If you’ve ever read the book Gulliver’s Travels, and wondered how Gulliver felt when he was washed ashore from his shipwreck and woke up in a land of tiny people called Lilliput, here’s your opportunity to find out.
You probably won’t get tied up and find yourself in the middle of a war of tiny nations, but you will get to see some astounding miniature buildings. The attention to detail at these parks is hard to believe. You’ll find yourself wondering how the designers created such intricate, exact replicas.
Bekonscot Model Village and Railroad – United Kingdom
This miniature park is located just 10 minutes outside of London in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. It was constructed in 1929, making it the oldest park of it’s kind in the world. Walking through the two-acre site will undoubtedly give you a glimpse of what English country life was like in the 1930‘s.
It was built in the back garden of the designer, around his swimming pool (which he used to represent the sea) as entertainment for his guests. Much later it became a tourist attraction. The six model villages are all make-believe places with shops that have silly names like the Lee Key Plumbers Merchants.
Wander through the colorful gardens, take a train ride around the property, stroll along the elevated walkway, play with the radio-controlled boats and enjoy the picnic area.
Madurodam – The Netherlands
This was a great park that we visited when my children were small. They thought it was incredible that they were bigger than the buildings and it was fun to watch them race down the paths, stopping occasionally in front of a structure that they recognized from our travels through this small country.
While strolling through the miniature city you’ll see gabled houses, canals, windmills, cows, canal boats and other typical Dutch scenes. You’ll even find a mini version of Schiphol airport, which took two years and four months to complete. The detail in this park is so amazing that you’ll enjoy it even if you are traveling without kids.
The park is located in the Hague, just outside of Amsterdam. A route guide to help you navigate the park is available in 13 different languages.
Cockington Green Gardens – Australia
This park opened about 30 years ago and is still a family owned establishment. It’s so well done that it’s won several tourism awards. The gardens are located about 15 minutes outside of Canberra.
The original models include the thatched roof village of Cockington in Great Britain, Baraemar Castle in Scotland and Stonehenge. Since then, the owners have added an international area where you’ll see the Lahore Gate and Red Fort from India, St. Mark’s Church from Croatia, the Palace of Darius – Perspolis from Iran and a lot more.
Along with the miniatures there is also a cafe, a small steam train ride, a mini train display, lovely gardens that sprawl across a two acre area, and an indoor exhibit area which currently displays an incredible 34 room Georgian style doll house.
Window of the World – China
Located in the city of Shenzhen, this is a park where you can spend a good portion of a day and see 130 of the world’s most incredible sights. You’ll wonder why you bothered to travel the planet when you could have seen everything in one place.
Set on 148 acres, you’ll find replicas of a 354-foot tall Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Acropolis, the Pyramids, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and on and on. The displays in the park are built at ratios of 1:1, 1: 5 and 1:15.
If you like, you can choose different adventure trips to experience while you are visiting including skiing in the indoor alpine area or navigating the Colorado River. There are also several festivals each year hosted at the park – the Cherry Festival, International Beer Festival, Pop Music Festival, World Dance and Singing Gala and others.
Swiss Miniatur – Switzerland
This open-air miniature park is located in Melide on the shores of Lake Lugano. It was built about 50 years ago with the goal of representing a smaller version of the country of Switzerland. All of the models are built on a scale of 1:25.
Inside the park you’ll discover 120 replicas of houses, castles and cathedrals that represent life in Switzerland including Burgdorf Castle and Chillon Castle. There is also a wonderful display called Heidi’s Village in Maienfeld, which is a must-see for anyone who read and enjoyed the book.
For the train lover, there is an extensive miniature train display that includes 11,500 feet of track and 18 moving trains. This outdoor park is open from mid-March through mid-November.
Forbidden Gardens – United States
This park, which is located in Katy, Texas, about 25 miles outside of Houston, was built in 1997 by a Hong Kong native living in the United States. His idea behind the development of the park was the hope of educating people about the history and culture of ancient China.
The sprawling park sits on 40 acres and inside you’ll find replicas of the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Summer Palace and more. If you visit with your kids on Asian Adventure Day (which needs to be booked in advance) they will get a guided historical tour, and have a craft activity like making Chinese opera masks or paper lanterns.
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Ave Maria Grotto – United States
This unusual park sits on four acres of a Benedictine Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. It was constructed over a 40-year period by a monk named Brother Joseph Zoetti. He built the 125 miniatures of famous churches, shrines and other buildings out of, well, basically junk that people donated for the cause – glass, marble, costume jewelry, broken tiles, whatever, along with some cement and other building materials.
As you walk down a forested trail you’ll pass by replicas of St. Peter’s Basilica, various Spanish missions, scenes of ancient Jerusalem and even a Tower of Babel. What started as a hobby for him became a life’s work and has been written about in a book entitled Miniature Miracles.
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Mini Israel – Israel
This park is symbolically laid out in the shape of the star of David, with each point representing a specific area – Tel Aviv, Haifa, Negev, Jerusalem, Galil and Center. In it you’ll find 350 structures which have historical, cultural and religious importance to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The models were built on a ratio of 1:25 and completed in 2002 by a diverse team of designers, architects and model builders from different areas and various religious affiliations. It is located in the Avalon Valley near the city of Latrun.
Along with all of the religious structures you’ll also see live bonsai trees, about 30,000 figurines of people, 500 figures of animals, and close to 5,000 mini automobiles, trains motorcycles and airplanes.
Mini Europe – Belgium
After spending a few hours at this park in Brussels, you’ll feel like you’ve visited all of Europe. The models are a representation of 80 cities consisting of 350 buildings. You’ll see things like the Viking Ring Fort of Denmark, the City Hall of Stockholm, the Doge’s Palace in Venice, the Acropolis of Athens and the Houses of Parliament in London.
This park is very well known for the quality of the models. Many of them were quite expensive to build (hundreds of thousands of dollars.) Some of the models were gifts donated by the country represented. Many of the models actually work, like an erupting Vesuvius.
Tobu World Square – Japan
Let’s face it, most people are not going to get to that many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But, if you make it to this park you’ll at least get to see 42 of them in a miniature 1:25 scale. Some of the models include the Great Wall of China, Parthenon, Statue of Liberty, Sphinx and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The creators of the park paid very close attention to detail during the five years of building. In fact, you may want to bring binoculars so you can get a really up-close look at the engravings, reliefs and stained glass found on some of the models. Every display has been well thought out – a great example of this is Tokyo Station surrounded by hordes of miniature people.
Read more about:
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- 10 Lesser Known Natural Wonders of the World
- Visiting World’s Fairs: 11 Museums and Monuments that Take Us Back to the Future
Read about author Deanna Hyland and check out her other BootsnAll articles
Bekonscot by bortescristian on Flickr, Madurodam by przemion on Flickr, Cockington Gardens by mecookie on Flickr, Window of the World by dcmaster on Flickr, Swiss Miniatur by MnGyver on Flickr, Forbidden Gardens by Mr. Kimberly on Flickr, Ave Maria Grotto by southerntabitha on Flickr, Mini Israel by Templar1307 on Flickr, Mini Europe by Crispy Rice on Flickr, Tobu World Square by scion_cho on Flickr