We all love going to amusement parks. These huge wonderlands house within them a wide range of fun-filled activities, rides, theme parks, and recreational events like magic shows, circus, live concerts.

With so much to do and so much to see, amusement parks around the world attract millions of visitors every day. Young and old, residents and non-residents, all enjoy the wonders of a well- constructed amusement park.

In the USA alone, the total revenue generated from amusement and theme parks in 2019 was over USD 22 billion. These parks remain to be a popular tourist attraction for countries, but little do people know about the history and origins of these world-class theme parks and resorts.

Many of these large wonderlands now stand on what were once considered to be wastelands. Barren, desolated, and abandoned lands that were bought, restored, and turned into magnificent tourist attractions. So, continue reading as we take you on an inspiring journey of places that have been converted from wastelands to wonderlands.

1.     Walt Disney World

Situated in Orlando, Florida, the Walt Disney World Resort is a classic example of conversions from wastelands to wonderlands. From a barren swampland, Walt Disney managed to erect a wondrous magical world for us.

In 1965, Disney bought 43 acres of barren swampland in Florida. Being a visionary and an inspiring creator, he immediately set to work, and after his demise, his brother Roy Disney overtook the construction of Walt Disney World Resort. More surrounding land was taken in possession, and today, the entire estate stands on 25,000 acres of land (nearly the size of the city of San Francisco).

The construction and restoration work was challenging. Long drainage canals had to be built, and millions of trees and bushes had to be planted. Swamps were drained, and ditches were dug to lay the foundations of the world’s leading theme park resort.

It took four decades to create this magical wonderland that houses four large theme parks, two water parks, a shopping and entertainment district, and several huge hotels to accommodate visitors.

The Walt Disney World Resort opened its doors to the world in 1971. The Magic Kingdom theme park with its iconic white and blue Cinderella Castle features classic attractions, enchanting fireworks, musical parades, and Disney characters that keep adults and children entertained for hours. Other theme parks include Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The huge Magic Kingdom that itself sits on 107 acres of land alone attracts 17 million visitors annually, and even after all these years, it remains to be a popular tourist attraction in Florida, USA.

Today, the resort is a self-governing and sustainable city that has its own fire department, emergency service, and vegetable and fruit gardens that produce more than 30 tons of food each year.

But that’s not all. To maintain the natural balance of the ecosystem, just 15 miles south of the Walt Disney World Resort is the Disney Wilderness Preserve. It was built to preserve 12,000 acres of wetlands. The funds collected from Disney World are used to restore the wetlands and its wildlife, ensuring that they continue to thrive in their natural habitat.

2.     Hong Kong Disneyland

The Hong Kong Disneyland is a theme park that is located on the reclaimed land in Penny’s BayLantau Island. It is a part of the larger Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and is owned and managed by Hong Kong International Theme Parks.

Operational since 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland is the largest theme park in all of Hong Kong. The park is constructed over an area of 28 hectares (approximately 69 acres) that was previously an uninhabited island.

The Hong Kong Disneyland consists of 7 themed venues that are; Main Street, USA, Fantasyland, AdventurelandTomorrowlandGrizzly GulchMystic Point, and Toy Story Land. As with the Disney World Resorts in the USA, all the cast members of Hong Kong Disneyland that dress up as Disney Characters commute around the premises through underground tunnels. The park has a capacity of 34,000 visitors and attracts 7.4 million visitors every year.

3.     Sunway Lagoon, Malaysia

Situated in the heart of an eco-friendly township in Malaysia known as the Sunway City, the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park features a manmade beach along with its various attractions. Written on top of its ivy-covered grand rock are the very words “From a Wasteland to a Wonderland” that depict the inspiring transformation of this once abandoned mining land.

Spread across an area of 88 acres, the Sunway Lagoon has over 90 attractions that are sure to keep the whole family entertained. Its 6 adventure zones include; Water Park, Amusement Park, Wildlife Park, Extreme Park, Scream Park, and Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon.

The theme park is connected to Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa, and over the years, has hosted several music concerts by international celebrities like Pitbull, Jessi J., Guns and Roses, and One Republic.

It is the first theme park in Asia that introduced the wave generator, a machine that makes artificial waves at its large manmade surf beach. Its iconic canopy walkway that connects one end of the park to the other goes over the wildlife park, waterpark, and amusement park to give visitors an overview of the entire property. Shadowed by palm trees and green hills, this amusement park is sheltered from the busy world outside to give its visitors a relaxing atmosphere.

Situated just 30 minutes away from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the Sunway Lagoon opened its doors to the world in April 1993. In 1974, the owner and founder of Sunway City, Jeffery Cheah, bought 500 acres of industrial wasteland from a British mining company. The lunar landscape of Sunway was a derelict tin mining land in the Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya junction.

Jeffrey Cheah remembers his architectural feat in the following words “They (British mining company) knew that with only five years left on the lease, it was better to pack up and go home. So, they sold it to me, and I mined it a bit for a few years.” He purchased the land for RM300,000 (USD 75,000) and continued to mine until he was able to recover the entire sum. Today, along with its glorious Sunway Lagoon theme park, the entire Sunway township is an impressive sight that is home to world-class universities, restaurants, luxury malls, luxury residences, and a hospital.

While the above-mentioned examples are just a few of the architectural feats that managed to convert wastelands to wonderlands, there are many such amusement parks around the world that have been constructed on barren lands, abandoned properties, and ghost towns. Nothing ever goes to waste. All we need is some motivation and a little bit of imagination to reclaim, restore, and convert wastelands to wonderlands.

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