The Wooz, Vacaville, CA
The Wooz (“Wild Original Object Zoom”) was a small amusement park in Vacaville some years ago that featured a large maze as its main attraction. Human labyrinths were all the rage in Japan, so some Japanese investors bought some real estate in Vacaville next to a fledgling development of factory outlet stores which was built from the outset to become the largest retail center for factory outlets in the world. (And it still is.) The Wooz figured people would be coming from other states to shop in Vacaville and get lost in this fantastic maze, so they even built a large hotel on a plot of land sitting between the Wooz and the stores. Traffic at the initial weekend of the Wooz’s grand opening was strong but, within a month, word of mouth had spread that it was incredibly boring. The Wooz tried to get first-comers to come back by changing the maze every couple of weeks, but no one was buying it. The Wooz is now Toyota of Vacaville.
The Chutes, Haight Street, San Francisco (1895-1911)
Never Never Land, Tacoma, WA
The last remaining vestiges from Point Defiance Park’s Never Never Land – the Old Woman’s Shoe and the stack of giant books – are coming down this week. Demolition will take place today and Friday on the wood and stucco structures near Fort Nisqually in the park, according to Metro Parks spokeswoman Nancy Johnson. The four-decade-old structures are deteriorating and moldy to the point that they were deemed unsafe, Johnson said. “There’s nothing that’s even recyclable or reusable,” Johnson said. The family attraction, which featured playhouses and figurines based on fairy tales, has fallen into disrepair over the years. It opened in 1964 as a private concession within the park according to the park district’s history of the site. Metro Parks bought the attraction and reopened it in 1986, after the original owner was unable to make a go of it. In 2001, the district removed the figurines and in the meantime has removed the remaining rotting wooden structures.
Mayan Adventure, Sandy, UT (2008 – 2011)
I can’t really say that I’m mourning the loss of The Mayan Adventure; my last review of the Sandy theme-park restaurant at Jordan Commons included descriptions such as “vile” (the faux jungle ambiance), “mediocre” (the food), “annoying” (the earsplitting noise) and “bewildering” (the confusing layout). So, I’m not sorry to see the Mayan close. I do feel, though, for the 150 employees of The Mayan Adventure who were unceremoniously put out of work when the restaurants both closed on Halloween, giving the employees no advance notice; the media were informed of the closings before many of the employees. The Mayan was a 700-seat restaurant that featured cliff divers, fire dancers and a robotic talking toucan.
Grouse Mouse/Mountain Coaster, North Vancouver, BC Canada (1970’s-1980’s)
Legend City, Tempe, AZ
Originally conceived as an Old West theme park in the mold of Disneyland by Phoenix artist and advertising agency owner Louis E. Crandall, Legend City endured a series of closings, bankruptcies and ownership changes throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was never a significant financial success. Legend City opened to much public fanfare on June 29, 1963, but rapidly fell into financial difficulty and fell into bankruptcy after only six months. Crandall departed as president, and the first of several ownership changes then ensued. The property was purchased by Sam Shoen of U-Haul and opened as a theme park. U-Haul’s private advertising agency A&M; associates handled the ‘rebirth’ to a theme park for children. This was probably the park’s most successful period. Mr Shoen lost interest in the park and it was eventually sold to the Mitsubisi Corporation out of Japan as a show park where the company’s amusement rides could be featured to prospective buyers. The park was deserted by the Japanese owners and left to ruin. The Capell family, who had been in the carnival business for many years, then bought the property but were unable to restore Legend City to its former glory. The land was eventually purchased in 1982 by the Salt River Project, which closed the park permanently after the 1983 season. Legend City was then dismantled and razed to the ground to make way for new corporate offices for SRP.
The Yosemite Firefall was a summer time event that began in 1872 and continued for almost a century, in which burning hot embers were spilled from the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park to the valley 3,000 feet below. From a distance it appeared as a glowing waterfall. Firefall ended in January 1968, when the National Park Service ordered it to stop because the overwhelming number of visitors that it attracted trampled meadows to see it, and because it was not a natural event.
