8 Abandoned American Theme Parks “Open” for Exploration

Featured — By Rachel Greenberg on May 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

Amusement parks walk the fine line between fun-ish and semi-creepy. Maybe it’s the combination of sketchy rides, circus folk, questionable attractions, and way too many screaming kids, but there’s something a little unsettling about them. Add an ill-advised theme into the mix, and you’ve got a real summer-time winner.

Although for most of the 20th century amusement parks were a staple of American culture, the shine is definitely off the bumper car. Tons of new parks litter the country, but many of the old classics, unable to compete with the snazzy new parks, have been shut down. Most have been destroyed to make way for housing developments and malls, but a few still remain. Mostly forgotten and in total disrepair, these abandoned amusement parks are sometimes more interesting in their decay then they were while in operation.

But be warned urban explorer! Most of these parks are privately owned and do not appreciate people traipsing through their property, taking ridiculously cool pictures. If you get stopped by some authorities…just don’t tell them NileGuide sent you!

The Prehistoric Forest, Irish Hills, Michigan

Imagine Jurassic Park, but instead of real, blood-thirsty-Jeep-munching dinos you get dilapidated, stationary dinosaur statues situated around a mediocre community pool. It’s a wonder this park didn’t appeal to 21st century kiddies….

Opened in 1963, the park had a smoking volcano, waterfall, water slide, and 100 fiber glass dinosaurs sprinkled across the eight acre property. Since closing in 1999, the property has been on and off the market, all the while in complete disuse. As the years have gone by, the park continues to revert back to forest, and the dinosaur dioramas have begun to blend into the natural world.

If you should feel so inclined, The Prehistoric Forest is currently for sale for a cool $548,000 and, according to its real estate listing, the property has an arcade, gift shop, a 1200sq ft community shower building and could be used as a campground or day care…EEEEEEKK! Now that’s frightening. Better start exploring soon before this gem gets snatched off the market![All Dinosaur Images: RoadsideArchitecture via Debra Jane Seltzer]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FetGWgrUZUs[/youtube]

Six Flags, New Orleans

“Jazzland”, a New Orleans-themed park, was built on acres of swamp-land outside of the city in 2000, was purchased by Six Flags and changed names in 2002. During Hurricane Katrina, Six Flags was completely flooded and an estimated 70-80% of the park was destroyed, leaving it much too expensive to fix. The park has been slowly rotting, decaying, and sinking into the swamp for the past five years since disaster struck.

Images: Annie Wentzell/Annie Wentzell/Flickr

What’s extra eerie is the park features many miniatures of New Orleans itself, including a “Main Street” designed after the French Quarter and restaurants that are modeled after some of the city’s historic eateries. Like many of the buildings they are modeled after, many of the park’s structures were submerged in 7 feet of water for over a month, and now clearly display the ravages of the flood.

Image: Liquorhead/Flickr

Image: Liquorhead/Flickr

Although this painful reminder of Katrina’s devastation is sitting in total disrepair, it seems like it might be that way for a while longer. Six Flags and the City of New Orleans are in a entangled legal battle over the land. If you want to visit, be careful – many urban explorers have been able to enter with no problems at all, while others have been handcuffed, driven off the premises, and had their camera film destroyed.

Images: smwarnke4/smwarnke4/liquorhead/liquorhead/Flickr

The Rocky Point Amusement Park, Warwick, Rhode Island

When it was built in 1847, Rocky Point was pretty much the neatest thing in all of Rhode Island. It had everything an East Coast Victorian family could want: a Ferris-wheel, picturesque water-front views, a classy dining hall, and a long pier perfect for strolling…ahh. And as far as amusement parks, Rocky Point lasted a pretty long time. It enjoyed continued popularity and was able to evolved with the times, that is until the early 1990s took their toll.

Images: AllPoster/Hugh Manatee/Wikipedia Commons

After some horrid (and possibly shady) investments that the park held went bankrupt, it could no longer continue operating under its investors’ heavy debts. The iconic “Rocky Point” gate closed for the last time in 1996. Since then, most of the rides have been removed and sold to other parks. The rest of the property has been left to disrepair, and has suffered two possible arson attacks. Although everything of  “value” has been dispersed to needy amusement parks around the country, remnants of Rocky Point can still be seen.

Images: tmjeffers/tmjeffers/Flickr

Image: tmjeffers/Flickr

Desperate to know more? Bellow is the trailer for Rocky Point documentary made a few years ago.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMVX7Ud8Rck[/youtube]

Lincoln Park, Dartmouth, Massachusetts

This park was originally opened by the Union Street Railway Company to increase tourism on their rail line in 1894. The park expanded over time, but its most popular attraction from 1946 on was “The Comet”, a wooden roller coaster. When it was built in the 40s, the coaster was the absolute bees knees. Passengers were even willing to carry sandbags to help the cars move along the track since the ride wasn’t “loose” enough to let gravity do the work. Although the coaster was the ultimate in cool, it also turned out to be deadly as well.

