E31 – Storybook Amusement Parks
Growing up, did you ever visit a storybook themed amusement park near your home? Today I open the Addi Files again to learn more about Storybook Theme Parks, their history, and some that are still around to visit. Addi also brings me field notes on a local theme park, The Enchanted Forest, whose attractions can be visited on a farm outside Baltimore, Maryland.
Are you ready? Let’s Roam.
Here is a transcript of the podcast. Please remember this was done via AI, so there are typos and mistakes.
Welcome to the Roaming Yeti podcast. I am your host and Head Yeti Beth Schillaci. And this week we’re diving back into the Addi files. The Addi files are when I want to dig a little deeper into a topic, but I don’t have an expert available to interview so I send agent Addi our Yeti mascot out to investigate and bring back her final findings. Welcome to the Addi files.
We had heard of stories that there used to be a theme park in Ellicott City, Maryland, which is right down the road from us and now the pieces have been restored and put on a farm. So we’ve been meaning to check it out and we finally did it this summer, we went to visit the pieces of the enchanted forest that currently reside on Clark’s Elioak farm.
But I decided I wanted to start digging deeper. So I sent Addy to investigate more about the enchanted forest in Maryland and also similar parks throughout the country. She returned from assignment with the following field notes that I will share with you this week. Are you ready? Let’s Roam. The Enchanted Forest located in Ellicott City opened in August 1955, one month after Disney landed in California. The park was designed as a storybook themed Park by Howard and Julianne Harrison and is thought to be one of the first theme parks built on the East Coast. As I mentioned, the park was themed around Nursery Rhymes and fairy tales had and had animated characters basically from really early animatronics. a petting zoo some walk through houses, a boat ride and slides. And some of the attractions that were there were a giant house shaped like is shoe. Based on there was an old woman who lived in a shoe and people could walk through the house there was an Alice in Wonderland maze. Sounds familiar? Sounds like Disneyland Paris a little different scale I have a feeling a Hansel and Gretel inspired gingerbread house little Toots train ride the three bears house, a Humpty Dumpty that was larger than life, and a petting zoo. But as lifestyles changed and larger amusements parks opened like Hershey Park and Kings Dominion and Virginia, Enchanted Forest started to lose competition live the competition for kids attention. In 1987, the Harrison sold the park to a shopping center developer, the developer promised to keep the enchanted forest open and did for a little bit, but it was never quite the same. The park was completely closed down in 1995. The attractions set behind fences at the enchanted forest shopping center, and really wasn’t abandoned until 2004 When the owners of the land agreed to have the structures and figures moved to clerks led oak farm. The moving and restoration started in 2005. And it took over a decade and about a half million dollars in a lot of that in donations. But more than 100 pieces had been brought to the farm and restored to their former glory. In addition to the enchanted forest attractions, the farm has a petting zoo. It hosts birthday parties hold seasonal events and more. And if you’re close to Clark’s, you should definitely check it out. We had so much fun from the nostalgia and just seeing the old pieces. Just how they have been restored. And seeing kids running around enjoying them. It was really it’s really a fun place. So if you are driving through Ellicott City or anywhere near Baltimore, you know make a little trip out there and check it out. But after I posted that we went to clerks, one of our listeners mentioned that she went to a similar Park in New Jersey. Thanks Shawn. Thanks for letting me know this was a thing this is another reason I sent it out. Where else were there similar parks and why why did there seem to be so many opening? I had Addy focus on parks that pulled inspiration from fairy tale and other popular storybook characters. So the first one is the one that Shawn actually mentioned was it’s still called storybook land. And it’s in Egg Harbor Township in New Jersey, which is near Atlantic City, and it opened in on May 20 1955. and is therefore one of the oldest continually operating theme parks in the US. On the park has a lot of attractions dedicated to different fairy tales, or nursery rhymes including Cinderella Snow White mud, A goose Alice in Wonderland and so many more. And some of the rides at storybook land have the cutest names. Bubble the coaster the j&j Railroad, tick tock clock drop, happy dragon and they also have a carousel there. I mean, what Park is not complete, you know, you have to have a carousel right that’s those are the amusement park rules. In addition to the rise, there are storybook