13 Abandoned Disney Rides & Attractions Left Hidden Inside Disney Parks

20000 leagues under the sea ride with fog over the lagoon, abandoned disney rides
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Before Abandonment | Photo from 20k Ride

The most magical place on earth is also home to the most magical abandoned attractions on earth!

These range from attractions sealed off after partial construction to flagship rides left deserted in plain sight… abandoned theme parks, water parks, and Disney resorts.

Disney has abandoned quite a few rides and attractions over the years. And, quite a few of them are still left in place today.

It’s a really fascinating topic, one that’s held my interest since I was eight, and is quintessential Carousel of Chaos.

So, we’re going to explore some unique abandoned Disney rides like Horizons, 20k Leagues Under The Sea, PeopleMover, and Rhine River Cruise. Plus, check out several interesting abandoned Disney attractions like Discovery Island, River Country, Legendary Years, and DisneyQuest.

Tuck in and enjoy the ride!

Related Reading: Epcot’s Abandoned Rhine River Cruise

Abandoned Disney Rides & Attractions

epcot's rhine river cruise queue with boat at the dock, abandoned disney rides
Queue of the Germany Pavilion’s Rhine River Cruise

1 – Epcot Rhine River Cruise

This abandoned Disney ride is one that never got to open, as it was left unfinished.

Adjacent to Biergarten, the mural in the Epcot Germany pavilion covers up the entrance to the Rhine River Cruise attraction.

Construction for part of the attraction began in the early 1980s alongside the rest of the park. However, the show building wasn’t fully completed because Disney was looking for a sponsor to fund the rest of the construction as well as the attraction’s operation.

Disney tried for a few years to find a sponsor for Rhine River, but ultimately never did.

As such, the partial show building is blocked off and the exit corridor as well as part of the ride path are overtaken by Biergarten’s buffet.

If you want to learn more about the Rhine River Cruise–from a scene-by-scene breakdown to what an Imagineer told me about the attraction–I’ve written an in-depth deep dive about the abandoned Epcot ride.

horizons at epcot center during sunset, abandoned disney attractions
Horizons at Epcot Center

2 – Horizons

Epcot’s flagship attraction, and arguably the greatest attraction Disney has ever designed, was a dark ride that gave guests a look at what one century into the future would be like.

It was the successor to Carousel of Progress, boasted two Omnimax theaters, and was the first Disney ride to allow you to choose your own ending.

However, Horizons spent about two and a half years of its nearly twenty left abandoned. The first tenure was one year, from December 1994 to December 1995. The second tenure was about a year and a half, from January 1999 to the summer of 2000.

The reason was as follows.

During the ’80s and ’90s, Epcot pavilions had sponsors that paid for the pavilion’s construction, operation, and maintenance. With more limited means of advertising back then, companies would foot the bill that would breach nine figures, so their logo was front and center at one of the largest tourist destinations in the world.

Then came the Internet and then social media. And so, as such, nowadays there are hardly any pavilion sponsorships left at Epcot, because companies can pay less to reach just as many people online.

Horizons’ plight was that its sponsorship contract ended and was not renewed back at the dawn of Disney’s finding that companies were no longer interested in sponsoring Epcot pavilions.

It closed for that year in 1994 but reopened when other FutureWorld was “understaffed” when other pavilions closed for construction of new attractions.

Horizons closed again, permanently, in 1999 when Disney did manage to find a new sponsor (and one of their last). Struggle was that the new sponsor wanted a new pavilion.

If not for the timing of that sponsorship ordeal, Horizons would’ve undoubtedly made it further into the 21st century it represented.

20000 leagues under the sea ride emerging from the cavern
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

3 – 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Probably one of the most unique rides at Magic Kingdom, 20k Leagues Under The Sea spent almost 23 years as an E-ticket Fantasyland attraction that was based on the 1955 film of the same name.

Like Horizons, 20k Leagues was a super popular attraction, but its demise was due to high operating costs and a company eager for budget cuts after Disneyland Paris flatlined in its opening.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea went down for routine maintenance, a month long refresh, but its reopening date came and went without event.