Image: artinruins

In the mid 60s, a man stood up in a car and was killed going down a lift. Then in 1968 the last car detached from the rest of the coaster and rolled backwards until it derailed, tossing its passengers out, injuring them. Then again, in 1986, another man was killed trying to climb from one car to another while the coaster was moving.

No surprise, these “incidents” were hard hard for many people to forget (even though the two deaths are clearly caused by “user error”), and the decline of Lincoln Park began. Hoping more money would fix the problem, Lincoln Park’s owners invested $75,000 in the park, but just as construction completed, the Comet’s brake’s failed, the coaster’s cars jackknifed and the last car detached, finally screeching to a halt hanging precariously off the tracks. Not shockingly, that was The Comet’s final ride. Facing mounting debts and an accident-prone amusement park, Lincoln Park was shut down for good.

Image: gmeadows1/Flickr

Image: alohadave/Flickr

Image: artinruins

Image: LP Comet

Although most of the rides were sold off, the Comet still remains. A morbid reminder of the park’s previous glory which can be explored off rout 6 in North Dartmouth.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOOq6mvfuNk&feature=related[/youtube]

Lake Dolores, Newberry Springs, CA

From 1962 to the late 80s Lake Dolores contained the trifecta of summer fun: it was combination water park, amusement park, and campground but in an unexpected locale. Situated on the eastern edge of the Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the park was supplied with water by underground desert springs that fed the area. After multiple owners and unsuccessful new concepts (changing its name to Rock-a-Hoola being one of them) the park fell out of style, and most of the rides were sold off.

Image: Clay Larsen/Flickr

Image: TravelingMango/Flickr

All that remained were the old water slides, which must have seemed pretty bizarre hanging out on an abandoned stretch of highway in the middle of the desert – that is, until Lake Dolores was happened upon by the reality TV show Rob and Big (focusing on the life of Rob, a professional skateboarders and his friends). While filming a drive from LA to Vegas, the reality show crew stopped at Lake Dolores to attempt skateboarding on the abandoned slides. EEEK!! You can watch it here.

Although no one got hurt, leaving the slides intact became and huge liability for the owners of Lake Dolores. Soon after the episode aired, most of the water slides were taking out of the park.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyop2Ip-oO0[/youtube]

Glen Echo Amusement Park, Glen Echo, Maryland

Glen Echo was created in 1891 as a Chautauqua site (a government funded adult arts center) and slowly morphed into an amusement park in the beginning of the 20th century. The park’s gorgeous art-deco buildings and craftsman carousel drew crowds from D.C., but slowly old-fashioned Glen Echo lost popularity, and it closed its doors in 1968.

Image: katmere/Flickr

Image: katmere/Flickr

Image: katmere/IntangibleArts/Flickr

Glen Echo was then turned over the the National Parks Service, who has donated the park to different arts organizations over the years. Although many other of the original buildings and rides and fallen into disuse, the Spanish Ballroom and Bumper-Car Pavilion host dances on Friday and Sunday Nights and art classes are held in the former Arcade building. In addition, the classic carousel (which has 2 chariots, 4 rabbits, 4 ostriches, 38 horses, a lion, tiger, giraffe, and a fancy prancing deer) went through an almost 20-year renovation, and is now open to the public for rides.

Image: chrisbb@prodigy.net/Flickr

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI_VtA79shM[/youtube]

If breaking and entering isn’t your thing, Glen Echo is the perfect out-of-use amusement park to check out since it’s legally open to the public!

BONUS Chippewa Lake Park, Medina County, Ohio

Image: logencz/Flickr

Disclaimer: Chippewa Lake was torn down in 2009, so you can no longer visit it, but it’s still worth reading about. Built in 1875 by Edward Andrews, Chippewa Lake Park was originally named “Andrew’s Pleasure Ground”. Luckily, that innuendo-inducing name was changed in 1898 when the park switched owners and even more rides were installed. Chippewa Lake Park was super popular in the 20s and then slowly declined until it was closed in 1978. After being abandoned, it was left pretty much alone for the next 30+ years. All of the wooden rides remained and as the forest took back the land that was cleared for the park, the rides became part of the environment.

