The Most Illus-TREE-ous Theme Park Trees
What has a bark but doesn’t bite? What drinks but not from a glass? What do you see at nearly every amusement park yet never discuss unless they’re missing?
Why, the answer is trees, of course!
We know we’re going out on a limb here but since it is Arbor Day 2023 we decided to branch out from our usual roller coaster discussion to talk about some of our favorite theme park trees. Trees are used to shade and shelter, block outside intrusions, and tell story. Trees help add to the overall charm of a park. Theme parks and trees just seem to go together. Disneyland was built on 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees. There’s an entire section in David Younger’s book, Theme Park Design, dedicated to horticulture.
Some theme parks embrace their trees. It’s said Holiday World altered the design of the Raven wooden roller coaster specifically to avoid removing any trees unnecessarily. and highly ranked wooded roller coasters like The Voyage, The Beast, and Boulder Dash all careen through dense forests obscuring their full layouts from view.
Other parks tend to clear cut all trees within several feet of their shiny new, multi-million dollar attractions but probably for good reason. In 2014, an entire tree fell on Ninja, the Arrow suspended coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain, derailing one car, injuring four, and leaving twenty riders dangling in the air for hours.
Wooden roller coasters wouldn’t exist without trees. Before it was transformed into Steel Vengeance, Mean Streak at Cedar Point was famously built with approximately 1.7 million board feet of Southern Yellow Pine, a literal mountain of dead trees.
If you don’t have an existing old growth forest to work with, simply make your own! There are some dark rides that have very good pretend forests, such as the ET Adventure Ride at Universal Studios Florida and Na’vi River Journey boat ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Best Theme Park Trees
Trees have made such a big impact on theme parks, you wood not believe. There are some individual trees that rise above all the others, with a few even becoming central to an attraction or even an icon of the entire park. Here’s a list of our favorite theme park trees – in no particular order – including both real and man made trees.
It’s hard to single out an individual one so I’ll just say any colossal Christmas Tree is worth seeing.
The Swiss Family Treehouse – Magic Kingdom
The Swiss Family Treehouse is a popular attraction located in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The attraction is based on the 1960 Disney film “Swiss Family Robinson,” which tells the story of a family that is shipwrecked on a tropical island and must fend for themselves using their resourcefulness and ingenuity.
The Swiss Family Treehouse is a walk-through attraction that allows guests to explore the elaborate treehouse that the Robinson family built on the island. The treehouse is constructed around a large, artificial tree that was built specifically for the attraction, and it is designed to look like a real treehouse that has been built using salvaged materials from the shipwreck.
The Whomping Willow – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The Whomping Willow is a fictional tree that appears in the Harry Potter book and movie series. In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios theme parks, the Whomping Willow is featured as part of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The Whomping Willow is a large, violent tree with branches that thrash around wildly and can cause significant damage to anyone who comes too close. In the Harry Potter story, the Whomping Willow was planted to conceal a secret passage that leads to the Shrieking Shack, a supposedly haunted building in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
In the Forbidden Journey ride, guests enter the Hogwarts castle and board enchanted benches that take them on a simulated journey through various Harry Potter scenes and locations, including encounters with magical creatures and characters from the books and movies. During the ride, guests encounter the Whomping Willow as it attacks their benches, adding an element of excitement and danger to the experience. The Whomping Willow on the Forbidden Journey ride is a carefully crafted animatronic that looks and moves just like the fictional tree from the books and movies. Its movements are synchronized with the ride’s motion simulator technology to create a thrilling and immersive experience for guests.
Everland Theme Park Tree
The Everland Theme Park Tree is a massive artificial tree that serves as the centerpiece of Everland Theme Park, located in Yongin, South Korea. The tree stands at over 200 feet tall and features thousands of LED lights that create a stunning visual display at night. The tree is part of the park’s Magic Garden attraction and serves as the backdrop for a nightly multimedia show called “Moonlight Parade.” The show features dancers, performers, and illuminated floats that move around the base of the tree, while music and lighting effects add to the spectacle.
