Back in 1950, when Children's Fairyland was first built along the shores of Lake Merritt, the idea of a storybook park for children was unique and exciting. What could be more thrilling for a child than to see plaster-and-paint models of Captain Hook's pirate ship or Pinocchio's Castle?
These days, generations of kids have been raised on roller coasters and Disney, not to mention spectacular video games and movies. For such tykes, a chance to slide down into the White Rabbit's underground hole might not sound so heart-stopping. But an opportunity to see Fairyland's sweetly retro attractions by starlight, with the lights of downtown Oakland all around -- now that's something else again. At the summer series of Family Overnighters, campers are invited to pitch a tent and explore Fairyland by night. Attractions and rides, including the Jolly Trolly, are open until 9 p.m., and a special puppet show, barbecue dinner, and continental breakfast are provided. Admission to the Family Overnighters at Children's Fairyland, 699 Bellevue (off Grand), Oakland, is $35-40 per adult and $15 per child. Campers must register in advance; call (510) 452-2259 or visit www.fairyland.org. -- Joyce Slaton
Oakland's Zoo Do
If you're curious as to what the nightlife of lions and tigers and bears looks like, here's your chance to find out without booking a trip to Africa. The Oakland Zoo's Sundown Safari's night and morning behind-the-scenes tours suss out what the animals really do when no one's watching. Learn African drumming, listen to traditional folktales around the fire, and then sleep under the stars. Bring tents and sleeping bags and the zoo provides the rest, including bats, owls, and ghost stories (sorry, Crocodile Hunter not provided). The safari sets out today at 6 p.m. at the Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links (at Hwy. 580), Oakland. Fees are $35-50 for kids, $60-75 for adults; call (510) 632-9525 or visit www.oaklandzoo.org. -- Jack Karp
Some children are terribly serious and do not like loud noises, running around outside, or watching adults act silly. These dour young people could care less about wearing funny costumes or watching knights in real armor jousting on huge war horses while dirt flies everywhere and the crowd screams. They do not even want to eat yummy weird food, watch sword fights, or ride the special flying machine.
If you have one of these kids, do not take him to the Heart of the Forest Renaissance Faire, because he will be miserable. Some jester will probably try to make him laugh, or a craftsperson might force him to play with honey-scented beeswax, and who wants that? Children beware, starting today at 11 a.m. at Stafford Lake Park, 3549 Novato (at San Marin), Novato. Admission is $6-20; call 897-4555 or visit www.forestfaire.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser