When Kymberly Miller took over as executive director of Children’s Fairyland in 2019, one of her goals was to make the famed 73-year-old theme park more accessible and representative of Oakland’s diversity. Starting this weekend, the park will take its first big step toward achieving that objective with the launch of its “Fairyland for All” initiative, which lowers admission prices for low-income families.
“Fairyland wanted to be for everyone. But over time, that has narrowed,” Miller told The Oaklandside on Wednesday. “We have families who aren’t aware of Fairyland at all; that’s problem number one. And problem number two is running into people who think that Fairyland isn’t for them, that it is only for those who live around the lake or in the hills.”
Miller publicly announced the initiative at a press event at the park on Friday morning alongside several elected officials, including Oakland’s Deputy Mayor Dr. Kimberly Mayfield and District 4 Councilmember Janani Ramachandran.
Beginning Saturday, families who qualify for EBT, SNAP/CalFresh, WIC, or Medi-Cal can enter the park at a discounted rate of $5 per person (up to 8 individuals per household). Qualifying families will be given a temporary card during their first visit. Upon their second visit to the park (within four months), they can trade in the card for a free one-year family membership, which will give them free admission whenever they want to visit the park.
The initiative is part of a larger effort to make Fairyland accessible to families of all income levels who otherwise might not be able to afford the regular admission price of $16 or the family memberships that range between $139-$300 per year.
Miller and her team spent the past year conversing with parkgoers to determine what the “Fairyland for All” initiative would entail. Lowering the admission-price barrier is the first in a series of changes she envisions for the park and hopes to have in place by 2025 when Fairyland celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Improving the overall visitor experience is also in the plans, she said. Fairyland already celebrates Lunar New Year and Black History Month, but Miller is looking at ways to celebrate other cultures that make Oakland a rich and diverse city.
“We want our toddler story times, our performers, our puppet shows, our children’s theater shows, to represent these cultures,” she said. “We want to make sure people see themselves reflected in our work and see us being in tempo with our community and not quite out of touch.”
Miller hopes that elected officials will help spread the word to their constituents, particularly families who don’t live close to the park.
“We’re really excited to share this with [elected officials], and they’re excited to share the moment with us,” she said.
Miller said it isn’t just families with kids who enjoy Fairyland; the park has also become popular over the years with adults. While Fairyland will always be for children first, said Miller, the park will be expanding its number of adult-focused events over the next 12 to 18 months.
“We want to share that magic with adults who wish to play and come back to Fairyland,” said Miller.
Miller wants visitors to know that Fairyland will continue its commitment to better represent Oakland in the years to come, while also maintaining the things that have made it a special place for so many.
“We are not changing anything about Fairyland because it is a place of magic,” she said. “We want to maintain that vibe and stay true to it. But, we can do that while we work the line to tell more diverse stories within the park.”