7 Amusement Parks on Mountaintops You Have to Visit
From sky-high thrills to quaint theme parks in the North Carolina hills, here are seven mountaintop amusement parks to add to your travel bucket list.
Due to the massive amounts of land most amusement parks require, you normally expect to see them in somewhat isolated areas about an hour outside of any large city. The usual ground-level theme parks have their thrills, sure, but have you ever ridden a roller coaster perched on top of a mountain at 3,000 feet above sea level? They're definitely rare. But when you can find one, you're in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are seven of the world's amusement parks on mountaintops.
1: Glenwood Caverns
Located in scenic Glenwood Springs, Colo., Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park prides itself on being "America's Only Mountaintop Theme Park." Perched atop Iron Mountain at an altitude of 7,100 feet, Glenwood Caverns offers park guests a bird's-eye view of the picturesque Roaring Fork Valley and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The park's most popular rides, like the famous Giant Canyon Swing and Cliffhanger roller coaster, offer thrills of a new kind, leaving guests dangling over the cliffs on the ride of their lives. Prior to the theme park's renovation in 2003, the area was only used for cave exploration, which is still an experience offered to guests today. From Wild West Express to Colorado's longest alpine coaster, Glenwood Caverns has something to offer for people of all ages.
2: Tibidabo Amusement Park
Named after the mountain on which it sits, Barcelona's Tibidabo Amusement Park is one of Spain's top tourist attractions. Nicknamed "The Park of Happiness," Tibidabo officially opened to the public in 1900, its first attraction being a classic merry-go-round. Now, the park is home to the infamous Muntanya Russa roller coaster, which offers the most adventurous riders the chance to zip around the mountain while catching a quick glimpse of the most unbeatable view in the entire city. For riders seeking something a little less daunting, the Giradabo ferris wheel offers the same breathtaking views at a fraction of the speed. The park also includes many other children's attractions and thrill rides. But what isn't considered a thrill ride at 1,680 feet?
3: Mtatsminda Park
Overlooking the Georgian capital of Tbilisi at nearly 2,600 feet, Mtatsminda is another amusement park that carries the name of the mountain it sits upon. Founded by the Soviet government in the '30s, the park was transformed into a modern theme park seven decades later in 2001. Resting beside the iconic Tbilisi TV tower, Mtatsminda includes everything from children's activities in the Family Zone to more American-inspired thrill rides and haunted attractions in the Extreme Zone. The park even includes a wedding venue along with a giant ferris wheel at the edge of the mountain which offers the most breathtaking view in all of Tbilisi.
4: Ghost Town in the Sky
Ghost Town Village is a Western-themed amusement park nestled in North Carolina's Maggie Valley. The park can only be accessed by a chair lift that transports visitors 4,600 feet to the top of the mountain ridge. Formerly known as Ghost Town in the Sky, the park opened to the public in 1961 and has seen many hard times since with changes in ownership, spouts of mismanagement and many instances of rides breaking down more than they were in operation. Ghost Town is currently on an extended hiatus after many failed reopenings; however, fans of the park still hope for it to be restored to its former glory. At the height of its popularity, Ghost Town brought more than 600,000 visitors to Maggie Valley every year, offering thrills like drop rides, roller coasters and more classic fair rides like bumper cars, swings and a tilt-a-whirl. (Ed. note: At the time of publishing, plans are in place to reopen the park in spring 2019.)
5: Ocean Park Hong Kong
Opened in 1977 by the governor of Hong Kong, this Sea World-esque theme park combines the best of both aquarium and amusement park and even includes zoo exhibits featuring native animals like pandas and tigers. Separated into two main sections, the Waterfront and the Summit, the park is packed with 44 different attractions, including four roller coasters and two water rides. Ocean Park is considered Hong Kong's most popular theme park and is often compared to Disney World due to its charismatic animal mascots seen throughout the park. Although not quite as high as other mountainous parks, Ocean Park still offers one of the most spectacular views of the island and the South China Sea.
Sanrio Puroland, Japan
This is the land for some of Sanrio’s most popular characters, especially Hello Kitty. Diehard fans make the trip to Tokyo for exclusive merchandise and a chance to tour Hello Kitty’s house. Look out for Renaissance-style portraits of Hello Kitty’s family and objects in her home shaped like her face.
