Unlike many abandoned places, amusement parks were full of joy before they closed down. Parents bringing their children for days of entertainment, birthday parties, and a way to get out of the house. Why should you visit abandoned amusement parks?
Abandoned amusement parks are large sites, with lots to look at. They have just as much history as old military buildings or insane asylums, but without the creepy death part (mostly).
Chippewa Lake Park, Ohio
This park opened in 1878 and closed 100 years later in 1978.
Before becoming Chippewa Lake Park, it was Andrew’s Pleasure Grounds, featuring a picnic area and a beach. The park transferred ownership, and a steamboat and roller coaster were brought in to start the amusement park. After each ride, the roller coaster had to be pushed back to the start of the track after passengers got off.
It took until the 1920s for a modern roller coaster to be built at the park. It wasn’t very big, only about 50ft tall, but it operated until the park closed.
This roller coaster would then be accompanied by two more roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, many other rides, and even a ballroom.
In 1978, the park closed without any big exit. There was no news on the closure, and no public outreach to try to get more visitors to the park.
The park just wasn’t able to stay afloat with the lack of visitors they were experiencing, mostly from the nearby competition from Cedar Point and the Geauga Lake amusement parks.
Several of the buildings burned down and were demolished, but there are still rides that are standing. They aren’t in working order- I’m sorry to disappoint you if you were planning on hopping on the Ferris wheel. Instead, they are covered in overgrown foliage, perfect for photo opportunities.
Dogpatch USA, Arkansas
Dogpatch USA was a small amusement park based on a fictional village in the comic ‘Li’l Abner’ created by Al Capp.
In 1966, a trout farm listing was given to a realtor. He saw similarities between the property and the comic and had a crazy idea to make a park based on the comic.
He approached the comic creator, who had previously refused similar ideas. The difference in the realtor’s idea was he wanted to keep the park quiet; roller coasters and rides would detract from the rustic theme throughout the comic.
The plan was to fully commit to the theme in the comic. There were going to be mild attractions like horseback riding, paddle boats, train rides, a garden, and small theatre performances from the characters.
There was even going to be an arts building where local artisans could sell their candles, wood carvings, soaps, embroidered aprons, and glass-blown pieces.
On its opening day, Dogpatch USA saw over 8,000 visitors on May 17, 1968. Admission was $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for children, but they were able to bring in a net profit of $100,000 from their first year.
The park was expected to bring in $5 million a year after 10 years, but attendance at the park fell. The first year they had 300,000 visitors, but they never saw more than 200,000 any year after that.
In an attempt to gain more revenue, a sister park was opened; Marble Falls Resort, which would be the first ski resort. To have enough snow for skiing, snow machines had to be used. During the 1970s, Arkansas experienced extremely mild winters, which meant the snow machines, ski hills, chalets, and lodgings sat empty.
With both parks failing, and $2 million in debt, the parks were forced to close.
Six Flags, Louisiana
This park was only open for five years, and under two different names.
It originally opened as Jazzland on May 20, 2000. The park expected to sell around 20,000 season passes, but they sold four times that amount. In its first season, the park saw 1.1 million visitors.
That was the only great year for Jazzland. The following year the park saw less than half the amount of visitors. The company that owned the park filed for bankruptcy in February of 2002, after obtaining $25.3 million to build the park.
The park didn’t sit abandoned for long. Six Flags bought the property for $22 million in March of 2002. If you caught on that this amusement park is in Louisiana, you have probably figured out what happened to it. The park closed due to serious flooding and damage from Hurricane Katrina.
There have been rumours about the future of the abandoned parks. Some say the park will be rebuilt, and some that say the park will be demolished. As of right now, the park is making money by leasing the space for film locations.
Enchanted Forest, Maryland
Several amusement parks have opened with the name “Enchanted Forest”, but this one in Maryland sits abandoned.
Enchanted Forest was opened in 1955, a month after Disneyland opened. It was the perfect park for families with young children. There were fairy tale themed buildings, fun characters, and the perfect picnic area to host birthday parties.
