While spending a few days in the region of Shanghai, I found this amazing place which reminded me a lot of the Beijing Amusement Park in Beijing: it’s an abandoned theme park which was once really famous and ended up becoming a derelict space, overgrown by wild grass. This used to be China’s American Dream Park.
The rise and fall of Shanghai’s American Dream Park
While the first official Disneyland will open soon in the same city, I just find so fascinating to see how the place reflects the changing relationships of China with the American model. This park was one of the first theme parks built in mainland China by an American company. With a very high investment, construction finished in 1996 and although it was a very lively place at first, it closed down in 2001: too far, too expensive for the average Chinese people. You can know more about the closing on this news report. That is a short history for such a big theme park. It remained abandoned for many years until the planning project for the area was decided in 2012: the park got targeted for demolition, which brought up some nostalgia, a bit like for Beijing Amusement Park. Isn’t it ironic that the American Dream Park got planned for demolition just before Xi Jinping introduced his own « Chinese dream » slogan? Maybe the Disney park will have a less political meaning, it will open in June this year and the leisure market in China is now ready to attract more than enough middle-class families driving their own cars…
About the American Dream Park, it is now located in the center of a housing project. A Chinese developer is now building large scale social housing all around. The park is included in this housing construction site, that is why entrances are less easy to find and there are many security guards and videosurveillance placed by the developing company.
But I still managed to get inside. Since it closed in 2001, the park started to break apart but at the time I visited it, it was even more broken down. For instance, the park sign looked very old in 2010 but in 2016, it had fallen down…
Exploring American Dream Amusement Park
I am not the only explorer to have been in this park: a lot of people living in Shanghai already went exploring abandoned places in their city and this was a famous spot. Since the official closure in 2001 until the demolition announcement in 2012, many people have come to this park through forbidden ways in. I found news reports like this one written about urbexers who visited this park in 2012. It was indeed a small urbex paradise, displaying crazy figures of decaying cheesy theme park architecture.
This very interesting representative vision of decay had already disappeared when I visited the park. The fake Mount Rushmore turned into a pile of fallen rocks. Yet many other elements were still standing.
The area of the saloon, which reproduced the architectural style of the beginning of the 20th century, was quite well preserved, with many buildings keeping their decorations on.
I loved visiting the former movie theater with still a lot of elements in it.
The park was organised with a series of bridges over the water with an island specially conceived for children’s games.
To conclude, even if this place is really falling apart, it is still worth visiting, all the more so as the planning project is now being carried out: construction work around the park will soon happen inside and replace these derelict attractions by high residential towers.