Field trips are Fairyland’s favorite way to see what’s going on in the amusement industry. They’re especially rewarding when the parks are focused, as we are, on kids’ learning: on free, imaginative and interactive play, and on engagement that doesn’t involve electronics.

A few weeks ago, members of Team Fairyland visited Sausalito’s Bay Area Discovery Museum. Wow! Although we can’t steal their amazing view of the San Francisco Bay, we were inspired to consider borrowing some of their great ideas.

Here’s one: hula hoops in varying sizes. So simple, and a simply wonderful way to engage entire families in physical play. Here’s another: an “imaginary playground” area, filled with portable blocks made of foam, where a gaggle of kids work together in a way that encourages social development.

The museum also has a special membership category that includes an extra donation to its nonprofit efforts. Might that work for us?

Discovery Museum staffers will be visiting us early next year, and we can’t wait to see what we can share with them.

Two weeks ago, I got a call from a staff member of Murray Family Farms in Bakersfield. It’s a 300-acre working farm that’s also an “agritourism” attraction—a growing industry (pardon the pun). Visitors to the farm can pick their own fruit, enjoy tractor and hay rides, and even shoot a corn cannon.

Retail manager Bob Enger had heard about our popular Jack and Jill Hill — an artificial turf–covered slope that’s a remarkable kid magnet — and wanted to come by for a look. We were happy to give him all the specs of the project. After all, we’d borrowed the idea from the Santa Barbara Zoo’s “Ant Hill.”

During Bob’s visit, we got to talking about butterflies. Fairyland is now a designated Monarch flyway, and Bob told me that Murray Family Farms has a butterfly house that’s a big hit.

I loved learning from Bob about “agritainment,” which is helping family farms to survive and thrive.  It was fun to hear about some low-tech games they’ve recently installed: basketball hoops, a baseball-toss backboard and a 66-foot-long “bounce pillow,” which is like a huge waterbed, but with air. I look forward to visiting Murray Family Farms sometime soon. In a brief phone interview, I felt Steve Murray’s enthusiasm for his place, plus his obvious pride in the growing number of people he’s able to employ at living wages.

Then, just last week, about a dozen staff and board members from Sacramento’s Fairytale Town toured Fairyland. There used to be numerous storybook parks throughout the United States; we survivors have shared many ideas and programs over the years. We, for example, modeled our family membership program on Fairytale Town’s; they’ve started camp-out and theater programs inspired by Fairyland’s.

Field trips to other parks renew our enthusiasm for what we do. And they remind us that even a 64-year-old park can learn new tricks.

So when you look at family photos from a day at Fairyland or any of these other wonderful parks — kids sliding down a hill, or oohing over a butterfly house, or thrilling to a night spent under the stars — know that those experiences weren’t created out of pure fantasy. They came about as a result of field trips taken by those of us who take our roles in the memory-making business very seriously.

 

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One Response

  1. Seppo

    I remember the first time I saw the “Jack & Jill Hill”, and I thought, “Good lord, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” I couldn’t be happier to have been totally, totally wrong. My kids love sliding down the hill on cardboard, and every time we’re there, it’s jam packed with screaming, happy children. Ah, simplicity. Sometimes so hard to see.

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