A retro trip to Fairyland - FamilyEducation

A retro trip to Fairyland

June 30,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman
We took the kid to a not-so-far-away place in Oakland, California called Fairyland. Built before Disneyland, Fairyland (in theory) is a genius concept where classic Fairy Tales come to life with rides, puppet shows, live animals and all kinds of other attractions (including, of course, merchandise and expensive, not very good food). Before we went, a friend of ours told us, “It’s a little rough around the edges.” It was the perfect description, but in a good way.

For starters, because it is so “rough around the edges,” the crowds are kept to a minimum. There’s no waiting in long lines. And, for safety reasons, no adults are allowed in without kids. So, it’s all families – most of whom have kids around the same age. In fact, I don’t think we saw any kids over seven or eight (no way they could handle the lack of tech!). So – no tests of patience. No getting run over by older kids. Just fun. (Even the traffic to and from the place was nonexistent.) Oh, and only $6/person! A huge bonus.

K-Man is growing up in the Pixar-era, so he probably thinks Fairy Tales are the stuff of Cars, Toy Story and (now) Wall-E. His exposure to the "Three Men in the Tub," Pinocchio, Peter Rabbit, "Cat and the Fiddle" and other classic tales is (through no fault of his own)…limited, at best. Moreover, though he isn’t playing any video games in our house, he has vast exposure to technology. Fairyland is wonderfully devoid of things like touch-screen multimedia. Instead, it has plastic keys (available for two bucks) that kids put into “storybooks” to learn about each tale. (Yeah, the technology may be terribly outdated, but it was good enough for K-Man.)

I don’t think K-Man paid any attention to the stories, anyway – he just liked using his key. And I don’t think his curiosity has been piqued to such a degree that he’s going to ask us to replace his favorite book, Pickles the Fire Cat, with Peter Rabbit. I’m reasonably sure that he has no clue that ANY of the rides or games he played had any sort of “historical” value. He couldn’t have cared less that after his nana and mom, he was the third generation in the family to spend time at Fairyland (as a kid). To him, Fairyland was simply a cool place to hang out and play.

K-Man rode on the lamest train and most horrendous merry-go-round I’ve ever seen. In fact, the merry-go-round was closer to a barely-go-round. At one point, I thought the woman who was responsible for the ride was going to get off her chair and actually push the thing. Of course, K-Man didn’t care. He was just happy to be on some kind of ride. He was just happy to see horses and donkeys, and to climb into a whale’s mouth. (A mouth that hadn’t been cleaned in a scary long time.)

I had a different experience altogether. I was reminded of these classic tales that I had pretty much given up for long gone. I was reminded of my own childhood and the importance of silliness like, “rub-a-dub-dub, three-men-in-a-tub.” There was something about it being a little rough that was also a little therapeutic, in a way. There was something about this place that almost felt like it was more for the parents than it was for the kids.

After all, in most instances, these stories have absolutely no meaning for young kids. But for the parents – those of us struggling in a real life that’s sometimes rough around the edges with our daily search to find balance in between work, mortgage payments and gas prices – well…it’s always great to be reminded that there is such a thing as happily ever after.