in the restaurant > at the airport. Occasionally Dad would take me with him to pick her up > after work. It was not unusual for us to stop at Kiddieland so I could ride > the live ponies. I’ve never heard anyone else mention it befor” >

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for your piece on Kiddieland, Adam! I grew up in Minne Lusa in the 1950’s and kids in the neighborhood loved those bumper cars!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One thing not mentioned in the comments were the boat rides on a large old fashioned paddle boat. There were also water shows where, I think the ski club members, did 5 person pyramids on water skis. I wasn’t born until the 60’s but my Dad was the captain of both boats.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This may sound like it is off topic, but it is not. I am researching the Jack Kerouac book On the Road. Through a process of elimination, I am 99% certain that James Carpenter is an unnamed character in the book. In July 1947, Kerouac is approached by a carnival owner and offered a job as a concessionaire (Kerouac declines the offer). I would be interested in communicating with members of the Carpenter family about this. fbrusca at gmail dot com


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