While there are many inviting travel destinations the world over, we often pine for the most adventurous and unique; we long to experience those one-of-a-kind vacation spots we’ve heard about from family and friends.
It’s happened to all of us—hearing recollections (accompanied by photos and souvenirs) of a trip so amazing, entertaining, and unforgettable that it tickles our imagination, inspiring us to get our travel plans in order.
If all goes well, we’ll experience these seemingly fantastical spots for ourselves; we’ll fill up our Instagram accounts with moments we can revisit long after we’ve returned.
But, as you’ll see, not every ideal getaway is still accessible. In some cases, they no longer physically exist. How is that allowed to happen? How could such idyllic locales vanish from our list of options? Are there any alternatives in the area that could scratch our traveler’s itch?
Whether a tourist hotspot was affected by poor business decisions, acts of legislation, or other factors, there are many reasons why some of the most iconic attractions are no longer open for business. Let’s look at several examples of vacation spots relegated to the past—and look into alternative vacation spots in nearby.
The World of Sid and Marty Krofft (Atlanta, Georgia)
Children of the ‘70s and ‘80s had their minds forever warped by brothers Sid and Marty Krofft, the duo responsible for classic kids shows like Land of the Lost, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and HR Pufnstuf.
The shows were whimsical, bizarre, otherworldly, and utterly unforgettable. The brothers allowed their unfettered imagination to run wild when they launched The World of Sid and Marty Krofft, featuring many of their TV creations, back in 1976. It was the first all-indoors amusement park.
The Kroffts discussed their unconventional venture in an interview with Forbes, where Sid Krofft beamed over their favorite attraction: “We had a pinball ride that you got into the ball.”
“The ball in the pinball machine,” Marty elaborated, “…You got three, four people in the ball, and you got knocked through the inner workings of the pinball machine. That was the highlight of the park.”
In addition, Sid recalled that even the entryway to the park was magical: “You went up a nine-story, one-span escalator—never duplicated in the world. …And when you got to the top, you were in the clouds, and we painted everybody’s face.”
In addition, the park boasted a giant indoor skating rink, a floating crystal carousel, puppet variety shows, and a dark carnival ride akin to the infamous “boat ride” in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Given the popularity of their children’s shows, success for their theme park seemed like a no-brainer, but there were complications. It was particularly expensive for its time, costing $58 million, and to make back their investment, they charged higher ticket prices than nearby Six Flags. This led many families to opt for the cheaper alternative. Compounding matters was the fact that the park was much smaller than Six Flags, which limited the number of daily attendees.
Marty Krofft said the location was also an issue: “It wound up in Atlanta. The sad part was, downtown Atlanta was a big problem. They never really protected us downtown.” This was a problem given the high crime rate in that area during that time. It would stay open less than a year.
If you’re looking to see what remains of the Krofft’s magical theme park realm, take the CNN guided tour. Why, you may ask? Because the network owns and operates the building where it once stood. You can still ride that magic escalator, which now takes you into the news network’s studio space.
Before the news people moved in, CNN Center was The World of Sid and Marty Krofft, the first indoor amusement park. pic.twitter.com/CJOAZRcZrL
— Christopher Moloney (@Moloknee) April 22, 2016
Oh, and the Kroffts are captivating a whole new generation thanks to Nickelodeon’s Mutt and Stuff and their reboot of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters on Amazon Prime.
The Gobbler Motel and Supper Club (Johnson Creek, Wisconsin)
This eye-popping lodge and resort would be a kitsch-lover’s paradise if it still existed today. The Gobbler Motel and Supper Club was designed as a romantic getaway by poultry farmer Clarence Hartwig. It first opened in 1967.
His primary stock-in-trade was infused into the location’s identity, from its bird-themed moniker to its menu to even the unique shape of the complex.
Gobbler designer Helmut Ajango recounted Hartwig’s bizarre specifications to Wisconsin Historical Society preservation officer Jim Draeger: “They were driving across the field in the turkey farmer’s Cadillac. …Clarence was waving his arms and saying, ‘I want it to look like a turkey.’”
But that’s just one aspect of its quirky architectural charms. It was a fanciful mishmash of mid-century modern and ‘Googie’ design, which made it cutting edge for its day, and utterly unlike any travel stay you’ve ever seen.
