The Getaway
Vacation Spots Our Grandparents Could Visit, But We Can't (or Don't)

Few things can stand the test of time, including the world's most famous destinations. Our grandparents may not have been able to travel as easily as we can now, but they had access to some of the greatest vacation spots in the world. However, many of these once-scenic sites have decayed into ghost towns and ruins or have simply banned all visitors over the decades. The stories behind these legendary locales are often as interesting as they are unsettling.


01 The Sutro Baths

In 1894, self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro developed the remarkable Sutro Bath, covering three acres. This lavish building was an architectural marvel and filled its seven pools with water directly from the Pacific Ocean. The baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time and offered pools at several different temperatures. Despite its glamour and success, this famed destination's maintenance costs were simply too high, causing it to fail in the 60s. Before demolition was complete, however, it burnt to the ground in 1966.  

The Sutro Baths in San Francisco with the Golden Gate in the background, San Francisco, California, 1900. (Photo by Detroit Publishing Company/Underwood Archives/Getty Images) Underwood Archives / Getty Images

02 The Hippodrome

When it first opened to the Manhattan public in 1905, the New York Hippodrome was billed as the largest theater in the world. Its 100-foot-by-200-foot stage and ability to seat over 5,000 spectators easily fit such a claim. This mammoth of a venue drew some of the most famous performers of the time, including Harry Houdini. Unfortunately, running such a large venue costs a pretty penny, and the owners struggled to keep the doors open. Around 17 years later, the owners converted it into a vaudeville theater. Five years after that, it became a movie theater. Soon after that, an opera house and a sports arena. However, the Great Depression dealt the finishing blow to the theater, and it finally shut down for good. Demolition occurred in 1939 to make way for an office building and parking garage.  

New York: The Hippodrome Theatre. Culture Club / Getty Images

03 Palisades Amusement Park

This 30-acre park in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, operated from 1898 through 1971. The park swapped hands many times during its early years, and each owner added new exhibits and attractions. Palisades Amusement Park rapidly increased in popularity, becoming one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the mid-20th century. However, its racial segregation policies led to frequent riots and police brutality cases, causing significant controversy. These issues, in combination with deaths from ride disrepair, led to the park closing at the height of its popularity.  

Visitors at the Palisades Amusement Park, New Jersey, which boasts a sandy 'beach' enclosure and fairground rides, circa 1947. Keystone / FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

04 Marineland of the Pacific

Before there was Seaworld, there was Marineland of the Pacific. This massive park, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was the world's largest oceanarium and one of the premier vacation spots of the mid-20th century. Many people considered it to be California's first major theme park. The performing Orcas were by far the most popular attraction, but the park also drew millions of visitors with its Baja Reef, a revolutionary swim-through aquarium with a variety of sea life. The park closed down in 1987 after years of barely breaking even.  

Vintage linen postcard published in 1942 from series depicting titled 'Colorful Florida Attractions' for travelers and tourist, here a military soldier in uniform feeds a dolphin at Marine Studios, now Marineland Dolphin Adventure, in Marineland, Florida Nextrecord Archives / Getty Images

05 Disney's River Country

Disney's first water park, River Country, opened its doors in 1976. With Discovery Island just across the river, two of Walt Disney World's most popular attractions were a mere walk away from each other. This "old-fashioned swimming hole" featured areas like Slippery Slide Falls and Bay Cove, complete with tire swings and rope climbs. Ultimately, River Country closed without warning in 2001 and left to decay. To this day, Disney has not spoken about why they shut down the wildly popular water park.

06 The Statue of Liberty…'s torch

Even before its dedication in 1886, the Statue of Liberty attracted visitors from around the world. Many people chartered boats during its construction to get as close as they could to the massive structure, while thousands of others admired it from the surrounding docks. However, German agents set off an explosion during WWI, damaging the torch-bearing right arm. Officials closed the narrow ascent to the torch for safety reasons, never to open it again.  

A group of people leaning out of the head of the Statue of Liberty in New York, seen from the torch above. Fox Photos / Getty Images

07 Train Street

For most people, seeing a train barreling down a busy street would be downright terrifying. However, for the residents of Train Street in Hanoi, Vietnam, it's just a normal part of the day. A variety of houses, shops, and cafes all sit mere inches from the track, creating an interesting, if scary, visual. However, tourists are now banned from the area as too many people were crowding the tracks, bothering locals, and generally being nuisances.

Detail of the railroad tracks in its haven district of Hanoi Station. Men and women sharing their daily activity with the passage of trains JordiRamisa / Getty Images

08 The Lascaux Caves

History fans all over the world mourned that dark day when the Lascaux Caves officially stopped admitting visitors. This complex series of caves in Northwestern France is home to some of the planet's most beautiful and ancient Paleolithic cave paintings. Since their public opening in 1948, people have admired ancient artwork depicting various animals that once lived in the area, as well as several pairs of hands. By 1955, contaminants from the many visitors had damaged the paintings, leading to them closing the original caves. While you can still visit replicas of the caves, it's not quite the same experience.  

