Abandoned Disney Attractions Forgotten Through Time
You’re in Orlando, Florida, and have just walked into the happiest place on earth — Walt Disney World. You walk down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street and see Mickey Mouse on your right, smell fried foods coming from three-blocks down, and hear the music starting for a princess sing-a-long. Everything is bright, clean, and happy.
But what about those attractions that now hide in the shadows? Forgotten, overtaken by shrubbery, cobwebs, and lost in the past? Take a stroll down memory lane with these abandoned and extinct Disney attractions.
Walt Disney World opened its first water park in the summer of 1976. Slides are still in place, pools are full of water, and park rules are still visible from the shores of Bay Lake. The only problem is that River Country has been completely abandoned since 2005 — guess that means no lifeguards are on duty.
Weirdly, Disney never gave an official statement as to why they shut down the park, and the silence led to many conspiracies theories. Deadly amoebas are at the top of the list. Gross.
Abandoned attraction? Try abandoned island that is no longer labeled on a map of Disney World, but rather illustrated as a green mass in the middle of Bay Lake.
Opening in 1974, Discovery Island was a pirate-themed amusement park inspired by the popular Disney film “Treasure Island.” And contrary to popular belief, the main appeal of the park happened to be the 150 exotic birds from around the world and not the pirate reenactments. Although the park’s closing in 1999 remains a mystery, many believe it is due to the opening of Animal Kingdom.
Polynesian Beach Wave Machine
Who needs to wait for a perfect surf set when you have a wave machine to make one for you? In 1971, the Polynesian Resort decided they wanted to add surfing as a recreational activity for guests — the wave machine was born! Although the attraction was a hit, the surrounding Seven Seas Lagoon and its beaches suffered.
Rumors spread regarding the attractions early abandonment, ranging from machine failure to the more accepted reasoning of severe beach erosion. It’s been said that some remains of the machine were left to rot at the bottom of the lagoon.
Discovery River Boats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Opening in 1998, the Discovery River Boats were intended to transport guests through the Beastly Kingdom. The ride was meant to show fire breathing dragons, unicorns, krakens, and other fantastical beasts — maybe a Hippogriff would have shown its face! Alas, the kingdom of beasts never saw the light.
Desperately needing a facelift, the attraction was renamed in 1999 to the Radio Disney River Cruise. It didn’t help. Seems like guests were more interested in wildlife than a Radio Disney broadcast — who would have thought? The ride permanently closed that year.
Albeit a bit trippy and probably the cause of many epileptic episodes, this futuristic tunnel was part of Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion, namely, Imageworks on the second-floor. Shortly after opening in 1982, the attraction became increasingly popular when the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, did a photoshoot inside — way to get free marketing, Disney!
All of the technicolor was dimmed in 1998 when ImageWorks was moved downstairs, leaving the tunnel abandoned until recently. At the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney announced their plan to reinstall the Rainbow Tunnel in the new “Epcot Experience Center” later this year.
Mike Fink Keel Boats
In 1971, the Mike Fink Keel Boat attraction made its appearance at Magic Kingdom. The vessels were meant to illustrate the keelboats raced between Davy Crockett and Mike Fink from the show Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. But what’s a competition without a prize? The victor of the high stakes race was crowned “King of the River.”
Fink’s Gullywhumper and Crockett’s Bertha Mae were free-floating, motorized boats that cruised around the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island. A capsizing incident left the attraction not so attractive to guests; it’s no wonder the boats stopped running in 1997.
Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat
The Riverboat ended up coming late to its own party, arriving the day after Disney World’s grand opening in 1971. Guests were not overly happy about the no-show.
Then 1980 hit, bringing with it a routine rehab for Admiral Joe Fowler. Sadly, while being hoisted out of the water, Joe fell, destroying the hull beyond repair. The boat was brought to the backstage boneyard before being buried somewhere on Disney property. As far as abandoned attractions go, at least this one had a proper burial.
