Lost and Abandoned: Forgotten Amusement Parks

By Sophia Maddox | March 5, 2024

Dinosaur World: The Amusement Park That Went Extinct

Very few places bring memories of joy and laughter more than a theme park. Whether you've snacked on cotton candy while visiting with some of your favorite Disney characters or you have memories of spending your summer vacation soaring upside down with friends on a roller coaster, you likely have fond memories of a theme park. While some theme parks continue to provide people of all ages with a variety of memories, the world is filled with some theme parks that have closed their gates and shut down their rides for the last time. 

These once-thriving playgrounds now stand silent, nature reclaiming what was once a realm of excitement. Ferris wheels stand frozen against the sky, their stillness a stark contrast to the dynamic scenes they once framed. Carousel melodies have faded, replaced by the whispers of wind through rusting structures. Join us as we unravel the stories of these lost amusement parks, where the echoes of joy linger amidst the rust and decay.

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Decades before the Jurassic Park movies caused a new generation of children to become obsessed with dinosaurs, Farwell’s Dinosaur Park opened in Beaver, Arkansas for the first time in 1967. The park was initially launched when a man named Emmett Sullivan was hired to build somewhere between six and 10 dinosaur structures, one of which remained a landmark at the entrance of the park. In the late 1970s, the park was sold and rebranded as John Agar’s Land of Kong. This change in ownership brought about the construction of a 40-foot statue of King Kong, which was the largest replica in the world at the time. The park underwent its final rebranding in the 1980s, becoming Dinosaur World.

By the early 2000s, the park had a lot of things working against it. First, Beaver, Arkansas isn’t close to any major areas in the southeast. Location issues, combined with a change in the amusement park industry, left Dinosaur World on the verge of extinction. There simply wasn’t any way to keep the park operating, and it closed for the last time in 2005.

Pripyat: Closed Before Having a Chance to Open

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Pripyat Amusement Park remains frozen in time, an eerie reminder of the devastating events of April 26, 1986—the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Originally scheduled to open on May 1, 1986, the park was intended to be a celebratory venue for International Workers' Day. However, the catastrophic explosion at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant forced the evacuation of Pripyat just days before the grand opening, leaving the amusement park untouched and eerily desolate.

The iconic Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and other attractions meant to bring joy to the citizens of Pripyat now stand as rusted relics, surrounded by the overgrown vegetation that has claimed the abandoned city. The eerie atmosphere is heightened by the ghostly silence that replaced the laughter and excitement intended for the park. While some people have claimed that the park opened for a few hours as an attempt to distract Ukrainians from the ongoing chaos of the nuclear power plant explosion, these claims have never been verified by any reputable source.