Disney Announces Bold New Venture: "Hemmingwayland" A Theme Park Dedicated to the Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway, to be Built in Petoskey, Michigan

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has set its sights on Petoskey, Michigan, as the location for its newest and most audacious theme park endeavor to date. Rejoice 20th-century American literary enthusiasts, as Disney unveils its groundbreaking project: “Hemingwayland”, an amusement park dedicated to the life and works of none other than legendary writer Ernest Hemingway.
Dubbed as “The Most Intellectual Place on Earth,” Hemingwayland promises an experience like no other, immersing visitors into the world of the esteemed Nobel laureate. From adrenaline-pumping rides inspired by his war escapades to themed restaurants serving up Old Man and the Sea-inspired seafood delicacies, the park aims to capture the essence of Hemingway’s indomitable spirit.
“We believe there is a strong synergy between the enchantment of Disney and the enduring legacy of Ernest Hemingway,” said Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO. “By bringing his works to life, we hope to ignite a passion for literary adventure in our guests.”
Hemingwayland’s attractions will transport visitors back to the 1920s, a time of innovation, revolution, and the burgeoning literary movement. Among the many highlights, is the “For Whom the Bell Tolls – The Roller Coaster,” a thrilling ride that simulates a heart-stopping escape from a war zone, complete with pyrotechnic explosions and expertly crafted and historically accurate battle sound effects from the Spanish civil war.
  For Whom The Bell Tolls – Inverted Roller Coaster CONCEPT
For those seeking a more introspective experience, Hemingwayland will feature the “A Moveable Feast Café,” where guests can immerse themselves in the Parisian café culture that inspired Hemingway’s iconic memoir. The café will serve classic French cuisine with a literary twist, such as “The Sun Also Rises Croissant” and the “Farewell to Arms Escargot.”
To further capture the essence of Hemingway’s love for fishing, Hemingwayland will boast a fully functional “Big Two-Hearted River” fishing experience. Guests can try their hand at fly fishing in a meticulously recreated river, complete with realistic fish replicas that promise to challenge even the most skilled anglers. Remember to bring your own six-word story about the one that got away!
No Hemingway-themed amusement park would be complete without a safari adventure. Hemingwayland will offer guests the chance to embark on an expedition through the “Hemingway’s African Safari Adventure,” where they can spot lifelike animatronic lions, elephants, and other exotic animals inspired by Hemingway’s classic, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
In a departure from the iconic silent costumed characters that have become synonymous with Disney parks, “Hemingwayland” will take immersion to a whole new level. Prepare to be surrounded by a sea of Ernest Hemingway lookalikes, roaming the grounds and engaging visitors in conversations filled with witty banter, profound insights, and memorable quotes from Hemingway’s extensive repertoire. These doppelgängers will be expertly trained to channel Hemingway’s larger-than-life persona, transporting guests back to the days when the man himself wandered the streets of Paris or fished in the waters of Cuba.
But the excitement doesn’t end there. Hemingwayland will also feature a cast of characters from Hemingway’s past, bringing the vibrant personalities and relationships of the era to life, such as Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Che Guevara. Guests will have the chance to encounter an F. Scott Fitzgerald reenactor, who will be encouraged to embrace the spirit of Hemingway’s friendship with his fellow writer. In a nod to Hemingway’s playful nature, visitors will be invited to engage in lighthearted banter, mirroring the good-natured ribbing and friendly rivalry that characterized the dynamic between these literary giants. Guests will be encouraged to purchase a plate of whipped cream to throw in the face of Fitzgerald. This unconventional approach promises a one-of-a-kind experience where guests can meet historical figures and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of cultural history.
The genesis of Hemingwayland as a concept began when Disney initially considered creating a northern alternative to the popular retirement community “The Villages” in Orlando, and to capitalize on the seasonal migration of the Floridian residents. Recognizing the potential of catering to a senior demographic seeking a unique and vibrant living experience, Disney set its sights on crafting a destination that offered more than just retirement homes and golf courses.
Disney’s decision to establish Hemingwayland in Petoskey, Michigan, goes beyond mere chance or logistical convenience. Northern Michigan holds a special place in the heart of Ernest Hemingway enthusiasts, as it served as the backdrop for some of his most beloved works, including the iconic Nick Adams stories. Hemingway himself spent his childhood summers in nearby Walloon Lake, where he developed a deep connection to the region’s natural beauty and rustic charm.
By selecting Petoskey as the park’s location, Disney pays homage to Hemingway’s formative years and the profound influence these surroundings had on his writing. Visitors to Hemingwayland will find themselves transported to the landscapes that inspired Hemingway’s early stories, where they can explore the idyllic natural beauty, clear freshwater lakes, and quaint small towns that left an indelible mark on the legendary author’s imagination and guests can experience firsthand the natural wonders that shaped his literary voice, and serve as a pilgrimage site for die-hard fans eager to unravel the secrets of Hemingway’s creative genius.
