Florida has long been a destination for tourists who envisioned Florida as a land of pristine waters, exotic animals and quaint recreation. As more Americans began to travel by automobile in the early decades of the twentieth century, small “theme parks” proliferated throughout the state. Oftentimes these parks were nothing more than a roadside stand with a couple of curious attractions, such as alligators, bears and other “exotic” animals meant to reel in customers for trinkets or Florida oranges. The post-war boom accelerated the expansion of small theme parks, such as Weeki Wachee and Cypress Gardens. Main attractions included lush gardens, spring-fed recreation areas, underwater mermaid attractions and water skiing troupes. Young girls reportedly traveled from as far as Tokyo to audition to be one of the iconic mermaids in the Weeki Wachee show at the peak of its popularity in the 1960s. The area also drew in Walt Disney, who decided to convert 30,000 acres of Florida swamp into what would become the most visited theme park in the world. Soon after large parks, such as Sea World, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens started operations in the state as well. Many of the smaller theme parks have since closed, or have converted ownership to the state as in the case of Weeki Wachee. Today, Central Florida is widely considered the theme park capital of the world.