Marco Polo Park
by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)
Marco Polo Park Poster From The 1970s
Shortly before Walt Disney World opened in October 1971, I began to notice construction of a new theme park on the west side of I-95 north of Ormond and Daytona. It was Marco Polo Park, and I believe it opened a few months before Disney.
The developers of this park were probably counting on snaring some of the visitors traveling down I-95 on their way to Walt Disney World.
All parks were themed in those days, and this park's theme was based on Marco Polo's legendary travels through Europe and the Far East many hundreds of years ago.
I took my kids there and it was a lot of fun. The park had rides, movies, music, puppet shows and a lot of other attractions. A little steam train ran around the perimeter of the park.
Marco Polo Park pioneered what Disney would do years later with Epcot. The park had various "worlds": Turkey, India, China, Japan and Venice. Ethnic food was served in a couple of restaurants.
The first phase was opened in early 1971. The Japanese gardens had several sampans made of teak that carried visitors along an artificial waterway and under ornate oriental themed bridges.
The park cost only about $2 or $3 for adult admission, something less for the kids.
Alas, most of the tourists the developers hoped to snare on their way to Walt Disney World drove right on by and didn't spend their bucks at Marco Polo.
Marco Polo Park closed in 1975 after a couple of bad fires did a lot of damage. It opened again later that year, but under the name "Passport To Fun". That didn't work either, and the attraction closed for the last time in 1976.
These days you can't see a trace of it from I-95. There is a residential community on the property now.