15 World’s Fair and Expo attractions and rides you can still visit today

The “World’s Fair” – known outside the United States as “World Expositions” or just “Expo” – used to be a big deal. A real big deal.

It would attract tens of millions of visitors to a city over a number of months (generally three to six – but sometimes over multiple years), featuring dozens of countries who would descend on the host nation to showcase their achievements, usually around a central theme or message.

To do this, they would create purpose built architecture, allowing for some of the most iconic structures we now very much take for granted to be built.

I often think back to the Moon Landing, and how if the US didn’t engage in a Space Race with Russia, we probably wouldn’t have air travel like we do now, or necessary inventions like solar panels, battery powered precision instruments, metallic insulation or even electrically stimulated quartz crystals for clocks and watches.

In the same breath, if it wasn’t for countries not wanting to show off to one and other at the World’s Fairs or Expos, we wouldn’t have the Eiffel Tower, The Space Needle in Seattle, the Knoxville Sunsphere (made perhaps more iconic by The Simpsons) or even the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne.

My point is, for us to convince governments to spend money on new technologies or artistic endeavours, we basically need to see it as a war between nations. So do we need more of this?

Well, many people don’t realise the Expo continues, with the most recent being held in Buenos Aires in 2023. Osaka, Japan is next, in 2025.

The amount of money and planning that has gone into these events since they started in the mid-1800s is staggering, so it’s no surprise that a lot of the architecture was built with the very intention to keep it in place as legacy projects, or be recycled or moved to a new location, so as to recoup costs. But this wasn’t always exclusive to the architecture. Some of the attractions within the Fairs and Expos were also designed with similar intent.

And how’s this for reuse? The Save the Children Italy pavilion from Expo 2015 (held in Milan, Italy) was dismantled and re-built as school for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.

But what of the rides and attractions that were built over the years? Where have they ended up? We looked back at eight of the Expos that have been held from 1962 to 2008, and found 15 attractions that you can still experience today. Some, in their original locations, and others scattered to new locations around the world.

1962 World’s Fair (“The Century 21 Exposition”) – Seattle, USA

The 1962 World’s Fair was held in Seattle, USA, and was dubbed “The Century 21 Exposition”.

1. Seattle Centre Monorail

You can still ride the Seattle Centre Monorail from the 1962 World’s Fair!

It runs from the iconic Space Needle – which was also constructed for the World’s Fair – to the Westlake Centre.

More details can be found HERE.

2. Skyride

The Skyride, pictured below from the ’62 World’s Fair, moved to the Washington’s World Fair in 1980, and continues there to this day. Though it’s only open for a few weeks each fall.

Photo Credit: Seattle Mag

The 1964/65 New York’s World Fair 

3. It’s s Small World – Disneyland, California

It’s a Small World (featured in the article header) was built for the New York Expo in 1964 by Disney, and in particular the UNICEF pavilion sponsored by Pepsi. It then moved – as it was always intended to – to be a permanent attraction to the Disneyland Park in California in 1966.

As the brilliant Imagineering Story documentary will have told you on Disney+, it was an ingenious way for Disney to get someone else to pay for his rides.

Photo: D23.com

4. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln – Disneyland, California

President Abraham Lincoln made his Audio-Animatronics debut in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in the State of Illinois pavilion. And then he moved to Disneyland before the Expo technically finished. It remains on Disney’s Main Street U.S.A. to this day, though they updated the technology in 2009.

5. Carousel of Progress – Walt Disney World

General Electric’s Progressland at the World’s Fair featured the Carousel of Progress, which was relocated to Disneyland California’s Tomorrowland and then in 1975 to Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, as it’s pictured below.

Photo courtesy of Disney

“Presented inside a revolving theater, the show includes an innovative audience seating area that moves around a stationary central stage for each act.” More details can be found HERE.

Bonus Content: The Magic Skyway Dinosaurs

Also from the World’s Fair, the “Ford’s Magic Skyway” allowed guests to hop aboard a new Ford automobile for a trip from the beginning of time, with Narration from Walt Disney himself. While this is no longer an experience anywhere, some of the dinosaurs from the attraction can still be seen today on board the Disneyland Railroad in California.

Here’s a look at the original experience:

Expo ’67 – Montreal, Canada

6. La Ronde – Montreal, Canada

An entire theme park still operates in Montreal, that was built for the Expo in 1967. La Ronde was set up as the world fair’s 54-hectare entertainment complex, featuring rides, theatres, midway attractions, food and drink.

In 2001, the park – which until then had continued in operation by the City of Montreal – was sold to Six Flags, and has since sat as the only Six Flags park outside of the USA (though it doesn’t have “Six Flags” in its official name – they kept it as “Le Ronde”, adding “un park Six Flags” as a tagline).

It now has 40 rides, including 10 roller coasters, and is the second largest park in Canada (behind Canada’s Wonderland outside of Toronto).