Sometime during the maintenance period, Disney decided that it was too expensive and laborious to keep operating the attraction. And so, in peak Disney Parks fashion, they left it abandoned in the middle of Fantasyland.

20k Leagues was left entirely untouched for two years before Disney pulled the submarines from the lagoon. 

The rest of the ride sat abandoned without the vehicles for another eight years before Disney finally demolished the attraction, filled in the lagoon, and built Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Under The Sea – Journey Of The Little Mermaid on its site.

Can you imagine visiting Magic Kingdom over the course of a decade and seeing a giant abandoned attraction sitting in the middle of Fantasyland?

You can learn a ton more about 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea through this tribute site dedicated to the attraction.

disney's discovery island on bay lake from above, abandoned disney world
Disney’s Discovery Island

4 – Discovery Island

Discovery Island counts more as an abandoned Disney attraction rather than an abandoned Disney ride because it was something of a miniature theme park on an island in Bay Lake.

The precursor to Animal Kingdom, Discovery Island opened as Treasure Island in 1974, being a zoological park. In 1999, it was likewise cannibalized by Animal Kingdom.

All of Discovery Island’s animals were relocated to Disney’s Animal Kingdom since the former was now outdated and redundant upon the opening of the new theme park.

For what it’s worth, Animal Kingdom’s central land was renamed to Discovery Island in tribute to the park’s predecessor.

The original Discovery Island has been left abandoned since 1999 and can be seen on boat rides from Magic Kingdom to either Fort Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge, on the beaches of both Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge, as well as from the Contemporary Resort.

It goes without saying though–do not attempt to visit Discovery Island. It is not safe to do so, you will be banned from Disney permanently, and you will face legal charges.

Learn from this guy.

river country at disney world before being abandoned
River Country before abandonment

5 – Disney’s River Country

River Country is an iconic abandoned Disney attraction. It’s the sort that every “Secret Things You Didn’t Know About Disney” feature will include as a groundbreaking revelation alongside the Utilidors.

Now, why River Country was left abandoned is something that urban legend loves to dramatize, but it was nothing sinister.

River Country was Disney World’s first water park, having opened at Fort Wilderness Campground in 1976.

It was rustic, charming, and popular early on. But then, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon opened. And as you see, it’s paralleling Discovery Island in that regard.

River Country was older, smaller, and redundant with two new, large waterparks nearby that people understandably chose to visit over River Country.

This compounded with the fact that Florida legislation was tightening up on water safety with strict new regulations, making the filtered Bay Lake water River Country used no longer viable.

The park would have required significant and costly upgrades to meet these modern water sanitation quality standards, as they would have had to replace the water system parkwide (bar one pool).

Disney was not going to cough up this money on an old, low attendance, small waterpark–a sentiment that extended beyond just closing it. 

Blocking it off and leaving it to rot was cheaper than spending money to demolish it.

So, River Country sat abandoned for eighteen years before it was bulldozed. Over which timespan, numerous urban explorers snuck in and filmed its deteriorating state while other Disney visitors could snap pictures of it from the Magic Kingdom/Fort Wilderness boat.

But my favorite part in this is that when they finally tore down the abandoned park, it was to build a new Disney resort… that’s now been left abandoned too.

Disney’s Reflections Lodge was to open on the site of River Country, with construction having started on the resort, but it was unceremoniously left abandoned.

River Country got the last laugh.

stitchs great escape attraction before closing
Stitch’s Great Escape at Magic Kingdom

6 – Stitch’s Great Escape

We’re back to another Magic Kingdom abandoned Disney ride that is still currently ghosted.

Stitch’s Great Escape was a theater style attraction that replaced ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland.

In the ’90s, Alien Encounter debuted to add something edgy to Disney Parks. But of course, quite a few found it outright terrifying. So, with Alien Encounter racking up complaints, Stitch came into play.

Stitch’s Great Escape opened in 2004 and was almost as swiftly branded the worst attraction in Magic Kingdom. But, it managed to reach 2016 before the telltale signs of an impending closure began. 

The attraction went two years of only operating seasonally before it inevitably closed in 2018.

Since then, the attraction has been left abandoned.