Paleolithic cave-painting of of 'swimming deer' from Lascaux, France, c15000 BC. CM Dixon / Print Collector / Getty Images

09 The Pioneer Cabin Tree

Nature is full of sights that will fill you with awe or strike you speechless, but the sequoias in California are truly something special. One of the most wondrous examples of these majestic giants was the Pioneer Cabin Tree in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. In the 1800s, the tree was already a popular destination thanks to lightning and fires burning a massive hole in its center. Locals chose to smooth and carve out the hole to an impressive 32-foot diameter. Expanding the hole brought even more attention, and the tree became a famous landmark for the next century. However, a massive storm finally toppled the behemoth in 2017.

Stereoscopic view of a bearded man as he sits on a folding chair at the base of the Pioneer's Cabin Tree, in a Giant Sequoia forest near Arnold, California, mid ninteenth century. The image was published by E. & H.T. Anthony. A tunnel was cut through the base of the tree in the 1880s and the entire area was later designated as Calavaras Big Trees State Park. Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images

10 The Original Penn Station

Drawing inspiration from the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, the original Penn Station was a marvel of Beaux-Arts style decor and one of New York's truly great architectural works, featuring soaring archways and domed ceilings. The original building was one of the first stations to separate arriving and departing passengers. These separate rooms were among the largest public spaces in New York City. Despite its cultural importance and general popularity, a lack of passenger traffic led to the station's demolition in the 1960s.  

Interior main concourse of Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), New York, New York, 1911 Geo. P. Hall & Son / The New York Historical Society / Getty Images

11 The Salton Sea

Every so often, the Colorado River would naturally flood into the Salton Sink, forming a freshwater lake. In the early 1900s, California attempted to build irrigation canals for farmers, but these would eventually fail and cause the entirety of the Colorado River's volume to flood the region, creating what would be known as the Salton Sea. Visitors referred to this new region as the "Salton Riviera," and it became a bustling tourist hub that many considered to be the next Palm Springs. Hundreds of Hollywood stars and politicians made frequent stops at the oasis, making it one of the most popular vacation spots of the 50s and 60s. A rising sea level contaminated the region and forced people to abandon the once-thriving community.  

12 Michigan Central Station

Many decades ago, Detroit was once home to the tallest railroad station in the world. Widely considered to be Detroit's Ellis Island, Michigan Central Station opened in 1913. With its 68-foot Corinthian columns, 54-foot ceilings, and many classically-beautiful chandeliers, the station was a favored stop for travelers. However, a continuing loss of passengers led to its complete closure in 1988. Over the years, the station continued to crumble and decay. However, Ford has recently bought the property and plans to return it to its former majesty.  

Concourse of Michigan Central Station showing train sheds in circa 1913 in Detroit, Michigan. Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

13 Daffodil Hill

After traveling west from New York and Ohio, Arthur McLaughlin and his wife purchased a ranch from a Dutchman named Pete Denzer, who had planted several daffodils in honor of his home country of the Netherlands. Over the years, the couple continued to add more flowers, transforming the nearby fields into an explosion of colors. Since the late 1800s, visitors have marveled at the beauty of Daffodil Hill, but cameras becoming widespread dramatically increased the area's popularity. With the advent of the smartphone, thousands of flower lovers and influencers swarmed the region to capture its majesty on film. Unfortunately, this massive influx of visitors has led to it banning tourists for the near future. Though the local government has planted thousands of daffodils elsewhere, nothing can replace Daffodil Hill.  


14 Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel

Many years ago, a chain of resorts in the Catskill Mountains formed the "Borscht Belt." The crown jewel of these opulent summer getaways was Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel in Liberty, New York. During its heyday in the 50s and 60s, the hotel was a haven for wealthy vacationers from all over the world, though it was particularly known for attracting legendary comedians like Mel Brooks and Jackie Mason. This resort left such an impact, and it even inspired "Kellerman's Mountain Resort" from the movie "Dirty Dancing." As tropical locales drew visitors away from the Borscht Belt, the resort had to close its doors in 1986, leaving its swimming pool, golf course, ski slope, and airplane landing strip to decay.  

LIBERTY, NY - NOVEMBER 30: A man and a woman ice skate at Grossinger's Resort on November 29, 1954 in Liberty, New York. Hy Peskin / Getty Images

15 Varosha, Famagusta

In the early 1970s, Famagusta — and the southern quarter of Varosha — was the number-one tourist destination in Cyprus. Boasting some of the most incredible beaches in the world, celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, and Richard Burton all frequented Varosha's many luxury seaside resorts. In response to its booming tourism, the city constructed high-rise hotels that easily became world-famous. In 1974, potential combat between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish armies caused the population of Famagusta to flee. The city remained uninhabitable for decades and has never regained its former glory.

FAMAGUSTA , CYPRUS - JULY 11: Tourists lie on a public beach next to decaying hotel buildings that stand inside the 'Forbidden Zone' of Varosha district on July 11, 2017 in Famagusta, Cyprus. Abandoned and decaying Buildings of the empty city of Famagusta ghost town.The abandoned quarter of Varosha was once a prime Cypriot resort. The Turkish military in the 1974 war has sealed off since Varosha residents fled after Turkey invaded Cyprus. Cyprus is a member of the European Union and north the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey. Athanasios Gioumpasis / Getty Images

Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.