For eight years, I lived in Durham, NC, and for eight years, I told myself “Someday!” when I drove past the abandoned Durham Funwerks amusement park on Garrett Road, right before the 15-501 intersection. Someday, I would explore the mysterious giant castle. Someday, I would hike my way through the overgrown mini-golf course to the tiny castle.Someday, I would indulge my love of strolling through vacant spaces I probably shouldn’t be in at all.
It took nearly the whole eight years to get to it, but a few weeks before our move to California, I set aside an hour to trample the grounds and see what it hid from view of the road. Turns out it hid a lot! The park had only closed the year before I moved to Durham, but visitors to the park, both of human and animal form, had been busy in that time. I started in the main building, which no doubt held an arcade once. Now it houses a lot of graffiti.
The building’s side actually holds the more interesting graffiti in that it created aesthetically pleasing lines and shades to my eye—I realize that sounds really pretentious, but I’m being honest, I swear.
Beyond the main building is a large concrete slab that likely hosted baseball cages or some other sports-affiliated activity at one point, but I couldn’t tell you what that once was. It wasn’t very exciting, but I was intrigued by the gate I spotted far off with my zoom lens.
I’d love to know if that led to anything but a ditch, but I didn’t feel adventurous enough on my own to go check it out. After investigating the slab, it was time to head toward the spiral go-kart track.
The track actually had an overpass, which was pretty badass for an amusement park. I was impressed by its paint job as well.
Its underneath had obviously been converted into a camp for transients, if the hammocks and belongings were any indication.
Thankfully for me, everyone was out for the day. And walking through it led to my favorite image from this foray.
The mini-golf course began nearby, and thus I set out to traverse each of its 18 holes. To be honest, I’m not sure I found all 18, but I was impressed by how many different ways the plant life was reclaiming the cement terrain.
The deer were especially fond of the empty bumper boat lagoon nearby.
I was surprised by how pretty the algae-covered pond was, though I do not recommend crossing the bridge.
It was extremely rickety, and I think I still have scars from the saw grass. I repeat: Do not cross the bridge. Of course, my primary goal was to get to the tiny castle. Unfortunately, my fear of ticks won out in that battle, but I did get close.
My consolation prize was a happy wish on the way back to the parking lot. And yes, I smiled at it.
While I’m certain the Durham Funwerks park gave its visitors a lot of enjoyment during the two years it operated before bankruptcy, I can’t help but think it’s serving a worthier purpose now in enchanting the drivers who pass it by, always wondering what’s hidden in those abandoned towers. For the rest of the album, click here.by