It looked like the 1960s version of the future, and it was luxurious in its own oddball way. Suites included the Passion Pit, equipped with two TVs and a clamshell-shaped bed. Eevery bed in the lodge was a waterbed, some of them even heart-shaped.
It got even more fanciful with the inclusion of sunken bathtubs, built-in 8-track recorders, and plush shag carpeting (that even went up the walls!).
Beyond the accomodations, the Gobbler offered more surreal delights, including a rotating circular bar, a massive indoor pool, and the multi-level supper club, which looked like a gleaming spacecraft and featured a dance club, lounge, and even turkey-patterned carpet.
Perhaps the Gobbler was too ahead of its time. Irony wasn’t en vogue, and it didn’t exist long enough to become a vintage find. Declining revenue, a lawsuit, and poor business decisions by Hartwig eventually led to its closure in 1992, denying hipsters their dream destination.
While The Gobbler hotel and eatery is no more, its legacy lives on in The Gobbler Theater, a music venue that operates in the remodeled supper club (which still includes the rotating bar), and features national touring acts.
This pleases Drager, who discussed the renovated theater in a piece for the Chicago Reader: “I’d been very concerned about that building—buildings like the Gobbler that push the edges of popular architecture taste are important.”
The Borscht Belt (Catskill, New York)
Nestled in the scenic Catskill Mountains, The Borscht Belt was one of the most thriving vacation spots on the East Coast for decades.
According to Michael Kosowski, history buff and Senior Account Executive for Herald PR in New York, “The Borscht Belt was the slang term for the unrelated chain of resorts in the Catskills that many Jewish families from NYC would vacation in during the summer. These resorts would have Yiddish plays and would host some of the most interesting personalities in Jewish theatre from NYC.”
Indeed, the area, which came to prominence in the 1920s, was the epicenter for entertainment. In fact, it was the origin point for stand-up comedy, with local clubs helping to launch the careers of comedic legends Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Jerry Stiller, and Lenny Bruce.
Kokowski added that the Borscht Belt (named after a type of soup favored by Eastern immigrants) filled a cultural void: “For a time, New York City was the only center of the dwindling Yiddish-speaking population after World War II. Israel had outlawed Yiddish plays for a very long time because Hebrew was supposed to be the national tongue—and Yiddish was a reminder of a stage of history that was supposed to be closed.”
“New York was the capital of the remaining Yiddish culture,” he continued. “Just like how the Boston Symphony ‘retires itself’ to Tanglewood every summer—that is exactly what Yiddish Theatre/Yiddish Singers in New York City would do each summer to the Borscht Belt.”
Featuring a host of stately resorts, dining spots, summer camps, and the aforementioned entertainment showcases, it looked like the Borscht Belt was built to last, but its heyday was coming to a close as the ‘80s rolled in.
It’s status as the vacation of choice for the Jewish community fizzled out by the mid ‘80s, with popular hotels like Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel shutting its doors. It now looks like a ghost town.
Why did it suffer a steep decline? There are a variety of theories: Some say the rise of air travel affected business, while others say mismanagement hastened its demise. Another speculation is that the 1964 Civil Rights act had an effect when it prevented other destinations from purposefully excluding Jewish people. Now we only have photos and recollections from past generations to keep its legacy intact.
While the Borscht Belt no longer exists, Resorts World Catskills has begun to revitalize the area. The 18-story hotel and casino occupies the space of beloved Borscht Belt hotel The Concord and features a variety of restaurants, a large event center, and a massive golf course. A spacious, indoor water park is also currently in construction.
In April 2018, the resort booked Jerry Seinfeld as the headliner for its grand opening.
Memories That Last a Lifetime
Vacations are meant to rejuvenate and relax us, allowing us to share experiences and form new memories with those we love. Just as we shouldn’t take our relationships with our travel partners for granted, neither should we assume the places we wish to visit will always be there (or at least in the form that we remember).
That’s why it’s important to savor these special spots while they’re still with us. We must compile memories at those getaways to make sure their legacies, if nothing else, live on.
Travel is an experience that enriches our lives and teaches us the history behind spots that still stand and spots that once stood—and it makes our lives happier in the process. Come to think of it, when’s the last time you had a vacation?