4. Minimundus — Carinthia, Austria
Open since 1958, Minimundus in Austria strives to stay on top of and consistently deliver “what’s hot” in the world, at a convenient 1/25 scale. It has 150 miniature models of international landmarks, from the White House to the Taj Mahal. It doesn’t discriminate by nationality or race, and attempts to give visitors a taste of the entire world in around 26,000 square meters.
Unlike many other model amusement parks, Minimundus is seriously lacking in kitsch. The models are expertly crafted by professional model makers and just one building can cost upward of $700,000 to build. The grounds are well maintained and the gardens are lush and lovely. The park is such a hit, a second location was constructed.
5. Panorama of the City of New York — New York City
Image: Queens Museum of New York
When famous urban planner of New York City Robert Moses set out to build an exact model of New York, he really went for it. Commissioned for the 1964 World Fair, Moses teamed up with the great Raymond Lester Associates to bring his dream to fruition. What they created was a 9,335 square foot model that included every single building in all five boroughs of New York. They used aerial photographs and insurance maps to create the masterpiece. Important research it was since, according to the initial contract, they were only allowed a 1% margin for error. When it was completed in ’64 the model had 895,000 buildings in total.
When it was unveiled for the World’s Fair it was unquestionably the biggest hit, attracting an average of 1,400 visitors a day. Maintained until 1970, the Panorama was essentially abandoned until 1992 when Raymond Lester Associates again took it upon themselves to update it, adding 60,000 more buildings to bring it up to date.
Although it’s no longer being updated, the Panorama is truly a model like no other and it lives on permanent display at the Queens Museum of Art.
6. Mini Europe — Brussels
Similar to Minimundus but with slightly less, ahem, taste, Mini Europe is a theme park with 350 scale models of monuments found within the European Union. At 1/25th scale, certain of the creations are also interactive. If you get really lucky, you can see Mt. Vesuvius blow during a visit.
Interestingly, this is also home to the Atomium: a reverse-scale model of an iron crystal lattice that’s magnified to 165 million times its original size. So Mini Europe gets bonus points for helping you check off two totally different perspectives in one easy trip.