Top 5 attractions that no longer exist in the Smokies

Ogle's Waterpark

Ogle's Waterpark closed in the early 2000s (image from an Ogle's Waterpark brochure, courtesy of OldGatlinburg.net)

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, with an estimated 12.5 million visitors annually. 

So it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs come to the area with high hopes of building the next big attraction to entice visitors on their way to the mountains. But around these parts, attractions can come and go in the blink of an eye.

Read Also: Fun Mountain Gatlinburg: What remains of the abandoned park today

Let’s look back to some of the most popular lost attractions of the Smokies: 

5. Ogle’s Waterpark in Pigeon Forge, TN 

For about three decades, Ogle’s Waterpark was the summer staple of the Smokies. It rested along the main strip of the Parkway, separated from the busy road by only a chain-link fence and some concrete. 

During its peak, Ogle’s Waterpark was the largest waterpark in the area with six giant water slides, a wave pool, a kid’s play area and snack stations throughout the park. 

It had fully enclosed tunnel slides that were revolutionary for their time. 

It was summer personified – the birthplace of seasonal romance and pushing the limits of how much heat you could take before dipping into the cool, chemical waters. 

Ogle’s was the king of summer in the Smokies. 

What happened to Ogle’s Waterpark?

Ogle’s closed in 2002 for good, and the land was demolished to make way for Waldens Landing in 2003. 

Today, Dollywood’s Splash Country and Soaky Mountain Waterpark dominate the waterpark scene. Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud now sits where Ogle’s used to be. 

Read Also: A look back at Ogle’s Waterpark and the attraction that took its place

Porpoise Island
Visitors to Porpoise Island were welcomed with authentic island greetings (photo from an old Porpoise Island Brochure, courtesy of OldGatlinburg.net)

4. Porpoise Island in Pigeon Forge, TN 

You might think it is odd that East Tennessee would be home to a Hawaiian-themed dolphin attraction. And you’d be right. 

But then again, if you drive down the main Pigeon Forge strip today, you’d see a giant Titanic replica, King Kong climbing the Empire State building, and buildings that appear to have been ripped up from the ground and dropped upside-down – so who are we to judge? 

Porpoise Island had dolphin shows, sea lions, an exotic deer ranch and a Bird Vaudeville Theatre. Performers traveled in from Hawaii, and the porpoises came from Mississippi. They brought in exotic deer from “all over the world.” 

It was open from 1972 through 1984 in the heart of Pigeon Forge. 

What happened to Porpoise Island? 

Porpoise Island likely fell victim its insanely expensive upkeep.

Each season the Polynesian performers had to be housed, and the animals – along with their trainers and caregivers – had to be brought in from warmer climates.

Porpoise Island also only operated for about three months out of the year, making it a logistical nightmare. 

The Island in Pigeon Forge now sits in its place. 

Read Also: The attraction in Pigeon Forge you never knew existed: Porpoise Island 

The UFO at Magic World in Pigeon Forge, TN (image courtesy of oldgatlinburg.net)
The UFO at Magic World in Pigeon Forge, TN (image courtesy of OldGatlinburg.net)

3. Magic World in Pigeon Forge, TN 

Magic World was a relic of its own time, nestled between a car museum and the Twin Water Ski-Doo. If you never had the chance to see it, imagine being on the set of a late 50s sci-fi movie. 

It had a random assortment of features, including magic shows by Merlin the Magician, Dinosaur Valley, a 100-foot volcano, a haunted castle and a UFO that played videos inside the spaceship.

For children of the 70s and 80s, Magic World was a place of wonder. 

But it also had some features that could be more problematic by today’s standards. For example, it featured a Confederate Critter Show, which had Chuck E. Cheese-style animatronics singing mountain ballads. 

Magic World was open from 1971 to 1996.

What happened to Magic World?

Magic World reportedly met its demise over a dispute about the cost of land. 

Today, a handful of scenes remain from Magic World that have been integrated into the mini-golf course at Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf. 

Read Also: There used to be a theme park in Pigeon Forge named Magic World

Water skiers
Water performers at Tommy Bartlett’s Water circus (image from the Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus souvenir program)

2. Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus in Pigeon Forge, TN 

After 26 years of running a water circus in Wisconsin Dells, Tommy Bartlett set his sights on Pigeon Forge for a second location, but this act would be short-lived. 

The company purchased 110 acres of farmland and built a 20-foot dam that would hold 8.5 million gallons of water to form the man-made lake. The show ran for four years. 

Though the stint was brief, the show has been fondly remembered by those lucky enough to catch it.

The water circus featured a range of acts, including a water-skiing clown named Aqua, trapeze acts from helicopters and even a contortionist.

Water skiers from all over the country would come to perform at the water circus in Pigeon Forge. Reportedly, Tommy Bartlett himself directed and oversaw the acts himself. 

What happened to Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus? 

Reportedly, the company sold the attraction in Pigeon Forge to finance Tommy Bartlett’s Robot World, which inevitably became The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory. The Exploratory is still open in Wisconsin Dells. 

The Tommy Bartlett Show, a water skiing circus act, ran for nearly 70 years in Wisconsin Dells, but is reportedly permanently closed after financial hardships from 2020. 

As for the land in Pigeon Forge, the canopy is still rusting in place on Sugar Hollow Road. The lake has been filled. Life Changers International Church sits nearby.