character sculptures, playground areas with a splash park and scenic pathways to walk around. They also have events in the fall and the winter for the holidays. And I am really bummed I did not know about this. I’ve been to Atlantic City vacation on Jersey Shore a lot of times and I definitely would have stopped in here rather than hitting the boardwalk or the casino so I’m gonna have to add this to a to do list for sure. Next up, Addy found children’s fairy land in California. And children’s fairy land is another storybook theme park for young children and it’s located in Oakland and Oakland, California, and it opened it on September 2 1950. That makes it one of the oldest theme parks in the US. To the point of Walt Disney visited fairy land, and use some of the ideas from his visit when building Disneyland even hiring fairlands first executive director, Dorothy Mainz, and a puppeteer from Fairyland, and his name was Bob mills. So I mean, this this park had a strong impression on on wall in what he was doing, which is really cool, you know, and the fact that this park still running as well says a lot. So in 1994, the Park received nonprofit status, which is great because it allowed it to get grants and donations to keep maintaining the mission mission of providing a safe and fun environment for families. And that way, it didn’t, you know, it was such so so smart to do that. Because then you’re not you know, you won’t be sold to a shopping shopping mall developer. But this park features again, storybook sets that bring kids favorite stories and characters to life. It has a Jolly Roger pirate ship and Old West junction, a dragon slide, Peter rabbits garden, happy dragon and so much more. And there, there are a few rides in the park as well, including the jolly trolley train, which is the oldest ride in the park. They’re standing there’s a mini ferris wheel called NSCs magic web and resembles a spiderweb from the African folk tale, and they have to carousels as well. So you can also find animals and gardens to enjoy in the park. They have lots of events, even including some just for adults over 21 nights. And it just looks like a really wonderful place for the community. And I’m glad that it’s still going strong, it’s getting better donations, and it seems to be thriving. So it’s, it’s really nice, nice to see. If you’re in the San Francisco area, you know, maybe head over and check it out. Next up is Storyland, which is located in Glen New Hampshire, and it opened in 1954. And as with the other parks we’ve talked about it was designed to bring Nursery Rhymes and fairy tales to life. It has over 30 attractions for families, including a petting zoo games play areas that even include some water features. The additional water features seems to be a fun thing that a lot of the parks have done. And this one seems to be a little more ride heavy than a lot of the ones a lot of the other ones. The other ones had more walkthrough areas and sort of sets sort of practical sets to walk through and see the characters and stuff. But Storyland seems to be a little more ride heavy but still targeted towards families. It has. Again, it has some cute names, rides. It has a wooden roller coaster called the aurorasaurus coaster. Polar kids coaster, a huff puff and whistle railroad, a log room a log flume ride called bamboo shoots, antique cars and more. And also this park has live shows and even has a character breakfast that you can sign up for and go to. And addition they have a lot of events throughout the year. And again, they have one of these sort of nostalgia nights. Over 21 nights like the children’s fairy land in Oakland does. Just sounds like a neat opportunity. It sounds like there’s food trucks that a lot of them
beer Wine available. So it’s neat that you know, they’re they’re going both for the families and kids but also Hey, adults come at night and have fun too. Now, the next one is it’s not total storybook fairy tale but I just thought it was important and fun to add. Adding found us some information about a chain of amusement parks and they were themed around Christmas and Santa and then called Santos village. And if anyone has, if anyone’s been to any of these parks I’m talking about please reach out and let me know I would love more information and and sort of a firsthand experience. But the Santas Village, we’re going to talk about the one in Illinois and New Hampshire. So the first one opened in East Dundee, which is a suburb of Chicago, on April 20 1959, and the second one was in Jefferson, New Hampshire, and it opened on June 18 1966. So both locations were designed to provide a family friendly, friendly experience where you can celebrate the spirit of Christmas all year long. The location in Illinois has changed hands since opening but it is growing and adding attractions. On the park there even has a waterpark. It has a lot of similar rides to other parks including bumper cars, coasters kart rides, and they actually have a virtual reality attraction you know trying to bring