Plaza Swan Boats
Let’s start by saying who wouldn’t want to cruise around in an over-sized swan? The Swan Boats were known as one of the most relaxing attractions. It’s no Splash Mountain, but it did show pretty cool views of Cinderella’s Castle.
Some say the cost of maintenance was too high during the peak summer months, but the real reason for closing the attraction in 1983 remains unknown. A few of the original Swans found their way to auction and were ultimately purchased by long-time fans of the ride. Here’s to hoping the buyer had a pool big enough for a gigantic swan boat.
The Southern Seas and Ports o Call ships were two ferries that shuttled guests around the Seven Seas Lagoon. Per our aquatic attractions pattern, these ships didn’t last.
In 1974, the Southern Seas suffered severe hull damage, ending up placed in dry dock and eventually dismantled in 1977. Out of her ashes came the Southern Seas II, but the next few years weren’t the best for the World Cruise ferries. Due to low guest attendance, The Ports o Call stopped running in 1984, with the Southern Seas II joining in 1997.
Wonders of Life Pavilion
Depressingly known to some as “the Wonders of Sadness,” the pavilion is technically not abandoned, but rather reinventing itself as a venue: new year new pavilion and all that jazz. The area now hosts events such as the Food and Wine Festival as well as the Flower and Garden Festival.
Nothing has operated since the closing in 2007, but that doesn’t mean anything has been dismantled. Does it? Time to sneak in and see if Body Wars and other attractions are still intact and operational! Joking, that’s illegal…
Minus turning into a donkey like Pinocchio, this island is what it sounds like: bars and clubs for the night owls. What had been a great idea in 1989 flopped at the turn of the century, and renovations went underway in 2006. One of which was the removal of the infamously large Jessica Rabbit from the “Pleasure Island Tonight” sign. The renovations didn’t bode over well, and foot traffic didn’t increase.
In 2008, Disney decided that it would close the strip to make way for more family-friendly entertainment. Ultimately, the entertainment hub shut down permanently in 2010.
The Adventurers Club
“Kungaloosh!” As far as unique traditions go, this greeting takes the cake. The Adventures Club was a thematic bar on Pleasure Island, housing five individual rooms: The Mask Room, The Treasure Room, The Main Salon, The Library, and The Zebra Mezzanine. Guests would be privy to live shows, radio broadcasts, and even new member inductions (this may or may not have been a not so secret society).
When Pleasure Island closed for business in 2008, fans of the club started an online petition to keep to club running. It worked, for a time. The Adventures Club was eventually shut down in 2010.
This abandoned palace was a horror story from the get-go. Townspeople were angry about the park taking up prime real estate on Emerald Isle, NC, and they did not want to deal with tourists. The project heads didn’t care and built the park anyway.
Mysteriously, right before the grand opening, the park chained its gates forever. All records of the park’s design and construction were “lost,” but it is said that over every surface is the same three-word phrase: “ABANDONED BY DISNEY.” Some believe the construction of the palace is an urban legend, while others believe in the horror.
The Skyway opened with the rest of the park in 1971 as a way to quickly travel between Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. The attraction lasted well into the late 90s, and like all Disney closures, the reason is subject for debate. Although shut down, it wasn’t until years later that Tomorrowland’s loading station was demolished, along with its pylons and cables.
Fantasyland’s station, however, lived to see another few years. Even with rumors flying around of making it an eatery, the station finally met its demise in 2011.
One of the main shows on opening day in 1971, and guaranteed to drive parents crazy. Hosted by two birds, Clyde and Claude, the show featured over 150 mechanical birds, flowers, and tikis singing songs like “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Roon” and “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.” Not sure if those songs qualify as a calming serenade, but to each his own.
The show closed its curtains in 1997 to make way for a modified version called “The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management).” Hopefully, Clyde and Claude weren’t fired and able to snag a part in the chorus.
The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)
The Lion King’s Zazu and Aladdin’s Iago took over as hosts for The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management). Hopefully, Clyde and Claude found work elsewhere in the park. Too similar to the old show, the reviews weren’t stellar.
