There is something about storybook parks that has always fascinated me. Maybe it has something to do with Storyland in Schellsburg being my first love along the Lincoln Highway, or maybe because they have all but disappeared. Regardless, when I found out about Conneaut Lake Park’s Fairyland Forest I was intrigued.
I saw some old pictures of nursery rhyme-type characters in the gift shop but I wasn’t sure what they were from or where they were located. We had seen remains of what seemed like an old attraction back in the woods but I weren’t sure if that had something to do with it. Then while having dinner at the Hotel Conneaut I saw some old pennants from the park on the wall and there was one for the Fairyland Forest.
Conneaut Lake Park’s Fairyland Forest
Fairyland Forest was actually located across the street from the main entrance of Conneaut Lake Park on the ground which is now Camperland. It was opened in the 1960s as a walk-through attraction featuring storybook houses and figures as well as animal attractions and a petting zoo.
In fact, these sort of storybook parks were very popular all across the country in those days. In fact, there were two additional ones located here in Western Pennsylvania.
The 1980s weren’t good to many of the story lands with the majority closing their gates for good. The exception to this is Storybook Forest at Idlewild Park which is still operating today.
By 1985, Fairyland Forest was falling into disrepair and the decision was made to close the attraction. Many of the fiberglass figures and buildings were auctioned, sold, or destroyed. The area was pretty much entirely cleared in order to make way for Camperland, Conneaut’s campground.
In doing “research” over our dinner I discovered that despite closing 33 years ago, some revenants of Fairyland Forest survived. This meant I HAD to check it out. We all hopped in the car and headed across the street.
The Remains of Fairyland Forest
The two most obvious buildings that once were part of Fairyland Forest are a Bavarian-style cottage and what appears to have once been a windmill. The cottage once served as Fairyland Forest’s gift shop and the windmill was the ticket booth. Now, both serve as part of the camp store.
I knew there was one more piece hiding in the campground. We slowly drove around the grounds until there it was.
Tucked into a swampy pond was the fiberglass figure of a whale’s head and right behind it, sticking out of the water, was the tail — although the tail is in pretty rough shape these days. Now painted black and white, the whale was originally blue and was part of a Jonah and the Whale display. You could look down the whale’s mouth and see Jonah in its belly.
While the area that you used to be able to look into to see Jonah is now boarded up and covered with a bench I can’t help by wonder if Jonah is still in there and what he originally looked like!
It’s finding the revenants of these things that once were that are so fascinating to me. While I wish more remained of Fairyland Forest, just finding what I did was exciting. What is even better is that Conneaut Lake Park itself has a ton of amusement park treasures and last-of-its-kind rides that are an amusement park lovers dream!
Plus, if you want to see ruins of the former Storyland fairytale park check out this blog post about Storyland in Schellsburg.
If you want to check out a fairytale park that is still in operation and is currently part of the oldest operating amusement park in the world, check out this blog post about Storybook Forest located at Idlewild Park in Ligonier.