8 Wacky Theme Parks
Forget Disneyland—these fun theme parks run the gamut from crazy to crazier. Think: Charles Dickens extravaganza, all-you-can-eat chocolate paradise, and a giant construction site.
Photo courtesy of Dickens World
Dickens World, England
Who knew that visiting industrial-era England wouldn’t be
the worst of times—but would instead fulfill your great expectations? Dickens
World immerses you in the 1800s, complete with hard
cobblestone, gaslight streetlamps, and a host of lively costumed characters
straight from the pages of Charles Dickens’ greatest works.
Visit the damp and dark corridors of Marshalsea Prison, negotiate your price for a photograph (of
yourself!) at Peerybingle’s Pawnbrokers
or go for a boat ride with Dickens’ famous criminal, Magwitch, through London’s
ominous sewers. The dark décor and mood of the park are perfectly captured in The Hoosiers’ music video
“Cops and Robbers”, which was filmed at Dickens
Photo courtesy of Dig This
Dig This, Las Vegas
Consider Dig This a sandbox for adults. Just minutes from the Vegas strip is a five-acre sandbox filled with mammoth heavy machinery—like steamrollers and dump trucks—for you to pilot.
Although you only have to be over 4-feet tall and 14 years
of age to drive one these giant earth moving machines, it’s unlikely that any teen
could afford to drop $400 to “Dig Big” (the park’s standard three-hour activity
Park admission comes complete with a one-hour training and
safety orientation and a Certificate of Accomplishment to show off that you’ve
successfully maneuvered a big yellow monster.
Photo courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Holiday World, Indiana
If you think a place called Santa Claus, Indiana would be an
obvious location for a children’s theme park, you’d be right.
Louis J. Koch built Santa
Claus Land in 1946 for all the disappointed children who visited the town
expecting to meet Santa. Nearly 70 years later, Santa
Claus Land is not only a huge success, but has expanded into what is now
known as Holiday World.
While visitors can still sit on Santa’s knee like they did
in 1946, today they can also try the water park, rollercoasters, and the Fourth
of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving pavilions.
If you've ever dreamed of naming a place after yourself, look no further for inspiration than Dollywood.
Any guesses as to who founded it? The theme park is owned by
none other than famed country singer Dolly Parton, who grew up in Tennessee. She brings her personality to the park with things like a full-time chaplain, who says Sunday services. The park's rides emphasize the
unpredictable weather of the region: think Barnstormer, Timber Tower,
and Tennessee Tornado, which takes
screaming patrons down a 128-foot drop in ore cars.
Photo courtesy of pablogrb/Flickr Creative Commons
Republica de Los Ninos, Argentina
Argentina’s Republica de Los Ninos (Children’s
Republic) is the nation’s equivalent to Disneyland. The twist? Rather than
cartoon whimsy and fairytale princesses, this park’s theme encourages children
to partake in a real-world government.
Built in the 1950s, during Juan and Eva Peron’s reign, the
park was intended as a place of learning. Behind
its doors are kid-sized versions of thee Taj Mahal and the British Parliament in which to practice governing, an underground
prison, a courthouse, and The Child City Bank (where each kid can take out a 50
pesos loan to pay their telephone bill).
Photo courtesy of Hersheypark
Hershey, PA, may truly be the sweetest place on earth. Not
only is it the birthplace of the American chocolate bar, but it is also the
home of Hersheypark.
Founded by Milton S. Hershey, the park originally served as
a haven for workers in his chocolate factory. Today, you can enjoy
chocolate-themed rides, meet giant Hershey’s kisses, and visit Hershey’s Chocolate World, where the
whole family gets to taste free samples and discover how the yummy treats are
Hersheypark is a
chocoholic’s dream—there's even a pass that lets you indulge in as much chocolate as you want.
Photo by Tiger Girl/Flickr.com
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida
It wouldn’t be a list of the strange and unusual without
mentioning Harry Potter, the most famous boy that never lived. Head to Orlando,
Florida, where you’ll find a massive, life-sized Hogwarts. Once inside, you can sample butterbeer, a frothy drink reminiscent of shortbread and
butterscotch, at the Hog’s Head Pub,
or have a wand choose you at Ollivanders.
You can also experience pulse-pounding rides like the Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff.
Photo courtesy of Bunkeris® and www.sovietbunker.com
1984 Išgyvenimo Drama (Soviet Bunker), Lithuania
For 75 euros you can visit 1984
Išgyvenimo Drama, a museum fashioned after a Soviet-era bunker in
Vilinus, Lithuania. A militant guide will take you on a tour through the Communist underworld, complete with a "wolf-dog", a real KGB interrogation room, and Soviet jail cell. There's also a first-aid station (with a real
teeth-drilling machine) and a Soviet citizen’s sleeping quarters and latrine.
By the time you’re through, you’ll be looking forward to the
stiff drink and authentic Slavic lunch included with your ticket.