It’s more hidden than other abandoned Disney rides that were left well in plain sight, so it’s not an eyesore. But, an image of the partially destroyed Stitch animatronic did surface to haunt the Internet.

While the attraction remains abandoned, cast members have reported using it as a break room.

disneyland peoplemover, disneyland abandoned
Disneyland’s PeopleMover

7 – Disneyland PeopleMover

If you’re a Disney World fan and you get in a friendly row with a Disneyland fan who’s harping on why the Disneyland version of rides are better, you can end the discourse with one word.

PeopleMover.

Disneyland fans are, understandably, touchy about the topic of their former PeopleMover attraction. The ride structure of this abandoned Disney ride still plainly rotting throughout the midst of Tomorrowland.

The Disneyland PeopleMover opened in 1967 and took riders on a tour around Tomorrowland. And like its Magic Kingdom counterpart, the ride was a classic fan favorite.

Struggle was, Disney was on its thrill ride crusade. So, amongst the dark rides and omnimovers, the PeopleMover was likewise on the chopping block.

The fact that it was old and expensive to run, budget cuts also saw an easy victim in the PeopleMover.

As such, the PeopleMover closed in 1995.

A replacement, Rocket Rods opened in 1998 and promptly closed in 2000.

The “new” attraction ran on the PeopleMover’s track. But, the PeopleMover tracks were designed for simpler ride vehicles taking passengers on a leisurely stroll.

The Rocket Rods ride vehicles were heavy as all get, did 30 mph over the PeopleMover’s top speed, and had awkward pacing that put too much stress on the track and ride structure (especially the unbanked turns).

Consequently, Rocket Rods operated for a scarce two years before they closed it, pulled the ride vehicles from the track, and left the rest of the PeopleMover abandoned.

Rocket Rods did operate, however, just long enough to damage the structure enough that Disney can’t build a new PeopleMover on the ride structure without major, costly renovations. Honestly, it’d probably be the sort where they’d have to replace the structure.

But seeing how integrated the structure is into every other building in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the feasibility of that is exactly why the ride structure has been left abandoned.

And between Tomorrowland and Epcot, apparently, there’s nothing quite as futuristic as abandoned attractions.

Speaking of Epcot…

dreamfinder and figment standing inside the rainbow tunnel at imageworks inside journey into imagination
Dreamfinder & Figment in ImageWorks’ Rainbow Tunnel

8 – ImageWorks

ImageWorks is one of the OG abandoned Disney attractions to be an urbex target for YouTubers.

At Epcot’s Journey Into Imagination pavilion, ImageWorks was an upstairs “creative playground of the future.” It featured many creative and tech savvy exhibits with unique special effects, the most iconic of which was the Rainbow Tunnel. 

Alas, ImageWorks closed in 1998 when the pavilion was renovated and a smaller, watered down version of the attraction was installed downstairs. 

Meanwhile, the original version was left abandoned upstairs.

And, while the stairwell upstairs was chained off and the escalator blocked off, people still worked their way up into the old ImageWorks.

For years, exhibits like the Rainbow Tunnel, Figment’s Coloring Book, Stepping Tones, and more were left largely intact.

The Rainbow Tunnel was no longer rainbow and the other exhibits weren’t operational per se but were otherwise left as is, just waiting for a reopening that would never come.

As multiple videos of the abandoned attraction surfaced over the years, minor changes could be seen.

Just a few of such being: early 2011, late 2011, sometime in 2014, and later on in 2019.

In 2016, Disney opened a Disney Vacation Club lounge on the second floor of the Imagination pavilion. It was in the lobby-esque area under the main pyramid just before you’d enter the corridor that led to ImageWorks.

That corridor was walled off, so many people presumed ImageWorks had finally met its demise.

It hadn’t.

People stuck cameras between panes of the vent on the wall that blocked off ImageWorks and saw ImageWorks still sitting there abandoned. However, it was now evident that Disney was starting to demolish it.

Come 2017, the majority of the abandoned Disney attraction was gutted. Fragments of the Rainbow Tunnel’s structure, namely the entry arch, remained for a brief time. But, mostly everything was wiped.

