Former Disney imagineer plans North Carolina theme park

An illustration of Whirligig Woods on its opening day.
An illustration of Whirligig Woods on its opening day.

A former Disney imagineer who helped design Epcot, Disneyland Paris and popular attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion is planning a theme park in North Carolina.

Bob Baranick is planning to open “Whirligig Woods” in Saxapahaw in Alamance County near the Haw River as soon as 2019. Saxapahaw is about 20 miles west of Chapel Hill and about an hour from Raleigh.

Baranick, of Raleigh, has already purchased 21 acres for the park near Stockard Road and N.C. Highway 87.

The “boutique” theme park will begin with a train ride and a few other attractions and will continue to grow in phases over the years, Baranick told The Times-News, much the way the Disney parks have grown over the years. The park is a private endeavor, though, and won’t be a Disney park. Other later additions could include a tree house resort and a haunted land. He also has plans for two more parks in the state, though details on those had not yet been revealed.

Baranick worked extensively on Disney attractions as an imagineer and has more than 40 years of themed entertainment design. He’s also worked on Paramount Parks, Warner Studios, Six Flags, Everland, Busch Enterntainment, Hershey’s and Universal Studios, among others.

He’s consulted on projects around the world, including those in Turkey, China, Abu Dhabi and Korea.

For more information on Baranick, go to

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett