Although summer’s drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere, people are still flocking to amusement parks. They’re something of a staple of summertime adventure, and as people try to squeeze in the last bits of summer fun, amusement parks are going strong.
Of course, for every successful amusement park, there is a dozen that didn’t do so well. It’s not cheap to run one of these parks, and competition is fierce. You have to have the best rides, and you need to continuously impress your guests. Your location also matters. People will travel for a theme park experience, but not too far off the beaten path.
The remnants of many entrepreneurial theme park owners’ dreams are strewn across the continents. Most parks are simply abandoned after they close. Sometimes it’s a lack of funds, while other times, legal issues keep redevelopment at bay. At any rate, these abandoned parks become haunting echoes of themselves, a reminder of how time and nature slowly reclaim everything.
We’ve picked 10 of the eeriest abandoned theme parks for all you urban explorers out there, and we’ve matched them up with 10 epically successful theme parks that beat the odds. All of these parks provide thrills and chills, just for different reasons.
20 Ho Thuy Tien Has Been Recently Abandoned
Hue is considered one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, and, until 2013, one of its attractions was the waterpark Ho Thuy Tien. The park has since been left to the elements, allowing it to be overrun by the elements. It’s amazing to see just how quickly nature overruns manmade structures.
Urban explorers might have had another couple of close encounters with nature, since a trio of crocodiles was actually abandoned along with the park! The crocs have been captured and moved to a wildlife park elsewhere in Vietnam, but who knows what else lurks in these murky waters?
19 This Hungarian Park Fell With The Berlin Wall
Duanaujvarosi Vidampark opened in 1953 to great fanfare. The park ran for 40 years, but it was a non-capitalist enterprise, meaning it never had to make money to keep the doors open. Instead, it survived on funds from the communist Hungarian government.
When the government fell, just after the Berlin Wall came down, the park lost its main source of income. It was forced to shutter its doors in 1993, leaving us with this testament to the Eastern Bloc amusements of the mid-20th century. The park isn’t as eerie as, say, Ukraine’s Pripyat, but it’s enough to give you the chills.
18 Spreepark May Finally Get A New Lease On Life
Germany’s Spreepark is another Soviet-era amusement park that has bit the dust in the modern era. The park opened its doors in 1969 as Kulturpark Planterwald. East Germans flocked to the park, attracting nearly 2 million visitors during its heyday. Its claim to fame was its 140-foot Ferris wheel, which still stood on the Berlin skyline until recently.
By 2001, however, the good days were a memory. Attendance had fallen to less than 500,000 people, and the park, bleeding cash, was forced to shutter its doors in 2002. The government of Berlin has apparently purchased the lease for the land, but what they plan to do remains to be seen.
17 Japan Wasn’t Ready For This Dreamland
In 1961, a Japanese entrepreneur opened Nara Dreamland in Japan. He had been inspired by visiting Disneyland in California, which had opened in the 1950s. Nara Dreamland was a big hit in Japan from the 1960s, but over the years, its popularity eventually declined. When Tokyo Disneyland opened its doors, the writing was on the wall for the Nara park.
After 45 years, Nara Dreamland closed up in 2006. The park is now overrun by nature, having been left to the elements. A Japanese real estate company finally purchased the park, but what will happen next remains to be seen.
16 Joyland Isn’t So Joyous Now
Joyland Amusement Park brought some much-needed laughter and fun to Wichita, Kansas, for over a half-century before the park was abandoned. In fact, Joyland was once the largest amusement park in the entire state.
Costly renovations, suspected arson, and rapid changes of ownership spelled the end for the park. Demolition started in 2016, but we still have some eerie photos from the abandoned site. We’re not sure if knowing the park is abandoned makes this organ-playing clown more or less creepy. We think Joyland might have been a bit eerie even before it was left to the elements.
15 There Are Abandoned Theme Parks On Every Continent
Most abandoned amusement parks seem to be located in Europe or North America. This is probably because, until recently, most amusement parks have been developed in these areas. That said, they don’t have a monopoly on amusement parks, or on eerie abandoned ones either.
If you need proof, just take a look at Umoja Children’s Park, located in Chake-Chake. This town is on the island Pemba, near Zanzibar. The park has long since closed, and it features many rusting out rides, including a caterpillar ride similar to the infamous “Happy Worm” pictured at Ukraine’s Pripyat. And just like the Ukrainian version, Umoja is an eerie place to visit.
