Creepy Abandoned Amusement Parks We Want to Visit

For a great time with the whole family, it’s hard to beat a day at a good amusement park. The rides, the food, the sights, the characters — there’s something for just about everyone to enjoy. What happens, though, when people stop buying tickets and the gates close forever? Left to languish, those roller coasters and snack shacks take on an eerie new aura that’s a far cry from the sunny sights and sounds of an operating park. These then become the creepy abandoned amusement parks sought out by urban explorers and photographers from all over the world.

There are a number of creepy examples– many of them even in the United States, which may surprise locals. Yes, some are gone and only preserved here due to archival photos, but remnants of others remain, hidden by overgrown brush and nature reclaiming itself. Seeing these images ignited our youthful imaginations, and we realized that if we wanted, we could actually travel to some of these abandoned parks and explore their empty shells for ourselves. Sure, we would possibly be arrested for it, but that’s part of the adventure.

So with that spirit of urban exploration in our hearts, won’t you join us for a look at some of our favorite creepy abandoned amusement parks?

1. Okpo Land

creepy abnadoned amusement parks
Photo: First to Know

Located on South Korea’s tiny Geoje Island, this park has all the makings of a ghostly horror movie. One of the park’s main attractions was a duck-themed roller coaster. It’s known to have caused at least one fatality in the late 1990s, for which no compensation or apology was received, and the ride continued to operate. Then in 1999, a cart derailed and capsized at top speed, and a young girl tragically fell to her death. The park’s owner immediately disappeared and was never heard from again; Okpo Land was closed.

According to Wikipedia (which may or may not have all the facts), in the fall of 2011, the site was completely demolished, and there are now plans to build a hotel over the site where Okpo Land once stood. Cue Poltergeist-style music.

2. Joyland

creepy abandoned amusement parks
Photo: First to Know

This family-owned amusement park in Wichita, Kansas was once the largest theme park in central Kansas and featured a wooden roller coaster and other old-timey attractions. It operated for 55 years but closed in 2004 due to financial troubles. (It was temporarily reopened in 2006, but only lasted one season).

Since then, it’s been vandalized numerous times, with buildings covered in graffiti and the vintage sign atop the roller coaster getting stolen. The administration offices have also been destroyed, and in August 2012 a maintenance building was burned down.

3. Jungle Habitat

Photo: First to Know

Long before the Six Flags used Warner Bros. characters at their theme parks, there was Jungle Habitat in West Milford, New Jersey. This Warner Brothers-owned animal park opened in the summer of 1972. Tourists could slowly drive their vehicles along the designated roadways as wild animals freely roamed about. While these animals were kept behind fences so they did not leave the park, they could walk right up to the window of a passing car.

Alas, the park was closed by October 1976 due to numerous problems. Dangerous animals reportedly escaped into West Milford, animals injured visitors on multiple occasions, several of those same animals contracted tuberculosis and were euthanized, and locals hated all the traffic. According to the park’s Wiki page, competition from theme park giant Great Adventure, combined with poor management and the park’s inability to easily expand, may have contributed to the demise as well.

For years the site’s deteriorated buildings remained, and rumors of animals still roaming the property attracted visitors. It’s since been redeveloped for public land use, such as hiking and biking trails, so there isn’t much left of the old park. But some traces remain.

4. Six Flags New Orleans

Photo: First to Know

Originally named “Jazzland” when it opened in 2000, the Six Flags company bought the park in 2002 and added popular attractions like Batman: The Ride. A water park was in the works, but then Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and the park was permanently closed. It is currently owned by the city of New Orleans, and while there is talk of transforming it into an outlet mall, it’s still an abandoned site. A photo essay can be found on Time.com.

5. Heritage USA

Photo: First to Know

This Christian theme park, water park, and residential complex was built in Fort Mill, South Carolina and comprised 2,300 acres. It operated from 1978-1989 and was the brainchild of PTL televangelist Jim Bakker and his then-wife, the late Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. (As a side note, much of the park was built by noted church builder Roe Messner, who later married Tammy Faye after she divorced Jim.)

At its height, this vacation destination earned $126 million per year and was on par with Disneyland and Walt Disney World. But when it was revealed that Bakker had been having an affair with Jessica Hahn, and he also got a federal indictment for fraud, attendance dropped. The IRS revoked the park’s tax exemption status, and then in September 1989 Hurricane Hugo hit and caused lots of damage. It closed after that. Since then, much of the park has been sold and redeveloped.

6. Prypiat Amusement Park

Photo: First to Know

 Perhaps the creepiest and most dangerous of them all.

The story goes that this Ukraine park was open one day– April 27, 1986. It was supposed to be opened on May 1, 1986 in time for the May Day celebrations, but the Chernobyl disaster happened. The park was supposedly opened for a couple of hours to keep the residents entertained before being told to evacuate the city.

Though the radiation in parts of the park is supposed to be dangerously high, people still venture there to snap photos. It’s reported that decorations for the May Day opening can still be seen there today. 

7. Disney’s River Country

Photo: YouTube

River Country was Disney World’s first foray into water parks. Located southeast of the Magic Kingdom, the park lay right next to a large lake, and hosted water slides, a giant swimming hole, playgrounds and other attractions. Its decor boasted a Mark Twain-inspired theme with rustic wilderness and wooden forts sprawling across the water.

While River Country was Disney’s first water park, the company would go on to open two more in Disney World, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. These parks improved upon River Country with more and larger attractions, eventually drawing crowds away from the original. This combined with a handful of safety breaches and concerns of lake bacteria eventually led to River Country’s permanent closure.