In January of 2011, a small attic fire damaged poor Zazu beyond repair, and a sprinkler system ruined one of the mechanical goddesses, Uh-Oa. The show closed once more, and the powers that be decided to remodel it back to the original style of Tropical Serenade. An expensive lesson in “don’t fix what ain’t broke.”
‘STOLport’ For Disney Employees And Guests
Probably okay that this property was forgotten, as it was pretty much useless. The STOLport, or “short take-off and landing,” runway sported zero hangers and could only allow up to four grounded planes at a time. At least passengers didn’t have to worry about the hardship that is baggage claim.
Management decided it was best to shut down passenger operations in 1972, eventually entirely closing in the 80s. The landing strip still exists but has been downgraded to storage space. You can still see the landing strip from the monorail.
Fort Wilderness Railroad
The fully operational steam train opened in 1973 and ran through the vast property of the Fort Wilderness Campground. Like many Disney attractions, the official reason for its closure was never released. Rumors ranged from bad fuel capacity to a little girl being hit by the moving train while riding her bike. Ouch. If the last reason is real, it’s a good thing the tracks were abandoned to nature in the 80s.
Fortunately, Disney was able to find a use for some of the train cars in other properties, such as a ticket counter on Please Island.
Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends
A 12-minute live performance featuring Pocahontas, Meeko, Grandmother Willow and a slew of live animals was one of the opening day highlights at the Animal Kingdom in 1998. Let’s be honest, her moody hummingbird, Flit, probably hid in a tree judging everyone while the princess sang to the woodland creatures.
After a 10-year run, Pocahontas and her friends had one last performance before the show was canceled. Grandmother Willow, due to her rooted state, managed to stay at Camp Minnie and Mickey as a designated smoking area until the park closed in 2014. Here’s to hoping she didn’t catch fire.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Arguably one of the coolest of the original attractions, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea featured 12 individually driven 38-person submarines that explored a 12 million gallon tank. The underwater ride featured animatronic mermaids, giant squid, and even a replica of the Lost City of Atlantis.
Rigorous upkeep forced the ride to shut down in 1994. Rumor has it that a Finding Nemo equivalent is in the works. A celebratory draining of the tank and sinking of one submarine in Castaway Cay marked the end of the attraction’s era.
Those who went to Walt Disney World during the early years may remember Horizons. It was located in the center of EPCOT and was a building meant for guests to get into some scientific discoveries. Horizons was designed as a follow up to the Carousel of Progress featured on the 1964 World’s Fair as an ode to “utopian futurism.”
Inside there was an Omnirover ride system complete with two 70 milimeter “OMNIMAX” screens where guests could choose to travel to the desert community of Mesa Verde, the Bravo Centauri space station, or the undersea Sea Castle research base. The ride closed in 1989 after a six-year run.
ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
When Disney acquired the rights to the Alien franchise, they got started on a new ride that would be in the center of Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. The Imagineering team collaborated with Star Wars‘ George Lucas to make a frightening “theater-in-the-round” attraction about what would happen if aliens took over.
When it was completed Disney CEO Michael Eisner ordered it to be closed because the cheerful pre-show didn’t match the actual sinister and intense ride. It officially opened in 1995 and closed in 2003 to be replaced by Stitch’s Great Escape!.
The Great Movie Ride
Many Walt Disney World fanatics were crushed when they found out about the closure of The Great Movie Ride. It ran from 1989 to 2017 as part of Disney-MGM Studios, but it was torn down to make room for a new attraction called Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
The ride was a slow trip through the history of movies with animatronic characters from films such as the Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Alien. It was one of the longest rides lasting around 30 minutes and had different routes along the way.
Flight To The Moon
In 1967 Disneyland’s Tomorrowland opened a futuristic attraction called Flight to the Moon. It was a flight simulation ride equipped with vibrating chairs and screens that made it look like people were flying up toward the moon. After the 1969 moon landing, the ride had to be changed. It became Mission to Mars in 1975.
Unfortunately, the ride was torn down and replaced with the Toy Story-themed Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in 1992, but guests can still see the original rocket that was built for the ride out front.
