Travel Guide to California

2015 Travel Guide to California

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56 2 0 1 5 T R A V E L G U I D E T O C A L I F O R N I A CA.THEME PARKS Loads of Excitement There's fun for all at California's theme parks BY MATT VILLANO Diversions are as plentiful as sunshine in California. One of the most popular out- lets: original theme parks. These attractions are meccas to amusement, each focusing rides and exhibits around dif- ferent concepts such as fairies, film, plastic blocks, sea life and an inimitable mouse. Most of the parks are situated in the southern part of the state (where the weather is generally warmer), but the granddaddy of them all is up north. Each of the parks is worth a closer look. Fairyland Believe it or not, the first theme park in the U.S. to cater to families with young kids was Children's Fairyland, a blink-and- you'll-miss-it theme park on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland. The place opened in 1950 (original admission started between 9 and 14 cents), making it the first official theme park in California, as well. According to some, it was one of Walt Disney's inspirations for the eponymous park he created five years later. Today, Fairyland includes small rides such as a mini Ferris wheel and carousels, and life-sized sets depicting scenes from timeless storybooks (Pinocchio's castle and the Humpty Dumpty wall are two favorites). The theme park also is home to the Story- book Puppet Theater, which opened in 1956. A number of the country's most famous puppeteers got their start here, including a teenager by the name of Frances Oznowicz. You likely know him as Frank Oz. AMUSEMENT PARKS Europeans started the concept of amusement parks centuries ago with fairs and pleasure gardens created for people's recreation. The world's oldest amusement park is Bakken, just north of Copenhagen, Denmark, which opened in 1583. The oldest theme park in the United States is Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (called Santa Claus Land from its opening in 1946 until 1984) in Santa Claus, Indiana. California's theme parks date from 1950. SSRAY/SHUTTERSTOCK . OPPOSITE: JON DELOREY/CREATIVE COMMONS/FLICKR ; KEN WOLTER/SHUTTERSTOCK ; CDRIN/SHUTTERSTOCK

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