The giant magical tree in Everland, making it their signature. Did you know that Everland is the largest theme park in South Korea and is operated and owned by Samsung? 🤔 Samsung originated in South Korea though. 😊
.#everland #everlandkorea #southkorea #korea #travel #pas… pic.twitter.com/gMgueoxHm5
— Patrick Melecio (@patrickmelecio) March 3, 2019
The Everland Theme Park Tree is designed to be a whimsical and enchanting element of the park’s overall theming. Its towering height and dazzling lights make it a standout feature of the park and a popular attraction for visitors. In addition to its nightly shows, the tree is also decorated with seasonal ornaments and lights for special events throughout the year, such as Christmas and Halloween. The construction of the Everland Theme Park Tree was a significant engineering feat, requiring the use of cranes and specialized equipment to lift the tree’s massive components into place. Today, the tree stands as a testament to the park’s commitment to creating immersive and memorable experiences for its guests.
Mystic Tree Show – Songcheng
Hangzhou Song Dynasty Town is the first and the largest Song Dynasty culture theme park in China, keeping alive the folk customs of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279). The Mystic Tree Show is a nighttime entertainment show located at the Songcheng Park in Hangzhou, China. The show features a giant artificial tree that stands at over 100 feet tall and serves as the centerpiece of a multimedia performance that combines music, lights, and special effects.
Tree of Sports – Indianapolis Children’s Museum
OK, not exactly a theme park but the Tree of Sports is found at the best children’s museum in the country. And they do have a carousel and highly themed areas so I’m counting it.
Butterfly Tree – Dollywood
The Butterfly Tree is a special feature located in the Wildwood Grove section of Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The tree is a massive, artificial structure that stands at over 50 feet tall and is covered in thousands of colorful butterflies. The Butterfly Tree serves as a focal point of the Wildwood Grove area, which is designed to be an immersive, nature-themed section of the park. The tree’s vibrant colors and fluttering butterflies create a magical and enchanting atmosphere that immerses visitors in the natural world.
Tree of Life – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life is a massive, artificial tree located in the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The tree stands at 145 feet tall and is 50 feet wide at its base, with over 300 detailed animal carvings etched into its trunk and branches. The Tree of Life serves as an iconic symbol of Animal Kingdom and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Walt Disney World Resort. The tree’s intricate carvings and impressive size make it a wonder to behold, and visitors can spend hours exploring its various nooks and crannies to discover all of the animal sculptures hidden within its branches.
Circus Trees – Gilroy Gardens
Circus Trees are a collection of over two dozen unique, living trees that were sculpted into whimsical shapes by a man named Axel Erlandson. The trees were originally part of a larger collection known as the “Tree Circus,” which Erlandson began creating in the early 1900s. The Circus Trees were later purchased by Michael Bonfante, the founder of Bonfante Gardens (now known as Gilroy Gardens), a theme park located in Gilroy, California. Bonfante moved the trees to the park in the 1980s, where they have become one of the park’s most popular attractions.
Each Circus Tree is a unique creation, carefully crafted by Erlandson over a period of decades using various grafting techniques. Some of the trees, such as the Basket Tree and the Four-Legged Giant, have been shaped into functional forms, while others, such as the Mirror Tree and the Spiral Staircase Tree, are purely decorative. The Circus Trees at Gilroy Gardens are considered to be living works of art and a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of Axel Erlandson. They serve as a reminder of the power of nature and the incredible things that can be accomplished with a little patience and imagination.
Banyan Tree – Legoland Florida
The Banyan tree at Legoland Florida is a large, real-life Banyan tree that was incorporated into the design of the park’s Cypress Gardens section, which pays tribute to the historic gardens that were once located on the site.
The Legoland Florida Banyan tree is over 80 years old!
It’s worth noting that Banyan trees are not true “trunked” trees, but rather a type of fig tree that grows aerial roots from its branches. Over time, these roots can become thick and woody, resembling trunks and creating a complex network of roots that support the tree and its many branches. This unique growth habit allows Banyan trees to grow to immense sizes and live for centuries.
Were there any awesome theme park trees leaf off this list? How many tree puns did you count? Sorry if my jokes were a little too acorny. Let us know in the comments below!