Image: Familyguyfan221/Flickr

Image: Mike Adams Photos/Flickr

Since the park lay abandoned for so many years, it became almost as beloved in “death” as it had been in “life”. There were even group tours offered on the grounds of the park in the months before its final demise.

Image: Mike Adams Photos/Flickr

Since these pictures were taken, all the buildings and rides of Lake Chippewa have been destroyed to make way for a spa and hotel, which has yet to be built.

Image: history_buff_23/Flickr

Came across any sweet abandoned amusement parks we left off the list? Let us know! And keep checking back for installment two of the series about long forgotten theme parks in other countries!

Tags: America, amusement park, California, Maryland, massachusetts, Michigan, New Orleans, Ohio, Rhode Island, theme park

    177 Comments

  • Hanna says:

    this was very interesting.

    i remember hearing my parents talking about them shutting the place down because the people died.

    if there are any more ya’ll find, let me know.

  • Devin says:

    Whalom Park in MA closed down as well near Fitchburg, dont have pictures for it but I think there were accidents there too.

  • mo-z says:

    Does anyone remember Pleasure Island in Massachusetts? It was in or near Wakefield. They closed it when I was a kid.

  • Shelly says:

    I remember when i was so small cuz im 9 and Six Flags was my life until katrina happend and i still cry about it

  • Tim says:

    “Mother Goose Land” in Canton Ohio is also abandoned and mostly torn down. The gait, a few side walks and a concrete blue whale still exist. No security or fences.

  • Hamish says:

    There’s an abandoned zoo in Canberra, Australia. The animals were moved and the site abandoned for a new location closer to town.

    I don’t have any pictures, but someone has made a map of the interesting parts on google, along with a big drainage system too.

  • Colin says:

    What about “The Enchanted Forest’ in New Hampshire.

  • That was pretty cool!

  • Jody Gohr says:

    I do believe diferrent because my friends use another brand .It’s pleasant and save prices.But next Auto Pet Feeder I can consider this this Auto Pet Feeder that you just present.Thank!!!

  • tierney says:

    what about splendid china in orlando florida?

  • Lone Wanderer says:

    Rocky Point is mostly demolished now and mostly owned by the city of Warwick. There’s still some excellent sights to be seen in and around the main building, the “Big House” as it was called. But be warned there’s almost always law enforcement in the area.

  • AJ says:

    A low-budget film titled, Closed For The Season was filmed at the Chippewa Lake Amusement Park recently. You can watch the trailer for it on YouTube.

  • Chris says:

    I have pictures of Lincoln Park in Dartmouth mass here http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/album.php?aid=27687&id=100001281344844 if anyone wants to see what it looks like today also planning on visiting all the theme parks in the new England also so does anyone got any tips for me on the other places on this list?

  • ast says:

    I really had fun at lake dolores when it was open.

  • Andrea says:

    In Wichita KS there are two; Joyland and Wild West World which closed a couple of years ago after being open just a few months. Wichita is home to Ottaway Amusements and some of their old rides can be seen abandoned on empty lots outside of city.

  • voodoo820 says:

    Santa’s Village in Dundee, Illinois

  • Stef says:

    I recently drove passed the Dinosaur one it’s near the Michigan International Speedway. There are a few more attractions near by, also abandoned. I am going back in Oct for some fun Holloween stuff.

  • Pere says:

    I found some nice pics from others abandoned waterparks here:
    http://www.polviladoms.com
    The project is called “The beauty of abandoned”.

  • BilBo says:

    Check out the very modernly ‘steepest in the world’, now disused, rollercoaster and tale of woe at Nurburgring racetrack in the German Eifel … thank you for ex theme park pix too Much enjoyed!

  • Melanie says:

    My parents keep saying they’d like to buy the first one, in Irish Hills. We live close to that place and I really wish to explore it, if I had the chance.

  • Melissa Noel says:

    woah, that one in michigan isn’t too far from me! might have to go check it out. :3

  • Ashley says:

    Hi, yeah theres a pretty neat one. Santas village (not sure where) But it’s got it’s dragon coaster as well

  • Tdavis says:

    I recall going to Prehistoric Forest several times as a child in the 60’s. In the same area were such attractions as The Mystery Spot and Pioneer Village (complete with hourly showdown re-enactments on its Main Street).

  • Wade Garrett says:

    I feel sad for America that it is losing so much of what was good about it. These classic theme parks are a special part of American history that will be sorely missed. Perhaps these types of parks will be restored one day in the future.

  • Tom says:

    Awesomely creepy stuff here, and some great photos for sure! Would be a great place to explore, thanks for posting!

  • candi says:

    how about Santa Village Santa Cruz Calif,Playland at the Beach San Francisco ca,

  • Alicia says:

    Splendid China in Orlando, FL.

