Beautiful Places — Abandoned Amusement Parks

Originally I was going to write about beautiful train stations in Europe and elsewhere, but, there is so many other places to see this splendor, and it so obviously beautiful, that it would be merely adding one more grain of sand to an entire beach of admiration. Instead, let’s consider the beauty of this:

Six Flags Louisiana — via the Los Angeles Times

At first there may be little that we would call beauty in this and the other images to come. Most of the time, decaying wood, peeling paint, and rusting steel aren’t the ingredients that make up a conventional formula for beauty. There are probably several reasons for this — culture, a psychological preference for order over chaos, and no one likes to be reminded of eventual decline and “death”. But this precisely, in part, what makes these places beautiful. Another beautiful thing about these forlorn parks is not so much what they have become, but what they represent.

Some dreams last longer than others

These parks were once the destinations of dreams. Families planned to make a journey to these locations in hopes of bringing joy to their children and creating a bond over a memory of a shared happy experience, far from the reality of work and stress. Young couples would take those first steps toward intimacy with a kiss on the Ferris wheel, high in the clouds and beyond the view of disapproving eyes.

Spinning no more

Bright lights, music, energetic, smiling people, young and old alike full of energy in this world set apart from reality. Now all gone. Why? various reasons, the same for anything that is abandoned by humans. A lack of money, a lack of interest, something new and “better” comes along, natural and unnatural disasters — a complicated mixture. That is what happens when outside reality invades the worlds we create for ourselves, and not everything and everyone adapts to this invasion. Time passes, paint fades, metal rusts — but these ghosts remain, witnesses and repositories of dreams and desires for fleeting moments of joy and human connection. These images brought to mind passages from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village:

Six Flags near New Orleans

How often have I blest the coming day, When toil remitting lent its turn to play, And all the village train, from labour free, Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree,

At the Williams Park Amusement Park

While many a pastime circled in the shade, The young contending as the old surveyed; And many a gambol frolicked o’er the ground,

And slights of art and feats of strength went round; And still as each repeated pleasure tired, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired; The dancing pair that simply sought renown By holding out to tire each other down;

From this Hungarian web site

These were thy charms, sweet village; sports like these, With sweet succession, taught even toil to please; These round thy bowers their chearful influence shed, These were thy charms — But all these charms are fled.

It would be easy, not to mention ironic, to sit at the bar of some sort of O’Toole’s Irish Pub and decry the artificiality of these places, and how the world is better now that they are being returned to a forest full of invasive species. The truth is, most, if not all, of our reality is our construction, and all of our reactions to those realities are unquestionably our invention. Some see greed, some see an opportunity for fun — but for these places, the debates are moot. Now the only visitors are the lonely wind that stirs the grass growing in the sidewalk, and the dead leaves skating across empty plazas. Is that really the dim echo of laughter, muted squeals of excited children, and music, swirling in that same lonely wind? Perhaps, to the more romantic-minded among us who find such places beautiful — just perhaps…

Originally published at on May 4, 2015.

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