The end of Storyland?

by DaniGirl on August 25, 2007 · 8 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Ottawa's hidden treasures

I read in yesterday’s paper that Storyland, near Renfrew, will likely be closing at the end of this season, and the news made me sad. First the Hershey chocolate factory in Smith’s Falls; now this.

Storyland is truly one of Ottawa’s hidden gems, tucked away in the woods near a scenic overlook on the Ottawa River, 40 minutes from the city. We paid our first and now maybe only visit to Storyland last summer, and I found it a sweet and nostalgic place; a downmarket cousin to the fancy and expensive theme parks in most metropolitan areas.

There were two things I loved about Storyland. First, it appealed to me because it reminded me of my own childhood favourite places, where the slides were metal and coated in chipped (and likely lead-based) paint instead of modular plastic in primary colours. Like this!

July 06 004

The other thing I loved about Storyland was its simple and authentic charm, and its inherent lack of glitz, loud music or moving parts. If Disneyland is a $200 computerized, interactive, automated remote control toy, Storyland is a free wooden train set discovered stashed away in your grandparents’ basement. Not only is it filled with character, but it’s staffed by characters – literally. The (mostly young) staff are dressed in character costumes inspired by Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm and Disney alike, and are open and friendly and unselfconscious about their attire.

There are playgrounds and paddleboats, a bouncy castle and mini-golf. What really gives the place its charm, though, are the little features tucked away on easy to follow paths, like this wishing well:

July 06 005

Or Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage:

July 06 003

Or the three little pigs:

July 06 010

When I was growing up, my favourite place to visit was a little park in my hometown of London, Ontario called Storybook Gardens. I’d like to bring the boys back there some day, simply because of the many happy memories I have of going to Storybook Gardens at least once, and usually many times, over the course of a summer. Storyland is like the country cousin of Storybook Gardens, just a little bit more wild and unkempt, but maybe a little bit more fun because of that.

I’m sad to see Storyland close its doors. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I’d like my kids to spend more time in charming places like this. Matter of fact, gems like this one – relics of the 60s and 70s just like me – are probably tucked away in hidden corners all over the place. Is there one near you?

Edited to add: Hooray!! On May 10, 2008, a small article ran in the paper stating that Storyland has a new owner and will re-open on June 21. Yay!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kris August 25, 2007 at 9:31 am

There is a Story Land in New Hampshire, I hope they’re not closing too! I would be so sad! Hopefully someone will step in and take the place over. *crosses fingers*

2 Just Janice August 25, 2007 at 2:26 pm

I think there’s a new theme park going to built in Smith’s Falls. It’s unfortunate that the less glitzy parks like Storyland can’t compete.

3 bubandpie August 25, 2007 at 2:48 pm

I was waiting for Storybook Gardens to come up! As I’m sure you know, it has been extensively renovated, but it still feels right – and it’s a great place for preschool-age children. We’ve visited twice this summer, shelling out more than $20 for the family pass each time, but it’s been worth it.

Storyland looks absolutely wonderful.

4 JoJo August 25, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Ok, how much do I love that Cinderalla carriage????

On a side note, we will we have to wait until the 28th to find out if you have a penis or an extra vagina? Or will you come straight home from the ultrasound and post for those of us who are counting the days with you?

5 Renee August 26, 2007 at 7:36 am

Oh, that’s too bad. There’s a place similar to that in New Orleans that I love.
That’s one cool slide in the first pic.

6 alison August 27, 2007 at 9:25 am

My mom and I took the girls to Storyland last month. We had never been before, and it was fantastic. We arrived a half hour after opening, and stayed until it closed. Rae, my four-year-old, fell in love with the girl dressed as Snow White, and we had to attend two of Alice’s Tea Parties just so she could walk with Snow White during the parade and hold her hand.

And the playgrounds! When is the last time you saw a merry-go-round at a public park? The girls just loved them, and I thought I’d have to have Leah surgically removed from the horse swings.

It’s kitschy, and sweet, and perfect for the 7 and under set. And I’m so sad to know it’s closing after just discovering it. Kudos to the students that play the fairytale parts. They are patient and kind and made the whole day for my girls. On the way home, all sleepy, Rachel asked if I could call Snow White or Alice the next time we needed a babysitter.

7 Sharon August 27, 2007 at 9:27 am

I haven’tbeen there in years. I only heard about it Saturday night. Another place gone. So sad.

8 kevinv September 9, 2007 at 6:56 am

We have been taking our daughter there since she was 1. she is 3 this year, and she realy got into it this year. My wife and I were very upset to hear it will close this year, but we sure hope that there is a bit of fairy magic left there, and soneone will bring it back to life next season.

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