San Jose’s long-lost amusement park: Frontier Village

Learn the story behind San Jose, CA’s Frontier Village, a Western-themed amusement park that attracted visitors to the great 408 from around the country.

Frontier Village's "Central Square" with the Frontier Village Railroad station.

Guests would be brought into Central Square on the Frontier Village Railroad.

Photo via History San José

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It’s about time we talked about one of our city’s most beloved attractions that brought national attention to the great 408.

So saddle up, because we’re taking you back in time to San Jose’s long-lost amusement park — Frontier Village.

The happiest place in San Jose

Following a family trip to Disneyland in 1959, Palo Alto entrepreneur and businessman Joseph Zukin Jr. became inspired to build his own piece of magic in the great 408.

After purchasing 60 acres from a doctor who owned Hayes Mansion, he and amusement ride designer Laurie Hollings went to work to create a Western-themed park for all ages.

In October 1961, Frontier Village opened to the public — charging visitors only 25-90 cents for admission.

Costumed employees put on a show for a crowd of children and their parents.

Costumed workers would often put on shows where an outlaw was caught by Frontier Village’s Marshal Ron.

Photo via History San José

Cowboys, marshals, and miners, oh my

Once inside, you’d find yourself in the middle of staged gunfights between marshals + outlaws or watching Can-Can dancers from the park’s Silver Dollar Saloon waltzing around.

If you were lucky, you might have had a celebrity encounter — stars like Bing Crosby, Lorne Greene, Nat King Cole, and former vice-presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey walked through the saloon doors.

Many visitors who saw the park in its heyday claim that its success was built off of the attention to detail and accessibility — parking was always free, ticket packages were offered for every budget, and Kodak even provided free loaner cameras for park-goers who forgot them.

The Edenvale Garden Park benches underneath a mock railroad station awning.

Edenvale Garden Park’s design is inspired by Frontier Village.

And the rest is history

Unfortunately, Frontier Village was short lived.

The park closed in 1980 due to the emerging Great America, and the city of San Jose’s unwillingness to fund the property’s expansion.

Today, the 19.5-acre Edenvale Garden Park sits in its place, drawing its railroad theme from the beloved Western attraction.

If you’re still reeling from its closure, we recommend joining other reminiscent fans.

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