Photo: Raph.Clem

So what remains here from Expo 67? 6 rides and attractions remain in operation. There’s the Carousel, Le Galopant (pictured above), as does the boat ride Joyeux moussaillons, the train ride Tchou Tchou and the kids roller coaster La Marche du mille-pattes. You’ll also find the park’s automated monorail system dubbed “Minirail”, and the Spirale (pictured below), naturally presented by Pizza Pizza, a 73 meter observation tower you can enjoy from a rotating capsule to see the whole park and city of Montreal.

Expo ’86 – Vancouver, Canada

The final Expo to be held in North America was Expo ’86 in Vancouver. Several major attractions can still be found around the world today.

7. The Monorail – Alton Towers, UK

After the site closed, the Monorail that was built for the Expo was shipped to England where it was installed at the Alton Towers theme park in 1987, and still rides today!

8. Mystery Lodge at Knott’s Berry Farm, California

Image courtesy of Knott’s Berry Farm

Mystery Lodge at Knott’s Berry Farm in California, is the descendant of Spirit Lodge, an attraction that was filled with some (for the time) impressive special effects at Expo ’86. Sadly, the attractions is technically under refurbishment – but it’s still sitting there! More details are HERE.

9. Vancouver Science Museum – “Science World”

One of the biggest attractions at the Expo ’86 was the “Expo Centre”, “a Buckminster Fuller–inspired geodesic dome… designed by Expo’s chief architect Bruno Freschi”.  It would officially open in 1989 as a permanent Science Museum for the city, known as “Science World”.

For more details head to their official website.

Photo taken from their website. 

Expo ’88 – Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane’s South Bank as we know it today was formed off the back of Expo ’88. And you’ll still find remnants of a number of attractions scattered through the State of Queensland. Parts of the monorail track, for instance, were moved to Sea World on the Gold Coast. And you’ll still find the Nepal Peace Pagoda in the area! Here are two other prized attractions you’ll still find in the State:

11. Ken Done’s Australia Pavilion letters

Iconic Australian artist Ken Done developed the below artwork for the Australia Pavilion. As of 2018, it can be found at the Caboolture Historical Village, about an hour north of Brisbane.

Photo Credit: Ken Done’s Official Website

11. The Skyneedle 

The Skyneedle, which was originally built for World Expo 88, was set to be relocated to Tokyo Disneyland after the Expo. But a local hairdresser, Stefan, bought its rights and moved it about 500 metres from the original location in South Bank, to South Brisbane, where it remains to this day.

Photo Credit: Mcris6 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The 88 metre tower cost A$4.5 million and was known as “The Night Companion”, featuring a laser beam eye that “scanned the Brisbane horizons each Expo evening up to 60 kms away.”

Expo ’92 – Seville, Spain

12. Isla Mágica: Seville

The 1992 Expo in Seville, Spain, left behind a massive urban space, with a variety of buildings that were transformed into the Isla Mágica theme park in 1997.

The park continues the theme of the original 1992 Expo: “The Age of Discovery”, with attractions “themed around transoceanic voyages and different Latin American cultures.” For more details about the theme park, head to their official website.

Expo 98 – Lisbon, Portugal

13. The Lisbon Oceanarium 

“Opened in 1998, during the last world exhibition to take place in the 20th century, entitled “The oceans, a heritage for the future”, the Oceanário de Lisboa has eternalised the centuries-old bond between Lisbon and the ocean.

The Oceanário de Lisboa is a large public aquarium whose prestige is widely recognised, not only in Lisbon and Portugal, but also across the world. Visited by approximately 1 million people every year, the Oceanário is the most popular cultural attraction in Portugal.”

Photo and copy taken from their official website.

Expo 2005 – Tokyo, Japan

14. Satsuki and Mei’s house from My Neighbor Totoro

At the Expo 2005 in Tokyo, a replication of Satsuki and Mei’s house from the iconic Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro was built and put on display. It remained an attraction guests could visit long after the event – and eventually, in 2022, an entire theme park dedicated to the films of Ghibli was opened around it!

Image result for Ghibli Park

Learn more about Ghibli Park HERE.

Expo 2008 – Zaragoza, Spain

15. Aquarium River of Zaragoza

Opening during Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, the Aquarium River of Zaragoza is now a permanent attraction in the Spanish city. At 3,400 square metres, it’s the largest river aquarium in Europe, and home to freshwater species from all over the world. Its central tank, at 9 metres deep and more than 45 metres long, also breaks records in the region.

Photo Credit: zaragoza.es

For more details about the aquarium, head to their official website.

Want more? Head to Shanghai! 

In 2017, the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) and the Shanghai government opened the world’s only official World Expo Museum, on the Puxi side of the 2010 Shanghai Expo site. Construction began in 2012, and the museum opened on 1st May 2017. It has exhibits that showcase the entire history of the Expo, going back to 1851.

You can learn more about the museum HERE.

Headline Image: It’s A Small World by HarshLight

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.