If You Don't Have It, Fake It
Artificial attractions from around the globe that are the real deal
Undaunted by inconvenient climates and unsuitable geography, enterprising cities that lack beaches, islands and rivers are now simply building their own. Interestingly, these man-made marvels have swiftly become attractions in their own right, sometimes for their quirkiness, sometimes for the sheer ambition of their creators. As visitors flock to faux sights, the fake stakes have been raised by the creation of an entire archipelago in Dubai, a fake jungle with 160-foot trees in Singapore, and a man-made waterfall in Italy. After checking out our top fake attractions around the world, you'll realize that authenticity is greatly overrated.
Fake Beach: Paris Plage, Paris
You might suspect you've stumbled upon an oasis when you sashay by the Seine and see shimmering golden sand. As well as a beach, there are dozens of palm trees, a 92-foot-long swimming pool, hammocks, loungers and parasols where once there was a traffic-clogged expressway. To the delight of Parisians and visitors, since 2002 more than a mile of what is usually the Georges Pompidou Expressway is transformed into a city beach for a month every summer. Two thousand tons of sand, 200 deck chairs, 40 palm trees, 40 hammocks, five cafes, two picnic areas, volleyball courts, a rock climbing wall and library booths are set up on the Right Bank each July – then more than two million beachgoers arrive in their wake. For other simulated sands, visit Berlin, Budapest, Rotterdam, Monaco, Brisbane, Shanghai and Toronto.
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Fake Ski Slopes: SnowWorld, Landgraaf, The Netherlands
At 8.6 acres, SnowWorld beats Ski Dubai for the title of the world's largest indoor ski resort. With its Matterhorn slope allowing descents of more than 1,700 feet, SnowWorld -- just south of Limburg in the southeast near the German border -- takes sporting in the famously flat Netherlands to new heights. Five slopes and eight lifts offer plenty of possibilities for getting the most out of the carefully planted powder. SnowWorld opened in 2001 and is the only indoor ski area with an official FIS (International Ski Federation) run, the Wallis slope.
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Fake Islands: The World Archipelago, Dubai
Basking in the balmy waters of the Persian Gulf, the World was a bafflingly ambitious building project begun in September 2003, consisting of the construction of 300 private, artificial islands named after cities and countries and shaped loosely like their namesakes. The islands captured the imagination of the world's rich and famous when the project first made a splash on the international real estate market -- reports of people said to be interested included David Beckham and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, who announced he was buying the Greece Island for ex-wife Pamela Anderson. But the development came at a financial, ecological and moral cost -- work has slowed to a standstill on the islands and accusations of unethical labor standards and damage to Gulf coral and kelp habitats resound. Left all but empty by the recession, the pet project of Dubai's Sheik Mohammed is now a ghost World.
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Fake Jungle: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
National Parks Board
Scheduled to open in stages starting in late 2011, a fake jungle of "supertrees" is sprouting on the shores of Singapore's Marina Bay. Gardens by the Bay will comprise three distinctive waterfront gardens, with Bay South being the largest, standing at 54 hectacres. The "supertrees" are vertical gardens that soar up to 164 feet, wrapped in ferns, vines and tropical flowers. Within their "trunks" the trees contain solar hot water heaters, solar panels, venting ducts, and systems to harvest rainwater. Dizzying aerial walkways, 70 feet above the ground, will connect some of the trees -- and their roots will play host to food and beverage options. The development will also feature an events arena, a flower fairground and Malay, Indian, Chinese and Colonial Gardens -- nods to Singapore's main ethnic and historic groups.
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Fake River and Lagoon: The Venetian, Las Vegas
Christian y Sergio, flickr
This fabricated flow outside the 3,014-room Venetian resort is a full-on homage to the canals of Venice, Italy. Trios of opera singers roam the resort's cobbled streets and canal banks and singing gondoliers ply the half mile-long indoor canal that winds its way through the resort under blue-painted skies. The 14-minute round-trip ride along the indoor canal takes passengers under bridges, past the Grand Canal Shoppes and cafes, and Venice-inspired landmarks such as St. Mark's Square. Outdoor gondolas slip under a faux Bridge of Sighs and into Vegas's blazing desert sun on a 31,235-square-foot lagoon.
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Fake Waterfall: Cascate della Marmore, Terni, Italy
The tallest man-made waterfall in the world, Umbria's unnatural wonder of the world was first forced to flow by the Romans in 271BC. Created as part of a land drainage project by Roman consul Manlius Curius Dentatus, the falls were a by-product of efforts to stop flooding of the Velino and Nera Rivers. Fast forward 2300 years and Cascate della Marmore still makes quite a splash -- at least for a couple of hours every day, when the three-stepped, 540-foot gusher is turned on for the tourists. The rest of the day, della Marmore -- now a major source of hydroelectric power for the region -- doesn't cascade more than a trickle. Time your visit for after dark, when the falls are lit up.
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Fake volcano: The Mirage, Las Vegas
Las Vegas's pyromaniacal pretender fires up once an hour, on the hour, erupting outside the 3,044-room, Polynesian-themed Mirage from 8pm until midnight. Spewing fire and smoke 35 to 50 feet into the nighttime sky, the Mirage's 25-foot-high volcano lurks in its very own lagoon on Las Vegas Boulevard. First unleashed in 1989, the Volcano's fury was reborn in December 2008 with 12-foot fireballs, lava eruptions, flames dancing around the lagoon and a new cutting-edge sound and light show. It gets pretty toasty up close, giving as authentic an experience as you can safely get from a pseudo volcano.
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Fake Stonehenge: Carhenge, Alliance, Nebraska
A bogus Bronze Age place of worship-cum-car graveyard, Nebraska's Carhenge consists of 38 "slabs" painted gray and hoisted into place a la England's famed Stonehenge. This 96-foot-wide auto altar pays homage to the might of the likes of Henry Ford and Henry Leland, founder of Cadillac, rather than to ancient Gods, but the replica relic pays attention to the details of the original and includes motor versions of three standing trilithon stones, a heel stone, a slaughter stone, two station stones and the Aubrey Circle -- a feature unearthed in 1648 by Sir John Aubrey.
Alliance Travel Deals
Fake Reef: Brisbane, Australia
Plans are afoot to build a repro reef off Australia's Gold Coast, north of Brisbane. Authorities are forging ahead with the scheme to create a pay-as-you-surf reef to alleviate overcrowding at popular surfing spots -- and to help protect vulnerable coastline, increase marine life and prevent beach erosion. There's already an artificial reef off the coast at Narrowneck, created in 1999, which covers an area as big as 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. While these reefs down under will benefit the local marine and surfing populations, both of the world's largest artificial reefs exist near Florida where the USS Oriskany and USNS Vandenberg were intentionally sunk in 2006 and 2009, and are a big attraction for divers.
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