current technology and stuff up. And at the holidays they have a drive thru experience at the park that you can see the lights see music synchronized and stuff. And you can even stop to get out of the car and get a picture with Santa seems like a really fun fun event for the community and in all Illinois. The park in New Hampshire also has a waterpark and the rides that are found in Illinois but they seem to carry the holiday theme throughout every attraction and a bit more they from looking at the two and what ADDYs told me the Illinois one me know they have their stuff but the New Hampshire one seems to really take the fee mean a little more serious which I think is it I mean if you’re going to be Santos village like you should really take that theming serious I mean why not? The New Hampshire Park has seasonal events for fall and Halloween and of course for Christmas and New Year since they do something to limit the amount of tickets sold so at the parks don’t get overcrowded so which is great, but if you’re if you’re going to make sure you get yours online before just you know heading out and thinking you can pop in and you know like I said from the field notes, it seems like New Hampshire has definitely stayed true as to the original mission of Santos village. So why did so many of these amusement parks open in the 50s and 60s? It seems like they they all did. And interesting enough like some of them within the same time or even earlier than Disneyland so I was really curious like Why Why were these opening but it brought me back she brought me back a few reasons. So let’s let’s dive in. The economic boom after World War Two saw people with more disposable income that they were spending on leisure activities in including theme parks and amusement parks. The baby boomers the the growth of young families created a larger audience for this kind of family entertainment. Another big one was suburban development and car culture. As people moved out of the cities and purchase cars. It just became easier to visit these small amusement parks which were also built in suburb areas or more rural areas because they needed a lot of land. And so people living in the suburbs and having cars they could they could go visit. Family Entertainment is small amusement parks caters to families and they provided a safe and enjoyable environment with rides, games and other entertainments for for the whole family. Kids, kids and adults and nostalgia as we’ve learned many of the small amusement parks were designed with a theme of storybook characters and fairy tales. And this aesthetic appeal along with the novelty of new attractions and experience, experiences really attracted families looking for a unique outing it was it was new, so it built upon stories and characters that they knew. But also, you know, really provided this new new environment So it was really cool that that was that was available. And, you know, there was a low barrier to entry compared to larger amusement parks, these small parks were, they had lower operational costs. And they made it feasible for entrepreneurs to open smaller amusement parks with a smaller investment. They didn’t need a ton of money to do it. And, and there was competition and diversification with a small amusement parks, they needed a unique and, you know, a niche themes that sought to differentiate themselves from the larger competition’s competition, you know, late the Disney’s and the Hershey’s and six flags and stuff. So it’s funny that a lot of them were doing niches of the similar things, but because of location. It worked for them. So I, I really wish I lived near one of these active parks. We had a great time walking through what is left of enchanted forests, but to see it in its in its glory. And to see rides, running and active park would be so much fun. Huge theme parks are great, but I mean, I just think these smaller parks are just filled with so much from our youth and I really want to check them out. I don’t know maybe maybe I need to plan a road trip. I don’t know. I’m sure there are many more parks that are similar. And if you know of one, please let me know on social media or fill out the contact form on the roaming Yeti website. Like I said, I would love to hear some firsthand experiences. I’d love to go visit and check them out. So I hope to visit someone on this and then any that you guys know of, please let me know. But you know, thanks for joining me as I shared at his field notes today on the history of these theme parks based on fairy tales and storybook characters. And I hope these episodes inspire you to get out and roam even in your own neighborhood. So please subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes. And if you like what we’re doing here, please leave a review and a rating. Also to help support us please head over to Yeti to shop.com to pick up some roaming Yeti merch with our Addy herself on that merge and sign up for our newsletter to join us in our monthly bingo challenge. I’ll talk to you soon and keep roaming