14 Italy’s GreenLand Is Stuck In Legal Limbo
GreenLand was originally known as Satellite City, located near Limbiate in Lombardy. The park was built in the mid-1960s. It reached its heyday in the 1980s, but some legal problems regarding the land and quick changes in ownership eventually led to the park’s decline.
GreenLand closed its doors for good in 2002, and it’s sat abandoned ever since. The complex legal issues that plagued the park while it was still running have continued, leaving the site in legal limbo. Until those issues are resolved, no redevelopment can begin. A redevelopment plan was first proposed in 2008, but the park lingers on, abandoned.
13 This Park Survived For Almost A Century
Lincoln Park opened in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1894. That’s right, this park dates back to the end of the 19th century. For years, the park was quite successful, even luring notables such as JFK and his children.
By the mid-1980s, however, the park’s fortunes had begun to change for the worse. The aging structure was being outshone by larger modern parks. The aging attractions, including the iconic Comet roller coaster, were also thought to be unsafe. An accident in 1986 only cemented this view, and the park closed a year later. It took 25 years for the Comet to be demolished, marking the end of an era.
12 This Arizona Park Won’t Have You Saying Yabba-Dabba-Doo!
The Flintstones was a groundbreaking TV series for its time, being the first to show a married couple sharing a bed, even if Fred and Wilma were animated. The show reached a new level of popularity, inspiring the perhaps ill-conceived Bedrock City theme park in Arizona.
The park, which banked on the popularity of these animated characters, closed in 1972 and has been baking in the desert heat since. It’s looking for an owner, but without success. Part of the problem may be that the license to the characters is non-transferrable, meaning a new owner would have to rebuild Bedrock City from the bedrock up.
11 China’s Wonderland Is A Tale Of Mismanagement
If you travel just a little ways north of Beijing, you might glimpse some local farmers working amid a Cinderella-inspired background. The area was once the site of Wonderland, a proposed Chinese amusement park that never really got off the ground.
Construction had started, but funding collapsed during the project, leading it to be abandoned. For some time, you could wander through the pastel-hued streets, lined with castles, and visit the remnants of the enormous fairy-tale castle. The local farmers reclaimed the land, leading the park to look more like a recreation of feudal Europe than a family-friendly fantasy land.
10 Still epic: This Danish Park Has Had Sustained Success
Tivoli Gardens, located in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, first opened its doors in 1843. Unlike Lincoln Park, however, the Danish amusement park has managed to maintain the same successful formula throughout the years. It effortlessly blends vintage theme park attractions and more modern thrills, chills, and spills.
A testament to time, the park’s original roller coaster, known simply as Rutschebanen (or Roller Coaster), is still widely heralded as the park’s best coaster! The more modern Daemonen (the Demon) offers up floorless tracks and inversions. Tivoli’s willingness to continue modernizing has doubtless contributed to its success as one of the oldest amusement parks in the world.
9 Still epic: Brazil Is Home To Latin America’s Largest Amusement Park
Latin America’s largest country is home to its largest theme park, known as Beto Carrero World. While it’s not as old as Tivoli Gardens, Beto Carrero World stretches nearly 3,500 acres, and it packs in all the modern thrills you could want. Check out the Fire Whip, 1 of 4 roller coasters in the park.
Beto Carrero World is also noted for thrilling productions, like Velozes e Furiosios, its homage to the Fast and the Furious movie franchise. In recent years, the park has teamed up with DreamWorks and Universal Studios to bring movie-inspired thrills to families and thrill-seekers from all over the world.
8 Still epic: Leave It To South Korea To Create A Non-Disney Disneyland
Lotte World is one of South Korea’s most preeminent attractions. Locals and tourists alike flock to the theme park to enjoy the world’s largest indoor park and Magic Island, an outdoor amusement park. Located near Seoul, it’s a perfect day trip.
Lotte World isn’t a Disneyland site, but the park has invested heavily in recreating some of the most popular attractions at Disneyland. If you want to visit somewhere like Disney without paying the prices or waiting in the ridiculous lines, Lotte World might be right up your alley. The similarities between the 2 parks and their rides are actually quite striking.
