Earlier this month when rumors spread that The Hunger Games trilogy would be getting its own theme park à la Harry Potter, my first thought was, Why? A theme park modeled after books about political unrest and children killing each other? Sure, that’d be great for parents who secretly plan on bringing their kids home from family vacation in a casket — but for everyone else, why bum your kids out on vacation when you could just give them the actual Hunger Games books to read?
The theorizations of what the theme park would look like aren’t much better. TIME’s ideas sound a lot like the synthetic alternative to hunting in the woods the old-fashioned way, and Melville House thinks the park should include a roller coaster that gives riders a “harsh glimpse at what it’s like to work in the coal mines.” Maybe I only hate these ideas because I grew up in a place where you can do all of this for free, or maybe I hate them because a sugarcoated playground rip off of The Hunger Games misses the entire point of the books.
At least when Harry Potter was adapted into a theme park it made sense — even though that series is peppered with political uprising and death, it still centers on the fun and magical elements of a world we can’t possibly experience outside our doors or in a book. And here’s hoping that The Lord of the Rings theme park rumors come true long before The Hunger Games do — but in the meantime, here are some books that would make not only family-friendly theme parks, but also incredibly entertaining ones.
Magic Tree House
In case it’s been too long since you were a kid, let me refresh your memory: two kids have a tree house that takes them to different countries and eras in which they have to solve a mysterious riddle in order to go home. In the end, all of the riddles are used to save literature as we know it, and the kids become Master Librarians. Cool.
Not only were these books awesome because I really wanted a tree house as a kid, they also gave digestible insight to the history and culture of other parts of the world. A Magic Tree House theme park would be a lot like Disney’s Epcot, except actually fun for kids. With settings like ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, and the Cretaceous period, there is an endless array of rides and attractions to choose from. And for good measure, the hotel that goes along with the theme park would be a bunch of tree houses, because tree houses will never not be awesome. But enough about that — who’s up for a ride on the Great Wall of China roller coaster?
The hotel that goes along with the theme park would be a bunch of tree houses, because tree houses will never not be awesome.
While I’d love there to be one giant theme park for all of my favorite book musicals, few of them are based off a novel elaborate enough to make the theme park work (even with all of its 1,500 or so pages, more people die in Les Miserables than in The Hunger Games). Wicked, however, is perfect.
Wicked makes for a better theme park than the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because, first of all, the Wicked Witch in the original turns out to be not very wicked at all. One of the major overlooked themes of the world of L. Frank Baum/Gregory Maguire is learning to reject stereotypes and accept people for who they are — a sickeningly wholesome 1950s-esque message kids wouldn’t get while trying to kill each other in a post-apocalyptic arena. Second, the political messages of Wicked are at least served up alongside magic and talking animals. If at any moment things get too sticky, characters could break out into “Defying Gravity” or “Dancing Through Life” to cheer things up.
House of Leaves
As I see it, House of Leaves deserves to be turned into a theme park (or at least a seasonal attraction) more than any other book. Here’s the setup: a house is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and starts expanding internally as time goes on, calling to mind this house. For all its confusing details and unreliable narrators, the house leaves much to the readers’ interpretation, allowing for the possibility of a choose your own adventure-style experience. It also has versatility — what could be just a weird house any other time of the year could become the ultimate haunted house in the fall. If House of Leaves were actually built, it would be the ultimate cross between storytelling and architecture — especially because the narrative includes enough footnotes to make David Foster Wallace dizzy. I’d love to see a house with footnotes.
If House of Leaves were actually built, it would be the ultimate cross between storytelling and architecture — especially because the narrative includes enough footnotes to make David Foster Wallace dizzy.
Every Book by Roald Dahl Ever
Okay, maybe not every book — but definitely Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda (for similar reasons as Wicked), to name a few. Although someone is already trying to take on the challenge of making an edible chocolate factory, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be expanded into an entire theme park, right?
Aside from a chocolate river and candy flowers, the park would mix together all of the best parts of Dahl’s works: a giant peach roller coaster, anthropomorphic animals, BFG’s giving people lifts to opposite ends of the park instead of sky gliders, glass elevators for the adults to ride in, and so on. But there’s one condition: this theme park just has to be called the Dahl House.