The Wawona Drive-Through Tree, Yosemite, CA
The Wawona Tree, also known as the Wawona Tunnel Tree, was a famous giant sequoia that stood in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, USA, until 1969. It had a height of 227 feet (69 m) and was 26 feet (7.9 m) in diameter at the base. A tunnel was cut through the tree in 1881, enlarging an existing fire scar. Two men, the Scribner brothers, were paid $75 for the job ($1,833 in inflation-adjusted terms). The tree had a slight lean, which increased when the tunnel was completed. Hired by the Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company to create a tourist attraction, this human-made tunnel became immensely popular. Visitors were often photographed driving through or standing in the tunnel. The Wawona Tree fell in 1969 under a heavy load of snow on its crown. The giant sequoia is estimated to have been 2,300 years old.
The Thing, between Barstow & Baker, CA
The Thing (1950 – 1969) was a California roadside attraction. A large number of billboards enticed travelers to stop, just to find out what the mysterious Thing might be. The object is believed to have been made by a creator of exhibits for sideshows named Homer Tate. To get to the thing, the clerk instructed visitors to proceed through the cave-like entrance and follow the yellow footprints. The footprints lead the curious down a sidewalk and through three sheds, each filled with artifacts of questionable merit. The first shed featured modes of transportation–a 1921 Graham Page (made by the then largest truck manufacturer and later acquired by the Dodge brothers), a predecessor to today’s recreation vehicles (an 1849 Conestoga wagon), and a 1937 Rolls Royce which is proclaimed to be Hitler’s…maybe. The displays turned gruesome as the yellow footsteps pass a torture chamber filled with figures carved out of wood. The Thing resided in a coffin protected by a glass topped concrete block case, and looked after by a bizarre two legged horse like creature wearing a crown. Finally, the yellow footprints lead to the third shed where, just inside the door, one came face to face with The Thing. It was laid to rest in a coffin sitting inside a glass topped concrete block case.
Pixieland, Otis Junction, OR
Pixieland was an amusement park near Otis Junction, Oregon, United States located about three miles (5 km) north of Lincoln City. Opened in 1969, it operated for only four years. The park opened on June 28, 1969 with a dedication from Governor Tom McCall to the “families of Oregon”. More than $800,000 was invested, including two public stock offerings. Pixieland hired two former Disneyland employees: the director of music and director of special promotions. Rides included a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge train called Little Toot (later renamed Little Pixie) and a log flume. Entertainment was found at the Blue Bell Opera House where melodramas were performed. Other buildings and attractions included the Main Street Arcade, the Print Shop, The Shootout, and the Darigold Cheese Barn. Eating places included Fisher Scones and Franz Bread Rest Hut. A 1975 headline in the Oregon Journal declared “Pixieland Dream Goes ‘Poof!’: Dreams of a multimillion dollar fantasy world shattered into a fiscal nightmare.” After the park closed, the rides were sold and the buildings demolished.
Miles Mahan’s Half Acre Hulaville, Hesperia, CA
Mahan’s Half Acre (Hulaville) was an outdoor folk art environment of wine and beer bottle tree sculptures and desert sandblasted painted wooden signs. Miles Mahan (1896-1997) lived in the middle of this splendid squatter’s jumble, in a pickup truck camper without the pickup truck. It was the only folk art environment with a boot hill and a driving range. By 1995 Miles was off his Half Acre and in a convalescent home, and passed away on April 15, 1997. By summer of that same year, Mahan’s Half Acre had been quietly scraped off the high desert along I-15, as witnessed on a drive-by on our way to Exotic World. A self-storage facility sat where once the highway shoulder poet would regale all with his sun-baked tales of the 1920s.
