One of our absolute favorite places to go as kids, when we think about theme parks it is places like Canada’s Wonderland or Disney World that first come to mind. On top of attractions like them, there are much smaller local carnivals that can be found in any number of different towns and cities around the world. Of course, once you realize that the possibilities are vast when it comes to theme parks, you begin to think about them in different ways.
A pretty loosely-defined business concept, when most people talk about theme parks, it is the mainstream versions of them that they are referring to. For instance, if you are a film lover then it is distinctly possible that you are most interested in Universal Studios in Orlando whereas toy enthusiasts may be more excited by Legoland. While those two attractions are very different from another, there are much more strange theme parks that are open for business and looking for customers. Realizing that inspired us to put together this list of 20 unique theme parks from around the world you can visit.
In order for a theme park to be considered for possible inclusion on this list, it first and foremost needs to seems like it has a pretty unique concept. That said, more than one location is acceptable as long as they are linked to one another. In addition to that, we also limited ourselves to theme parks that still appear to be running at various times as far as we can tell.
20 Mini-Europe - Brussels, Belgium
A far cry from the kind of experience you will have at a place like Six Flags, Mini-Europe is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Offering people the opportunity to walk among miniaturized versions of Europe’s most famous cities, getting to look down on the Roman Colosseum is not something we’d imagined ever happening. Said to be incredibly detailed, a single building like the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela reportedly took 24,000 hours to complete. Considering it is one of 350 buildings that are a part of the 80 different cities that are represented, it is clear than an insane amount of work made this attraction possible.
19 Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Clearly, a very enterprising woman, Dolly Parton is a singing legend who also made the transition to the acting world to great success at one time. Evidently, not content with those incredible accomplishments, she went on to be one of the power brokers behind a theme park that is named after her, Dollywood. While the name and inspiration alone make this attraction unique, it also is notable for things like being the home of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
18 Thorpe Park - Staines-upon-Thames, England
First opened to the public in 1979, throughout much of Thorpe Park’s history, it was not worthy of appearing on a list like this one. However, in recent years, it has become a pretty peculiar mix of rides that probably shouldn’t have kids even walk by them and an entire area that is clearly designed to be as family friendly as possible. For instance, in the same park, you have Angry Birds Land and scary attractions like The Walking Dead: The Ride and something called Derren Brown’s Ghost Train Rise of the Demon.
17 Santa Park – Rovaniemi, Finland
The perfect theme park for those that love all things Christmas, Finland’s Santa Park takes you a pretty interesting exploration of the holiday. Partially built in a network of underground caves, once you pay for your admittance you can enjoy the Elf School, Mrs. Claus’s Gingerbread Kitchen and more. On top of that, in further evidence of apps taking over the world, for some reason, there also is the Angry Birds Activity Park even though that has nothing to do with Christmas.
16 Crocosaurus Cove - Darwin City, Australia
Not an attraction for the weak of heart, if you have the guts, then Crocosaurus Cove could be the ultimate thrill ride due to the large carnivorous animals. Best known for the so-called death tank, visitors get to climb into a see through chamber that is submerged in a body of water. If that is not exciting enough for you so far, then the massive crocodiles that can be as much as 20 feet long that surround the tank will up the ante. On top of that, the owners of the park have also made the decision to feed the crocs while patrons are in the tank in order to take things up a notch.
15 Republic of the Children - La Plata, Argentina
Essentially the theme park equivalent of a model UN, the Republic of the Children brings together all of the civic duties of being a socially-responsible adult. For instance, the kids that come to this park get to do things like learning about the functions of government and taking part in voting and other things of that nature. Not exactly the funnest concept for an attraction we’ve ever heard of, if your kid has designs of being a politician one day this could be a valuable destination. On top of that, all of the buildings were built to be child sized, so at least that makes the place a little bit interesting to look at.
14 Weeki Wachee Springs State Park - Weeki Wachee, Florida
Do you have a child that loves everything that is related to mermaids? Do you find yourself listening to your little one singing along with Disney’s The Little Mermaid regularly? If the answer to either of those questions is "yes," then it may be a lot of fun to take them to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Renowned for the synchronized swimming mermaid shows that have been put on regularly for 60 years, the performers there do incredible things under the water. On top of that, you can also visit their assortment of wildlife or take their river boat cruise.
13 World Joyland - Changzhou, China
Opened in a country with the means to support it and the copyright laws that allow it, World Joyland has chosen to rip off the intellectual rights of other companies. Best known for largely being based around World of Warcraft, this theme park caters to people that love that series but are okay with an unaffiliated business profiting off of it. On the bright side for the owners of Warcraft, the success of this park proves they might be able to do the same thing elsewhere. Additionally, World Joyland is not content with just ripping off Warcraft. Instead, there are some pretty interesting original characters present as well from Hello Kitty, Marvel, DC, Transformers, and more.
12 Hacienda Nápoles - Puerto Triunfo, Colombia
One of the most famous rebel of al -time, 25 years after Pablo Escobar passed away, he continues to be the subject of much discussion and attention. As such, there are still a number of businesses that are making money off of his legacy, including a Colombian theme park named Hacienda Nápoles. Built by the government itself, this one-of-a-kind attraction was constructed on the grounds of a mansion that Escobar once owned. Containing a huge amount of artifacts from Escobar’s life, if looking through his belongings bores you, there are also things like a zoo, a bullfighting ring, and his car collection.
11 Efteling – Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands
The largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world, Efteling opened in 1952 and since then, it has been visited by more than 125 million people. Said to feature an incredible water show that is the largest in all of Europe, its live show, Raveleijn, is even more impressive because it features a fire-breathing dragon. Despite those things, it is the area of the park known as Fairytale Forest that people really react to. Exactly what it sounds like, here you can enter into the worlds of legendary characters like Sleeping Beauty, The Frog Prince, Snow White, as well as Hansel and Gretel.
