Disney’s theme parks might be the best known, but they are far from the most interesting. Across the globe, people have created amusement and theme parks inspired by everything from haute jewelry to construction equipment to dog poop. Before you plan your next trip to the same old Disney park or Universal Studio, consider visiting one of these bizarre theme parks instead.
Theme: Hello Kitty and her friends.
This pair of Japanese theme parks is devoted to the Mickey Mouse of the East: Hello Kitty. Puroland is all indoors, while Harmonyland is all outdoors. Both of them are wall-to-wall adorable Sanrio characters.
Theme: Naked, pooping, vomiting animals.
Based on the logo characters from a brand of Danish novelty candy, this amusement park is filled with mascots and statues such as a puking rat, a buxom bovine with her teats out, and the centerpiece: a guilty dog surrounded by poop, viewable from a ride called “The Farting Dog Switchback.” Kids love it.
Theme: A repurposed nuclear power plant.
The giant tower in the middle of this German theme park doesn’t just look like a nuclear cooling tower, it used to be one. The park was built on the site of an old nuclear plant in the 1990s. The cooling tower has a swing ride inside of it and a climbing wall built onto the outside.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Theme: The Bible was full of muscles and spectacle.
There are several religious and biblical theme parks around the world, but few reach the strange heights of Argentina’s Tierra Santa park. It’s full of muscle-bound biblical figures, and a 40-foot mechanical Jesus that rises from a skull-covered Golgotha every hour.
Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam
Theme: A Buddhist waterpark.
Filled with monumental statues of dragons and emperors’ faces, this Vietnamese waterpark isn’t short on spectacle. The beliefs of animistic Buddhism inform the figures from folklore and legend positioned all around the park. There’s also a crocodile kingdom with some 1,500 of the beasts living inside.
Theme: Unauthorized use of video game properties.
Ever wanted to visit the orc villages of Azeroth from World of Warcraft, or battle with aliens among the stars like in Starcraft? With its pixels-made-real statues and decorations, China’s World Joyland provides a completely unauthorized version of those experiences.
Theme: Swarovski crystals.
Swarovski crystals aren’t just for chandeliers and jewelry anymore. At the official Swarovski theme park, they make for some surreal family fun. Originally opened as an expansive museum in 1995, the park was expanded in 2015 to include a huge, hand-shaped hedge maze, and a designer playground tower.
Theme: Uncomfortable performances by people with dwarfism.
China’s Kingdom of the Little People is staffed entirely by people with dwarfism. It is set up like a sort of fantasy land, and there are regular performances by the employees throughout the park. The air of exploitation is hard to avoid, but the does provide a number of jobs and a supportive community for the people working there. Visitors can decide how to feel about it for themselves, but they certainly won’t forget it.
Republic of the Children
La Plata Partido, Argentina
Theme: If kids ruled the world.
This pint-sized theme park is set up like a city where everything is built to the size of children, allowing kids to pretend to work at the bank, or in the local government building. Adults will feel like giants, and children will feel like rulers.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Do you like Ferraris? Well then, the luxury car company has just the place for you. Housed inside a colossal red tri-form complex that looks like it’s from space, Ferrari World is all about fancy cars and speed. The mostly indoor amusement park is even home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster.
Theme: DIY amusement park.
Hidden away in an Italian forest, this tiny amusement park was hand-built over one man’s lifetime. Following 40 years of inventive welding, the park is now home to merry-go-rounds, swinging bridges, slides, and self-powered roller coasters. Who needs all the flash of a big-name park when you can get the same thrills from these simple contraptions?