In 1950, a unique entertainment spot for children opened in Oakland, California.
At the time, there was no such thing as Disneyland and most of the amusement parks that had sprung up in the United States were more interested in a teenage demographic. But an Oakland, California businessman by the name of Arthur Navlet was about to change the lives of children in his city.
Navlet created a proposal for a storybook theme park that featured live entertainment, a petting zoo, and sets crafted to represent the enchanted lands of Fairy Tales. He took that proposal to a local Civic group dedicated to the betterment of Oakland and asked for their assistance in making it a reality. The members loved the idea and with their help and the help of local citizens, $50,000 was raised to build Children’s Fairyland.
Local businessmen helped to create the storybook sets and landscaping. The park had almost instant success with the community. Walt Disney visited the park several times and incorporated elements of it into his “Magic Kingdom.” As the park grew in popularity the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Department hired a promoter who worked to develop unique programming for the location in order to draw in more families.
Today, the park is home to 60 storybook sets, a number of kid-size rides, acres of garden space, and farm animals with which children can interact. It is designed to be a destination for all families but is targeted mostly to children eight and under. The storybook sets include The Old Lady in the Shoe, Jack and Jill’s Hill, the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship from Peter Pan, the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel, Peter Rabbit’s Garden, and the Happy Dragon. The Dragon greets children at the gate and offers the opportunity to climb on his back or to pull his tongue to hear a story about Fairyland.
In addition to the exhibits and rides, the park offers puppet shows, theater productions in the Children’s Theater, special events throughout the year, and the opportunity to rent out space for birthday parties. The Park is located at 699 Bellevue Avenue in Oakland, California. Admission prices and hours vary. Go to fairyland.org or call 510-452-2259 for further information.