10 Parque Jaime Duque - Metropolitan Area of Bogotá, Colombia
Seemingly based around a simple concept, Parque Jaime Duque has a wide array of scaled-down representations of famous landmarks from around the world. However, it is like the crew that put together these exhibits were squinting when they put together some of them since they are off in some pretty remarkable ways. For instance, in their version of the Statue of Liberty, it is a man with a lack of clothes and no torch. At least you can visit its zoo, sculptures, and aviary that are far more typical after seeing the sometimes off-putting exhibits.
9 Shijingshan Amusement Park - Beijing, China
Somehow able to fly mostly under the radar from 1986 until 2007, it was just over a decade ago that people took note of this outrageous park. Not at all shy about featuring unauthorized representations of a number of beloved characters, you can find the likes of Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, and Hello Kitty here. More than that, for years, the park also featured a banner that read “Disney Is Too Far, Please Come to Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park.” Evidently, resting on those laurels, it has been reported that many rides are now closed and even the water features have been drained.
8 Diggerland – Multiple Locations Around the World
Probably the dream park for most kids that love playing with construction toys, Diggerland gives children of all ages the opportunity to drive some powerful machines. On top of being able to control massive machines like diggers while supervised, kids can also enjoy a number of rides that are made out of adapted excavators, backhoes, and things of that nature. Successful enough to have 4 locations in England, 1 in West Berlin, and 1 in America, they also popped briefly popped up in Dubai.
7 Haw Par Villa - Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore
Unique for a few reasons, unlike the other theme parks on this list, you can’t really call Haw Par Villa a business as admission is absolutely free. Instead of trying to turn a profit, this attraction was designed to teach its visitors about Chinese folklore and mythology. Said to contain a staggering 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas, you can find representations of the Buddha and Confucius here for instance. That said, it is the “Ten Courts of Hell” exhibit that we find the most intriguing as it meant to be a representation of the tortures of the afterlife for the awful.
6 Wunderland Kalkar – Dusseldorf, Germany
Like a typical theme park, at Wunderland Kalkar, you will find many of the rides that can be enjoyed from one carnival to the next around the world. However, there is one massive reason why it is totally different than the rest, it was built on the grounds of SNR-300, a nuclear power plant that never went online. If that's not weird enough for you, then keep in mind that they even went so far as to paint the cooling tower and convert it into both a swing ride and climbing wall for kids and adults alike.
5 Lotte World - Seoul, South Korea
The final park on this list that brazenly rips off another one, Lotte World in South Korea shows no shame despite being a pretty obvious take on Disneyland in some areas. Highly successful as it is said to be visited by more than 7 million patrons a year, it is broken up into a number of different areas in the exact same way Disney parks are. On top of that, it also has rides based on Disney’s Tower of Terror, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones’ Adventure among others. Additionally, they’ve even got their own tiger version of the world-famous mouse ear souvenirs you find at Disney parks.
4 Grūtas Park – Druskininkai, Lithuania
Affectionately called Stalin World by some, Grūtas Park is more sculpture garden than traditional theme park, but considering they operate like the other businesses on this list, we’re including it. Founded in 2001 by a wealthy investor, he and his people brought together many of the Soviet era statues that had long since been taken down. On top of them, you will also find things like a train carriage that was used to transport Lithuanians to internment camps, barbed-wire fences, replica guard towers, and so much more. All in all, the celebration of a regime that did so many inhuman things seems revolting to us and definitely worthy of this list.
3 Suối Tiên Amusement Park - Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam
Considering that we’ve already looked at a theme park that takes its visitors to Buddhist hell, it only makes sense that there is another one that is meant to recreate their heaven. Beautiful in most ways, the park includes many gorgeous statues of godlike beings like a one-acre-round giant frog and a 300-ton dragon head. However, they opted against ignoring hell, so there also is an area of the park where you are greeted by things like screams, gatekeepers to the underworld, and repentant tourists. Those two parts of the park are so different that you are liable to get some kind of mental whiplash.
2 BonBon-Land - Holme Olstrup, Denmark
Created by a candy maker that decided to bring candy to life, he knew kids wanted to visit his factory but health regulations ruled that possibility out. As such, he put together a theme park that he filled with rides and characters that created his candy as far as the story of the place goes. An interesting idea, it may not have been that odd, but Michael Spangsberg clearly seemed to appreciate gross humor. For that reason, when you visit BonBon-Landm you can enjoy things like one of the most popular rides, the so-called Dog-Fart-Coaster. Oddly enough, the place only gets grosser from there.
1 Išgyvenimo Drama – Vilnius, Lithuania
Most useful for educational purposes, Išgyvenimo Drama allows you to travel back to a dark time from the past. Also known as the Soviet Bunker, when you go to this attraction you enter a space that is 16 feet underground and are treated like a USSR citizen. Herded into a bunker, your personal belongings are taken and you put on a prisoner’s uniform in the company of guards and real dogs. From there you are forced to do things like learn the Soviet anthem, do manual labour, and wear gas masks. In fact, you even have to sign a waiver that says you may receive “psychological or physical punishments” as a result of disobedience.
References: fodors.com, cracked.com, travelandleisure.com, newstatesman.com, bathroomreader.com, scti.com.au, telegraph.co.uk, huffingtonpost.com, diggerland.com, fodors.com, familytraveller.com, huffingtonpost.com, hollywoodreporter.com, yahoo.com, telegraph.co.uk, huffingtonpost.com, familytraveller.com, thorpebreaks.co.uk, en.wikipedia.org