Alexander: Here at Coaster Kings, we like to see the good in things – or, at the very least, we like to criticize the parks we visit in a constructive way.
We’re doing things a little different today: we’ve got a list of 5 parks that are so dreadful it’s a miracle they’re even open.
Now, this isn’t a list of FECs without two coasters to rub together, nor are we covering any aesthetically- or operationally-challenged major chain parks (though we were tempted – La Ronde, Darien Lake, Michigan’s Adventure, we’re looking at you). No, it just so happens this list materialized with five parks of midsized rosters that shoot the gap between “too small to offend” and “big enough to be carried by its complement of decent rides.”
With that said, let’s get this shitshow on the road!
5. Castle Park, Riverside CA, USA
Palace Entertainment’s SoCal “regional park” beat out our runner-up for U.S.A.’s Worst Park, Six Flags America, by a 2-1 vote. While each Six Flags and Cedar Fair establishment has at least a few redeeming coasters, this overgrown family fun center (a sibling of Lake Compounce and Kennywood) is utterly devoid of memorable attractions – it’s two most notable rides shuttered indefinitely. Castle Park’s largest coaster, a relatively unique Fabbri spinner, has been SBNO for half a decade now, and their custom log flume remains dormant following a May 27th accident that sent a family of 3 to the ER.
4. JinJiang Action Park, Shanghai, China
If it weren’t for the park’s oft-closed Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang dominating a southwestern pocket of Shanghai’s skyline, JinJiang may not have been offensive enough to register on our list of parks – but being 0-3 on attempts to catch a ride on the V-GIB, we’ll admit this one’s personal. Additionally, this 30yr+ old local fixture is grotesquely unkept even by the standards of typical Chinese parks.
New rides do replace the old periodically (a knock-off Zamperla Air Force coaster recently replaced their Golden Horse spinner), but most attempts at upkeep are so sloppily executed (see: a repaint of the massive Ferris Wheel that littered the midway with paint drippings), it’s surprising the effort was made in the first place.
3. Tobu Zoo, Tokyo, Japan
Narrowly beating out fellow ACE Japan Tour 2018 stops Higashiyama Zoo and Sea Paradise in terms of animal neglect (at least, based on what we saw. YMMV), Tobu Zoo’s operational pitfalls don’t stop at big cats in cement cages – things are pretty dreadful amusement park-wise, too. While many Japanese parks still work at stabilizing themselves following the last recession, Tobu’s operation is anything but stable: their beautiful Intamin Regina, one of only 4 wood coasters in Japan, was officially retired in 2019. Maybe if we’re lucky, they can move that maintenance budget over to the zoo.
2. Knight Valley, Shenzhen, China
Japan may not have much to show for themselves in terms of animal rights, but it’s not much different in Mainland China (though we’ve seen very positive examples too). In fact, in the case of East Shenzhen’s OCT East/Knight Valley mega-resort-gone-wrong, withering animal habitats, live jellyfish being sold as purse charms, and adult toucans living in cages the size of dishwashers is only the beginning.
Knight Valley feels like a bad dream – you come upon this enormous, impressive park, only to find in it wildly inconsistent stages of decay, from the shockingly well-maintained Wood Coaster to the mile-long log flume all but reclaimed by nature. Vines creep up crumbling drywall where black mold clings and grows faster than any actual form of park development – for every possible fixture, there are at least 3 dissolving to smithereens right before your eyes. Abandoned hotels with thousands of rooms litter the resort – save for a budget lodge comprised of shipping containers, whose inhabitants appear to be park employees with nowhere else to go.
1. Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada
We realize that, based on the description provided, Knight Valley seems to handily be the worst park on Earth right? Well, imagine a park that echo’s OCT East’s flagrant disregard for animal welfare and infrastructural incompetence, located in – not Mainland China – but in the Western Hemisphere’s most progressive nation, Canada. Thanks to Niagara Fall’s Marineland, we don’t have to imagine.
Is Marineland objectively worse than Knight Valley? Probably not. But does Marineland’s location in Canada amplify the park’s countless ethics violations? Absolutely. Leaking aquariums, does and bucks with fungal infections, five dozen belugas in tanks the size of a 1 bedroom apartment, open graves of animal carcasses, a solitary, toothless orca perpetually mourning for the death of her 5 calves (who, one by one, slipped through the fingers of Marineland’s woefully inept crew of “animal handlers”). Why does this place even exist? Who even goes here? Why hasn’t the government stepped in? More questions than answers, unfortunately.
We visited the park in 2017 to ride Dragon Mountain (which, in its own right, is an outstanding ride), but our experience with the rest of the park was so bafflingly dismal that we couldn’t bear to complete or publish our trip report (the park was kind enough to give us media passes, but with virtually nothing positive to say about Marineland, we concluded that silence was the most generous way to express gratitude for the tickets). We never thought we could feel “buyer’s remorse” for something we didn’t pay for, but Marineland managed to make us wish we could somehow un-visit the park.
And so concludes our “Bottom 5” Parks countdown. Do you agree with our analysis? Be sure to weigh in on our various social media platforms!