I don't think I've ever actually considered doing something illegal simply for the sake of travel, art, and the wonder of the human experience. However, I have recently added an illegal activity to my proverbial bucket list for precisely those reasons: urban exploring, particularly in the area of abandoned theme parks.
I didn't know these actually existed until quite recently. But there are apparently quite a few theme parks in the world that still stand, but have been abandoned to the elements. They haven't been torn down or relocated ... they simply exist in a haunting shadow of former glory, slowly being reclaimed by nature. Nara Dreamland in Japan is one such theme park; a Disneyland ripoff, it closed in 2006 but has not been demolished. Six Flags New Orleans is another one; after Hurricane Katrina, this Six Flags was damaged beyond repair, but its skeletal remains still grace Louisiana. These places seriously exist all over the world. And I have decided that I must visit them because they are haunting and beautiful and the sheer epitome of the human realization that, as time moves forward, all things are left behind -- even us and our wonderful creations.
I am honestly excited about this. I want to wander and take photographs and sit and think and write and experience. But here's the problem: stepping foot into one of these places is considered trespassing, and is highly illegal. People have gotten arrested for participating in urban exploring, and so I'm not quite sure how I'm going to pull this off. Much research and preparation will be necessary, I'm sure. But before I leap too far into that aspect of my proposed journey, let me share more details about these places I want so badly to visit, courtesy of images from explorers who have already ventured out.
The first place I want to go is Six Flags New Orleans. I mean, honestly, do we really need much of a reason to visit New Orleans? It's jazz and the bayou; it's amazing food and drink; it's vampire culture and voodoo folklore; it's the historical South at its absolute best and worst. And it has an abandoned theme park.
Like I said before, Hurricane Katrina destroyed this place years ago. It was covered in water, and when said water retreated everything was left in rusty disrepair. The photographs already taken of this place are truly some of the most haunting images I've seen of an abandoned theme park. The cost of fixing everything up would have been too much for Six Flags ... but, the thing is, it was also going to cost them too much to take everything down (due to the lease they had on the land). So their cheapest, most viable option was to leave it alone. This is my first choice of abandoned places to visit, by far. It has so much potential.
I also previously mentioned Nara Dreamland. Again, it was a Disneyland ripoff built in Japan in 1961 as a response to Walt Disney's success in California. It has all of the token visual representations of Disneyland, including the pink fairy tale castle and the Matterhorn mountain. But, unlike Disneyland, it did not experience immense success, and ultimately closed its doors in 2006. Much like what happened with Six Flags in New Orleans, those who owned the park didn't think that the time and money it would take to remove the park was worth investing in, and so it was simply abandoned.
Photos reveal that you can still climb the hills of the roller coaster, and the queue areas are completely overgrown with moss and plant life. The once-beautiful fountains are now exposed and decrepit, and its "Main Street" looks like a scene right out of the next zombie film to hit theaters.
I'm not opposed to traveling to Japan to see it, though, obviously, that will be farther in the future than New Orleans.
Honestly, I'd like to try my hand at urban exploring at various places around the world ... Who knows, I may even be crazy enough to venture into Chernobyl one day. Not that I necessarily want to make a habit out of illegally entering premises, but I do think that abandoned places, like ghost towns, carry so much potential for human reflection and discovery. It could be fun. So ... who's game? :)