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!
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:
Or Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage:
Or the three little pigs:
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!
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