Admission for adults was $1.00, and $0.50 for children. During its peak, the park saw over 300,000 children! As the park gained popularity, it had to expand outwards, and it more than doubled the size of the park.
In 1988, the park was sold to a development company. The park closed two years later in 1990. The new owners put their focus on new development instead of the park, and the profits from the park could no longer support its operation. Instead, a shopping center was built in 1992 taking up over half the park.
Luna Park, Texas
“The Coney Island of Texas”. That’s what Luna Park was compared to. It cost $325,000 to build in 1924, and it was only open for ten years. It closed after some controversy at the park, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Luna Park featured Houston’s first roller coaster. The Skyrocket was 100 feet tall and had an 84-foot drop. At the time of its construction, it was the largest and tallest roller coaster in the U.S., and its popularity brought in 2500-3000 passengers daily.
The park also had picnic areas, live entertainment, horse diving shows, a dance hall, several mechanical rides, and free parking. All of this was illuminated at night with 50,000 lightbulbs throughout the park.
The first season the park was open, a lawsuit was filed against the park for discrimination, and there were three deaths. Two men were killed after falling off the Skyrocket roller coaster, and a professional parachutist had a faulty parachute during one of the shows. The following August, within the first year of operation, a barber was stabbed while at the park.
Not the best news to have circulating when you just opened an amusement park, but the first five years were the most successful Luna Park saw. In 1929, the stock market crashed, and nobody wanted to go to a park after Black Tuesday.
In 1930, a dead body was found on the grounds. And in 1932 a farmer’s car was hijacked while he was still in his car.
It’s not surprising that the park closed in 1934. The legendary Skyrocket was relocated to the nearby park, Playland, and the rest of the park has been taken over by business operations.
Joyland Amusement Park, Kansas
Joyland amusement park opened in 1949, and remained open, officially, until 2006. The park was bought and built by Herb Ottaway as a place to keep the miniature 12-inch (300 mm) gauge steam locomotive. Ottaway bought the miniature locomotive and restored it, but needed somewhere to build the track.
In the 1970s, the park was sold. The new couple who owned the park, Stanley and Margaret Nelson, built many rides within the park and brought in many, many visitors.
One of the original rides, the Ferris wheel, was one of the driving factors to the park’s closure. In 2004, a 13-year-old fell from the Ferris wheel and suffered severe injuries.
With the investigation and ongoing economic struggles, the park closed its doors in 2004. In 2006 it was leased for restorations, but when the numbers were crunched, there wasn’t enough profit to warrant the renovations.
Since then, the park has sat abandoned. It has been vandalized, looted, and parts of it have been burned down. Someone even took the sign from the top of one of the roller coasters.
Ghost Town in the Sky, North Carolina
Ghost Town in the Sky opened in 1961 and closed in 2002. Before the pandemic, there was a plan to renovate the park so it could reopen, but the sale fell through. The search for a new owner has continued, in hopes to bring the park back.
Ghost Town in the Sky sits4,650 feet on top of Buck Mountain in Maggie Valley. This makes the park unique because there was no easy way to get to the entrance.
How did they fix it? They built a 3,370-foot long chair lift. At the time, it was the second-longest in the USA and the longest in North Carolina. This lift could move 1,200 visitors each hour!
Unfortunately, the rides weren’t built to last, and they were always in need of repair. It had gotten to the point where visitors would tell their friends and family not to go to the park because the rides were hardly ever open.
Fewer people attending the park meant less profit and less money to maintain the rides. Then in July 2002, the chairlift stopped working leaving the passengers sitting halfway up for several hours.
A few days after the chairlift stopped working, the park closed and was put up for sale.
See? There’s so much history in amusement parks, even if some of them were only open for a few years. There are no words to describe the feeling of actually being at an abandoned amusement park that was once so full of excitement, so go experience an abandoned amusement park for yourself!