Travel can’t, and shouldn’t be all serious. Sometimes you have to explore simply to experience something fun. Amusement and theme parks are a great option for accomplishing this, whether as an added attraction on the itinerary of a trip you were already taking, or as the sole destination. While thrillIng rollercoasters and kiddie rides are great, these seven theme parks offer a slightly quirkier experience. They are the perfect amount of odd, and nothing like their bigger and more famous counterparts, or counterparks in this case.
1. Salina Turda
Photo by Kainet, CC BY-NC 2.0
Equal parts museum and amusement park, Salina Turda is a 2,000-year-old salt mine turned attraction. It features an underground lake, amphitheater, modern art and a Ferris wheel among its many offerings. What’s most impressive about it just might be Salina Turda’s ability to convey a futuristic feel, while managing to capture the considerably long history of the mine.
Photo by Sleeves Rolled Up, CC BY-NC 2.0
Full disclosure, this park is closed. However, Banksy’s Dismaland was too great not to include in memoriam. The pop-up theme park was actually an art project that was open just over a month in the fall of 2015. It featured works by 58 artists, including Damien Hirst, Bäst and Espo. Banksy also unveiled 10 new artworks for the vent. As the name suggests, Dismaland had a Disneyland-gone-dismal theme, complete with depressing castle and characters. The project’s official website reports that materials and workers from the park are being used to create housing and community areas for migrants.
Holme Olstrup, Denmark
Photo by EHRENBERG Kommunikation, CC BY 2.0
BonBon-Land is a potty humor-themed amusement park in Denmark, which started as a popular candy factory that become famous for selling confections named after bodily functions and other odd and unappetizing things. The amusement park continues the theme of vulgarity with rides and attractions featuring characters that are vomiting, defecating and are expressing other acts of release. The park seems to be right on par with the Danish sense of humor, a reported 450,000 people visit BonBon-Land each year.
4. Jeju Loveland
Jeju, South Korea
Jeju is home to Loveland (pictured at top), a sex-themed parked featuring erotic sculptures and exhibits. The island is a popular Korean vacation destination, especially for honeymooners, and the park aims to break the “traditional taboos surrounding sex, and is a place where visitors can appreciate the natural beauty of sexuality,” according to its website. Phallic statues and erotic sculptures depicting sexual acts and positions fill outdoor space. You must be 18 years old to enter, so leave the kids at home.
5. Kernies Family Park
Photo by Soichiro Mihara, CC BY-NC 2.0
At first glance, Germany’s Kernies Family Park might look like any other amusement park for children. It’s part of a six-hotel development known as Wunderland Kalkar and offers rides, lots of them, and plenty of other fun attractions like a ball pit, bumper cars and go-karts. What’s unique about this park is its location. It was built on the former site of a nuclear power plant. While it was never operational, you’ll still find several vestiges from its former intended purpose around the park. The cooling tower features a swing ride and climbing walls, and the reactor remains as well. The park was opened in 2001 and attracts a reported 300,000 visitors each year.
6. Dickens World
Photo by Andrew Barclay, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Fans of Charles Dickens can set down his books and step into Victorian England at Dickens World. As you’ve likely guessed, the park brings the pages of his classics like Great Expectations and Oliver Twist to life during a 90-minute interactive tour. Dickens World officially opened in 2007 and has since featured an assortment of rides and attractions throughout the years, including a water ride.
7. Holy Land Experience
Photo by Alícia Roselló Gené, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This Bible-themed park comes complete with reenactments of Christ’s crucifixion. Roman soldiers and Biblical characters walk the streets of this park, much like the characters at nearby Disney World. The Holy Land Experience aims to bring the world depicted in the Bible to life through exhibits and theatrical performances. If traveling back in time to the days of Jesus and walking replicated streets of ancient Jerusalem is your thing, this park is for you.
Top photo: Binh Huynh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.