Day Trips, Spring and Summer Activities

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest holds a special place in my heart.  I grew up near the area and have many fond memories of going there with family and friends.  It’s just far enough from our current home to have made it difficult to go and work around everyone’s nap time, so this was the summer I finally got to introduce Enchanted Forest to my own kids.

After a lazy morning and a stop for coffee, we arrived around 10:30.  Although the park is just off I-5, it is easy to forget that fact as soon as you walk through the castle entrance.  True to its name, the entire space in nestled in the woods.  The abundance of trees creates ample shade, making it a perfect place to visit on a hot day.

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After purchasing our tickets at the gate, we entered through the main castle into the world of fairy tales.  Statues of characters and plaques with the nursery rhymes are set just off the main walking path.  You can also enter some of the tales, such as Hansel and Gretel’s cottage and see the witch getting ready for her nap, go through the mine belonging to the Seven Dwarves, and check out the upstairs of the three bears house in search of Goldilocks.  You can take the slide belonging to the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, visit the tipsy house belonging to the crooked man, and go through a maze just because.

After winding through fairy tale land, we found ourselves in an old Western town.  There are storefronts with amusing displays, shops, and shooting galleries.  There’s also a hidden slide Chicken and Nugget went down over and over and over and over.  And over and over again.

Just up the hill from the Western town, you will find the haunted house that my kids were too scared to go into.  Continuing past the haunted house will lead you to the fairy tale theater.  This year’s production is Little Red Riding Hood and it is hilarious.  While we watched from a small outdoor amphitheater setup, a cast of three puts on a show of the classic tale with a Brooklyn twist.  The characters and humor are over the top, with lots of pop culture references and physical humor.  There is plenty of audience interaction and there were plenty of giggling kids in the audience.  Cast members also came out to talk to the audience, shake hands, and take pictures after the show.  Nugget insisted we skip this part, primarily due to the Big Bad Wolf’s repeated mention of how much he enjoys eating small humans.  The show lasts about 15 or 20 minutes and runs several times per day, free of charge.

There is also a old English village, which is home to a costume shop, face painters, music shows, and little areas to explore.  One of the restaurants, the Jolly Inn, is home to a water show that the kids were very impressed with.  As with a lot of Enchanted Forest, children tend to see the experience through a magical filter.   As adults, we would do well to take their lead.

Enchanted Forest is also home to several rides.  There is an area for little kids rides- a small train, bumper boats, frog hopper, etc.  The big attractions are the log ride (think Splash Mountain at Disneyland but smaller), Challenge of Mondor, and an ice mountain roller coaster.  All of these rides and attractions, including the haunted house, require tickets purchased either individually or as part of a ride bracelet that are separate from park admission.

Admission and a ride bracelet can add up quickly, so we chose to buy a small number of single tickets and it was perfect for us.  Chicken and Nugget each had four tickets to use as they wanted.  They each chose to ride the carousel and to pan for gold two times.  The nice thing is, you don’t have to decide the moment you get there.  Yes, you can buy tickets/bracelets at the main entrance, but you can also purchase them at several locations around the park later on.  Unused single tickets are also refundable.

There are lots of food options throughout the park.  There are snack stands, an ice cream parlor, and small restaurants with BBQ, hamburgers, pizza, hotdogs, and the like.  Prices are reasonable for the setting.  One thing we loved was the variety of seating options.  There was more traditional restaurant seating, a lovely picnic area, and plenty of small seating areas tucked away throughout the park that are perfect for a snack break or just a rest.

Although there is a lot to do, the park is small.  I would estimate it takes about an hour to get through.  However, once you are in, you can stay as long as you would like.  We stay over five hours, visiting the fairy tale section again and again, and spending A LOT of time on the two main slides.

Interestingly,  we tend to be of the “be there early and beat the crowds” mindset.  That was not the case here.  When we arrived, there was a steady stream of people and going through the fairy tale part felt crowded and rushed.  There was a line for one of the slides that was 5 to 10 minutes long.  As the day went on however, the crowd dwindled significantly.  By the time we left, it felt as though we had the park to ourselves.  The kids were able to go down the slides and run straight back to the top to go again without waiting at all.  We went on a Friday, so I don’t know if this holds true for weekends, but a staff member did tell us that as a general rule, mornings tend to be busy and that the crowds are much lower in the afternoons.

I also have to say, the staff were exceptional.  I observed all staff to be incredibly patient and friendly with all children.  The staff member in charge of the gold panning station, who happened to be standing under the sign proclaiming only one scoop per person, told Nugget he hadn’t found enough treasure and told Nugget to scoop again. This time the staff helped, and made sure Nugget walked away with a haul.  Another staff member saw me trying to take a selfie with the kids and stopped and offered to take a picture of us together, noting “I bet you’re not in many of the pictures with them.”  Right, she was!

As we left, Chicken said “That was so fun!  We have to come back again right away!”  Nugget was in full agreement.  So was I!

So…..

What it’s not: cheap if you buy all the things, comparable to Disneyland

What it is: magical to kids (probably until age 10 or so), simple family fun, a great place to spend a hot day

Would we recommend it?  Totally!  Go it with realistic expectations, see the magic through your kids’ eyes, and have a great time!

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