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5 Ambitious Theme Parks That Took On Disney and FAILED

4. Pacific Ocean Park (Santa Monica, California)

Pacific Ocean Park

CBS had declined to be involved in Disneyland, with rival network ABC taking the plunge and becoming a major investor instead. After Disneyland opened, it seemingly realised its mistake. It partnered with Santa Anita Park to build Pacific Ocean Park, a nautical-themed park built on the existing Ocean Park Pier on Pier Avenue in Santa Monica. Dozens of Hollywood designers were brought in to transform the pier into a 28-acre themed park.

Unlike Magic Mountain, Pacific Ocean Park initially looked to be a huge success. It opened on July 28, 1958, pulling in 20,000 guests on its opening day. It was so popular that its attendance actually topped that of Disneyland for the first six days.

Pacific Ocean Park (1)

The Sea Serpent roller coaster.
Image: Jeffery Scism

Pacific Ocean Park featured a sea-green and white color scheme, with a spectacular entrance boasting fountains, a frieze and an enormous sculpture of a sea horse. The POP acronym was cleverly used to market the park, with the "Pay One Price" slogan being used to refer to its 90 cent admission fee. In reality, this covered access to some exhibits, but many rides cost extra.

Pacific Ocean Park (2)

Pacific Ocean Park (3)

The park featured some unique attractions, such as the Nautilus Submarine Exhibit (a 150-foot model of the atomic reactor section of a nuclear submarine), the Sea Circus (a 2,000-seater stadium for dolphin and sea lion shows) and the Diving Bells (which saw passengers in diving bells being pushed underwater by hydraulic pistons, viewing marine life through a porthole).

The early promise of Pacific Ocean Park led to it being mentioned in the Beach Boys' song "Amusement Parks U.S.A.", which featured the line "And Disneyland and POP is worth a trip to L.A.". But it wasn't to last. The second season was disappointing, prompting the owners to sell the park to John Morehard for $10 million. Its struggles continued, however, and maintenance began to suffer. After several further changes of owner, it was finally shuttered in October 1967.

Pacific Ocean Park (4)

The park's abandoned remains.
Image: Mr Rollers

Pacific Ocean Park (5)

One of the last remaining structures in 1973.
Image: Jerry Raia

The park's rides were auctioned off, but the pier and many buildings remained in place. Arson took its toll, and it was finally demolished in the winter of 1973-74.

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There are 9 comments.

I remember Circus World had painted concrete walkways that when freshly washed and wet in the morning were the slipperiest law suit waiting to happen ever.

I remember in 1982 Circus World let Disney employees in for free. Good marketing idea. Wooden coaster was a lot of fun and usually no wait. Also loved the chilli covered open faced burgers.

my first elephant ride was at Circus World 1977!

The place that was once Freedomland is now home to Co-Op City and Pelham Bay Park

The Heritage Square village that was left from Magic Mountain closed at the end of 2015.

I went to Freedomland with my family when I was a 10 year old kid. I remember they recruited kids to pump water from old time fire engines to put out the Great Chicago Fire.

I went to Circus World in 1980. Two things I remember vividly, the Roaring Tiger Rollercoaster, IT WAS AWSOME. My boyfriend and I ( now husband ) got to ride in the front seat multiple times and didn't even need to get off the ride. And the second, I got to walk the high wire. It was AMAZING, 30 feet off the ground walking a thin wire, the Circus Master announced you, where you were from like if you were a real performer. Of course you were all harnessed up but WOW. what an opportunity.

I've been to Heritage Square before - the last time I went was probably in the summer of 2014, and I have good memories of that place. I loved the Tilt-A-Whirl and the alpine slides. Unfortunately, the alpine slides closed after the 2015 season, and I'm a little bit bummed that I'm never going to get to ride them again, but there's nothing I can do about it anyway, you know? My family loved that place and I really hope I'll be able to go back sometime.

I've been to Circus World and Pirates World. We lived not too far from Pirates World. I was VERY young then. I only remember the crows nest. We went to Circus World one year while staying at the Contemporary resort at WDW. It was also the same visit we went to the new Wet & Wild. Good memories.


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