If you spent a summer day in London, ON, prior to 2002, you knew where to go when the sun shone brightly…

Wally World. Yes, it was the place of dreams for so many years. It was a water park wonderland that stepped out of the fictitious frames of National Lampoon’s Vacation and became a reality in good old London town.

London ON Wally World
Wally World, the mammoth, the myth, the legend, in its heyday. Photo via waymarking.com

Each season, when the clock struck June and the city was all aflutter with summer lovin’, Londoners had one thing on their mind… getting to Wally World!

You were either a cool teenager who got to meet your crush under the umbrella fountain, an over-excited adolescent just waiting for that year-end trip, or a tired parent who was sick of your child’s begging. No matter which situation it was, the successful outcome was a big ol’ trip to Wally World in that beaver wood station wagon.

I must admit, as a Londoner born and raised, I lament this place each summer. This summer has been particularly reminiscent. Due to the unveiling of East Park’s new wave pool (which is awesome but let’s be real, Wally World was the OG) the reminiscing has been particularly pointed. So, let’s look back on how this aquatic paradise came to be, how it evolved and what caused the downfall of a true London legend.

Memory Lane, once located at Wonderland and Southdale…

Having officially opened in 1985 as a mini putt course, Wally World was the creation of local concrete guru Nick Spivak, and specifically, his concrete company N-J Spivak Ltd. With tremendous success on the business front (also establishing and operating FireRock Golf Course and the Oaks Golf Club), it wouldn’t be long before Wally World expanded to become the amusement park we remember and love.

London ON Wally World Jim Rankin LFP 1991
Who remembers those racing slides? The bliss. Photo by Jim Rankin. originally published in the London Free Press, 1991

By 1987, N-J Spivak Ltd. poured, set, and built the water park. Then came the batting cages, then came the go-kart track, then came newer, faster slides, then came the wave pool, and then came thousands of memories that locals and visitors alike would cherish the rest of their lives.

It was Wally World and it was glorious.

Gone, but kinda not, and certainly not forgotten…

Wally World had a wonderful 17-year run but sadly, in 2002 the tides of recreation started changing and it had to close its doors and drain its pools. Amidst “possible land use change” signs and the need for urban sprawl developments, the land and name were sold. On the plus side, you can still get a taste of its former, Poseidon-worthy glory at East Park, because some slides were taken there and installed after closure.

London Ontario Wally World LondonFuse
An aerial view of ruins that could rival Atlantis. Thanks to Google earth, we can still see the mini putt, go-cart track and the old site of Wally World herself, now a Home Depot.

Yet, that 1980s/90s seemingly dangerous, overly idealistic, but still gritty charm… it’s just not there. You can take the slides out of the waterpark, and apparently, you can take the water park out of the slides too.    

Wally World LondonFuse Thomas Sayers
Remnants of what once was. Shards of sign and an overgrown go-cart track is all that can be found now. Photo by Thomas Sayers

For many years the grounds sat untouched with greenery taking over the go-cart track and up until 2014 (before the full demolition and newly sprouted box stores), you could even still catch a glimpse of the mini putt courses.

Wally World LondonFuse Thomas Sayers 2
The image of that logo, so close but so far away! Photo by Thomas Sayers

Sigh! But that’s just the way the urban cookie (and concrete) crumbles.

Who else remembers…

But, let’s not get all sad about it, let’s remember the good stuff because one of the things that make Wally World so great are the memories we have and shared there. In that spirit, let’s reminisce.

1 – Those super seasoned, salty, kettle chips in the paper cone from the concession stand. Damnnnn. I think about them often. 

2 – The Lazy River. As a kid, you had about 5 minutes before you wanted back on the slides. But, dare get out early and hundreds of pea stones attacked your feet on the bottom. Glorious.

3 – The height restrictions. The day you finally achieved big-slide-status. Euphoria.

4 – The wedgies. The Bullet, the Caterpillar… where did your bathing suit bottoms even go?

5 – That wave pool. Scary machinery sloshing 50 screaming kids around. Awesome! And it’ll always be the original. 

I could go on forever but will leave it here: Wally World, we miss you dearly, but at least we’ll always have the ability to relive childlike wonder while looking back.

Wally World LondonFuse Thomas Sayers 3
What was once a sea of blue is now a sea of green, but it reminds us, the road (or go-cart track) goes ever on… Photo by Thomas Sayers

Now, I’ll leave it to you, what was your favourite memory of Wally World? Let us know in the comments!  

Feature photo by Jim Rankin, London Free Press, 1991

14 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! Just missing the arcade…going for a mini-break into the shaded building and playing some Mortal Kombat!! Maybe some candy, and then back out into the water 😉

  2. Love this article! Remember the shark shaped French fries?!! So good! Oh Wally World…such great memories 🙂

  3. the surf shop, 5 cent candies, shark fries, nachos, snow cones, running on super hot pavement until you reached the grass, seeing how long you could stay in the hot tub before the lifeguard kicked you out because you weren’t 18, summer time tunes, zinc noses, racing someone on the twin slides, stopping yourself on the tube slide to wait for your friend behind you to catch up. But my favourite was arriving at the park after dinner on a super hot night and being able to go up and down the slides a million times with no line up. We had season passes every summer, miss those days so much.

  4. Nick, I grew up in London and my Mom used to take me to the Dairy-Dell (?). I remember this magical (yet tired) place that she used to go to when she was younger. It was North London, I think near Fanshawe or Highbury, or both.

    Do you have any information on this? I’d love to see an article if there was enough information found!

  5. Hi Nicki,
    Great article! I’m a former Londoner who now lives in California, and your words took me for an amazing trip down memory lane. I just found your website this morning and I’m loving it.

  6. My cousin (Wally) told us of his dream to build a water park back in 1982. That was the year Nation Lampoon came out with Vacation. We told him to name it Wally World! (He hadn’t even seen the movie yet) He tried to get the Moose logo, but I guess that was already patented, so he came up with Wally the Walrus. True story!

  7. I was a lifeguard there for 3 or 4 summers while at UWO. Mid 90s. The guards had weekly house parties, and a few always showed Sat or Sunday very hungover. They stayed in the tower all day. If u ever thought the tower guards looked hung – u were correct.
    One year we had a staff party after close. We did all the things on the slides we didn’t allow u to do. Flung ourselves airborne off the big slide (I forget the name). Some stood and jumped – really. We chained on the tube slide. 15+ easily. Yeah the end tubes went VERY high around the turns. So worth it. That night was the most fun I’ve ever had in a waterpark. All those rules were there for a reason.
    Kids regularly went under in the wavepool, and we pulled them out. Ur kids were safe, we took the pool seriously.
    It was my favourite summer job I ever had. We had fun.

  8. One of my memories was always going there for my birthday I’m a June baby and always always going lots in the summer . Being from st thomas wasn’t long to get there and was a thing to do !!! My favourite was the lazy river !!!!!

  9. Loved, loved the
    original Wally World. Wave pool and lazy river. Many great memories of visits with my nieces and nephew when they were young…a yearly event as they were from out of town. Just visited the new wave pool at East Park’s Wally’s World. What a great day I had this time with my niece and her 2 daughters. Now bring on the Lazy River next 🤞😁

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