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The Creepiest Abandoned Roadside Attractions Ever

Updated May 30, 2020 19.6k votes 3.5k voters 397.3k views20 items

People love roadside attractions and theme parks, and why wouldn't they? There's the anticipation, the expectation, the excitement, the good old fashioned road trip fun! Today, visiting attractions in Orlando, California, and anywhere in between is nothing short of non-stop thrills. While you're there, no place on earth seems so full of life. But what of the shuttered theme parks and weird roadside attractions of bygone eras?

Time has passed by many roadside stops. Some travelers might find such sites creepy as they stand stand frozen in time. Dead roads leading to decaying structures and abandoned buildings crumbling in ruins. It doesn't take long for nature to overtake places that have been left exposed to the elements. Soon, the only visitors to these sightseeing stops are tourists seeking the strange, weird, and maybe ghosts. There's just something about looking at old abandoned tourist traps and deserted roadside oddities. Once symbols of the great American road trip, they now appear only as haunted, desolate, or just weird slices of retired Americana. From dinosaur statues to a bunch of giant busts of American Presidents, there are plenty of creepy abandoned sites to see.


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    Splendid China: Kissimmee, FL

    Built over 70 acres as a replica of the country, Splendid China was an experiment in creating a completely different kind of theme park. Open from 1993 to 2003, it was funded by an agency of the Chinese government and sparked controversy with locals fearing it was an act of communist propaganda. Many of the Chinese performers who worked there defected and sought asylum in the U.S. When the park closed, vandals took over and stole everything that wasn't nailed down.

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    Christmas Tree Inn: Santa Claus, AZ

    Not only is this historic inn ramshackle, but so is the entire village of Santa Claus, AZ. Established in 1937 and closed down in the 1990s, this ghost town gives a whole new meaning to the "Ghost of Christmas Past."  

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    Joyland Amusement Park: Witchita, KS

    Although the Whacky Shack was probably a huge attraction in its heyday, now it just looks like a place where one is liable to get whacked by some axe-wielding psycho. Witchita's Joyland Amusement Park was in operation from 1949 to 2006. In 2018, the park's iconic Whacky Shack, once featuring strobe lights and jump-scares, caught on fire. Later in 2018, the site was purchased at auction by an anonymous buyer for $198,000.


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    Disney's River Country: Lake Buena Vista, FL

    Photo: Coreyjune12 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    What? There are totally abandoned, decrepit Disney theme park properties out there that you didn't know about? Yup! Complete with creepy backstories, too. Disney's River Country was a water park with an aesthetic that harkened back to the good ol' days of Mark Twain, opened in 1976. Tragedy struck in 1980, however, when an 11-year-old boy was killed as a result of swimming in the freshwater of the park. The boy died of the rare infection, amoebic meningoencephalitis, which attacked his brain. Still, River Country kept its head above water until Disney shut its doors after 2001. Reports suggested the park might reopen as a new nature-inspired Disney resort set to open in 2022.

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