Set on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt, Children’s Fairyland has been delighting families since 1950. Back in its early days, it supposedly impressed Walt Disney, too: As the story goes, he visited Fairyland, then incorporated elements of it into his developing Anaheim theme park, such as guides dressed up as storybook characters.
These days, the park is filled with climb-able, slide-able, explore-able treehouses, castles, pirate ships, and giant pumpkins, plus a petting zoo and live shows. As you come through the front gate, greet the Old Lady in the Shoe and pick up Magic Keys ($3 each) that will “unlock” Talking Storybook Boxes scattered throughout the park. (If you live nearby or plan to be back, save your keys, since they can be used again on future visits).
Then, wander through the adorable Alice in Wonderland maze, constructed from giant playing cards. Take a seat at the Storybook Puppet Theater and live-action children’s theatre, then visit the petting zoo featuring guinea pigs, goats and miniature horses. There are a few rides, too—some so small that grown-ups are not allowed—such as Anansi’s Magic Web, a mini Ferris wheel based on an African folk tale. And don’t miss the 118-foot-long Fairy Music Farm Tunnel, which includes interactive musical instruments, a courtyard, and murals depicting fairies from different cultures.
Need to refuel? Stop by Johnny Appleseed’s Café, or spread out a blanket in the Teddy Bear Picnic Grove. Check Fairyland’s schedule for special events, too, such as family sleepovers during the summer.