Land Park is for grandparents (and grandkids too!)
As spring makes its return, it seemed an appropriate time to reprint an article I wrote originally for the local Sacramento publication Inside the City.
Another wonderful visit by the grandchildren was about to end. The car was packed, everyone was in his or her appointed seat, and the waving was about to ensue. And suddenly from the back seat came the quavering voice of my four-year-old grandson. “I wasn’t ready to leave yet,” he sobbed. “We didn’t go to the zoo”.
Since he was just a few months old, his grandfather and I have delighted in introducing him to all of the wonderful activities located within the 166-acre William Land Park. It is a virtual Disneyland for young children. We began by taking him to the duck pond. Stale bread was saved for a couple of days and then we would push his stroller down to the lake to feed the ducks. He delighted in the ducks and geese and swans and as he grew older he would run amongst them, throwing the chunks of bread almost as fast as they could gobble them up.
Next we ventured to the Sacramento Zoo. While many consider the zoo small, we think it is just the right size for a young child with a limited attention span. In the beginning, our grandson would be much more impressed with the small birds who alighted to peck at the animal feed than he was with the official zoo inhabitants. We would exhort him to check out the orangutans, but more often a stray sparrow would gain his full attention. Over time he came to understand that zoos were about lions and tigers and such other creatures and he would look forward to visiting his favorites. And each year, he says goodbye to some animals who have been moved to other zoos (or departed for heavenly homes) and welcomes new additions, just as many generations have before him. William Land Park Zoo, originally opened in 1927, covering just over 4 acres, was enlarged to its present 14 acres in the 1960’s and is now home to more than 350 animals.
Fairytale Town became the next favorite place for him to visit. Opened in 1959, with funds donated by the City of Sacramento, the Junior League of Sacramento and other community and business leaders, this ‘story book park’ is one of the few still open to the public today. Many children of the original planners now serve on the board ensuring its strict adherence to the original purpose. Inviting giant play structures, such as Mother Goose, Cinderella’s carriage, Owl’s house, and a pirate ship cry out to be clambered on by the fourth generation of visitors. Not one motor in sight and boundless opportunities for creative play and even a live animal or two to be petted.
Next on our discovery of adventure for grandchildren in Land Park came Funderland. Described as ‘a small-scale, old-fashioned amusement park, it completely lives up to its billing. Spinning teacups, organ grinder music, a train, a carousel and a roller coaster evoke memories of our own childhoods. The look of complete terror on our grandson’s face after the first ride on the roller coaster, quickly followed by a “Let’s do that again, that was fun,” tells us that Funderland is going to be a frequent destination for many years to come.
Shortly thereafter, we took him on his first pony ride. And we watched with delight as parents brought their own children back to visit a favorite pony of yesteryear and recreate their own fond memories. And for the past six decades, evenings have not been complete in Land Park without a stroll to Vic’s ice cream parlor and the daunting task of picking the exact greatest flavor from the vast array available.
Our grandson is now almost 5 and has been joined by two younger sisters. He loves to show them around his favorite Land Park haunts. After all he is an old pro at this and can cut to the chase on the best animals in the zoo, the most fun play structure at Fairytale Town, and the fastest ride at Funderland. He can warn his sisters that sometimes the male chimpanzee beats his chest and throws himself with enormous ferocity at the glass of his enclosure, but you don’t need to be too afraid. And he can tell them that the first time you climb to the top of Owl’s house and Owl hoots in your ear, it’s not as scary the next time – and Granny will even come with you and hold your hand if you want. And he is a self-proclaimed expert on the best ice cream flavor at Vic’s.
His childhood to-date is told in hundreds of photos with all the wonderful Land Park venues as a backdrop. And there are so many more delights left for him to discover. Freeport Bakery for that very special birthday cake, Ford’s for a juicy hamburger, the nine-hole golf course, (both of which are favorites with the big boys in our house) and Tower Theatre, a notable Sacramento landmark that we are all working so hard to preserve for future generations.
My daughter emails me today. “We are planning to come for spring break and let’s not forget the zoo,” she writes. As if we could ever make that mistake again!
The Sacramento Executive