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ESSENTIAL GUIDE: Abandoned Amusement Parks

Amusement parks are such gleeful places that leave saturated color memories of cotton candy tastes and whiplash rides on rumbling roller coasters. But once abandoned, they’re among the creepiest places on earth, with their spooky still roller coasters and chipped and faded paint on plaster animals and clown faces. Here are some of our favorite abandoned amusement parks from around the world. Ride and enter at your own risk!

SIX FLAGS NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans, Louisiana

article-imageSix Flags New Orleans (via Wikimedia)

The catastrophic damage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left the Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans covered in up to seven feet of water, its soaring rides tossed into a jumble of debris. As in the rest of the city, the water stagnated for weeks, leaving around 80% of the rides and facilities destroyed, and deemed a cost beyond what was worth restoring.

Like in the Ninth Ward around it, the devastation from the hurricane is still a healing scar, the the rusting roller coasters and graffiti (someone spray painted “WELCOME 2 ZOMBIE LAND KIDS” at the entrance) remain reminders of the ravaging disaster. 

article-imageCl-sed for Storm (photograph by Patrick Hawks)

article-imageView to the ferris wheel (photograph by Erik Jorgensen/Flickr user)

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Roller coaster (photograph by Keoni Cabral/Flickr user)

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Faceless statues (photograph by Nathan Hoang/Flickr user)

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“Don’t look for me, I’m still here.” (photograph by Summer Caughey/Flickr user)

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Abandoned main entrance (photograph by Erik Zeterberg/Flickr user)

 

TAKAKANONUMA GREENLAND
Hobara, Japan

article-imageRoller coaster at Takakanonuma Greenland (via Atlas Obscura entry)

Following its construction in 1973, the Takakanonuma Greenland amusement park was only open for two years. Why exactly it closed is vague (as is, mysteriously, much information at all about these opening years), with the need for repairs sometimes cited and the fact that the grander parks of Tokyo were more alluring, while others attributing it to numerous deaths on the rides.

In 1986, the park reopened and operated until 1999 when it finally succumbed to financial ruin, becoming abandoned ruins itself. The area dense with trees and covered with a perpetual fog made the remote roller coasters riding over the forest especially eerie. Unfortunately for urban exploration photographers, much of the park has been torn down in recent years, leaving the foggy forest to unsettle on its own.

article-imageFerris wheel in the fog (via Atlas Obscura entry)

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Map to the park (via Atlas Obscura entry)

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Roller coaster in the fog (via Tofugu)

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Roller coaster on the hill in 2006 (photograph by JensofJapan/Flickr user)

SPREEPARK
Berlin, Germany

article-imageSpreepark devilish ride (via Wikimedia)

A classic of urban exploration, it’s impossible to not include the accessible ruins of Spreepark in any list of abandoned amusement parks, especially with its menagerie of toppled giant dinosaur statues and 148-foot-tall ferris wheel. The 79 acre park on the River Spree was constructed by the East Germany GDR communist government in 1969, in what was then Berlin’s Treptow-Köpenick district. Originally called Kulturpark Plänterwald, it was the only continuous amusement park in the GDR, but the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the opening of the East to the West and its sleeker entertainment resulted in some hard times for Kulturpark.

In 1991, it was taken over by one Norbert Witte and renamed Spreepark, operating until 2002 when it closed in debt. Witte fled to Peru and took six of the attractions with him, stating to local authorities that he was just getting them repaired. There he started a new amusement park with the remains of Spreepark, which also failed, and Witte was found to be using ride parts to smuggle cocaine. 

article-imageAbandoned water ride (photograph by Der Robert/Flickr user)

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View to the pond (photograph by Sebastian Kippe/Flickr user)

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Collapsed dinosaur (photograph by Oh-Berlin/Flickr user)

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Abandoned swan boat (photograph by Richard P J Lambert/Flickr user)

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Spreepark in winter (photograph by Jan Bommes/Flickr user)

HOLY LAND USA
Waterbury, Connecticut

article-imageHoly Land USA (via Atlas Obscura entry)

Editors Note: Do not go here. Seriously. Someone was murdered on the site in 2010, and it remains a generally unsafe place to go.

