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Recommended by Amy Whitley of pitstopsforkid…

Enchanted Forest, Salem

Address 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392 Map, Tel 503-371-4242 Call, Directions Take Exit 248 from I-5 and follow the signs. Website

The first time my youngest son spied a hint of the Enchanted Forest from the freeway, he leaned forward in his car seat in excitement to shout: “Mom! I see fun!“ And so he had. But it's worth noting that what he had spotted was the infrastructure of a metal rollercoaster not actually part of the Enchanted Forest park, but rather of a long-defunct carnival-type attraction that sits adjacent to the property. Why its still there is anyone's guess, but never fear: the park that is operating is far superior, at least in the minds of younger children and adults. Imagine Disney's Fantasyland, and then scale it back in half. Then halve it again (and the crowds, too), but retain the charm. Now you have Enchanted Forest.

The park is small and therefore very manageable. For admission under $10 a person (under 2 is free), you can definitely get your money's worth within a few hours. You start at Storybook Lane, which winds its way up a fairly steep hillside. (Everything is very green and lush, but that's because you're in Oregon and it's probably raining.) Every few yards, the kids come across a new attraction: Alice's rabbit hole, a crooked house, a long slide down a giant shoe. Beware that a few of the tunnels and especially Snow White's house are a bit scary; at least they were to my kids until about age 6.

At the top of the hill past Storybook Lane you'll find Western Town and the English Village. Keep an eye out for the Indian Caves (again, picture Disney's Tom Sawyer's Island, then visualize it small enough to sit and watch your kids from a nearby bench). At the far end of the park, there are some actual rides--the log ride and the dragon-themed roller coaster are our favorites--but they do require extra tickets (the type you'd purchase at a fair) and have height restrictions.

If you need a snack, or just want to escape to somewhere quiet to sit, head to the Water-Light Show, located at the base of the hill below the English Village. I don't know quite how to describe this show except that it's comprised of spurting fountains of water against a backdrop of colored lights set to music. Picture Las Vegas' Mirage, and then scale it back…oh never mind. It's nothing like that. It's simply a cheap thrill, and in my experience, it mesmerizes anyone under age three and over age 60.

You can see all of Enchanted Forest in a few hours, or you can spend all day. We usually stop for about three hours, then have to force our children to leave. Their only consolation? The obligatory routing of traffic through the gift shop (shoppe, actually, in keeping with the village theme) in order to reach the exit.