If you just plucked another gray hair out of your head this morning, be wary of this slideshow, for it’s about to make you feel as old as Janet Reno. Whether you’ve actually visited these defunct parks or endlessly begged your parents to go without a response, we’re all nostalgic for our youthful days of water slides and Daisy Duck. Prepare for nostalgia, here are 15 defunct Florida theme parks we wish were still around.
1. Cypress Gardens – Winter Haven
If Southern Belles met Ferngully, you would have Cypress Gardens. Laden will acrobatic water skiiers, men in confederate uniforms and a butterfly garden, Cypress Garden was a botanical oasis for families worldwide. Today, the defunct park is the site of present-day Legoland, but true Floridians will remember the real past of a kitschy Southern wonderland it once was.
2. Circus World – Haines City
Yes, that is Michael Jackson. Originally owned by the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, Circus World was a park that allowed visitors to witness tight-walkers, acrobats, and daily sideshow performances. The park went out of business and was rebuilt as Boardwalk and Baseball.
3. Splendid China – Kissimmee
This miniature park lets you see the great country of China sprawled out across a field. Children had a blast playing Gulliver’s Travels by venturing around the micro-houses like Godzilla. Adults also enjoyed the park immensely with fine performances of dancing and Chinese music. Today, Splendid China remains a graffiti wasteland for trespassing skateboarders.
4. Africa U.S.A. – Boca Raton
Opened for no more than ten years, this African-themed park was a strange park with un-gated exotic animals. Visitors embarked on safaris to see the animals (most of them captured from Africa) up close and personal (some even pet them). The most popular attraction of the park was Margaret–a chimpanzee who would spend her day kissing tourists.
5. Marco Polo Park – Bunnell
Alternatively called Passport to Fun World, Marco Polo Park allowed you to experience the world through Marco Polo’s eyes by exploring four different exotic worlds (Turkey, China, India and Japan). The park was forced to close its doors in 1971, thanks to its competitor — Disney World.
6. Pirates World – Dania Beach
Land of the swashbucklers and peg-legged petes, Pirates World was a fun destination for families to play pirates. Pirates World was also a concert venue spot for super bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (pirates and rock n’ roll? Cool!). The park eventually went bankrupt and is now the site for multiple condos. How arrgghribble!
7. Mystery Fun House – Orlando
If your parents couldn’t afford to take you to Disney, they took you to Mystery Fun House. Loaded with mind-trick mirrors, rotating hallways, black-light laser tag and arcades, this fun house was a true carnival-like destination. However, with Mystery Fun House being long gone, rumors have gotten around that owners are planning to revive the fun house with more perks and better technology in the near future. Fingers crossed!
8. Six Gun Territory – Ocala
Located in Silver Springs, Six Gun Territory allowed visitors to experience the Wild West in the tackiest way possible. With toy-gun toting cowboys, rodeos, and saloons to make anyone that stumbles in feel like Jesse James. Unfortunately, this park closed in 1984, crushing the dreams of many. Always remember the Alamo.
9. Water Mania – Kissimmee
Before Wet n’ Wild, there was Water Mania. The small theme park had its own man-made waves and a lazy river for awkward pre-pubescent adolescents. Unfortunately, because of Wet n’ Wild’s success, Water Mania had to swallow its pride and belly dive its way out of business.
10. Grand Prix Race-O-Rama – Davie
If you were heavily into Hot Wheels as a child, chances are, you were dying to go to Grand Prix Race-O-Rama. This park let you act our your dream as a Nascar driver by riding around a go-kart track. Multiple kid races were held there and a large arcade of various games entertained you for hours. Unfortunately, they paved this paradise and turned it into a parking lot.
11. Disney’s River Country – Lake Buena Vista
One of Disney’s several water parks, River Country never achieved its success like Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon — in part thanks to a deadly bacteria outbreak in the man-made lagoon that killed an 11-year-old boy. Parents were afraid to bring their kids in to this old-fashioned park and Disney decided to wrap it up.
12. Shark World – St. Pete Beach
Originally called The Aquatarium (wonder how long it took for them to come up with that name), Shark World was filled with sea lions, turtles and a famous dolphin that could jump 25 feet into the air. The park closed in 1977 without making a splash.
13. Six Flags Atlantis – Hollywood
With a typhoon-like wave pool, Six Flags Atlantis was a popular water park for people battling Florida’s sizzling heat. Unfortunately, the park sustained damage from Hurricane Andrew and instead of investing in reconstruction, the owners auctioned the park off.
14. Boardwalk and Baseball – Haines City
With the death of Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball sprung into action at the same location but soon met the same fate after only 3 years of business. This park was designed to entertain baseball fans with multiple baseball-themed games and roller coasters.
15. Disney’s Discovery Island – Lake Buena Vista
Located on an actual Island, Discovery Island was a cheap alternative for Disney’s more popular water parks and would ferry families to the island to swim in the pool (lakes were off limits due to alligators). The business went kaput in 1999 since people found it annoying to be at “the beach” without being able to swim.