The Sweetness of Story Land
Though it's been in operation since 1954, Story Land was not on my radar until a few years ago (probably because growing up, our immediate family of 9 didn't do vacations). And then it wasn't until a few weeks ago that we visited with Laurel. But we finally made it, and I'm thrilled to report that Story Land is a really sweet spot for families to enjoy together. Here are some thoughts about our trip, and why I recommend it for families in striking distance of the property:
General vibe. I took Laurel to a carnival last year (she was obsessed with the idea of riding a Ferris wheel) and both of us ended up overwhelmed by the lights, noise, pushy vendors, and general craziness. Story Land was a lovely and welcome contrast -- gentle and sweet with a vintage feel, likely due to the focus on classic children's stories (Humpty Dumpty, The Three Bears, etc.), related visual styling, and lack of excessive commercialism (save the fact that you have to exit Story Land through a gift/candy store). I don't think I saw a single blinking neon sign on the property and having the White Mountains as a backdrop to the park was really, really lovely. Story Land was perfect for Laurel (6.75 years old) and I'd say the sweet spot for the park is around 3-8 years old, though I did see some older kids there as well.
Scope. Given that Jon, Laurel, and I all tend to be "want to see everything" sort of people, I loved the accessible scope of Story Land. There are 21 rides (from gentle teacups to more heart thumping fare) plus other types of attractions and fun (e.g., circus show, barnyard animals, face painting). We spent several hours at Story Land, which was enough time for us to ride to our hearts content (sometimes several times, as was the case with the Bamboo Chutes and Polar Coaster) and have a quick lunch on the property. We didn't see every single thing, but we hit the main attractions that looked interesting to us and that Laurel had heard about as must-see from her friends.
Cost. Given that you could spend the better part of a day there, Story Land is a good deal; the admission rate is $27.99 per person (kids 2 and under go free), which covers entertainment in the park all day long (plus parking onsite and apparently stroller and pet kennel use). You can also exit the park and come back during the same day (get your hand stamped before you leave), which is fantastic if you'd like to eat elsewhere or head back to your lodging for nap time or whatever. If you're close enough to frequent the park regularly (or think you'll go at least 3 times during the season), definitely consider the $69.99 season pass.
Timing. Story Land operates daily through the summer and during the weekends in the fall. We visited on an overcast, misting day before school let out, which was perfect because it wasn't scorching hot and there were no lines. And even with a light drizzle at times, it wasn't so bad -- there were a lot of covered rides and indoor attractions (e.g., circus...though we missed the timing on seeing a show). According to the website, Story Land's peak traffic day is Saturday and the peak month is August so I'd recommend planning around those times if you hate waiting on lines as much as I do.
Baby friendliness. Obviously, I expected Story Land to be kid friendly, but I didn't do much advance research into how baby friendly the property was. I figured we'd be good to go with the stroller and Bjorn and that Jon and I would just take turns with the girls. I was pleased to find out that Story Land is indeed very baby friendly. As I mentioned, admission is free for babes 2 and under. Additionally, infant-friendly rides are clearly marked (it was nice to ride the pirate ship as a family, during which I Bjorn'd Violet), there's plenty of stroller parking at each ride (i.e., if you'd like to take baby with you on a ride), and although I'm happy to nurse wherever, it was nice that there were also a handful of "mama's rooms" scattered throughout the property. These rooms were equipped with changing tables (I hope the men's rooms also had changing tables, but I didn't check...) and rocking chairs for nursing. (Note: these rooms aren't plush -- they are sort of cabin-like, but it was nice that the space was carved out.)
Food. The only thing I wish I had scoped out in advance was food. Jon and I made the egregious error of not procuring coffee on our way in and I was tempted to ask the Old Lady in the Shoe if there was a barista on the property. Also, the food choices we found were limited (pizza, grilled cheese, etc.) for this salad-obsessed gal, but it's highly possible that we missed the latte and salad bars either because we didn't look hard enough or because the property wasn't in full swing for the season.
In a nutshell, we had a great time at Story Land. If you've got preschool/early elementary aged kids and want to treat them to a sweet amusement park experience without breaking the bank and inducing sensory overload, head to Story Land.