While we’re on the subject of attractions in the greater Atlantic City area, it’s impossible to neglect Storybook Land. this has been a shore institution since 1955–the same year that a little park called Disneyland opened in Anaheim. I remember visiting here as a kid, and I figured that with Prima being four now, it was time to made it a family tradition. We had a ball, but seeing the place through an adult’s eyes is entirely different from a childhood memory. After the jump, I’ll share my thoughts…with pictures.
As you can see from the website, Storybook Land is the the anti-Disneyland. Yes, it’s an amusement park that appeals to kids, but it’s absolutely not slick, corporate, or homogenized. You’ll get some adorable stuff here, and some genuinely creepy stuff too. I’m talking genuine nightmare material, even for adults, like this Alice mannequin. Yes, once you go to Storybook Land you’ve gone deep, deep down the rabbit hole. And there’s no blue pill in sight.
There are a total of about 40 attractions at Storybook Land. Some are typical carnival-type rides, like the teacups, a Ferris Wheel, and lots of rides that go around and up and down. There are also tableaux of famous scenes from fairy tales, some animatronic, some not, a few restaurants, and both a train and a tram that let you ride around the park. There’s also a micro-petting zoo (one sheep, when we were here, and he was on his lunch break when we circled back) and an area where you can feed–but not touch–deer and other wildlife.
All of the stuff is kid-friendly, but in a very un-Disney-like way. It’s kind of like the toys that your grandparents would get you, that weren’t at all like the cool toys you’d see advertised on Saturday morning. For example, there’s this kind of mannish Mother Goose:
And there’s also a pretty loose definition of what constitutes “Storybook.” There are a pair of colonial-era Phillies fans decorating one section of the park, and there’s even a Moby Dick. I don’t think that Melville wrote fairy tales, but I guess I’m wrong.
Seriously, I have no idea what he’s doing there, and there’s no narrative that explains these things. But that’s the charm of the place.
Prima loved nearly all the rides, and looked with some interest at the tableaux. Secunda seemed to like the place, but we only took her on the less intense rides, although intense is pretty subjective here. There are very few rides that aren’t opened to kids of all sizes, provided they’ve got an adult riding with them. Prima said she liked all the rides, but some she liked more than others. The balloons, for example, were a little too much for her, and she didn’t like the teacups that much, but that might have been because I was spinning it too fast. “Way way way too dizzy” is how she described it.
As long as your kid is having fun, it’s pretty hard not to enjoy yourself as well. Everyone at the park was friendly to us, and the rides seemed to be operated competently by professionals. There was a mix of kids working summer jobs and older people who have probably been with the park for years, and everyone seemed glad to be at work, without being unnaturally happy in that “customer satisfaction is our number one priority” fake smile way.
That being said, it’s not all fun and games. For example, I get the feeling that someone was abusing the “unlimited rides” part of the bargain. Here’s a paragraph from the Storybook Land website:
Storybook Land rides are unlimited; however, common sense must prevail. Riders must exit the ride and re-enter, if others are in line to ride. If nobody in waiting in line to ride, we suggest and enforce no more than three consecutive rides at one time. You are welcome to come back after at least a 10 minute break. Continuous, repeated riding without rest time in between is not in the best health or safety interests of either children or adults. The privilege of unlimited rides cannot be abused. Children must be in the company of parents or chaperones at all times. Ride attendants will enforce these polices.
If you don’t think that’s funny, try saying “Common sense must prevail” and “The privilege of unlimited rides cannot be abused” in a Mayor Quimby voice. You’ll at least chuckle, trust me.
Here’s another picture of something that actually looks pretty creepy if you look at the eyes. Imagine it moving, with those dead eyes just staring out at you.
Prima says she liked this scene, though, “because it was fun watching it.” That’s good enough for me.
The tableaux and the rides are fun, but you can also have a good time just strolling around the twenty acres of the park. If you come from part of the country that doesn’t have a lot of trees (like Las Vegas), you and your kids will find walking among the trees a novel experience. You’re going to want to apply plenty of sunscreen before entering the park, since you’ll be spending a lot of time outside. That might be one of the best parts of your day.
It can get pretty hot, though. The day that we went it was in the 90s, humid, and without a hint of a breeze. I was tempted to break the rules and ride the “Twirling Tug” for an hour straight, because that ride made it feel like you were in nice breeze–at least twenty degrees cooler.
We spent just under three hours at the park, saw pretty much everything, went on all the rides but two, and left feeling pretty satisfied. And it felt pretty nice to be doing something kid-related that wasn’t completely commercialized. Don’t get me wrong–the place is as much a tourist trap as any other amusement park, with the same low-quality, overpriced food (though you can bring in picnic lunches if you like) and sweets for sale. But you won’t find any cartoon/movie tie-ins, so it feels different.
It’s a little pricey–admission for four was just under $100–but it’s worth it. Kids under two are free. Plan your day well (I’d get there early), and this could be a lot of fun for everyone.