Honey, I Shrunk The Audience
Located directly next to Space Mountain in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was a 4D show called Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. It was based off the 1989 movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and would have guests wear 3-D glasses and make it seem as if they’d become miniature inside the theater.
This show was put in to replace the Michael Jackson Captain EO show that was there earlier. The Captain EO show was added in after Jackson’s passing, but was taken out in 2014. Ever since then the theater has remained empty.
Opened on August 6, 1961, the Flying Saucers at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland were similar to bumper cars, but were powered by gusts of air. The goal was to bump into as many passengers as possible, but it soon proved to be troublesome when larger guests couldn’t fit.
The ride closed after only five years on September 5, 1966. It was expensive to operate, it required intensive maintenance, and could only fit a small number of passengers at a time. When it closed it was turned into the Tomorrowland Stage, which now hosts live-action Star Wars shows.
Rainbow Caverns Mine Train
The Rainbow Caverns Mine Train was one of the earliest attractions at Disneyland’s Frontierland after opening about a year after the park opened. This train ride featured audio-animatronic animals along different natural environments including a desert and forest. Some of the most impressive features included a Cascade Peak, towering mountain range, and roaring waterfalls.
Some of the other attractions nearby included the Conestoga Wagons, Stagecoaches, and Pack Mules. Guests loved being able to see over 200 different animatronic animals on the ride, but it closed in 1977 to build Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Adventure Thru Inner Space
Before Star Tours arrived in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the ride in its place was called Adventure Thru Inner Space. It opened on August 5, 1967 as an Omnimover attraction that simulated humans shrinking to a size smaller than an atom. One side of the ride had a Monsanto Mighty Microscope with a glass tube. People could watch the other riders shrink as they moved across the track.
This was the very first Disney attraction to utilize the Omnivmover system, which can be seen in current rides such as the Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. The ride closed in 1985 to make room for Star Tours.
The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror
Technically, this ride still exists, but it has changed a lot. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was first seen on July 22, 1994 at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios and has been included in a few other Disney parks. Guests would climb aboard a haunted Hollywood hotel elevator and drop hundreds of feet within seconds.
In 2017 the ride got a brand new remodel after Disney’s acquisition of Marvel. It’s now called Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!. The new version uses the same technology as the first one, but features the characters from the Marvel movie.
The PeopleMover was located at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and opened on July 2, 1967. Guests would board small trains that ran on elevated tracks and was always moving. Each car had its own sound system, which would broadcast commentary about where the car was in Tomorrowland.
The term “people mover” actually came from this ride and is now used to describe public transportation. The PeopleMover made its last run on August 21, 1995 when Imagineers thought it was past its prime. Current guests can still see the tracks in Tomorrowland and there are rumors that it could be returning to the park.
Ho Thuy Tien In Vietnam Is Sleeping With The Fishes
Opened in 2004 for three million dollars, it didn’t take long for the Ho Thuy Tien water park in Vietnam to shut its doors. But instead of tearing it down, the developers left it there. Slowly but surely it fell apart, and today it looks like the set of a horror movie.
Surprisingly, the park has become one of Vietnam’s top tourist attractions. Why wait all year for Halloween Horror Nights when you can pay a visit to the deserted park? Locals, seeing a chance to make money, have even begun charging curious travelers to explore the grounds that have remained untouched for years.
Welcome To Your Six Flags Nightmare
This fun house stopped bringing the laughs over a decade ago. Now bringing the screams, these are the remains of Six Flags, New Orleans. The park was left abandoned after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Built on low lying ground, no one has stepped in to redevelop the land.
Now the park lays waiting for anyone brave enough to explore its grounds and get lost in the “wonders” it offers. We’re going to give this one a hard pass. But if creepy amusement parks are your thing, it’s cheaper to fly to New Orleans than Vietnam.
Chernobyl Left This Park To Die
This amusement park in the city of Pripyat has been abandoned since 1986 when the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown happened in Russia. Once a place that was home to kids ramming bumper cars into each other and taking in the views from the Ferris wheel, it’s now a land of death and decay.
