While many Piedmont and Oakland families know about Children's Fairyland on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, many others, in nearby cities have yet to discover it's delights.

Originally established in 1948 by local businessman and nurseryman Arthur Navelet, it was conceived with the idea of using Lake Merritt as a background setting for a storybook theme park.  Navelet took his concept to the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, and, with their support, then the support of the city, and funds from promotional activities, a total of $50,000.00 was raised to begin the construction of the magical family park.  The goal was to create fairytale and storybook sets based on stories and books familiar to children.

It opened in 1950, and admission fees ranged from 9 to 14 cents, depending on the age of the visitor.  Costumed guides led everyone throughout the park, telling the stories that inspired the structures.

Today, the park still maintains the same format.  Families can tour the area aboard the Jolly Trolly to get the overall view, and then decide what to see next among the many choices available.

One of the most important goals from the outset was to involve local children in all of the events that go on there during the day.  This is done through the Children's Theater, also known as Aesop's Theater.  There are three plays in rotation each weekend from June through October, and the actors are all local participants.  Additionally, because everyone of all ages loves puppets, a Puppet Theater makes a presentation there three times a day.

But, since families come to see the theme sets, they all settle on spending time in and around each one.  One of the most popular is Old West Junction, which creates an old western town, complete with a water tower slide, a bank, a jail, and a livery stable--a great historical fantasy.

The most famous set, since it has been there since the original opening, is The Old Woman In The Shoe.  This is a giant, old fashioned shoe, complete with full shoe laces.  The "Old Woman" is staring out of one window, and her clothes are hanging in the other window!

Alice in Wonderland is represented two times there.  There is an Alice in Wonderland Carousel Ride, and then, for the more adventurous, and Alice In Wonderland Tunnel which descends slightly underground, then winds around a bit telling Alice's famous story.

Finally, this is a beautifully maintained, simple, yet gracious source of entertainment for visitors of all ages, and a delight to view. 

Posted by Bruce Wagg on


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