8 Weird Theme Parks We'd Be Willing to Wait in Line For

Amusement parks aren't all fun and games. Some are strange, some are boring. But those are exactly the ones we've been hunting for.

1. The Ocean Dome

Located in Miyazaki, Japan, Ocean Dome is the world's largest indoor water park. It features a massive (460x278 feet) heated fresh-water "ocean" bedded by 600 tons of polished marble chips and filled with 13,500 tons of water, all surrounded by a three-story promenade of shops. The Dome also has its own rainforest and a volcano that erupts hourly. The whole park is covered by a retractable roof that lets the sun shine in on Japanese tanners. Sounds great, right? A place that lets Japanese urbanites get a taste of the great outdoors. Not quite. The Ocean Dome is less than 1000 feet from a real beach.

2. Grutas Park

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"Josef Stalin" and "amusement" aren't two words you normally associate with each other; but amusing or not, Lithuania's Grutas Park recreates life under the reign of the Man of Steel.

Grutas, a short drive south of the Lithuanian capital, features a zoo and a playground and a recreated gulag with guard towers and an electrified fence (you know, the same kind that Stalin imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians in back in the day).

The real draw, though, is the 1.2-mile-long sculpture exposition, which is home to 82 Communist-era sculptures that were dismantled following the restoration of Lithuanian independence. Most of the sculptures were tossed into storehouses, people's yards and anywhere else there was room. Poor handling and storage damaged some of them, while others fell prey to scrap metal pickers. In 1998, Viliumas Malinauskas, a mushroom tycoon and former heavyweight wrestler, answered an open call from the Ministry of Culture to create a space that would preserve and display the statues. Municipalities and private citizens, desperate to dump the hunks of metal and the memories of Stalin on someone else, sent Malinauskas statues en masse. Where the petting zoo came into things, I have no idea.

3. The Nintendo Amusement Park

Why would the website for a video game theme park proclaim that there's "nothing digital"¦nothing projected"¦nothing virtual" about it? That sounds about as much fun as feeding the ducks at the gulag. What gives?

Well, the Nintendo Amusement Park has little to do with the Nintendo Corporation, less to do with video games, and isn't even really a park. It's a single "user-controlled interactive ride" (read: obstacle course) that "players" navigate using a mechanically powered harness to give them a sense of being inside a video game. If you ever wondered what a real-world Mario would look like, grab a chubby, mustachioed friend and watch as he bounces from platform to platform while strapped to a crane.

The ride is only a prototype right now, and its creators, who are just "borrowing" the Nintendo name and aesthetic, are still seeking venture capital and a contact at either Nintendo or Disney to develop a partnership.

4. BonBon-Land

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BonBon-Land is an amusement park in Denmark based on a line of Danish candy. It's sort of like Pennsylvania's Hershey Park, except most of the rides involve toilet humor and the giant anthropomorphic candy people have been replaced by topless anthropomorphic hippos.

A day at BonBon-Land treats candy-loving Danes to rides like The Crazy Turtle, The Horse Dropping and Hundeprutterutchebane. That last one, which loosely translates to "Dog Fart Switchback," is a roller coaster that takes riders on an exciting journey around giant mounds of dog poo, while speakers around the track blare fart sounds the whole while. [Image courtesy of ThemeParkReview.com.]

5. Diggerland

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Dog poo not your thing, but you still want to get down and dirty? Then head on down to one of four Diggerland locations in jolly ol' England, where you can "ride in, and drive, different types of construction machinery, including Dumper Trucks, Mini Diggers and Giant Diggers."

When they're done playing with heavy machinery, park visitors can take in a show put on by the Dancing Diggers, a stunt team that performs inside a front-end loader. [Image courtesy of midsurreylink.org.]

6. Suoi Tien Park

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Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was a prince that gave up his material possessions, became an ascetic and sought Enlightenment through meditation. But just look at those tubby Buddha statues; there's something about the guy that screams "snow cones and water slides."

Suoi Tien Park is a Buddhist-themed amusement park in Vietnam that injects a little fun into the daily grind of unenlightened life. There are thrills like race cars, water slides and roller coasters. There are chills like the "bat cave with innumerable bats" and an air bike suspended over a crocodile farm ("which cause fearful feeling for tourist"). And then there's the serious side of the park, a Pirates of the Caribbean-style journey through 12 animatronics Hells. [Image courtesy of henrybechtold.freewebspace.com.]

7. Dracula Land

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We're cheating a little on this one, since it doesn't actually exist, and probably won't for some time. What an idea, though: A Disney-style theme park revolving around the life and times of Vlad the Impaler, Romanian folk hero and inspiration for Count Dracula. A few years ago, the Romanians drew up plans for Dracula Land and Tourism Minister Agathon Dan made big promises like underground tunnels, live bats, thousands of gallons of fake blood, millions of dollars a year in revenue and 3,000 jobs for a nearby village. But alas, foreign investors weren't impressed the Romanians couldn't finance the park by themselves.

Romania has since dropped plans to build the massive park in Transylvania. Funding was one issue, but the stake in its heart was the risk of environmental damage. The proposed site of the park is an old-growth forest that's home to 400-year-old oak trees. But Dracula Land may rise from the grave yet. Recently, there's been talk of building closer to Bucharest, or near the site of Vlad's real castle (pictured).

8. Dickens World

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Brutal dictatorships. The torments of Hell. Dog poop. Yessir, we've covered some pretty un-amusing stuff in this list. But what could be further from fun than the literary work of Mr. Charles Dickens?

If you want to experience poverty in 19th century London for yourself but don't have a time machine, then Dickens World is for you. It features the Great Expectations Boat Ride, the Haunted House of Ebenezer Scrooge and a Victorian School Room. Fun! Just stay away from that street urchin, kids, he looks like he might have a touch of cholera.

Matt Soniak is our newest intern. (Well, he's tied.) You can learn lots more about him here, or read his own blog here.

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Apeel
New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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iStock
The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
iStock
iStock

Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

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iStock

The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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