Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Near Walt Disney World...It's Marco Polo Park!

Marco Polo Park was a theme park located just off Interstate 95 between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, at Exit 278 in Flagler County, Florida. The park's theme was based on Marco Polo's legendary travels through Europe and the Far East. The brochure provided at the park's entrance described it as such, "Like Marco Polo himself, you will be wonderstruck at the authentic Oriental splendor as you journey into the exotic four worlds of the Far East; Turkey, India, China, Japan...and beautiful Venice, your port of embarkation." The park featured rides, puppet shows, multimedia shows, and other attractions.

This postcard shows Marco Polo himself greeting guests at the entrance plaza.

The ticket booths and entrance were located under a Venetian-style arch.

Park transportation included a steam train with two passenger cabs that ran around the perimeter of the park. An overhead suspended gondola system also linked various parts of the park.

The section of the park representing Turkey included twin bumper car rides, one for adults and one for kids. There was also a "flying chairs" ride which I'm assuming is the swing attraction seen in the background below.

The India section of the park included a Log Flume Ride and a Flying Elephant Ride. Hmmmm, I wonder where they got the idea for flying elephants?

The China section had a spinning Tea Cup Ride which can be seen below. Spinning Tea Cups.....really? That giant Ferris Wheel in the background was located in the Japan section of the park.

From Wikipedia: "The Japanese section included gardens that covered about 500 of the park's 5,000 acres. It included a replica of a Japanese fishing village, a Japanese botanical garden and a mile long waterway spanned by oriental bridges. Eighteen sampans, made of teakwood imported from Japan, carried visitors along the waterway. Two restaurants served tempura-style dishes. There were also a number of souvenir shops which sold a variety of Japanese-themed items."

A replica Model "T" ride was listed among the park attractions, but I'm not sure which "land" it belonged to. The area surrounding it doesn't really look like the Far East. Wikipedia actually lists it in the Venice section, but it doesn't look like Venice either. Those rocks kind of remind me of Nature's Wonderland at Disneyland. And what was that little girl on the far right doing standing there so close to the track? Maybe she was Audio-Animatronic.

Here are a couple more shots, but I'm not sure which areas of the park these were taken in.

Having never been to this park, I had to do a little research for this post. The following info is also from Wikipedia:

"The first phase of Marco Polo park park was completed and opened in early 1971. The park opened to considerable fanfare but it was never profitable. In 1975 the park closed after two fires ravaged the property just eight days apart. The park briefly reopened that year renamed Passport to Fun World, keeping the world travel theme. It closed for good in 1976. The remaining equipment was sold at auction on March 14, 1978. No structures from the former park remain. The road crossing I-95 leading to the park entrance, once renamed Marco Polo Park Boulevard, reverted back to Old Dixie Highway. The community of Plantation Bay now occupies the site of the former park. The park undoubtedly suffered from the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando in October 1971. It was a difficult sell getting people to stop at a lesser attraction along the way to the Disney park."

The slides in this post were included in a batch of Walt Disney World Slides that I aquired a while back. You may even recognize the lady in today's pictures from the Tom Sawyer Island post I did back in February of this year. I gladly welcome any additional information from anyone out there that actually had the opportunity to visit this extinct Florida amusement park!


Dan Alexander said...

What a find! I have never heard of this.

Maybe it is because I'm jaded and cynical, but I do find the financially troubled park's fires to be a bit suspicious...

outsidetheberm said...

Great slides from a little known park! Thanks.

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, this is great! Never ever heard of Marco Polo Park.

By the way, welcome back - when are we going to hear about your trip?

TokyoMagic! said...

Dan, I'm with you about the fires sounding suspicious. One fire...okay, but two fires and just eight days apart?

OTB, Do you by any chance have a map or additional info on this park?

Major, I had never heard of it either. The slides weren't labeled, so the only thing I had to go by was the name "Marco Polo" on the ship above the entrance. From that I found the info and postcards....isn't the internet great? Thanks for the welcome back. I'm still a little jetlagged, but I will get around to posting some Tokyo stuff. I've had this post done and ready to go for a while now, but had been dragging my feet about posting it since it wasn't a park that I had actually been to.

outsidetheberm said...

Chris, we only have postcards from Marco Polo Park. A map would be wonderful. Maybe Matterhorn has one?

The opening of Walt Disney World in 1971 seemed to have a huge impact on other Florida attractions. I know it fed the decline of Pirate's World In Dania - and we've got plenty of fascinating 'flotsam' from that park. But Marco Polo Park... rare stuff indeed. Your slides are great!

A Snow White Sanctum said...

Hey TokyoMagic-
What a well-done blog! I dig the mix of vintage photos with pics from today. And who's ever heard of Marco Polo Park before? Nice find. Let me know if you'd like to exchange followers/links.

tommy said...

Hi All, I visited Marco Polo Park about 5 times with my folks when I was a kid. I have a Facebook group dedicated to it and other defunct Florida amusement parks. I'll try to link to it but if the link doesn't work, you can simply do a search for "Florida Amusement Parks of the Past." Thanks and Take Care!!/group.php?gid=132798879851&v=info

tommy said...

