Skull Rock, looking over Skull Rock Cove just steps away from Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship Restaurant at Disneyland’s former Fantasyland, took its inspiration from Walt Disney’s 1953 classic animated film, Peter Pan. Though demolished during the extensive 1982 overhaul of Fantasyland, Skull Rock set the bar for theme park skulls worldwide.
At night, Skull Rock really came alive (so to speak) thanks to cleverly positioned lighting and of course, those eerily glowing green eyes. Gone but not forgotten, Skull Rock continues to prompt fright and delight thanks to pre-1982 visitors who’ve posted their photos on the Internet.
Disneyland Hotel’s Never Land Pool, Anaheim, CA, USA
Skull Rock at Fantasyland may be gone but it’s not forgotten – in particular, by Disney’s Imaginers who reincarnated it at the nearby Disneyland Hotel. The hotel’s Never Land Pool, which was included in a large-scale 1999 renovation, now features a new and updated Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and a re-worked Skull Rock.
Though somewhat smaller than its Fantasyland ancestor and lacking its progenitor’s signature waterfalls, the revised Skull Rock at the Never Land Pool overlooks a hot tub and a 100-foot water slide.
Disneyland Paris, France
What is it with Disneyland and giant skulls? Whatever the reason, the entertainment empire seems to like them – almost every Disney theme park has got a skull or two. Take Disneyland Paris for example. The Gallic noggin can be found in the Adventure Isle section of Adventure land which features Captain Hook’s pirate ship, a suspension bridge and a pirate lookout. The giant skull itself displays a complex facade meant to evoke the appearance of tilted and eroded sedimentary rock.
Unlike most other skull rocks, the one at Disneyland Paris was designed as a cave. Visitors who enter can look out through the eye socket windows and get a skull’s eye view of Fantasyland.
Skull Rock at Desert View Tower, Jacumba, CA, USA
Desert View Tower, located along I-8 between San Diego and El Centro, was built in the mid-1920s. Declared a California Historical Landmark, the 70-ft (21m) tall tower and adjacent Boulder Park are striking examples of folk art that offer visitors a hands-on, interactive experience like no other.
It’s in Boulder Park, carved during the Great Depression by out-of-work engineer W.T. Ratcliffe, that you’ll find hand-sculpted quartz granite boulders including an imposing painted skull.
Skull Mountain, Six Flags, New Jersey, USA
Skull Mountain a 1,377 ft (420m) long enclosed roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari in New Jersey, USA, opened in 1996 and is one of the theme park’s most popular attractions. Strobe lights and sound effects provide a sufficiently spooky atmosphere during the ride, which only lasts a minute and a half but seems longer due to a series of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Due to its enclosed format, Skull Mountain is one of the few large roller coasters to remain open during heavy rain and thunderstorms. That doesn’t mean guests are guaranteed to stay dry, however. The huge skull on the ride’s front facade incorporates a waterfall that can be turned on and off at the park’s discretion, allowing water to pour out of the skull’s eye sockets. Be prepared to get “cried upon” on hot, crowded summer days!
Skull Mountain, Phantasialand, Germany
Phantasialand, located in Brühl, North Rhine-Westphalia, opened in 1967 and is one of Germany’s largest theme parks attracting around 2 million visitors annually. The park includes one of the most spectacular large skulls found anywhere – and its awesomeness is helped by its isolation from other man-made distractions.
You can find the skull rock behind the Arabian Nights Gondola Ride as it forms part of the ride’s exterior wall. The lushly landscaped area around Der Totenschädel makes a great place to enjoy an outdoor picnic.
Skull Wall, Treasure Island Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, USA
Las Vegas’ Treasure Island Hotel was a more kid-friendly place to stay in the late 1990s, mainly due to the sprawling Pirate Village of Buccaneer Bay complex built right out front. The outstanding feature of the faux pirate’s cove was an ominous skull that leered out from a plaster & concrete wall. Night lighting gave the eerie visage an extra-gothic glow.
In 2003, Buccaneer Bay matured into “Sirens’ Cove”, along with the hotel distancing itself somewhat from the pirate theme with its new “TI” nameplate. Luckily, the skull wall survived the transition – adults like to get scared a little too.
King Kong’s Skull Island
Mythical Skull Island, home of King Kong and any number of angry, toothy dinosaurs, has been represented a number of ways since the franchise first came down from the trees in the 1930s. The greatest of great ape’s stomping grounds have even made the jump to video games, in King Kong Skull Island Adventure.
“Kong, King of Skull Island”… really, whose going to argue the point? And if you think about it, where else would one expect the gargantuan gorilla to live – Candy Apple Island?
Skull Island & SS Venture, Universal Studios Hollywood, USA
One of the most striking modern-day attractions based on King Kong’s Skull Island can be found on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Visitors can view the actual model of the 1930s SS Venture ship that appeared in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake.
The movie was shot in New Zealand to take advantage of the country’s awe-inspiring scenery (LOTR fans will agree). Upon completion of filming, the models of both the SS Venture and Skull Island were disassembled, shipped to California, and set up again on the Universal Studios backlot.
Longhorn Bar & Grill, Amado, Arizona, USA
Ahh, the sweet, succulent scent of sizzling beef hot off the grill… how does one improve on that? Simple: serve it inside an enormous Longhorn Steer skull! That’s exactly what the Longhorn Bar & Grill does, and the Amado, AZ (near Tucson) landmark has been serving up steaks with style since the mid-1970s.
According to Roadside America, directions to the Longhorn Bar & Grill are as follows: “Take I-19 until exit 48. Drive west on Arivaca Rd., then immediately turn right onto S. Nogales Hwy. The big skull will be on the right.” You can’t miss it… in more ways than one!
If you’re up to some skullduggery, you’ve come to the right place… to 10 right places, actually. These super sized skulls add a little dash of Goth to your travels, so be sure to bone up on your tibia, er, trivia before planning your next vacation.