The world's 10 weirdest theme parks

If a trip to Dreamworld or one of the Disney Parks doesn't quite have enough of a novelty factor for you, then there are plenty of theme parks across the world that are more than willing to step in and ramp up the bizarre factor. Whether you'd prefer scores of communist statues or hanging around a nuclear power plant, there's a weird theme park out there for everybody.

DIGGERLAND

WHERE? SEVERAL LOCATIONS ACROSS THE UK

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy

It's not just Disney that can branch out into multiple parks – the oddly successful Diggerland has managed to spread its wings too. The concept behind the park is largely simple: let people play with diggers. That means you can use diggers to pick up ducks on hoops, you can be spun around in the bucket of a JCB or you can simply let rip in a pile of mud, picking it up and dropping it down again from on high. Dads seem to appreciate this almost as much as their children do. See diggerland.com

DOLLYWOOD

WHERE? PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE, US

Credit: Dollywood.com

Credit: Dollywood.com 

It seems Dolly Parton is enough of a legend to have her own theme park. Opening hours are sadly 10am to 9pm rather than nine to five and most of the rides avoid overt Dolly theming. But there's still a bit of Parton magic. Highlights include "Dolly's Home On Wheels" – a chance to snoop around her tour bus. See Dollywood.com

GRUTO PARKAS

WHERE? SOUTHERN LITHUANIA

Credit: Alamy

Credit: Alamy

When communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, a Lithuanian mushroom salesman made it his business to go round and collect as many of the Soviet-era statues as he could find. His haul is now spread out for miles in a forest, with every clearing devoted to another hilariously pompous depiction of Lenin, Stalin or another hammer and sickle heavyweight. See grutoparkas.lt

MINI EUROPE

WHERE? BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Credit: Alamy

Credit: Alamy 

This marvellous piece of European Union propaganda tries to take visitors on a tour of the EU nations in a day via a series of incredibly intricate scale models. You've got a mini Eiffel Tower, a mini Houses of Parliament, a mini Colosseum and so on, while lots of push buttons allow you to play national anthems. It's delightfully cheesy. See minieurope.com

VELOCITY VALLEY

WHERE? ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND

(Photo by clint trahan/clinttrahan.com) credit: Facebook
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Whitley : bizarre amusement parks

Photo: Clint Trahan

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New Zealand isn't generally short of activities designed to get the adrenalin pumping, but in Rotorua several of the oddest ones are gathered in the same place. Experiences on offer at Velocity Valley include jet boating and bungy jumping, but the really bizarre ones are Freefall XTreme and the Shweeb. The former sees you blown around in the air by a wind jet, and the latter is a cross between a monorail, bike and a rollercoaster. See velocityvalley.co.nz

WUNDERLAND KALKAR

WHERE? NORTH-WEST GERMANY

DAMGMR A visitor of the 'Wunderland Kalkar' amusement park stands in front of a former cooling tower in Kalkar, Germany, 9 June 2011. In 1995, Dutchman van der Most bought the former nuclear power plant 'Schneller Brueter' and turned it into a hotel and leisure centre. Photo: Victoria Bonn-Meuser credit: ALAMY
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Whitley : bizarre amusement parks

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The ferris wheels, roller coasters and flying teacups look out over the river Rhine, although the brightly painted (and massive) cooling tower is what tends to grab the attention. Wunderland Kalkar was originally going to be the Schneller Brüter, a nuclear power station shared between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was built, but never turned on. And now it's a hotel and conference centre, filled with rides, obviously. See wunderlandkalkar.eu

HAW PAR VILLA

WHERE? SINGAPORE

EPMRW1 scene of Buddhist hell credit: ALAMY
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Whitley : bizarre amusement parks

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This theme park's mission is to provide a moral education rather than entertain, and that's where the splendidly gory Ten Courts of Hell comes in. Haw Par Villa's walkthrough splatterfest shows what will happen to you in hell. Graphic 3D dioramas show those who lend money at exorbitant rates being thrown onto a hill of knives, people who don't pay rent being pounded with a mallet, and exam cheats having their intestines pulled out. See hawparvilla.sg

HOLY LAND EXPERIENCE

WHERE? ORLANDO, FLORIDA

2EA7G1G © Phelam Ebenhack/ABACA. 55958-4. Orlando- FL-USA, February 8, 2004. Lee Cheveldayoff, actor, plays a scene of the Passion in front of a captivated audience. The Holy Land Experience (opened Feb. 5, 2001) is a $16 million, 15-acre living, biblical history museum, recreating in elaborate and authentic detail the city of Jerusalem and its religious importance between the years 1450 B.C. and A.D. 66 (through the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis through Revelation). The staff is dressed in authentic first-century costumes, and music and drama occurs spontaneously throughout the day. Among th credit: ALAMY
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ONE TIME USE FOR TRAVELLER ONLY
Whitley : bizarre amusement parks

Photo: Alamy

Forget the Disney and Harry Potter rivals in Orlando, this park is all about spreading the word of the lord. Linked to an evangelist TV station, the Holy Land Experience is bigger on recreations of Bible-era scenes than it is rides. So you can browse through a faux Jerusalem street market, witness a day in the life of the monk or watch a 30-minute interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion at the Garden Tomb. Who needs rollercoasters? See holylandexperience.com

KRYAL CASTLE

WHERE? NEAR BALLARAT, VICTORIA

Kryal Castle, Ballarat.

Photo: Supplied

This somewhat out of place throwback to the age of chivalry sees a faux castle erected in the Victorian countryside. Inside the turreted pastiche you can take archery lessons, watch jousting contests and wander round a walking route called "the Dragon's Labyrinth". Oh yes, and the medieval-style theatre hosts jesters. See kryalcastle.com.au

PATRIOT PARK

WHERE? MOSCOW, RUSSIA

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Photo: Alamy

If you've ever wanted to let your kids loose on tanks, guns and a whole host of other military equipment, Patriot Park is the ideal spot. It's an extremely unsubtle attempt to glorify the Russian military. While in parts that's basically stockpiling enormous amounts of weapons in a museum, there are attempts to make things interactive with simulators and almost certainly unwise opportunities to handle the arms. See en.patriotp.ru

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