Arts & Culture Oddities Theme Park

Dismaland … The Strange Place You Don’t Want to Bring the Kids

Banksy stirs up mixed emotions with his latest exhibit, Dismaland.

The happiest place on earth it isn’t.

British street artist, Banksy, is not only an accomplished sculptor, filmmaker, and graffiti expert, he’s also an all-around provoker. Known to push the limits with his dark humor and satirical work, Banksy packs a punch like few other contemporary artists, so it’s not surprising he has managed to stir up mixed emotions with his latest exposition, Dismaland.

You would think a Disney-inspired theme park would be the perfect day trip for the family, but if you are planning a trip to this park, you may want to reconsider bringing the kids. Dismaland’s “bemusement” park—which includes Banksy’s own work, along with the work of over 50 artists from around the world— turns the notion of the happiest places on earth on its head. Located in the seaside English town of Weston-Super-Mare, this twisted attraction has brought a stream of tourists to the U.K. since its doors opened on August 20th, with nearly 4,000 visitors each day.

Want tickets? Don’t bother ordering them online—the site has been crashing due to high demand, which many suspect was done intentionally to amplify the dismal experience. Your best bet is getting there early and waiting in line for tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. And if do you manage to get a ticket before it closes at the end of September, here’s what you can expect to see…

For a £3 admission fee, you’ll enter the grounds only to be greeted by miserable, unhelpful staff wearing Mickey Mouse ears and neon vests adorned with the word dismal. Warning: smiling is not encouraged.

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Inside, you’ll discover obscure representations of real-life societal issues, including an orca leaping out of a toilet to jump through a hoop; a depiction of the harsh treatment of animals in captivity. Visitors can also play on the “mini gulf” themed golf course made out of oil drums.

In the middle of the park sits a dilapidated castle, and in it, you’ll find a provocative display of mannequin photographers taking pictures of a lifeless Cinderella tipped upside down in her pumpkin-coach; a tableau meant to be a dark portrayal of Princess Diana’s death. Other creations include remote-controlled motor boats overloaded with refugees, a contorted mermaid, a woman being attacked by seagulls, and a beach ball hovering over upturned knives.

Banksy and his co-artists succeeded in getting the world’s attention with this display, one which has left people confused and unsure about how to feel. But in Banksy’s own words, Dismaland is, “a different kind of family day out.” And that, indeed, it is.

Most of Banksy’s other work can be found throughout Europe and the U.S.

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(Photo: Byrion Smith via flickr/CC Attribution)

Olivia Briggs has worked in the hospitality, tourism and online travel industries for more than a decade. She has lived in Ireland, traveled throughout Europe, and has been a passionate writer from a very young age. Follow her on Twitter @OliviaOlileibri

By Olivia Briggs

Nothing excites Assistant Editor Olivia Briggs quite like traveling to new destinations. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Briggs joined SmarterTravel in 2012 and became a member of the editorial team in 2015. She has lived in Ireland and has worked in the hospitality, tourism, and online travel industries for more than a decade. She loves scoping out new hotels, promoting unfamiliar destinations, and writing about niche travel topics.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Huffington Post, TripAdvisor, Jetsetter, Oyster, Savoteur, and AirfareWatchdog.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "The Baggallini Zipper Cross-Body Travel Bag. This is a great travel bag because it's small, compact, has many compartments, and can be worn across your body for added security."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Snowboarding through the Alps and staying in a chalet overlooking the mountains."

Travel Motto: "Travel more; it awakens your soul."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window seat."

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