After driving past the Enchanted Forest time and again without success to convince my friends that we should visit, I finally made it to this captivating little park and am thrilled to share my pictures with you.
The Enchanted Forest is a little, mom and pop Storybook Land and then some. It started off small, but with a lot of love grew to hold entertainment options for the whole family. A stone's throw from the 5 freeway in northern Oregon and just a few miles outside of Salem, the Enchanted Forest was a treat.
I knew from the moment I walked up to the main ticket booth (which looked a lot like the seven dwarfs' cottage) that I would adore the place. The staff was incredibly helpful, friendly, and so generous with their time. They told me and my partner all the attractions we should visit and sold us on a flat admission fee option with a few separate ride tickets on the side.
We visited on a drizzly Saturday in May and the crowds were light. Signs pointed us toward the giant fairy tale castle to the left and we entered Storybook Land.
The moat was guarded by an alligator and several turtles as well as a jovial sentry. Phil had yet to be won over by the place, but I was.
The castle was a mini-maze of peek-ins and tongue-in-cheek sight gags. If I had just paid money to visit this castle and then leave the Enchanted Forest, I would have walked away satisfied. That singular experience totally turned me into a giddy kid again and I was ready to explore the rest of Storybook Land.
A boy and his bear — yeah, I know. I loved it too.
Myriad nursery rhymes came to life in the park's lush forest. They were colorful, well-maintained and of course enchanting.
Some vignettes were indoors and even more elaborate. Hansel and Gretel's hungry witch beckons the little ones into her oven with simple animation: a wave of the hand and an opening oven door. With moody lighting and sound effects, the scene is a dramatic one for kids and adults. If I hadn't been won over by the place at this point, I was now.
Although I don't personally see a problem with putting a child in a cage, it seems like here it's a bad thing. Hmmm...Kidding! Really it was eerie though.
Even the trash cans had personality.
The Snow White tale gets lots of attention at Enchanted Forest.
(Beware the evil bunnies! They will eat your soul! Turn back now!)
With animated peek-ins, we visited the famous Snow White characters including those famous dwarfs: Smiley, Grouchy, Lumpy, Snoozy, Dingy, Wheezy, and Droopy.
There's something Freudian about this evil witch, but I just can't put my finger in it. Dare step down her throat and you'll wind up face to face with the animated shrew herself, large, green and mixing potions for Snow White. Pay attention to the details in the next vignette and you'll catch the face in the Magic Mirror come to life.
A half dozen other fairy tale characters inhabit this Enchanted Forest and each one is completely charming in its creative, homespun manner. I give great kudos to the founder of the park Roger Tofte and the entire Tofte family for designing and constructing this fabulous playland for families and, like me, we kids-at-heart.
But wait! There's more! After Storybook Land opened in 1971, the Tofte family kept building and expanded their park with a new land, Western Land! Its Haunted House walk through opened a year later, in 1974. The new land was topsy turvey and nothing was quite plumb. The town took a cue from Knott's Berry Farm and utilizes peek-ins to give the place character and humor.
Even the bathrooms in Western Town were themed. The stalls looked like outhouses and their wallpaper was comprised of old Sears catalogs. Genius!
The peek-ins were wild. Don't pass up on the details either. The town's museum was a gag paradise of creative captions. The shooting gallery was just as charming.
My partner and I enjoyed the little village but headed out of town. Just up the hill and around the corner was the Haunted House, a sinister walk-through attraction filled with darkness, triggered scares, and great sight gags with haunting and humorous effects. Walk at your own pace; your eyes may never adjust to the home's inky darkness. That alone was unsettling, but the easily triggered screams, monstrous blasts, and the thought that someone in black could be lurking behind a corner kept me at a quick pace.
The park's Haunted House rocked! And it really did give me the chills. Creepy!
Other rides awaited out attention and we took off in search of more adventures. We rightly passed on the kiddie rides and ran toward the Flume Ride next.
Although the ride was unique, a combo flume ride and roller coaster built into the side of a hill, it definitely pays tribute to Bud Hurlbut's design for Knott's Berry Farm's Log Ride.
The next attraction on our list was Ice Mountain, a breathtaking ride down the icy slopes of the majestic Swiss mountain which shall not be named here. Honestly the roller coaster was a thrill despite any comparisons to other mountain-themed coasters. If it weren't for the plexiglass shell protecting riders, the Ice Mountain ride vehicles come so close to rocky ledges, trees, tracks and more branches, that I could easily see the brush with danger as the thrill of this tightly-wound roller coaster.
Let's also heap some praise on the Challenge of Mondor, a shooting gallery dark ride running on a trackless system. I'd never been on such an attraction and was amazed how drawn I was to the question of "which way next?" Of course I couldn't tell which corridor my little ride vehicle would take or spin toward as I aimed my pistol at mildly animated evil doers in this fantasy world. The attraction scared the child in the car ahead of us so badly that he lept from the vehicle and went running through the dark ride in order to escape from whence he came. Its chamber of monsters weren't so scary but I did dig that ride system as well as the creative soul the Tofte family put into building it out.
In fact, it's the palpable heart and soul of the park that drives me to write this article. I want to call the Enchanted Forest "the little park that could." I think every northern Oregonian has visited the place in his or her youth and I think the Toftes are royalty for what they've accomplished through their own hard work. I wonder what the park would be like if they had that little extra something that Walter and Cordelia Knott had, a boysenberry or chicken dinner, to turn their hillside into a nationally recognized theme park. Then again, it's the homey-ness of the place that I adore. That and the fact that it was clean, creatively-designed, entertaining for kids and adults, and staffed with ultra-friendly locals who cared about the park and its guests.
Oh, I'm not done yet. There's still the fairy tales and mazes in the English Village we have to explore next.
More animated peek-ins were waiting to be discovered in the English Village as well as a free dancing waters show.
After all that fun, it was time to go. My partner and I left the Enchanted Forest acting like kids all over again. The place was a simple joy and one I'd gladly return to.
Goodbye Enchanted Forest! We'll be back! And I hope ya'll make it to Oregon to explore the Enchanted Forest for yourselves.