It’s not clear if there’s anything that remains of the original ImageWorks in that area as of late.

artwork of meet the world showing theater audience and a show scene, epcot abandoned
Concept Art of the Japan Pavilion’s Meet The World

9 – Meet The World

Meet The World is an attraction that parallels the Rhine River Cruise in that it was a World Showcase attraction that was intended to open in the early days of Epcot, the show building was built, and then the attraction never opened.

The abandoned Disney ride was essentially the Japanese version of the Carousel of Progress–a rotating theater attraction that told the history of the country.

Now why was it abandoned?

Evidently, the show building’s calculations were off by a degree and so when they installed the ride system, the show building couldn’t support it.

The show building would’ve needed a major overhaul to fix the problem, but Epcot was too far over budget and too behind in construction for them to take the time and money to fix it.

So, the show building was left abandoned.

My understanding is that the ride system was shipped off to the also under construction Tokyo Disneyland. 

Meet The World at Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 and closed in 2002.

The first floor of the remnants of Epcot’s Meet The World is now occupied by part of the Mitsukoshi Department Store while the second floor (where the ride system was supposed to be) is said to be used as storage space.

epcot wonders of life pavilion shortly after closing
Wonders Of Life at Epcot

10 – Wonders Of Life

If you’ve ever seen a golden domed building between Mission Space and Cosmic Rewind, then you saw the old Wonders of Life pavilion.

It was a health themed pavilion back in the days of FutureWorld, having opened under the sponsorship of MetLife back in 1989.

Par for the course, not long after its sponsorship contract ended, Wonders of Life began operating only seasonally starting in 2004.

Come 2007, the pavilion was closed and its numerous attractions inside were left abandoned.

A part of the central hub portion of the building was used on rogue occasions for Epcot’s various festivals and special events until 2018.

Throughout that time, attractions were being boarded off, painted over, and outright dismantled if they were located in the central hub area.

And of course, people managed their way into explore the different abandoned attractions in the years following 2007.

In 2019, Disney announced new plans that they were going to retheme the pavilion to Play, a futuristic city with Disney characters. And just like River Country’s site, the Play pavilion has been dead in the water for five years now.

Disney did not acknowledge the Play pavilion until early 2023, just to say that they’re “reevaluating” the concept.

Wonders of Life still sits abandoned.

artwork of body wars from epcot's wonders of life pavilion
Promotional Art of Body Wars

Body Wars

Body Wars was a simulator ride where riders shrank to the size of a cell to study the human body from within. 

When Wonders of Life closed, Body Wars was left untouched for a few years before the simulators were removed by the early 2010s. It’s supposed that they’d become spare parts for the Star Tours simulator attraction at Hollywood Studios since they used similar technology.

Somewhere around 2016, some of the queue was partially dismantled. But the rest of it, the empty simulator bays, and the load/unload areas are still left abandoned.

cranium command stage with buzzy animatronic at disney world
Cranium Command Mid-Show

Cranium Command

Cranium Command is a fun one. 

It was an animatronic show about the human mind that closed alongside the pavilion. And like the other WOL attractions, it was walled off from the central hub of the pavilion.

This allowed it a peaceful decade of deterioration before an urban explorer got inside and filmed the attraction–which, mind you, was left entirely untouched.

If it weren’t for the lack of maintenance, it seemed like Cranium Command could reopen anytime if Disney were so inclined.

They weren’t.

And the revelation of Cranium Command’s state and publication on YouTube prompted the interest of numerous other urban explorers and Disney fans.

So naturally, one year later, things took a bizarre turn when someone stole the star animatronic from the attraction.

Yes, an animatronic nearly the size of a refrigerator, weighing a baseline 300 pounds, sitting atop a pedestal about 10 feet high, and connected to active hydraulic lines was stolen from the pavilion and has not been found since.

There’s a little salt in the wound for Disney in that they had tagged the animatronic to be preserved for archives, but they hadn’t removed it from the attraction in time to save it from its infamous fate.

The current status of Cranium Command is unknown since Play has been quietly canceled. It’s presumed to be abandoned still with the rest of its pavilion.

disney legendary years resort concept art
Concept Art of Disney’s Legendary Years Resort

11 – Disney’s Pop Century Resort Legendary Years

Did you know that the Pop Century Resort is incomplete? 

