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.

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 World.

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 offer). 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.

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.

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Dollywood, Tennessee

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.

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).

Hersheypark, Pennsylvania

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 made. Hersheypark is a chocoholic’s dream—there's even a pass that lets you indulge in as much chocolate as you want.

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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.

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.

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