Abandoned Amusement Parks: Eerie Destinations Frozen in Time

June Steele
(Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Once, these thriving businesses were the go-to destinations for a great outing packed with people, but now are left decaying and empty. This journey takes us through the forgotten landscapes of abandoned amusement parks, each with its own tale of rise, fall, and eventual abandonment. From the waterlogged ruins of Six Flags New Orleans to the surreal remains of Discovery Island, keep reading to unravel the mysteries hidden within these deserted hubs of entertainment.

Six Flags New Orleans

A sign for Six Flags Amusement Park flanked by the frame of a roller coaster ride.
A Six Flags amusement park sits idle in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009. (Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Located in the heart of New Orleans, Louisiana, Six Flags New Orleans, originally established as Jazzland in 2000 and later rebranded in 2003, carries a haunting tale of abandonment. The devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 rendered the park economically unviable, with submerged rides and waterlogged grounds. Interestingly, the desolate site found a second life as a backdrop for scenes in the post-apocalyptic movie Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013).

Discovery Island at Walt Disney World

Abandoned buildings that are falling apart.
Abandoned buildings and equipment on the island in 2019. (Photo Credit: MattSonswa / YouTube screengrab)

Nestled in Bay Lake, Florida, Discovery Island, formerly known as Treasure Island, opened its gates in 1974, only to close in 1999. Its abandonment was partially attributed to the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998. With the newer and larger animal-themed park, the need for a separate wildlife attraction like Discovery Island diminished, leading to its eventual closure and abandonment. Abandoned structures and overgrown paths now conceal the island’s history within the confines of Walt Disney World.

Ghost Town Village

The frame of a rollercoaster flanked by a building with boarded up windows.
A recent picture of the rollercoaster in Ghost Town Village, aka Ghost Town in the Sky. (Photo Credit: Chris Luckhardt / YouTube screengrab)

The Wild West-themed Ghost Town Village, formerly Ghost Town in the Sky, which was founded in 1961, faced financial hardships that led to intermittent closures and eventual bankruptcy in 2009. Notably, this cinematic site hosted scenes for the movie Ghost Town: The Movie (2006), adding a touch of movie screen allure to its troubled history. Today, the once lively Wild West-themed park stands eerily silent atop a mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Land of Oz

Yellow brick road
The Yellow Brick Road at the “Land of Oz” theme park in North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Bambi Pig / Flickr Public Domain)

Found on Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the Land of Oz opened in 1970 and closed in 1980, unfolds a unique chapter in theme park history. The park’s Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City, now part of an annual event called Autumn at Oz, offer reminders of a bygone era. Although the park occasionally hosts events, much of it remains abandoned, offering glimpses into its once-magical but now-forgotten atmosphere.

Lake Dolores Waterpark/Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

The Rock-a-Hoola sign that greeted visitors into the park, April 2011. (Photo Credit: Dzealand / Wikimedia Commons / CC 4.0)
The Rock-a-Hoola sign that greeted visitors into the park, April 2011. (Photo Credit: Dzealand / Wikimedia Commons / CC 4.0)

Amid the arid landscapes of Newberry Springs, California, the Lake Dolores Waterpark, operational since the 1960s, closed in the early 2000s. Originally, the park was designed and constructed by a local businessman, Bob Byers, who named the park after his wife and was intended for use by his extended family members. In the early 1990s, the park was bought and renamed Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, but 2004 was the final year of full operation, followed by failed attempts to save the park.

Nara Dreamland

The entrance of Dreamland, showing signs of rust and weathering.
Nara Dreamland on 29 May 2014. (Photo Credit: JP Haikyo / Wikimedia Commons / CC 2.0)

In Nara, Japan, Nara Dreamland opened its gates in 1961, only to close in 2006 due to declining attendance and competition. Notably, the park’s design heavily borrowed from Disneyland, presenting a surreal Japanese interpretation of American themes. Though closed, the park’s abandoned structures evoke a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere.

Pripyat Amusement Park

An old ferris wheel that is rusty.
Pripyat, Ukraine – September 30: In this aerial view, an abandoned Ferris wheel stands on a public space overgrown with trees in the former city center on September 30, 2015, in Pripyat, Ukraine. (Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Nestled in Pripyat, Ukraine, the Pripyat Amusement Park never opened its doors to the public. Scheduled to debut on May 1, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26 forced the evacuation of Pripyat, leaving the haunting silhouette of the never-ridden Ferris wheel as a chilling symbol of the tragedy.

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These abandoned amusement parks are the definition of the saying “here for a good time, not a long time,” as they continue to decay and get reclaimed by nature. Although it’s not advised to trespass through abandoned amusement parks, you will find many videos of urban explorers venturing through these parks, providing a deeper insight into the current condition of these once-thriving sites.