  • Sidni says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but Liberty Land in Memphis, TN was shut down several years ago. It was the home of Elvis’ favorite roller coaster, The Zippin’ Pippin, and many of my best childhood memories. There’s a lot of old ghost stories involving Liberty Land that you can google. :) It’s a very sad sight to see at this point though, the rides are still there, just not in use, and it happens to be in a neighborhood in Memphis that is turning more and more ghetto.

  • Oz says:

    Santas Village in Skyforest, CA. Up near Lake Arrowhead.
    Not sure the state of things, but I believe I saw a ride through the fence when I passed by.

  • cissy says:

    anyone find any of these in colorado?

  • Gabe says:

    Chippewa Lake got demolished about a month ago,just fyi guys

  • Scott says:

    I live in San Diego. My family and I always wondered if Lake Dolores would ever be open for business on our way to and from Palm Springs. When I was young, I always gawked at the abandoned water slides thinking how much fun they would be! Thanks for posting this! Bummed I’ll never go on the slides, but cool anyways. My mother remembers wandering around Glen Echo when she was just a girl. Said it was an epic blast. Good times, good times.

  • Scott says:

    Btw, I loved Santas Village in CA. The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA, have some of the old statues and memorabilia placed about it.

  • joshyy98 says:

    manteca waterslides was awesome when i was a kid up near manteca, ca. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manteca_Waterslides

  • Suzy says:

    Doods, I like it. You don’t see too many posts like this from America.

    By the way, anyone who’s into this sort of stuff should just google “haikyo.”

    Apparently Japan had an epidemic of abadoned buildings in the 90’s which makes for awesome exploring, and pickled baby brains in jars.

  • Roszalief says:

    This is really bizar to see. I live in a very small and crowded country (Netherlands) so this would not happen here. It is like looking in to the past. My brother and I used to go to Boardwalk ‘n Basseball in Orlando and that closed only 3 weeks after we visited it in December 1989. And also Parc Zygo in Nice in South France did not close soon after we had been there. Believe me, we were nog to blame, haha. Think went 3 times during our holiday there. Would be cool if anybody would have pictures of those places.

  • Bryan says:

    Very cool! It’s nice to know that other people find this stuff so interesting. I have Santa’s Village here in Illinois. Creepy for sure. Would be a trip to walk through one of these places at night.

  • Zach Meitzler says:

    My parents used to take my sister and I to Lincoln Park in Dartmouth, MA when we were little. I had no idea of it’s grisly past. I loved that rollercoaster. This was before the 1986 death.

  • Jessica Burt says:

    There is another abandoned amusement park in Memphis. Liberty Land! This was Elvis’s favorite place. His favorite ride was the Zippen Pippen. ( An old wooden rollar coster) I used to go to this park when I was a kid, but now it’s shutdown. It really was fun place to be.

  • T.T. says:

    Lincoln Park’s Comet was the first coaster I ever went on, setting off a love affair with coasters that continues to this day, even though a neck injury prevents me from getting on them now.

  • scb says:

    There is and old park called enchanted forest in Ellicott City Maryland that was abandoned for years. It has since been turned into a strip mall but behind the mall in the woods you can still see some of the amusements such as candyland figures and several slides and stuff. the carosel is not in use but is all boarded up and sits to the side of the strip mall. I played there once as a kid and since have been facinated by its remnants

  • scb says:

    I actually worked at Glen Echo, and it is nice to see the space used and not in total disrepair. You can still feel the spirits of the past laughing and enjoying themselves. Its a very moving place to be for anybody who is interested in this kind of stuff

  • Jackie says:

    Awesome listing Was missing the pic of that creepy clown car one from Internet meme

  • allison says:

    I used to love six flags NOLA….stupid hurricane

  • Josh says:

    You forgot one: Heritage USA in Fort Mill, SC.
    It’s a theme park that Jim Bakker was building when he got busted so it never got finished

  • ample journal you’ve admit

  • Christopher says:

    that was really neat!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kelly says:

    Anyone from the Detroit area remember Boblo Island? One of my earliest memories is riding that ferry across the Detroit River.

    http://boblosteamers.com/amusement.html

  • Jedeye says:

    Went to Prehistoric Forest about the time they shut down since my kid was about 4 and into dinosaurs at that time. The dinos really needed upgrading at that time.

    There’s also an old “Ghost Town” near Findlay Ohio
    http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/9258

  • Nick says:

    That’s crazy, I used to go to The Prehistoric Forest in Irish Hills, Michigan almost every year when I was a between 6-9. I’d love to get back up there and check it out now before it all get’s closed off.

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