It’s only half of the Pop Century–the Classic Years. Legendary Years would’ve featured the first half of the 20th century. 

Hence why the lake there by the resort is called Hourglass Lake. It separated the two time periods with an hourglass shape. And the bridge connecting the two, the Generation Gap Bridge.

The Pop Century pair were slated to open in late 2001, but as you can imagine, they were postponed after the New York attacks.

Construction only resumed on the Classic Years side due to the tourism slump, leaving the Legendary Years side stagnant.

So, over the next decade, Legendary Years sat abandoned while the Classic Years completed construction, opened, and operated. Guests who booked waterfront views were met with prime views of the abandoned hotel across the lake.

The state of the Legendary Years was as such: 

  • the lobby building (Legendary Hall) was fully built and partially decorated, but not furnished
  • two of the 1940s buildings were fully built but not furnished
  • the foundations of the third 1940s building and two 1930s buildings prepped

In case your curious, here’s a video of what Legendary Years looked like during this period.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Disney announced that the Legendary Years resort would be completed, but rethemed as Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

Art of Animation opened in 2012, using Legendary Hall as its lobby building and the two 1940s buildings for The Little Mermaid themed rooms. It also reuses the same layout intended for Legendary Years, from pool areas to parking lots.

disney star wars galactic starcruiser before opening
Promotional Art of Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser

12 – Galactic Starcruiser

A more recently abandoned Disney hotel, the Galactic Starcruiser was Disney’s Star Wars themed hotel that opened in 2022 and closed 18 months later in 2023.

There’s been a lot of talk over the exact reason for its closure. But ultimately, its price point was too high for a target market too niche.

Star Wars doesn’t have a small fan base, but the hotel was dependent on a Star Wars fan base that was into live action role playing for two days and at least $5,000.

Tack in the fact many felt like the value for the price point was lacking… the aforementioned Rocket Rods at Disneyland managed to last longer than the Starcruiser.

As such, the Star Wars hotel has been left abandoned since September 2023. 

Evidently, Disney did not design the Starcruiser for traditional resort operations, starting with the fact that it’s more than seven times smaller than the next smallest Disney resort (100 rooms vs 750).

It also has no windows, balconies, or fire escapes–much less a pool, resort amenities, or even a suitable location for a resort property.

So, until further notice or acknowledgment from Disney, the Starcruiser is currently sitting abandoned behind Hollywood Studios’ Galaxy’s Edge.

disneyquest exterior building in downtown disney at night, abandoned disney rides
DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney (Disney Springs)

13 – DisneyQuest

Our final abandoned Disney attraction (for now) is the indoor theme park DisneyQuest. 

Formerly located in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs, DisneyQuest was essentially the Disney edition of an interactive arcade. 

It opened in 1998 and almost made it two decades before closing in 2017.

DisneyQuest was abandoned just long enough for urban explorers to get inside and film it in its withered state.

Ultimately, DisneyQuest was abandoned for the shortest period of all of these attractions. Disney spared several months before leveling it to make way for the NBA, which also sits abandoned by the way.

I suppose the site of DisneyQuest has the same magic going for it that River Country’s does, in that their replacements ended up abandoned fairly quickly too.

epcot horizons after a dusk rain shower
Epcot Center’s Horizons at Dusk

Wrap Up

There are a lot of attractions, resorts, and concepts that Disney has abandoned over the years. To such a degree that I’ll probably follow this post up with another–especially highlighting concepts that were abandoned like Thunder Mesa, Grande Venezia, Beastly Kingdom, and Venetian Gondolas.

In the meantime, you can read more about the Epcot Rhine River Cruise. Said post includes details a former Imagineer who worked on the project shared with me, what the inside of the show building looks like today, as well as tons of concept art, blueprints, and scene models.

I lament for some of these, but at least the majority of the abandoned Disney attractions on this list got to have some time to shine.

What are your favorite abandoned Disney rides?

For more Disney attractions aboard the Carousel, you can also check out:

Thanks for reading!

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