Magic Carpet Miniature Golf, Tucson, AZ (1969-2008)
Jungle Island, Buena Park, CA
Jungle Island, home of the Woodniks, could be reached by presenting a “C” ticket from the Super Bonanza Book at the Knotts Berry Farm amusement park or purchasing a ticket from the booth at one end of a covered bridge for admission across a shallow moat to a forested hill where children found adventure and played hide-and-seek games all day. Woodniks were “creatures” made from strange shapes of wood with glowing googly eyes and nearby speakers to give them voice. Kids could ride a pair of Woodniks at the water’s edge like a teeter-totter, which activated splashing effects. Another woodnik nearby was ridden like a rocking horse to spray a stream of water out over the moat. There were paths up the terraced hill which led to more woodniks and activities. Jungle Island and the adjoining Burro Trail were raised and the land incorporated into Knotts Berry Farm’s private picnic grounds in the 1990s.
Haunted Gold Mine, San Francisco, CA (1979-1998)
Fossil Cabin, Como Bluff (Medicine Bow), WY
The walls of this starter home were built out of 5,796 mortared-together dinosaur bones, which were dug out of a nearby ridge known as Como Bluff. The Boylan family — Thomas, wife Grace, and son Edward — completed the building in 1933, as a way to draw attention to their gas station. Thomas Boylan said that he designed it to be roughly the size of a giant Diplodocus. It was dubbed “Oldest Cabin in the World” in 1938 by Robert Ripley, and an exterior sign still reads, “Believe It Or Not!.” Another sign reads, “Fossil Cabin.” Boylan advertised his creation on postcards as, “the building that used to walk.” Manager Ethel Nash is dead now, and the house is closed.
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, 130 locations nationwide at their peak (1963-1990)
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour was started in Portland, Oregon, by Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy in 1963. The parlors had an 1890s theme, with employees wearing period dress and straw boater hats, and each location featured a player piano. The menu was printed as a tabloid-style newspaper. It featured appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, and dozens of different sundaes, as well as malts, shakes, sodas, and floats. Unusual offerings included a glass of soda water for 2 cents, and the traditional free sundae for customers celebrating a birthday. Some of the sundaes were huge and intended for a group to share. The largest, the “Zoo” sundae, was delivered with great fanfare by multiple employees carrying it wildly around the restaurant on a stretcher accompanied by the sound of ambulance sirens. In the mid-70s, sales dropped and most of the parlors were sold off in the 1980s. In 1982, Marriott sold the chain to a group of private investors. By 1990 all Farrell’s locations had closed.
Hangman’s Tree Historic Spot Saloon, Placerville, CA (1961 – 2014)
Dinosaur Land, Alpine, CA (1962-1964)
On August 5, 1962 Dinosaur Land opened in downtown Alpine to a large crowd. According to Beatrice La Force, “Dinosaur Land was going to be a pre-history museum and an entertainment park.” There were ten full scale dinosaurs and a restaurant decorated like a cave. The restaurant is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Silver, owners of the Alpine Mobile Home Estates Park. Mrs. Silver told me when they first bought the property in 1975 they renovated the house. Inside the walls they discovered remnants of materials that looked like a cave. Unfortunately, after only two years in operation Dinosaur Land closed. People were stopping in Alpine for gas and food but not enough people were visiting Dinosaur Land. Some of the dinosaurs were removed and some were left behind. Due to the weather the dinosaurs that were left behind deteriorated. This last dinosaur had a real problem. His head fell off and his body was in very bad shape. Mrs. Silver’s son, Adrian Kruso, came to his rescue. With his brother and his good friend Effrum they reconstructed the dinosaur. He is the only remaining dinosaur.
