Find family fun at Children's Fairyland

The first thing you’ll see as you approach Children’s Fairyland is the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe peering at you cheerfully from a window in the top of her giant, lace-up boot. As her storybook rhyme goes, “she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do”, though she seems to have found a logical solution to her problem by setting up shop so close to the gates of Fairyland.  

Her shoe serves as an iconic gateway to the park, with a cutout walkway large enough for children to run through easily, but short enough that an adult may have to duck to enter; just your first indicator of who this park is catering to.

Once inside, the twisting sidewalks hide a surprise behind every turn: crooked houses to explore, rides and slides to amuse, and no detail left plain when it could hold some fun (like benches sitting on toadstool legs and light posts that look like giraffes).

Children's Fairyland opened on the shores of Lake Merritt in 1950, and was unlike any other children’s amusement park at the time (in fact, Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland for inspiration for his future parks, and even hired away their executive director and one of their puppeteers). Many of the original rides and storybook sets are still there in all their mechanical glory; kitschy and charming with a touch of nostalgia for a simpler, less-polished era. Staff works hard to keep things feeling freshly painted and running smoothly, constantly maintaining and updating the rides and sets while still staying true to the original feel of the park.

Children's Fairyland has close to 60 whimsical, stroybook sets.

In some ways Fairyland feels a little like a step back in time. The park opened on the shores of Lake Merritt in 1950, and was unlike any other children’s amusement park at the time (in fact, Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland for inspiration for his future parks, and even hired away their executive director and one of their puppeteers).

Many of the original rides and storybook sets are still there in all their mechanical glory; kitschy and charming with a touch of nostalgia for a simpler, less-polished era. Staff works hard to keep things feeling freshly painted and running smoothly, constantly maintaining and updating the rides and sets while still staying true to the original feel of the park.

In some ways Fairyland feels a little like a step back in time. The park opened on the shores of Lake Merritt in 1950, and was unlike any other children’s amusement park at the time (in fact, Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland for inspiration for his future parks, and even hired away their executive director and one of their puppeteers). Many of the original rides and storybook sets are still there in all their mechanical glory; kitschy and charming with a touch of nostalgia for a simpler, less-polished era. Staff works hard to keep things feeling freshly painted and running smoothly, constantly maintaining and updating the rides and sets while still staying true to the original feel of the park.

Willie the Whale spouts water from his blowhole. 

As you walk through the park, you’ll see lots of your favorite nursery rhyme and fairytale characters. A painted yellow brick road snakes along one path, leading you to a storybook mecca including a tiny green grass hill ala Jack and Jill that you too can roll or slide down, a bevy of barnyard animals like ponies and goats to wave at, a tiny elfin figure perched on a toadstool perpetually blowing bubbles from his pipe, and a Happy Dragon whose tongue you can pull to hear a story about Fairyland.

Children's Fairyland opened on the shores of Lake Merritt in 1950, and was unlike any other children’s amusement park at the time (in fact, Walt Disney visited Children’s Fairyland for inspiration for his future parks, and even hired away their executive director and one of their puppeteers). Many of the original rides and storybook sets are still there in all their mechanical glory; kitschy and charming with a touch of nostalgia for a simpler, less-polished era. Staff works hard to keep things feeling freshly painted and running smoothly, constantly maintaining and updating the rides and sets while still staying true to the original feel of the park.

The Alice in Wonderland Tunnel brings young adventurers to a small maze through the Queen of Hearts' army of playing cards. 

Alice invites you into her journey into Wonderland via a slide and tunnel lined with grinning Cheshire Cat smiles (can you count em all?), which ends in a small maze through the Queen of Hearts’ army of playing cards.

The candy colored Jolly Trolley, an obvious crowd favorite, dings merrily along its track in a loop around part of the park, whizzing by the pioneer town and through a jewel-laden tunnel. After riding the Trolly you can visit the Old West, with a two-story slide cleverly hidden inside one of the wooden buildings, a jail where you can detain your outlaw playmates, and plenty of room to run around expending some energy.

Continue exploring and you’ll find the famed Dragon Slide (for children over 4), a tiny ferris wheel resembling a spider web and a brightly-colored carousel for kids to ride.  

The crowning jewel of Fairyland is the live puppet show, held three times a day in the magical little Storybook Puppet Theater at 11 am, 2 pm and 4 pm. Sit down on one of the long benches forming a semi-circle around the stage, and watch a 20-minute live performance. You can expect a new show every other month or so, full of hand-crafted puppets and creative backdrops.

A live puppet show is held three times a day in the Storybook Puppet Theater. 

The crowning jewel of Fairyland is the live puppet show, held three times a day in the magical little Storybook Puppet Theater at 11 am, 2 pm and 4 pm. Sit down on one of the long benches forming a semi-circle around the stage, and watch a 20-minute live performance. You can expect a new show every other month or so, full of hand-crafted puppets and creative backdrops.  

So, if ever you find yourself with so many kids that you don’t know what to do, consider taking them to Children’s Fairyland.  They’ll be exposed to live performances and out-of-the-ordinary experiences, and it is just a BART ride away.

Children's Fairyland in Oakland opened in 1950 and has delighted children and their parents with whimsical storybook sets, gentle rides, friendly animals, and inspired live entertainment.

Gentle rides delight young children. 

Other Things to Know:

Although people of all ages will appreciate the charms of Children’s Fairyland, the park is geared toward anyone about 8 years or younger.

For an added bit of fun, you can purchase a “Magic Key” ($3 at the admission gate), which will unlock additional stories and songs at the various stops around the park (in both English and Spanish). The key is yours to keep, and can be used every time you return.

Adults can breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of Peter’s Big Pumpkin Espresso, a coffee shop housed appropriately inside of a giant orange pumpkin, and perfect for a parent looking for a little assistance in matching their children’s energy level. There is also a food court next to the Jolly Trolly where you can grab lunch to eat at one of the picnic tables there or scattered around the park.

Although during regular admission days, adults must be accompanied by a child (and vice versa) to enter, there are a few adult-only events held at Fairyland to keep an eye out for. The annual Gala, as well as Oaklandish’s annual Fairyland for Grownups benefit provide an opportunity for adults to take over the park for a night.

For more information about summer sleepovers for families, summer day camp for kids, the Children’s Theatre program and other special annual events, visit the website.

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