La Cité du Vin, France
If France wasn’t already associated with wine, it has a theme park to prove it now. Meaning “The City of Wine,” the Bordeaux museum/theme park hybrid celebrates wine culture and offers attractions such as interactive boat rides and, of course, wine tastings.
Rush Mountain Adventure Park, South Dakota
Located close to Mount Rushmore, this theme park has something most parks don’t: a real cave. After you’ve tried the new Rushmore Mountain Coaster, don a headlamp and explore the stalactite-filled caverns for more adventure.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this park is for you. With a mini candy factory and candy-themed attractions, it’s a family favorite despite some interesting toilet and adult-themed humor throughout.
Land of Oz, North Carolina
This once closed theme park opens once a year to give visitors a chance to follow the yellow brick road. While the abandoned venues and rides that used to attract urban explorers and photographers are no more, the park gives children a chance to meet Dorothy and friends.
This is the park for chocoholics. The candy park continues its theme right down to the height requirements for each ride, labeling heights as different candies from Hershey’s Minis to Jolly Ranchers. Visit the giant charts when you get there to see which candy you are.
Ferrari Land, Spain
Car fanatics will love Ferrari Land’s celebration of one of the most iconic car brands and racing teams on the planet. The new addition to PortAdventura is about one hour from Barcelona and will open this year. One of the new rides, Red Force, will have the highest and fastest accelerator in Europe.
Salina Turda, Romania
The former salt mine converted into a recreation and amusement park is half creepy-underground-alien-base and half breathtaking-underground-oasis-with-dreamy-floating-lights. Put Turda, Romania on your bucket list to experience one of the coolest underground attractions on the planet.
If operating heavy machinery sounds fun, this is the park for you. Not only can you drive dump trucks and diggers, but you can ride thrill-rides like the Spindizzy, where you hop in a giant bucket and let a JCB Excavator spin you around. Can’t afford a flight across the pond? There’s another Diggerland in New Jersey.
Suoi Tien, Vietnam
While most of the rides might be geared for children, the themes of this park may hit home with adults as the park depicts scenes of Buddhist heaven and hell. One ride through "Unicorn Palace," which shows sinners being punished through the 18 gates of Buddhist hell, might make you consider some of your life choices.
Bollywood Parks, United Arab Emirates
The world’s first Bollywood theme park opened in 2016 in Dubai and features more than a dozen cinematic rides, themed restaurants and dozens of shows inspired by Bollywood blockbusters.
Mini Europe, Belgium
Knock out your European landmarks in one afternoon with a tour of tiny versions of architectural wonders from the Eiffel Tower to the windmills of Holland. Even the Queen of England visited to admire the replicas.
Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park, China
Basically, this is fake Disneyland. The borderline copyright infringement park might look a little too familiar, from the park’s castle to the characters. And with the slogan “Disney is too far to go, please come to Shijingshan!” we think they might be aware of the similarities.
Wunderland Kalkar, Germany
This theme park was built on a site intended for a nuclear power plant that was never finished. (No radioactive chemicals were delivered to the site, and the plant was far from completion.) Today the park’s looming silo features a spinning swing high in the sky. It’s creepy, cool or both.
6: Genting Highlands
Located in Genting, Malaysia, the Genting Highlands Resort prides itself in being one of the country's top tourist destinations. The resort includes three different theme parks: the Euro-themed First World Plaza indoor park, Snow World and the Genting Outdoor Theme Park. The outdoor park is currently undergoing major renovations to be transformed into the world's first Fox theme park — Twentieth Century Fox World. The new park is scheduled to open sometime this year and will include attractions inspired by some of the most popular Fox films like Ice Age and Titanic, while also featuring some television-themed attractions inspired by FX shows like Sons of Anarchy.
7: OCT East (Knight Valley)
Part of China's Overseas China Town (OCT) East resort in Shenzhen Knight Valley Eco Park, is home to the world-famous Wood Coaster that brings in thousands of visitors from across the globe each year. The park covers all types of terrain, sprawling anywhere from ocean-front beach to the top of the mountain ridge. From small kids' rides to a funicular train that races up the mountain through the jungle, there's something at OCT East for everyone to enjoy. For those wanting to catch a truly spectacular view, make your way to the top of Peak Highland to experience the glass-bottom Pinnacle Skywalk, which hangs over the side of a cliff.