7 Still epic: Disneyland Remains The Gold Standard For Amusement Parks
Disneyland first opened its doors in 1955, and it’s since expanded to another location in the US and all around the world. You can visit Disney in Paris, Tokyo, and Orlando, but the original will always be in California.
Disneyland balances childhood nostalgia and magic with cutting-edge technology. Check out rides inspired by classic Disney films or hang out with some of your favorite Disney characters here. You can also visit some of the iconic rides, or check out the future at Epcot. Some of the park’s original rides, which were there when it opened in 1955, are still operational. That’s impressive!
6 Still epic: Cedar Point Has Cornered The Market For Roller Coasters
Cedar Park, located near Sandusky, Ohio, has risen to become the mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts all around the world. It’s considered the roller coaster capital of the whole world, packing in 17 coasters. Many of them set world-records, including tallest, fastest, or even longest roller coaster.
The park’s most impressive coaster is still the Millennium Force, which was completed nearly 20 years ago at the turn of the century. This steel coaster still garners accolades for its engineering and the way it integrates the park’s geography. If you can only ride one coaster, make sure it’s this show-stopping entry.
5 Still epic: Ocean Park Is Three Attractions In One
You want to spend a day out and about while you’re in Hong Kong. Do you choose the zoo, an aquarium, or an amusement park?
If you choose Ocean Park, you can get a 3-for-1 deal. The park sprawls across 225 acres on the island’s south side. It packs in a marine park, a zoo, and an amusement park that boasts 4 roller coasters among 80 rides and attractions.
The park is divided into 2 areas, which you can transit between using a cable car or a funicular train. Hair Raiser is probably the most popular attraction, as it combines views of the bay with extreme inversions over the mountainside.
4 Still epic: It’s Worth The Drive to PortAventura World
You’ll need to trek about an hour and a half out of Barcelona to experience this next park, but it’s worth the drive. PortAventura World features the Hurakan Condor, one of the world’s tallest drop rides. You’ll fall 330 feet, and you can have your choice of a regular seat, a tilting seat, or a standing seat to enhance your thrill.
If coasters are more your speed, you might check out Dragon Kahn. Shambhala is Europe’s tallest and fastest hyper-coaster, so you don’t need to slow things down too much. As long as PortAventura World keeps the thrills coming, people will keep flocking here.
3 Still epic: This Dutch Park Provides Year-Round Thrills
The Netherlands’ Efteling Park has been a destination since it first opened its doors in 1953. Even today, it attracts nearly 5 million visitors each and every year. It’s little wonder why. The park has 35 rides, including a half-dozen roller coasters. For one of the park’s best thrills, check out Baron 1898, a dive coaster that bolts you down a 123-foot, 90-degree drop into a mineshaft.
For those who prefer something a little less thrilling and more mystical, you can take a ride through an enchanted forest or visit the Fairytale Forest, where classic storybooks are brought to life to delight you and your senses.
2 Still epic: Europa Park Ranks Only Second To Disneyland Paris
Europa Park has been going strong for 40 years, drawing in more than 5 million visitors each and every year. In fact, the park ranks only second to Disneyland Paris in terms of popularity in Europe.
This can probably be credited to the park’s amazing collection of rides, including 12 roller coasters. One of the newer ones, the Arthur, boasts an indoor-outdoor construction, and, like almost every ride in the park, pushes the limits. As you calm down from the exhilaration, you’ll wander through each of the European-themed districts of the park. Check out the Volo da Vinci or the Swiss Bob Run ride for additional thrills.
1 Still epic: This Japanese Park Ranks Among The Most Popular In The World
If you had to guess where Nagashima Spa Land ranks on a world list of popularity, you probably wouldn’t put this Japanese theme park in the top 20. Since 2012, however, Nagashima Spa Land has been one of the 20 most visited parks in the world.
It boasts 45 rides total, including a whopping 12 roller coasters. It also has a water park, and a giant Ferris wheel known as the Aurora Wheel. After a day of trekking around the park, you can visit a nearby hot spring. There’s also a botanical garden close at hand, which is known for its LED light displays.
References: Atlas Obscura, Weather.com, LA Times, The Hauntist, Fodor’s, CNN Travel, Weburbanist