Amused and Diverted and Sometimes Flustered: Theme Parks Worldwide

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One of the most widely anticipated amusement park entertainment experiences ever created – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort – is set for a public grand opening on June 18. --PR Newswire

Harry Potter fans are abuzz with news about the soon to be opened Harry Potter theme park. While yes, we read all the books at our house, we're not going to rush of to Orlando for this, though, sure, it does seem kind of cool. I'm thinking about theme parks today as I wade through this news -- and last night, I had a visit with a friend who's just returned from Disneyland.

We used to go to Disneyland annually as kids, the parents would bundle us into the giant Buick Estate Wagon, along with a neighbor family and the dog, and off we roll, overnight down through central California to the Enchanted Kingdom. I went again, many many years later, with my brother and some Swedish exchange students who folded themselves in to the back of our tiny Honda and refused to remove their mouse ears, but that is another story. My husband, being from a small alpine nation, has never been to Disneyland, an oversight I sometimes plan to rectify and then, don't, because I have a hard time deciding if he'll enjoy it.

Where was I? Theme parks. That's it. People love roller coasters and the characters in big padded outfits and the fireworks and the souvenirs (admitted, I still have my mouse ears from that last trip). They love the shiny clean pathways and the glitzy entertainment and the opportunity to have a heart-pounding experience in a place that is also totally safe. I get that. These types of parks are a neatly packaged experience that's focused on, well, something, and then, you go out the gate back into whatever passes for the real world wherever you are. And sometimes, they're a little, er, peculiar.

And they're global, you can find theme parks round the world.

The World Chocolate Wonderland Theme Park in Beijing began accepting customers on January 29th, 2010. Located on the north side of the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, the theme park will be the first chocolate theme park in China. The Chocolate Wonderland is meant to provide a visual feast for tourists from all over the world.-- iLearn Culture

The reactor components were removed, and the whole thing was put up for auction - selling for a mere 3 million Dollars in 1995. Its new owner, Dutch entrepreneur Hennie van der Most renamed it "Kernwasser Wunderland", which translates to "nuclearwater wonderland".

With five hotels, a cooling tower climbing wall and a variety of other attractions, this is the only nuclear power plant theme park in the world. -- Gadling

Taking shelter from the hot sun, we journeyed into an indoor exhibit and were surprised to find replicas of dinosaur bones alongside a life-size display of Godzilla and other similar reptilian, science fiction friends. Somewhere between the plaster stegosaurus bones and Godzilla standing triumphant over Tokyo, was a small glass box with a plastic toy brontosaurus mounted by none other than the Virgin Mary tenderly holding baby Jesus in her arms. As if watching over the dinosaur and his celestial passengers, this very odd display also included a tall plastic figurine of an adult Jesus complete with halo.-- The Secret Banana Society on a visit to Faunia Eco Theme Park

At the Cu Chi tunnels, you can see where the Viet Cong forces, working with the local people (or not, it’s not clear) dug out an extensive underground complex that reaches from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to Cambodia. You can see examples of the terrifying traps the VC built to snag the American soldiers and you can buy an ice cream cone. You can crawl on your knees through a dark hole and then, for fun, you can shoot an AK47 at the firing range. You can watch a movie about the “American Killer Heroes” and you can sit under a leafy shelter drinking tea and eating manioc dipped in peanuts and salt. You can see murals that depict American soldiers being maimed and brutalized by traps and you can pick up a pair of sandals made from old tires. The Cu Chi Tunnels visitors complex is possibly the weirdest place I’ve ever been.--Going Underground (vanity link) from a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels

...let me tell you about the Museum called “Love Land” that M. and I visited on the island of Jeju, in South Korea.

It was difficult to say what was more entertaining; a theme park celebrating the physical union of a man and woman or the bus load of giggly senior citizens who were there at the same time as us.-- Chicks Travel Flicks on a visit to Love Land in South Korea

Gadling has a few posts that catalog some of the more unusual places. And here's a list of amusement parks in Asia. If you've been to one of these "beyond the mouse" diversions and written about it, I'd love to see your impressions. Links in the comments, please.

Nerd's Eye View

Image Credit: Wikipedia


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