Dennis The Menace Playground, Monterey, CA
This unique and creative play space opened in 1956. It was a playscape like no other. What set it apart was the customized equipment and Arch Garner’s design. Like its namesake it had a bit of an edge – let’s call it that Dennis je ne sais quoi factor. If someone were looking for a blueprint for an extreme playground, this one, in its original state, would have been a good model. The adrenalin charged ‘helicopter’ ride spun around on an axis as fast as the big kids could make it go. To catch a ride, you had to be able to jump up way high & grab a metal bar of some kind while ducking the numerous arms, legs, heads, & various other body parts (mostly still attached) of successful riders holding on for dear life. There were other pieces of equipment – like the roller slide – that might have looked more at home on a factory production line. Daniel, is one of tens of thousands who have fond and vibrant memories of the Dennis the Menace playground that was. He laments the fact that kids today don’t have the same kind of opportunities for play. “I learned so much about my limits from that park. I was just as scared of getting hurt as anyone. I didn’t feel invincible or anything. It seems now that there is a lot of litigiousness in our society with parents suing over things that are just life.
Council Crest Amusement Park, Portland, OR (1907-1929)
If you are familiar with Portland, you know what incredible views are afforded atop Council Crest. From Council Crest (on a clear day) you can see five snow-capped peaks and 3,000 square miles of land and rivers that connect them together. But unless you were here early in the 20th century, you might not know that an amusement park once ruled the Crest. Council Crest Park opened on Memorial Day in 1907 and itwas in operation until Labor Day in 1929. Council Crest was heralded as “The Dreamland of the Northwest.” Pittmon’s Guide for 1915 described the trip on the Portland Heights streetcar line to Council Crest as “One of the most beautiful trolley rides in the world, taking you in 20 minutes from the heart of the business district to the height of 1073 feet, unfolding before you a scenic panorama for grandeur unexcelled. The hustling city in the foreground nestling on both banks of the Willamette (wil-lamb-met) River is 12 miles from its confluence with the Columbia River.” As the nation headed into the Great Depression, the Park couldn’t sustain another money-losing season and Council Crest Amusement Park closed for good on Labor Day 1929. The observatory was dismantled in 1940. Even after the amusement park was gone, Council Crest trolleys made regular trips to the Park until 1949 to make the breathtaking views available to all.
Caverns of Mystery/Dinosaur Caves, Shell Beach, CA (1948-1950’s?)
A tourist attraction perched here briefly in 1948, but locals freaked when the owner started to build a huge concrete dinosaur, and it was removed by 1950. There were natural sea caves below the cliffs, and an eroded hole up top into the caves. The attraction hyped the caves as “The Caverns of Mystery” and decorated them accordingly. Visitors could scale down through the eroded hole and experience the mysterious caverns. The “Cavern of Mystery” collapsed in the 1950s, destroying the entrance building perched on top.
Bedrock City, Kelowna, BC, Canada (19??-1998)
The Flintstone park in Kelowna did exist at one time. We went on a trip across BC in 1998 and, being a huge Flintstones fan, we went to Kelowna and I was very excited to go to the Park there. We drove around for hours but couldn’t seem to find it. Relatives had been there less than a month ago and had seen it, so we knew it existed. We eventually went to a tourism office only to discover that they had begun tearing it down just the week before. We actually have pictures of some of the demolition in progress and I can tell you that it was a very sad sight indeed.
Kellogg’s Cereal City USA, Battle Creek, MI (1998 – 2007)
Kellogg’s Cereal City USA, a $22 million breakfast food funhouse, opened in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan in 1998. We toured Cereal City just after we had seen the American Museum of Magic, an attraction built by one man who ate peanut butter sandwiches and went without a car so that he could fund it. Cereal City was not built by people who had to eat peanut butter sandwiches. Slick and corporate, it was an attraction-by-committee that leased space to non-cereal advertisers, such as Lego blocks and Kellogg’s Eggo Waffles. And then forgets to make any sort of Lego My Eggo joke. Battle Creek itself had representations of its Red Onion Cafe and Bijou Theater built into this place’s bendy-twisty, ToonTownish decor. Imagine a Disney Store that charges admission, with a few video theaters and other diversions thrown in, and you’ll have Cereal City. Kellogg’s Cereal City USA was a faint echo of a lost time, an attraction geared to getting Americans used to the idea of NOT seeing things being made. Now that the factories have been outsourced to Mexico and China, we’re being taught to redirect our consumer love toward the marketing, not the manufacturing. The kids don’t know any differently. Cereal fans — who long ago stopped eating what the monkey eats — will just have to get used to it.
