Until the mid-1960s, Orlando was a sleepy little town with not a whole lot going on. Then Walt Disney World was announced and within a few years, Central Florida was the vacation kingdom of the world.
Walt Disney World came first, of course (well, Gatorland has been there since 1949). And as they expanded, other theme parks, as well as some smaller attractions, opened too. Universal. Sea World. Old Town.
But not all of them remained successful. Through the years, several theme parks and local attractions in the Orlando area have come and gone. Circus World turned into Boardwalk and Baseball, which turned into a retail complex full of big box stores. Cypress Gardens closed and the property eventually became Legoland. Wet ‘n Wild is now the site of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort. Arabian Nights, Dolly’s Stampede, the Xanadu House, Terror on Church Street, Mystery Fun House, Jungleland Zoo, Church Street Station, Splendid China, Water Mania, Skull Kingdom…all gone.
Another theme park is about to be added to that list: Holy Land Experience.
Holy Land Experience originally opened in 2001 as a Christian-based theme park and registered non-profit corporation. They conducted weekly church services and bible studies for the general public, which allowed them to keep their non-profit status. To remain in keeping with the law that allowed them to keep their non-profit status, they had to open to the public, for free, once a year.
At the height of its popularity, Holy Land Experience had about 43 exhibits. However, as popular as the park had been in its early days, it’s been having something of a long, drawn-out death for years; you can read its history in an article with the clever title of, The Holy Land Experience Never Made It To The Financial Promised Land.
In February 2020, just *before* COVID, the park laid off most of its staff, and closed all theatrical productions, restaurants and retail shops. It remained closed throughout COVID, of course, but even as all the other parks reopen, Holy Land Experience remained shuttered.
The park did reopen, for 2 days, this past April, for its annual “free day”(they hadn’t had one in 2020 – I guess being open for free for 2 days would make up for 2020?). But then it shut its doors again.
However, it was reported in the Orlando Sentinel late last week that the Holy Land Experience was recently sold for $32 million. The 14 acres of property were purchased by AdventHealth.
AdventHealth (formerly the Adventist Health System) is a faith-based, non-profit health care system. However, it doesn’t appear they plan to use the property as a Christian-themed theme park.
“AdventHealth will make a significant investment in redeveloping the property to bring enhanced health care services to the community,” said Amy Pavuk-Gentry, a representative for AdventHealth. “Details on our site plans will be released in the future. Orlando continues to be one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, and it’s important that residents have access to health care that’s close to home, convenient and comprehensive.”
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary