It’s not often we’d recommend visiting a theme park to get a real perspective on an area, but the abandoned development that now rests on the banks of a New Orleans bayou stands as a symbol of so much more than just a sweet escape from the ordinary.
In the August of 2005 this park – formerly known as Jazzland – had successfully re-launched itself as a brand new Six Flags site and was well on its way to becoming one of the Deep South’s shining beacons of entertainment, offering new opportunities for both sightseers and citizens alike. Amusement areas with names such as Sportsman’s Paradise, The Quarters and Cajun Country were built to pay tribute to the local area, while big and bold characters like the Looney Tunes beamed down from their privileged positions at ride entrances, food kiosks and those all-important souvenir gift shops. Though it had been open under its new moniker since 2003, a huge wave of development was underway, with plans to include a waterpark and more thrilling rollercoasters to its growing roster. But the world, it seems, had other plans.
After the devastating events of Hurricane Katrina, the park lay submerged, buried under debris and the swelling waters of the neighbouring rivers. There it lay for weeks on end, with all but the biggest rollercoaster – Batman: The Ride –saved from devastation on account of its elevated rails. Over the next few months, there were clashes between company and county about taking ownership of the clean-up, and as time went on, nature slowly took over.
What remains today are the hauntingly beautiful skeletal structures of the realm of entertainment that never was – dodgems covered in dust, whirlygigs softly creaking in the wind, helter skelters and halls of mirrors adopted as blank canvases by local graffiti artists. It may not be the image that induced childlike wide-eyed wonder the state was hoping for, but the legacy Six Flags leaves behind is perhaps, a more poignant one. It’s also an absolute playground for thrill seeking, urban exploration photographers hunting intriguing subjects, while in recent years, it has been used for Hollywood film productions including the much anticipated Jurassic Park sequel. As a closed site, trespassing is obviously illegal, so access must be agreed with relevant authorities before entry.
If you’re in need of an escape from the dispiriting sense of a dream never fully realised, may we suggest a quick drive into the middle of a lake? The nearby Lake Pontchartrain Causeway stretches for an impressive 24 miles across the deep and dark Louisiana waters giving those who need to make their way from Metrarie to Mandeville (and back) an alternative option than taking the (very) long way round. Not only is it all a bit surreal, you can also go home and brag about having been over the longest bridge in the world.