The Story



Welcome to Florida Splendid China, a closed and currently abandoned theme park in Kissimmee Florida, near Disney World. The entrance to Florida Splendid China is mere minutes from Disney World, yet the park is virtually unknown to many. Why? Well that all depends on who you ask. The park suffered many set backs that eventually led to a premature closure. Oddly enough, some people would like to take at least partial credit for that closure.


Main Gate at Florida Splendid China. Taken in 2008.

So what was Florida Splendid China? Shenzhen China is home to the original Splendid China Miniature park... a park that showcases many of the great wonders of China in approximately one tenth scale. Florida Splendid China was a sister park to the extremely popular Chinese version. The park housed some sixty attractions many of which were tiny replicas of real wonders of China. These ranged from the Great Wall of China, Forbidden City and more, to much larger scale statues like the thousand hands thousand eyes, as well as theaters, performers, eateries, shops, fountains, and more. The park opened in 1993 and closed a short 10 years later in 2003.


Now one of the most important things to note is that not everyone was impressed with the new park. Before the park even opened, it was being protested by groups that felt the park was propaganda from the Chinese Government. To add to their suspicion, the Republic of China did have partial ownership in the park. Keep in mind that China is a Communist country, and is often the subject of many human rights issues. These groups felt that the park put a happy face on China that ignored the suffering of the repressed religious of the land. In addition, some of the parks miniatures were recreations of sacred religious buildings of those very repressed groups. I don't know that this is an accurate comparison, but imagine if the US government outlawed the practice of the Lutheran religion in this country, and then touted the Lutheran churches of the US in other countries.


So what did all of this protest mean to Splendid China? It meant that throughout the entire time that the park was in operation, it was often housing protesters outside of its gates, and on some occasions, even inside the gates. That's never good for a tourist attraction. In addition, its my understanding that these groups pushed for schools to not take children there. The school field trip is typically a good source of income for a place like this. To add insult to injury, some of the performers from the park that had been brought over from China used their opportunity in the United States to flee their homeland, meaning the park had to replace their performers. Eventually they got wise and hired locals.


You can see the extent of the detail on this miniature. Taken in 2006.

As it would end up, the parks demise may have just been capitalism in itself. The park just couldn't compete with nearby Disney World, and especially Epcot, which had its own China, as well as many other countries. The park opened its gates to some 3000 guests, and eventually dwindled to around 200 per day. Online accounts of trips to the park show it to be nearly empty at times, seeing only a few guests here and there.


Thousand Hands Thousand Eyes - Taken in 2008

The absolute final blow to the park came in the form of the September 11th attacks that led to a decline in tourism. The already struggling park could no longer draw crowds, and after presumably hemorrhaging significant amounts of money, closed its gates forever on December 31st 2003. An auction of many of the goods followed in 2004, and that was the end of the park for most... I say most because you are at sbno, and its not over for us until the last building is bulldozed in to history. After hearing about the park, I couldn't forget about it until I had the chance to bring you, the readers of this site, the pictures you deserve to see.


When I arrived in 2006, I was shocked to see how much of the park still remained. Most of the great wall, which stretched nearly a half mile, and made with individual one inch bricks.. lots of them... like a shocking amount, was still standing. The Grand Buddha statue was nearly untouched. There was plenty of vandalism on the miniatures, but many still resembled intact buildings. The detail was unimaginable. I can't imagine how they were able to build these tiny buildings, with accuracy, able to bear the elements, and on a tight timeline. Construction had started in 1989, so that meant that they were built over a three year period, subtract the various land preparations and whatnot, and you have a tight timeline.

So slowly the park deteriorated, short on income, and plagued by protests. The recipe was not that of success. Ultimately people just weren't overly interested. Many of the restaurants remained closed and empty... How many chinese restaurants can you have in one park? The performers had fled. There were no real rides of any type. The shops were rumored to be a but shotty. The admission price wasn't low, and word was out that the park was struggling. After closing and auctioning off some of the more valuable goods, the park was left to rot away, and that it has. Locals have trashed many of the features. A moron with some matches has managed to burn one of the buildings and started fires in at least two other that I saw.


Sorry Folks, parks closed, moose out front should have told ya. Taken in 2008.

So that's the short version of the days of Florida Splendid China. I made two trips in to the park after it was closed. One trip was in 2006 and a follow up came in late 2008. The 2006 trip was one of the absolute worst trips I have ever taken in to any abandoned building. The temps were very high, I didn't take water, I walked about 2 miles to get in to the rear entrance of the park, and I nearly thought I was going to die. When I got to the front of the park, nearer to were I was parked, I heard people coming toward me... official sounding people, and had to run all the way back to the rear of the park, and all the way back around to my car... already thirsty, in flip flops that had already worn through my skin, and ready to give up and let the buzzards have me.

My 2008 trip was a little better. I went in the early morning. I started at the front of the park this time and made sure no one would be chasing me out. I never heard a soul this time. I thought I heard some things and kept myself on my usual uncomfortable high aleart, but alas, no problems. I took water... everything was great, except I ran out of memory card space, so I didn't get as many pictures as I had wanted.

Anyway, that's my experience with Florida Splendid China. Its really a sad sight to see the amount of work that went in to this place being destroyed by bored kids, but on the flip side, its probably only a matter of time until a construction worker does the job with a dozer.

Please feel free to check out the pictures here...