Rather than demolishing the park, Disney has allowed nature to claim the rocky hills and water slides of River Country, creating some breathtaking photo opportunities for urban explorers.

8. Land of Oz

Photo: YouTube

This North Carolina park was themed after the classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Its opening in 1970 was met with much fanfare, with actress Debbie Reynolds attending with her daughter, Star Wars‘ Carrie Fischer, to cut the ribbon.

The Land of Oz included a replica of the famous yellow brick road, as well as the spooky woods Dorothy and friends traveled through, and the Emerald City itself. The City replica included displays of costumes that had been worn in the 1939 film.

Sadly, the park’s parent company Carolina Corporation went bankrupt just five years after the grand opening. Soon after that, a fire hit the Emerald City, destroying the film costumes inside.

The park never recovered from these unfortunate events, and closed in 1980. While locals have since rehabilitated the area, using it for Wizard of Oz-themed yearly events, for most of the year the Land of Oz sits disused, its yellow brick road fading away into mist.

9. Marineland of the Pacific

Photo: YouTube

A year before Disneyland’s grand opening, Marineland of the Pacific premiered in Palos Verdes, California in 1954. Much like Sea World, Marineland was an aquatic-themed park. Its main attraction was a show featuring performing killer whales named Corky and Orky. It also had the unique attraction of a swim-through aquarium, where guests, outfitted with goggles and snorkels, could swim with marine life. For a long time Marineland was famous for appearing in popular TV shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Munsters.

Unfortunately, Marineland fell on hard times in the late 1980s. At just about the same time, the company who owned Sea World, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, was looking to acquire killer whales for its own park in San Diego. Harcourt ended up purchasing all of Marineland along with the whales Corky and Orky. The whales were moved to Sea World, and Harcourt opted to close Marineland rather than renovate and reopen.

10. Gulliver’s Kingdom

Photo: YouTube

Gulliver’s Kingdom opened in Japan in 1997 as one of many construction projects backed by the Japanese government and banking center in the 90s. Themed after Jonathan Swift’s 18th century novel Gulliver’s Travels, the park’s centerpiece was an enormous 147-foot-long statue of the book’s protagonist tied to the ground by the miniature Lilliputian people. The park also featured a town square area, bobsled track, and luge course.

While the park’s proximity to Mt. Fuji made for a breathtaking landscape, the location proved to be problematic for two reasons. First, the park was located near Aokigahara, the forest infamous for being the second most popular suicide spot in the world after the Golden Gate Bridge. It was also situated near the former compound of Aum Shinrikyo, a cult that murdered 13 people in a 1995 nerve gas attack in Tokyo. Some residents from the area reported the lingering smell of chemicals from the cult’s activities.

Thanks to these factors and a general lack of interest, Gulliver’s Kingdom closed down just four years after opening. For several years its structures remained standing, along with the Gulliver statue, becoming a destination for urban explorers and resulting in some arresting images of the wreckage. Unfortunately, anyone hoping to see for themselves is out of luck: all the structures, including Gulliver, were demolished in 2007.

11. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

Photo: YouTube

One could argue that the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park’s troubles began long before it even opened. in 1783, the park’s future site in West Virginia was the setting for a bloody dispute between settlers and Native Americans. Farmer Mitchell Clay had moved onto the land without the consent of the Native Americans, who retaliated by murdering Clay’s children. Clay got his own revenge by rallying together a group of settlers and murdering several Native Americans.

This grisly history didn’t stop businessman Conley T. Snidow from purchasing the land in the 1920s with the intent of building an amusement park. Snidow built a rotating swing set and a ferris wheel on the land, and opened the pond for swimming.

Tragedy continued to haunt the land, however. During its run, the park saw six guest deaths, including a little girl who was struck by a truck while riding the swings, and a boy who drowned in the swimming pond. The park was closed down, but the attractions still stand as decaying reminders of what was.

12. Nara Dreamland

Photo: YouTube

While many people think of Nara Dreamland as a Disneyland knock-off, the Japanese park was actually developed with help from Walt Disney himself.

Back in the 1950s, Japanese businessman Kunizu Matsuo, president of the Matsuo Entertainment Company took a trip to Disneyland and was seriously impressed. Matsuo struck a deal with Disney to create a Disneyland in the old Japanese capital of Nara, and construction began. However, Matsuo and Disney were ultimately unable to reach a licensing agreement for the use of Disney characters and properties in the park. With construction nearly complete, Matsuo was forced to create original characters for the park, which would now be named Nara Dreamland.

The park prospered for years as Japan’s answer to Disneyland. However, in 1983 Tokyo Disneyland opened, initiating a decline in Dreamland’s attendance. The 2001 opening of Universal Studios Japan dealt the final blow to Dreamland, which closed for good in 2006.

While the abandoned park was a popular attraction for urban explorers, demolition of the site began in 2016, and was completed in December 2017.

13. Dunaújvárosi Vidámpark

Photo: YouTube

Another fascinating example of an amusement park existing under communist rule, Dunaújvárosi Vidámpark opened in Dunaújváros, Hungary in May of 1952. Within three years, the park was home to a ferris wheel, carousel, shooting range, bowling alley, and other attractions.

While Dunaújvárosi Vidámpark ran successfully for decades, the fall of the Soviet Union was not kind to the government-funded park. It closed its doors in 1993, leaving its various attractions to rust as monuments to an era of Soviet prosperity.