Children's Fairy Land, Oakland CA
Since 1950, Children's Fairyland has delighted children and adults with whimsical storybook sets, gardens designed around nursery tale theme, gentle rides, friendly animals and inspired live entertainment. The whimsical 10-acre park is a magical fantasy world where young children can create, imagine, play, and learn all day long, located on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.
Diablo Women's Garden Club's Support of Fairyland
The Club has supported Fairyland over the last ten years through providing funds for the gardens as well as scholarships for interns. Our donations have funded the hardscape surrounding the chapel area, hardscape for a connecting pathway, and the purchase of propagation tables. Our most recent donation was scholarships have included allowing two students to intern at the park and to enhance the landscaping around the chapel. Our Club members have fond memories of visiting Fairyland as children and sharing the experience with their children and grandchildren.
History of the Park
The year 1948 was a prehistoric era for children’s entertainment. There was no Disneyland or Nickelodeon TV, and most amusement parks catered to thrill-seeking teenagers. The few “kiddielands” in the U.S. included a simple carousel, pony ride, and cotton-candy stand. Oakland businessman Arthur Navlet had an idea to change all of that. The well-respected nursery owner took his proposal for a storybook theme park, featuring fairy-tale sets, farm animals, and live entertainment, to the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, a group dedicated to civic betterment (and still in operation today). They loved the idea. With the support of Oakland’s parks superintendent William Penn Mott, Jr., the Breakfast Club and the citizens of Oakland raised $50,000 to build Children’s Fairyland on the shores of Lake Merritt.
In 1950, the year Fairyland first opened:
· Admission cost between 9 and 14 cents
· Costumed guides led children through the fairytale landscape; see pictures of Fairyland in 1950
· All of the fanciful storybook sets were created by local architect William Russell Everitt
· Businessman Arthur Navlet, owner of a successful nursery, designed the garden. Some original plantings still thrive today
· Walt Disney visited and incorporated ideas from Fairyland in his “magic kingdom,” which opened in Anaheim in 1955
· Walt Disney also hired Fairyland’s first executive director, Dorothy Manes, and one of our puppeteers, Bob Mills
The park thrived, and in 1956, the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation Department hired Burton Weber to promote the wonders inside Fairyland’s gates. Mr. Weber created a program for young children called Fairyland Personalities, which is still part of our Children’s Theater program.
But it takes more than goodwill to sustain a place like Fairyland, and by the early 1990s, the park needed help. In 1994, with help from the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Fairyland received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, providing them the structure to seek donations and allowing Fairyland to maintain its modest admission price, making it one of the Bay Area’s most affordable options for family entertainment. Additionally through generous grants from local foundations and corporations, the cost of admission is waived for 4,000 low-income children each year.
Children’s Fairyland has enchanted youngsters for over 60 years and continues to hold fast to its founding vision — to be a magical fantasy world where young children can create, imagine, play, and learn. For more information go to www.fairyland.org