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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

5 Dystopian Abandoned Amusement Parks

Updated: Jan 16

Abandoned Theme Parks become more and more prevalent as time goes on. Most parks, Disney and Universal aside, lack the investment to maintain rides and compete with the big guys to pull crowds. The result is usually a dystopian setting, where once children laughed and played, is now overrun with ivy and rust. Here are dystopian abandoned amusement parks across the globe.


For more, listen to episode 131 of the Lunatics Radio Hour Podcast


Lake Shawnee

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is an abandoned park located in Princeton, West Virginia. It first opened in 1926, and closed in 1988. Lake Shawnee is perhaps rife with urban legends and local lore. Content Warning this history centers around the death of Native Americans in the 1700s.

A ride at an abandoned amusement park

Forsaken Fotos from , Maryland, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


In 1926, Lake Shawnee opened its doors and offered visitors a ferris wheel, swimming pool, race track, dance hall and a swing ride. Coal mining was a big industry in the area, and families of miners enjoyed bringing their children here. But the park had a hard time maintaining momentum.In 1967 the park closed. I’ve found conflicting reports as to why. One source says the park did not pass a health inspection, another says that two children were killed on a ride. In 1987 it reopened for less than a year before closing again due to increased insurance rates. 


After it closed its doors, the owner tried to find other uses for the land. And brought on a crew to create a roadway for motorsports. The crew uncovered Native American artifacts and eventually unearthed 13 Native American skeletons which predated colonization. Though the story goes back even further. In 1783 Native Americans killed three of the 13 Clay children, children of colonizers settling in the area, and in order to seek revenge, the father and several local men killed multiple Indigenous people who they suspected to have been involved. This was well documented and is now known as the Clover Bottom Massacre. You can piece together the legends of “cursed land,” that followed this property for years to come, only solidified further with the discovery of skeletons on the land. Lake Shawnee has been featured on many Paranormal investigation shows, and is well documented by visitors. The park is “visit by appointment only” and sometimes opens for paranormal tours.


Pripyat Amusement Park

Pripyat Amusement Park in Ukraine was a sparkling new park in 1986. Unfortunately, no one ever rode a ride because the Chernobyl disaster happened less than a week before opening day.

A ride at an abandoned amusement park

Paweł "pbm" Szubert / Wikipedia, licencja: CC-BY-SA-3.0


There was a rumor that the owners tried to open the park as a distraction but an evacuation order put an end to that. You can still take tours to this day, but due to the radiation levels, it is not encouraged. 


Nara Dreamland

The park was constructed in 1961 and modeled after the original Disneyland in California. There are even copied rides and sections from the original Disney. It was a huge success and at its peak hosted two million visitors per year. The man behind Nara Dreamland was directly influenced by Disney world and struck a deal with the company, but at a point grew frustrated with the licensing fee that Disney was collecting. 

A castle at an abandoned amusement park

Photo by Ivan Lucas via WikiCommons


So after a point, Nara Dreamland shifted to making its own rides and mascots. In 1983 Disneyland Tokyo opened in Japan, it completely stole all of the attention from Nara Dreamland. A supermarket chain purchased the park in 1993, but without any major improvements it remained on the decline. Especially after Universal opened a park nearby in 2001. It closed its doors in 2006. It’s claimed that disembodied laughter of children can still be heard at the abandoned theme park.


Six Flags New Orleans

Six Flags New Orleans was first called Jazzland when it opened in 2000. Three years later, after an infusion of money from Six Flags, the park reopened in 2003 with the Six Flags name. After Katrina hit in 2005, the park closed and never reopened.  Several rides were removed and taken to other parks. 

A ride at an abandoned amusement park

gonzo_vision, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Since its closure, the space has been used as a filming location. Notably for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Jurassic World, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, and Deepwater Horizon.


Dadipark

The now defunct park first started as the playground at a church in 1950, specifically designed for the children of pilgrims visiting the nearby Basilica. Over the next 30 years it morphed into an amusement park with full blown rides, offering entertainment for visiting tourists. At its peak it welcomed about one million visitors a year. 

A ride at an abandoned amusement park

Clemmeke1990, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


It also held the record for “Europe’s Longest Monkey Bridge” for a period of time. The rides did not get the maintenance they needed to stay safe, sadly, and in 2000 a boy lost his arm on the Nautic Jet Ride, which caused the park to close for renovations. Though it never did. Finally in 2017, it was demolished. 

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