Archive | July, 2012

Children’s Fairyland: Disneyland-Light

30 Jul

A few months ago Disney’s California Adventure Park started announcing their new Cars Land with back to back t.v. commercials. It seemed there was no getting away from them, they were on every children’s cable network, before and after the evening news, and in between sitcoms. My kids automatically got the message.

ImageI was bombarded with, “Can we go to Cars Land?” or “I want to go to Cars Land, it’s the best!” Lucky for my children we live in the Bay Area, which is home to both Pixar and Walt Disney’s inspiration for his Disney theme parks. While getting an on-the-fly tour of Pixar is nearly impossible, getting to Children’s Fairyland is only 20 minutes away – and best of all it is the right price.

Twenty-bucks will get you and your child in through the giant shoe that graces the front of the building, provides you with a Magic Key to hear children’s stories throughout the park, and walks you in to a world that provides wonder and awe for preschool aged children. This is my saving grace, when it comes to putting off a $1,000 trip to Disneyland for a family of four.

If you have never been to Children’s Fairyland it is like walking into a storybook. Perched on Lake Merritt, Fairyland was created in the late 1940s by a group of Oaklanders looking to create civic improvements and proved children with a place to imagine. There are a handful of small rides for children sans adults (train, carousel, and ferris wheel), puppet theater, animals, and a great collection of structures that detail children’s classics such as Peter Pan, Snow White, Pinocchio, and The Three Little Pigs. Along with the classics, there are also forgotten gems such as a section dedicated to  Beatrix Potter’s Two Bad Mice, The Crooked Old Man, and my favorite Willie the Whale. Each storybook display has a recording box that at the turn of a key brings the story to life.

Another plus, is there is a snack shack that serves decent food. You can also bring in your own food and there are picnic tables throughout the park.

The legend of the park is that Walt Disney visited the park many times back in the 1950s seeking inspiration for his Disneyland park, even stealing away the first executive director and a puppeteer. Once inside you can do your own comparison, but Fairyland wins hands down on price and having a less crazed feel – though you will surely witness one kid meltdown while you are there.

Many of the story scenes are more than 50 years old, but there have been some new additions to the park. The most recent has been a state of the art theater for live performances and a wonderful “grass” hill made of AstroTurf that kids can slide down using bits of cardboard. Their website has also received a major facelift.

Fairyland (699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland) is open all summer and most weekends, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are special events throughout the year, with children’s performances, sleepovers, Halloween and Christmas events. Entrance: $8, with family memberships strongly encouraged.

In the end it might buy you sometime until you breakdown and hall the kids off to the big D.L.