To lend an air of authenticity and capture the imagination of this specific demographic, Disney recognized the value of securing the licensing rights to the Hemingway estate. By acquiring the rights to use Ernest Hemingway’s name, works, and likeness, Disney will tap into the rich literary heritage and the timeless allure of Hemingway’s writings, attracting a demographic that values cultural significance and intellectual stimulation.
Disney’s acquisition of the Hemingway estate and its subsequent plans for Hemingwayland can be seen as a strategic move similar to their acquisition of the Star Wars franchise. While the two acquisitions differ in terms of subject matter and target audience, they both showcase Disney’s ability to recognize and leverage iconic intellectual properties.
Disney successfully revitalized the Star Wars universe, expanding it across various mediums such as films, television series, merchandise, and theme park attractions. This acquisition allowed Disney to tap into a massive fan base and further cemented their position as a dominant force in the entertainment industry.
Hemingwayland has no shortage of thrilling and unique attractions For those seeking a spine-tingling experience, the park offers an attraction reminiscent of a haunted maze, aptly titled “The Wives’ Pursuit.” Guests will find themselves navigating a labyrinthine maze as they try to escape the ghostly presence of Hemingway’s many wives. As they wind through the corridors, they will encounter eerie whispers and apparitions of the women who played a significant role in Hemingway’s life.
In addition to this haunting attraction, Hemingwayland also features an exhilarating ride inspired by the infamous “Running of the Bulls.” Guests can participate in a simulated bull run, where they will navigate a thrilling course filled with twists, turns, and heart-pounding encounters with animatronic bulls. This adrenaline-fueled experience captures the essence of Hemingway’s love for the exhilarating and dangerous spectacles that defined the bullfighting culture of Spain.
Another delightful aspect of Hemingwayland is the presence of resident six-toed cats. Known as Hemingway’s beloved companions, these unique feline residents roam the park, charming visitors with their extra digits and playful personalities. Guests can even interact with them, learning about the significance of the six-toed gene and its connection to Hemingway’s life.
An example of a six toed cat which Hemingway was fond of.
The heart of Hemingwayland’s immersive experience lies in its thrilling simulator ride, reminiscent of the iconic “Back to the Future: The Ride” attraction from Universal Studios. This time, however, guests will embark on an adventure inspired by the wartime setting of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “A Farewell to Arms,” with a focus on the captivating ambulance scenes. As riders board the simulator, they are whisked away into the chaos of World War I, as the ambulance navigates treacherous terrains, dodging explosions, and racing against time to save lives. The cutting-edge technology, combined with stunning visuals and a dynamic narrative, immerses guests in the harrowing world of war.
Attractions Currently Under Development:
  1. “Parisian Cafe: A Moveable Feast” – Step into the enchanting streets of 1920s Paris and enjoy a charming café experience, complete with live jazz music and delectable French cuisine. Engage in lively literary discussions and interactive performances in a reimagined version of Hemingway’s famous Parisian salon, frequented by iconic writers of the Lost Generation.
    Also find here the “The Moveable Feast Food Tour” and Explore an array of international cuisines inspired by Hemingway’s travels, sampling dishes from Spain, Italy, Cuba, and more.
  2. “The Old Man and the Sea – Seafood Shack & Deep Sea Fishing Adventure” Join Santiago on his epic struggle against a colossal marlin.
  3. “For Whom the Bell Tolls: Guerrilla Escape” – An inverted roller coaster navigating the challenging obstacles of a war-torn Spanish village, emulating the experiences of Robert Jordan as he fights against fascist forces.
  4. “Big Two-Hearted River – Fishing Experience” Indoor dynamic river rapid with mechanical magnetic fish. Take on the role of an experienced fisherman and battle against challenging marine creatures in a state-of-the-art fishing simulator.
  5. “Papa’s Writing Studio” – Enter the cozy space where Hemingway penned his iconic works and immerse yourself in his creative process through interactive displays and multimedia exhibits.
  6. “Cuban Rum Tasting Tour” – Embark on a guided tour through the rum distilleries of Cuba (in partnership with Gypsy Vodka), sampling various flavors and learning about Hemingway’s love for this iconic Caribbean beverage.
  7. “The Hemingway Home: Key West Escape Room” – Solve puzzles and uncover hidden clues to escape from a meticulously designed replica of Hemingway’s Key West home.
  8. “The Sun Also Rises: Pamplona Bull Run” – Brace yourself for a thrilling simulator experience inspired by the exhilarating Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
  9. “Hemingway’s African Safari Adventure” – Hop aboard a jeep and journey through the African savannah, encountering lifelike animatronic wildlife and learning about Hemingway’s African hunting expeditions. Grab your camera and embark on a photo safari, capturing stunning images of wildlife in their natural habitats, just as Hemingway did.
  10. “Farewell to Arms – Battlefield Medic: World War I Ambulance Rescue” – Experience the adrenaline rush of being a courageous battlefield ambulance driver, navigating treacherous landscapes to save wounded soldiers during the Great War.
  11. “The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Virtual Mountain Climb” – Ascend the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro through a breathtaking virtual reality experience, witnessing stunning vistas and overcoming treacherous obstacles.
  12. “The Garden of Eden: Botanical Garden Retreat” – Wander through lush gardens featuring exotic plants and flowers, inspired by Hemingway’s idyllic retreat in the South of France.
  13. “To Have and Have Not: Smuggler’s River Adventure” – Join a thrilling boat ride through a fictionalized Caribbean waterway, evoking the dangerous world of smuggling during Prohibition.
  14. “Hemingway’s Boxing Gym” – Step into a recreation of Hemingway’s favorite boxing gym and participate in a virtual sparring session, learning the art of the sweet science.
  15. “Hemingway’s Campfire Tales” – Gather around a crackling campfire for an immersive storytelling experience, listening to captivating tales inspired by Hemingway’s adventures in Africa.
  16. “The Wives’ Pursuit.” Escape the ghosts of Hemingway’s wives as they try to claw their way back into his life from beyond the grave in this haunted hedge maze.
  17. “Walloon Lake Splashdown: A Watery Adventure” – Prepare for a thrilling water ride that takes you on a wild journey through the scenic landscapes surrounding Hemingway’s childhood summer retreat. As you board your watercraft, brace yourself for an exciting and immersive experience that combines twists, turns, and exhilarating drops. The highlight of the ride is a thrilling splashdown into the pristine waters of Walloon Lake, where guests can cool off and enjoy a refreshing splash. (The development of this water ride is currently paused due to an ongoing litigation with local residents, who are passionate about preserving the natural beauty and tranquility of the lake. While the future of this exciting attraction remains uncertain, the hope is to find a resolution that balances the desire for entertainment with the preservation of the local environment, allowing guests to enjoy the thrills of the ride while respecting the concerns of the community.)
Following the footsteps of Epcot’s thematic approach, Hemingwayland aims to create a truly immersive living experience within its grounds.
Hemingwayland offers a range of residential options, each thematically inspired by key destinations in Ernest Hemingway’s life:
  1. Parisian Living: Experience the charm of 1920s Paris with residences that exude the bohemian ambiance of the City of Light and pay homage to Hemingway’s time among the literary elite.
  2. Cuban Retreat: Embrace the vibrant culture and tropical landscapes of Cuba with residences that capture the essence of Hemingway’s beloved Caribbean island and its rich heritage.
  3. Northern Michigan Haven: Indulge in the rustic beauty and tranquil surroundings of Hemingway’s cherished summer destination, Walloon Lake, with residences inspired by the idyllic charm of Northern Michigan.
  4. Florida Coast: Immerse yourself in the allure of the Sunshine State with residences reflecting the unique coastal charm and relaxed atmosphere that inspired Hemingway during his time in Florida.
  5. African Savannah: Transport yourself to the wild landscapes and cultural richness of Africa with residences that capture the essence of Hemingway’s explorations on the continent, celebrating its diverse beauty.
When the locals of Petoskey, Michigan were asked for their opinions on Disney’s plans to build Hemingwayland, an interesting revelation emerged: many of them were ignorant of who Ernest Hemingway was and highlighted the challenge Disney may face in attracting an audience not well-versed in the works and life of Hemingway. Some expressed confusion, wondering why a theme park would be dedicated to someone they had never heard of. Others admitted they had only a vague notion of Hemingway as a famous writer but were unfamiliar with the specifics of his work. When presented a photograph some mentioned him as “the guy on the wall at city park”.
Portrait of Hemingway found at “City Park Grill”
Through Hemingwayland, Disney aims to provide a unique opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the literary universe of Ernest Hemingway, appealing to the refined tastes and appreciation for intellectual pursuits that often come with age. From literary-themed events to engaging discussions and educational programs, the park will create an environment that encourages lifelong learning and cultural exploration.
As the sun sets on the picturesque town of Petoskey, the world eagerly awaits the grand opening of Hemingwayland. Will guests find inspiration in the park’s meticulously crafted homage to Hemingway’s literary genius? Or will they simply be left longing for a stiff drink and a quiet place to write?