Not safe enough to be a tourist attraction, this is one creepy location where ghosts aren’t your only threat. The radiation leftover from the meltdown still drowns the park in an unseen toxic cloud.
Italy Hopes To Reopen The LunEur Park One Day
Yes, that is a dinosaur skeleton staring at the decrepit grounds below. The Luna Park Permanente di Roma (LunEur Park for short) didn’t prove to be everlasting when it shut down in 2008. Opened in 1953, it was long known as the largest amusement park in Roma and the oldest in Italy.
After what was described as a crisis period, the historic park closed its doors and turned into the haunted attraction you see above. In 2015, an agreement was struck to remodel and reopen the park. But no date was set, and no progress has been made to bring it back to its former glory.
These Are Not The Swan Boats You’re Looking For
Are you brave enough to get on this swan boat in the murky water? We’re not. The brush growing on the boat is pretty scary, and the idea that something might jump out from below and attack has us shaking. Nice try, swan!
Opened in 1969 in Germany under the name Kulturpark Spreewald, it was remodeled in 1989 and abandoned in 2002 after falling into debt. Located in East Berlin, the park has become a hot spot for locals looking to have a creepy picnic. Luckily no one has been brave enough to swim with the swans.
The Real Westworld Was Left To Rot In Japan
Japan is home to one of the creepiest amusement parks in the world. Looking like the inspiration for Westworld, Western Village Haikyo closed in 2007, but its still drawing crowds in 2018. This place is a must-see for anyone curious about what the Wild West was really like. And it gives you an excuse to vacation in Japan.
The park claims to be off limits, but gaining access is easy. Once you enter, if you dare, you will be greeted by weeds and other overgrowths, as well as a replica of Mount Rushmore. Don’t forget to visit the prison and meet the robot sheriff.
Tragedy Forced South Korea To Put These Ducks Out Of Commission
If these ducks don’t look happy, there’s a reason. Tragedy struck in 1999 when a happy child riding one fell off the ride and died. Shortly after the incident, the park manager disappeared, and the park was left to ruin.
This is one park on our list you can’t visit, though. In 2011 the park was demolished. Taking its place was a hotel. Luckily, now you have this terrifying photo of a “happy duck” etched into your brain forever. You didn’t need to get a good night’s sleep tonight, did you?
The Land Of Oz Isn’t So Magical Anymore
The Land of Oz has seen better days! Located in the quaint town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the park opened in 1970. Dedicated to the Wizard of Oz, the 16-acre park was a big hit. As the years passed by, the park stayed the same. With no changes to keep families coming back, attendance numbers crashed.
Making matters worse, a fire partially destroyed the park in 1975. Oddly enough, this seemingly abandoned park is opened twice a year for an “Autumn of Oz” celebration. During the event, guests are allowed to roam the creepy park and explore the darker side of Oz.
Walt Disney Crushed Nara Dreamland
If this abandoned theme park looks like Walt Disney rejected it, that’s because he did. In the late ’50s, park owner Kunizu Matsuo was in discussions with Walt Disney to open a theme park in Japan. When their working relationship deteriorated, Disney backed out, forcing Matsuo to create his own characters and open the park alone.
Opening in 1961, the park was a huge success. Then things took a turn for the worse when Disney opened his own Tokyo Disneyland in 1983. Nara Dreamland never stood a chance and saw attendance slowly crumble. In 2006, Matsuo finally ended the fight and closed his park forever.
Gulliver’s Kingdom In Japan Featured This Haunting Sculpture
Gulliver’s Kingdom was a failed theme park located near Kawaguchi-machi in Japan. The bizarre theme park was based on the novel Gulliver’s Travels and featured a huge model of the title character, Lemuel Gulliver, tied to the ground.
The park was left to rot, with many people speculating that its location near a notoriously creepy forest being the cause it received so few visitors. Today, adventure seekers sneak onto the property for photos.