By the way, if you visit my group, I'm the dorky red-headed kid and my name is Steve. Tommy is only my screen name on google(long story).

Anonymous said...

One of my first jobs as a college student was working at Passport to Fun World during the summer of 1975.

I remember the day an alligator met it's demise in the log flume and the red and white striped shirt I had to wear while working in "Marco's Melons", where I sold slices of watermelon. The ponds were inhabited by the meanest snapping turtles imaginable.

The highlight of my summer there was seeing Paul Revere and the Raiders perform, although by 1975, it was basically Paul Revere and whoever he could find to back him up. He played an electronic organ with the front grill of a Ford Edsel attached to it.

Eric in TX said...

I drove by this park countless times with my family in the late 1970's and remember how overgrown it had become. It was the proverbial haunted amusement park from Scooby-Doo. One day we drove by and it was just gone. I did a Google Earth search now and it appears that it has become a neighborhood. Progress I guess. Thank you for putting the pictures up.

Dave said...

"Maybe it is because I'm jaded and cynical, but I do find the financially troubled park's fires to be a bit suspicious ..."

Indeed, especially considering that a security guard was fired at twice just prior to one of the fires breaking out. I remember visiting this amusement park when I was about 9 years old (1974). Nice to see that others remember it too.

SpeedoOrlando said...

I went to Marco Polo Park many a time as a teenager. It was like having the park all to yourself. We would pay the admission, I think it was $3.50 and ride the flume ride over and over. It was great because if nobody was in line they let you go over and over again.

Remember the commercial "Come on in and give it a spin at Marco Polo Park. Marco....Polo Park.

There was this funny show that had a big muppet version of Kubla Kahn. "If anyone could do it, Kubla Can!

isenberd said...

My Family and me visited this park in 1974 and I can summarize in one word....cheesy.They didn't have Disney type money so all they had was a few carnival type rides. It's funny how you are supposed to travel through different countries, and you look around and see they sme old Florida pine trees, Kind of loses the illusion.

Anonymous said...

I WORKED there and it was cheesy. The BIG thing was that there was NO exit off 95 going South! So you had to go to Ormond or Daytona and then COME BACK 20 or so miles...
Lots of local BS going on too.

Tina said...

I worked there in 74 and 75 meet my husband there he was the merchandise manager over the gift shops and cashiers.There was exits to the park cause I came from New Smyrna to work there for 2 summers.It also had specialty shops aswell Glassblower and asian flower arranging imported coral jewlery and each country had merchandise from that pacific country .Fires were due to the invasions of bats during the closing season and the damage they had done to the electrical system. That is what I was told by people and friends that still worked there.The skylift was the greatest horror taking 4 lives. But what a nice break in todays finances would it be to take your family for a day outside walking thru japanese gardens,water flum shooting gallery,marco polo teaching about other countries and lets not forget about the concerts they had on the grounds for no additional cost for under 4 dollars a person. So Cheesy what do you expect for that price oh yeah Disneys 100 dollars a head to stand in line and be lucky to ride 5 rides and see 2 shows in 8 hours.

EddieMacc said...

I went there in the summer of 1972. I remember the log slide thing. We stayed at Jellystone Park across the road from it.
Probably on our way to Disney World.

Anonymous said...

"Get into the swing
'to do lots of things
Marco Polo Park... I remember that ditty.

Sister got carsick on a ride, we all went home.
Didn't seem to last much longer. Oh well.


the13bats said...

I was lucky growing up my grandmother who raised me had a passion for attractions and theme parks and I went to most of them even ones people never heard of,
I have been surfing around looking at the posts people have made on old defunct Fl attractions. what memories.
I recall MPP being a lot of fun, in the eyes of a child I wasn't thinking oh dear this is cheesy because of some tree that may or may not have been in some distant land,
I recall as far as the early days of disney MPP being every bit as much fun if not more so in a way because I recall when I was there it had better friendly feel and wasn't so over packed it made things crappy like many trips to Disney made me feel.

cocoaoldie said...

We went to Marco Polo Park several times when I was young and one visit to it's succesor Passport To FunWorld.We really had a good time at Marco Polo Park but when it was reopened as Passport they had removed water fountains and most of the park benches which forced guests to but drinks and go to the restaurants if you wanted to sit down.... of course you had to buy food. I still have a Marco Polo Park map.

Anonymous said...

I went there several times as a child and to this day this place hold one of my favorite childhood memories. We went on a day that there were maybe 10 people total visiting (little wonder it closed) and my brother and I rode the log flume more times than I can count getting to stay on over and over. Every kids dream an amusement park all to yourselves, what a great day. Our poor mother must have been exhausted but I bet we slept well that night!

Bobby Yarbrough said...

I vaguely remember going to Marco Polo Park when I was a kid. I remember going to Six Gun Territory too. Anyone else remember that one?

Tim from Cocoa said...

We went to Six Gun Territory in Ocala several times.

Anonymous said...

It's so exciting to find this info on Marco Polo. I grew up a few miles from the park and went there when I was very young. It feels like mostly a dream. I really don't remember the park itself, just vague memories of passing it on I-95 and always wanting to go back there. I live less than a mile from the old site now. It's really neat seeing old pics of the place.