Atlas's Picks: Most Unusual Theme Parks
Updated: Feb 20
I’m sure you’ve discovered by now that I love everything unique and unusual. When I travel, I’m on the look out for places that stand out and leave an imprint on me.
Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to attend amusement and theme parks. Being encompassed in an alternate universe and going on thrilling rides was simply an experience like no other. Throughout my travels, I’ve encountered a vast array of parks, and I’d like to share with you all some that were truly memorable.
Salina Turda, Romania
Salina Turda is one of Europe’s oldest salt mines, with deposits dating back to ancient times. It was used as an anti-aircraft shelter during war and is currently an amusement park. The salt mine spans over 27 square miles and goes as deep as 120 meters. It contains an art museum, an amphitheater, a Ferris wheel, and a bowling alley. It’s riddled with caves and stalagmite formations and there’s even a lake you can boat on. The best thing about this park? It’s all underground.
Mini Europe, Belgium
While you won’t be able to ride anything at this park, you will be able to see more than 80 European cities, in miniature form that is. Mini Europe is a 1:25 scale model of European cities and landmarks, including Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the erupting Mount Vesuvius.
The buildings may be small, but the amount of detail in each piece is immense. There are even little human figurines within the cities to replicate real life visitors. Traveling Europe to see all of it’s landmarks may be a daunting task but viewing it in miniature form is much easier.
Haw Par Villa, Singapore
This theme park has a slightly darker twist. Haw Par Villa in Singapore is full of dioramas depicting Asian culture, mythology, religion, and history, but one if its main attractions is the Ten Courts of Hell.
This elaborate diorama depicts what may happen in the afterlife to those who stray off the good path. As visitors progress through each court, the severity of crimes and their associated punishments increase.
For example, the second court shows the punishment for stealing and gambling: freezing people into blocks of ice, while the eighth court shows the punishment for harming others to benefit oneself: body dismemberment. The courts may be nightmarish, but they are aimed to teach visitors morals and ethics—a lesson well learned.
With several locations in the UK and a new location in New Jersey, USA, Diggerland is a construction-themed park. Visitors can dig and operate actual construction vehicles.
Many of the rides are real, full-sized construction equipment that has been modified to make it fun, accessible and safe for guests to use. Vehicles include dump trucks, excavators, off-road utility trucks, telehandlers, and backhoes. Some locations have additional attractions as well, including waterpark areas, gem mining, and go karts.
Weeki Wachi Springs, Florida
This park may not have roller coasters, but it is home to some mythical creatures—mermaids.
Weeki Wachi Springs is a freshwater spring, where visitors can come to swim, kayak, picnic, learn about wildlife, and see mermaid shows. The park has a 400-seat submerged theater, located 16 feet underground, for visitors to view live mermaid shows.
The mermaids are trained divers who use air hoses hidden in the water scenery to make the mermaids look as real as possible. The Springs is also home to a waterpark, flume rides and animal shows, entertaining and educating audiences about local birds and reptiles.
Suoi Tien Amusement Park, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
One word that describes this park is massive. The Suoi Tien Amusement Park contains 150 buildings and entertainment facilities. The park is based on Vietnamese culture and Buddhism,
with temples, gardens, rides, and visuals on epic proportions. Some of the massive features this park holds includes an oversized golden dragon whose mouth contains a shrine to Buddha, a swimming pool surrounded by a massive concrete façade of dragons, and twelve story faces of the Buddhist sages, with water slides emerging from their beards.
Aside from the grandiose statues and attractions, the park also contains a pond with over 1,500 live crocodiles in which visitors can feed. Needless to say, this park has a LOT to offer.
Theme parks are small worlds within our own world, where we can experience fantasy, thrills, and cultures in a fun and immersive manner. Some parks may be a little bizarre, or located in not-so-typical places, but in the end, they’re all good for one thing: making memories.
That's all for now,
Do you prefer roller coasters or water slides? GIANT visuals or miniature replicas? Grandiose statues or small dioramas?
What's your favorite type of park?