Back in the 1950s, John Baptist Greco, a lawyer and devoted Catholic, envisioned a theme park for God. Holy Land USA was built to be a replica of Bethlehem with other holy sites mingled in, such as a Garden of Eden, catacomb tunnels, and dioramas of the evangelism of Jesus, and by the 1960s nearly 50,000 people were making the pilgrimage to the 18 acre park each year. For miles around, its 56-foot-tall illuminated steel cross could be seen gleaming as a Holy Land beacon.

The park was closed for renovations and expansions in 1984, but Greco died in 1986 before the work could be finished. A group of nuns then took over and continue to tend to the park, but it never again reopened to the public. While much of the park remains, in recent years it has become dangerous and was the site of a horrific crime in 2010 with the murder of a young woman. It is far from being the safe haven of replica spirituality that it once was.

article-imageHoly Land USA in its open days (via Atlas Obscura entry)

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Ruins of Holy Land USA with a view to the underground tomb (courtesy Avi Brand & J. Larry Golfer)

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Crosses on the Holy Land USA hill in 2007 (photograph by zalgee/Flickr user

WONDERLAND
Beijing, China

article-imageWonderland (photograph by Tormod Sandtorv/Flickr user)

Not far outside of Beijing, but a world away from its frenetic urban bustle, is the surreal skeletal remains of Wonderland, what would have been the biggest amusement park in all of Asia. Surrounded by swaying cornfields are the beginnings of a castle’s spires (a not-so-subtle copy of a famous Disney amusement park fortress), a fairytale town, and the frame of a huge pavilion, which are all that got built before construction halted in 1998 due to money and land disputes.

While there was a failed attempt to restart construction in 2008, farmers have now reclaimed the 100 acres once designated for the park, planting crops and digging wells in the spooky shadow of the half-dreamed castle.

article-imageBiking through the Wonderland ruins (photograph by JoeInSouthernCA/Flickr user)

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Skeletal remains of Wonderland (photograph by Zoetica Ebb, Alternative Beijing)

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Wonderland town (photograph by JoeInSouthernCA/Flickr user)

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Castle seen through the crops (photograph by Zoetica Ebb, Alternative Beijing)

PRIPYAT AMUSEMENT PARK
Pripyat, Ukraine

article-imagePripyat Amusement Park (Photograph by Tim Meier)

The eerily abandoned Pripyat Amusement Park was only open one day: April 27, 1986, as entertainment for those preparing to evacuate the Ukrainian city following the April 26 Chernobyl disaster.

Festive decorations still linger near the haunting rides for the planned May 1, 1986 opening that never came. Its looming ferris wheel has become an unsettling icon of the nuclear disaster, and visitors sometimes leave stuffed animals in its cars as a memorial. The park still contains varying levels of radiation, although the concrete areas are mostly safe.

article-imagePripyat ride (photograph by Jennifer Boyer/Flickr user)

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Rusting rides (photograph by ZerO 81/Flickr user)

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Pripyat in snow (via Wikimedia)

NEVERLAND RANCH
Los Olivos, California

article-imageAbandoned Neverland Ranch (via Daily Mail)

Sun bleached and overgrown, what was once the personal play-land of the King of Pop is now abandoned to the elements, its exotic animals like the monkey Bubbles and underage patrons gone. Amusement park rides and even an elaborate train station are reminders of what was once a multimillion dollar 2,800 acre sequestered compound for the late Michael Jackson with a full-time staff of over 50.

While there have been other superstar millionaires who have expressed interest in Neverland Ranch, and some proposals to turn it into a memorial museum, for now the estate, which was foreclosed on in 2008, continues to deteriorate. However, those who want to experience a bit of the hidden Neverland can ride a few of its former attractions, including the Balloon Samba and Wave Swinger, at the California State Fair.

article-imageView of Neverland Ranch from above (via Kyle Harmon/Flickr user)

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Abandoned Neverland Ranch (via Daily Mail)