Ozark Medieval Fortress, Lead Hill, AK
This attraction, which offered visitors the chance to watch a medieval castle being built from scratch, opened in 2010 as an exotic idea imported from France. Tourists paid to step back in time, mingle with laborers in tunics and observe medieval tools and techniques. At stations surrounding the work site, they tried carving stone, making rope and forging iron. A human-scale hamster wheel powered a crane for heavy lifting. Artisans baked medieval bread, mead not provided. Situated on a mountainside, the castle was to rise 45 feet, complete with a drawbridge and a working farm, by the end of its 20-year construction schedule. But in January 2012, besieged by market forces, the Ozark Medieval Fortress succumbed. Today, the limestone walls stand unfinished, ranging from 2 to 15 feet high. A rope flutters from a slumping catapult. Rodents are using the toolbox in the stone-carving station as a throne, so to speak. “We have many ideas, but no money,” Mr. Mirat said. “This is hard to do.”
Rosie’s Diner, Grand Rapids
Rosie’s Diner looks like it was a collection of at least 3 old diners turned into separate-but-connected restaurant, ice cream shop and bar. All abandoned, shuttered and overgrown. We peeked inside and saw classic, attractive interiors. Out back was a huge and elaborate Mini Golf course with supersized diner food sculptures. We found a flier and postcard in the grass that were dated 2011. It’s amazing how fast a place can decay. The main roadsign was gone — probably was a deluxe neon sign. Other nice neon signs remained. We noticed how the high-quality diners had amateurish signage painted on their windows. And how the deluxe putt-putt course also had lame and sloppy painted signs. And how there were cornball printouts taped into windows — not a very tempting way to get people to order food. According to the PR material we found that the place tried to be a major draw for the Klassic Kar krowd. They charged fees to have photos of cars taken in front.
Frank’s Hog Stand, San Antonio, TX
This big pig digs was once a hog stand. Located on South Saint Marys Street near intersection with Pereida Street in the parking lot of the China Garden restaurant.
Bastille Elephant, Paris
When the Bastille was stormed and fell on 14 July 1789 at the start of the French Revolution, there was some debate as to what should replace it, or indeed if it should remain as a monument to the past. The building was demolished and the dimension stones being reused for the construction of the Pont de la Concorde. In 1792 the area was turned into the Place de la Bastille with only traces of the fortress that had once dominated the area remaining. In 1808 Napoleon planned many urban regeneration projects for Paris and was particularly fond of monuments to his victories. He wanted to create a significant triumphal structure to demonstrate his military prowess and began the process of designing a 24 m (78 ft) bronze elephant. In the Imperial decree of 24 February 1811, he specified that the colossal bronze elephant be cast from the guns captured at the Battle of Friedland. A stairway would allow visitors to ascend one of the elephant’s legs to an observation platform on its back. Work began in 1810 on the ground works, with the vaults, underground pipes and the main pool completed by 1812. Realising the need to show how the finished work would look, a full-size model using plaster over a wooden frame was built at the site of the Bastille and completed in 1814, the model was protected by a guard named Levasseur who lived in one of the elephant’s legs. The Elephant of the Bastille construction work stopped in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Nearby residents began to complain that rats were inhabiting the elephant and searching for food in their homes, petitioning for demolition from the late 1820s. The model elephant was not removed until 1846 by which time it showed considerable wear. and although part of the original construction remains, the elephant itself was replaced a few years later by the July Column (1835-40) constructed on the same spot.
p.s. Hey. I’m still away in Torino. For today, consider some dead tourist attractions, won’t you? I’ll be back tomorrow with a new post and a catch-up p.s.