Last weekend, the family and I took a 10 minute bike ride down to Lake Merritt and were transported into another world: Children's Fairyland! Since the old lady who lives in the shoe first opened her doors to the public in 1950, the first themed amusement park in the U.S. has become one of Oakland's most iconic destinations. Reportedly, Walt Disney frequented the park to draw inspiration for what would later become Disneyland. In the 1960s, my mom—who lived in Cleveland Heights/China Hill across the lake at the time—visited Fairyland alone, or with her brother, just about whenever she felt like walking over. I must have clocked a few dozen visits during my own childhood, but never unsupervised ;).
In 1950, admission was 9 cents. Today, it's $10 per person, with annual family memberships available for frequent visitors. Followers of the Free Range Kids movement will be disappointed to know that children are no longer admitted with an accompanying adult, and the same goes for the reverse). You'll also want to buy a Magic Key for $3 at the gate if you don't already have one: these keys activate the storybook boxes at each set that narrate the accompanying tale. When it opened, Children's Fairyland had 17 interactive, child-sized sets depicting classic fairytales, and many of these original sets are among 60 sets. Several include live animals, which was a big treat for Dino. Lately, he's been referring to all large mammals as "goats." Indeed, Fairyland is home to two adorable goats, as well as sheep, ponies, donkeys, rabbits, ducks, and chickens.
In addition to the interactive and sometimes kitschy fairytale sets, Fairyland has two merry-go-rounds and a small ferris wheel. Riders must be between 38" and 54" for these rides, no adults, so Dino was out of luck there. Happily, the Jolly Trolly train ride is open to the whole family, and being in a major 'train phase,' Dino was thrilled. You can find out more details about the attractions, rides, and size limitations here.
Fairyland is also famous for its Storybook Puppet Theater, which opened in 1956 and is the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States. Several notable puppeteers got their start at Fairyland, including Frank Oz, who is lauded for his performances of Grover, Bert, and Cookies Monster on Sesame Street as well as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and others on The Muppets. You can catch puppet shows at Fairlyand three times each day: 11am, 2pm, and 4pm, and you can see details about the performances here.
In 2008, Aesop's Playhouse was completed (funded by Oakland’s Measure DD, passed by voters in 2002). The outdoor stage accommodates an audience of 200 people, and hosts the annual repertory season of the Bay Area Children's Theatre. If you've got a kid who craves the limelight, keep your eyes open for next year's audition dates in early February! The 2018 performance schedule can be found here.
By the time 4:00pm rolled around, we were feeling hungry so we hopped on the bikes to another favorite spot: Beeryland. Technically, the joint is called Telegraphic Beer Garden, but it's less than 1 mile from Fairyland and has a colorful "Beeryland" sign in homage to the park. Located in Kono (Korean Northgate), which borders Adam's Point and Uptown, 'Beeryland' draws a diverse crowd and more than it's fair share of dogs and babies. The burgers and the brews are excellent, and the mural'ed outdoor patio has partial roof coverage, which is perfect for a day of sun-showers like we had last Saturday.