Big theme parks with their loud teenagers, scary costumed critters and wild rides can be overwhelming for even the most adventurous of our tots. Not to mention, that, well, there’s none near here! But, just south of Salem is an awesome alternative that is not only closer than the Magic Kingdom, but far more manageable. Grouped into themed “lands,” (ahem, much like another theme park we know), it’s totally perfect for a day trip. One caveat: This place is built on a hill so be prepared for a nice arm workout if you’re toting a stroller.
Enter through the “magic castle” and wind up the hill where kids will love seeing some of their favorite storybook characters, and parents will get a kick out of the kitsch, not to mention some knockoffs, such as the “Seven Dwarves” named “Droopy” and “Wheezy.”
There’s a rabbit hole to crawl through, a maze to maneuver, and everyone’s favorite: the witch’s mouth to slide down.
After scaling Storybook “summit,” you’ll be ready to relax on a bench and supervise your kiddos burning off some energy running through the fort and exploring the underground passages and caves. Organizing a massive game of tag can buy you some time to have a churro or watch other parents be suckered into having their kid take a photo with “Abraham Lincoln” (tip expected).
The cobblestone streets are really just a means to an end – lunch is at the bottom! But the kiddos can make a couple of quick stops to see a perpetual motion machine and watch 4 and 20 blackbirds burst out of a pie.
After you’ve visited all the lands, take a break for lunch in the shady picnic area. It’s right near the entrance, so you can run to the car to grab your ice chest.
Then, get ready for Round 2, which includes:
This outdoor playhouse features an updated fairy tale each season, full of “punny” humor just perfect for your little ones. With audience participation, dancing, singing, pratfalls and general overacting, it will have your whole family laughing at the ridiculousness of it.
It’s totally possible to fill a whole day without going on the rides, but they are pretty fun. There’s a few kiddy rides right near the Comedy Theater, and then a half dozen rides/attractions for the “bigger ones,” including a haunted house that’s just on the right side of scary. Ask for a poncho for the Log Ride so you don’t get soaked!
Finally, end your day with the soothing sight of dancing fountains. The combination of swirling water, multi-colored lights, calming music and the dark theater will lull your little ones into nap mode for the car ride home.
Enchanted Forest is located at 8462 Enchanted Way SE in Turner (which is just south of Salem off I-5).
First things first, this place has plenty of well-maintained restrooms…reason enough to visit! A variety of snack stands and carts have all your basics covered, including delicious lattes!
Admission is $10.50 for adults; $9.50 for kids ages 3 to 12 and free for our tots under two. Rides cost extra. Park is open daily in the summer; weekends only in September and then closes for the season. Visit Enchantedforest.com for more information.
Text and Photos by Cathie Ericson, who takes her kids there for an enchanted adventure every August.