Read Also: The short-lived act of Tommy Bartlett’s Water Circus in Pigeon Forge

Ghost Town in the Sky
Ghost Town in the Sky had shows with shootouts in the streets (photo submitted by Gary and Carol Cox)

1. Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, NC 

This ghost story starts in the bright and optimistic sunshine of opportunity and capitalism. Virginia businessman R.B. Coburn brought the vision to Maggie Valley for an amusement park themed after the Wild West.

Ghost Town in the Sky had stores, a saloon and a church. Tourists came from all over to ride the rides and see the shows, which included shootouts in the streets, can-can dancers and mountain music. 

Ghost Town in the Sky opened in 1961 and quickly became one of the premier attractions in North Carolina. 

The park eventually added a two-seat chair lift, which was the second-longest in the U.S. at the time. 

What happened to The Ghost Town in the Sky? 

By the late 80s, there was a serious decline in interest for the Wild West. 

Several attempts were made to spice things up. They reintroduced the Red Devil Roller Coaster, but all attempts fell short. 

By the late 90s, many of the rides were either frequently shut down or completely closed. Attendance fell off, and money to maintain the park dried up. 

It finally closed around 2002. Ownership exchanged hands a few times, and it was briefly resurrected in 2007. About $49 million was invested into the park. However, the Great Recession of the late 2000s proved to be too much to overcome. 

The park has attempted comebacks over the years. There are currently talks of Ghost Town reopening in the not-too-distant future.  

Read Also: When will Ghost Town in the Sky reopen?  

Do you remember any of these old attractions? Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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23 thoughts on “Top 5 attractions that no longer exist in the Smokies”

  1. I remember 1 trip to Ghost Town when I was about 8 years old. Mom has a picture of me being pulled up the kingdom on one of the rail cars we ride in when I was just under 2 yrs old. I wish someone would open it back up

  2. I remember them all. I went to all but the water show. Even got to take my son to magic world their last year open. My mom has pics of me and my brother inside jaws mouth anon King Kongs hand. Was a great place.Frontierland was another good one near ghost town. Good memories..

  3. I remember my trip to ghost town I was 12 me and my cousins and my sister had the best time of or lives I wish it was still open to take my grandkids

  4. I’ve watch Pigeon Forge grow from one hotel the Green Valley restaurant that served “family style” and a place called Fairyland. Ghost Town and Frontierland were fabulous! I sure miss them all!

  5. Ghost town was a blast ,the gun fights so cool,, and the soon girls were great,and their’s new talks about trying to open back up.. Magic world was great, I remember high divers one year, a one foot platform seventy feet high and sitting there looking up, it was high. Hated to see it go. I think I remember a water skiing squirrel and a seal. All cool. I never got to see the water show, always wanted to go. I will always remember driving in and looking up at the kids waiting in line of the tall water slides, every time wishing I was there. I don’t miss that big blue concrete one at the end of Pigeon Forge, it was a near death trap.lol. Miss Hillbilly Village, I remember it when I was little and I’m fifty now. Sweet Fanny Adams Just closed and I said every time I would go and now it’s to late. In the fifty years I’ve been going there have been dozens of attractions that have come and gone. So try them all while u can.

  6. Went to ghost town when I was around 10 and rode the incline railway I was scared to death and then again when I was a teenager I went to ghost town and rode the chairlift that was all right had a great time I miss it I liked the Red Devil roller coaster

  7. Tommy Bartlett Water Circus was open from 1984-1988. I know because I lived in Pigeon Forge and used to ride my bike to see my friends that worked there when I was 17 years of age.

  8. I remember ghost town. Got to go when I was two and Shaun at the age of twelve. Wish someone would open it back up. I remember magic kingdom and several other attractions that aren’t there anymore but I can’t remember the names. I also remember the land of oz. It’s still open during the fall but I haven’t been since I was a kid. Those were the good ole days

  9. Back in the early ’70s my sister-in-law was the main cancan girl there. I used to take my kids there being a local. I work there and the ’70s. It was fun it was a family. Robert Bradley who is the Apache kid and I are still really good friends. I love the movie Ghost Town you’ll have to see it.

  10. I remember taking my kids to ghost town we had a great time I think we have pictures in my album of the fun we had I agree to venture

  11. Barely remember Magic World as a young kid. I do remember wanting to go back when I was a little older but never got the chance. But spent many days baking in the sun at Ogles Water Park. In was heaven on earth for a kid my age in the mid 80s.

  12. Ted, people have no idea what I’m talking about when I speak of Watterboggin.. Concrete waterslide or should I say Watterboggin???

  13. The Drive-in at the end of the strip. I remember seeing “Walking Tall”. We stayed at “The Norma Dan Motel”, which is still there, reinvented of course.
    We couldn’t make our trip start in Pigeon Forge without seeing the chocolate milk drinking bear in Sevierville on the parkway going into Pigeon Forge.

  14. I use to work at Porpoise Island during my high school days in 76. It was so much fun and had great friends with the kids who came over from Hawaii. I remember all those attractions. Went to school with Bartlett girls at Gatlinburg Pittman HS.

  15. I wish I could have seen ghost town. What child or adult for that fact never wanted to be a cowboy. I would personally love it. Also maybe a dinosaur land. Kids and adults would love it. I have been going for years to pigeon forge and would love to see some new shows and attractions. I know there is new stuff every year but these just sound fun for even the older generation.

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