Monday, May 22, 2017

Discover Magic in British Columbia's Enchanted Forest


This May long weekend, my family took its first ever ‘family-only’ holiday - no extended family or friends, just us. It was wonderful and we had a total blast, spending some quality family time together. We headed out to Revelstoke National Park in British Columbia for a few days, choosing to stay at the Coast Hillcrest Hotel, which was really nice. (I will do a hotel tour post on that soon.) 

Me and my munchkin sharing a 'Cheers' on our hotel patio.

Over the course of the weekend, we packed a lot in considering we had a three-year-old and a one-year-old, one of which still requires afternoon naps. We went swimming in the Revelstoke Aquatic Centre on our first evening. The kids loved it - the centre features a ‘lazy river’ that pulls you along in a figure 8 while you relax on a floaty mat or a pool noodle. For the kids, it also had a fountain to splash in, kiddie pool, hot tub, and waterslide. It was a great way to unwind after our nearly seven hour drive from Alberta. 

The Revelstoke Aquatic Center. Image via.

We also enjoyed a ride down a mountain on the Pipe Mountain Coaster at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, a stay at the 3 Valley Gap Ghost Town, and of course, an afternoon exploring the Enchanted Forest, one of my favourite childhood places to visit. 

I remember my parents taking me to the Enchanted Forest as a kid. One time we went, my little sister, who had gorgeous blonde ringlet hair, was sitting outside the Three Bears’ hut, and a tourist took a photo of her, thinking she was Goldilocks. I wanted my kids to have similar magical memories, and so when my husband suggested a weekend trip to Revelstoke for my birthday gift, I knew we had to go to the Enchanted Forest.

Parker and Avy excited to embark on our Enchanted Forest adventure.

The Forest is about 30 minutes west of Revelstoke, and is accessed on a very picturesque drive through the Rocky Mountains on Highway 1 West. We headed for the Enchanted Forest after a busy morning riding the Pipe Mountain roller coaster, and reached the parking lot just after lunchtime. Upon reaching our destination, we opened the bed of the truck only to find we’d forgotten our double stroller at the roller coaster resort! Luckily, both kids were so excited to explore the forest’s pathways and exhibits that riding in a stroller would never have happened anyway.

The castle looms over the Enchanted Forest parking lot.

Entrance to the Enchanted Forest costs $12.00 for adults, and $9.00 for children aged 3-15. Kids under three are free. The attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the summer, but I recommend you check the website to ensure it is indeed open on the days you plan to visit. It covers an area of 40 acres, and speckled throughout are white-picket-fence-lined pathways leading to displays of fairytale creatures, magical woodland figures, nursery rhyme characters, and more. There are over 350 handmade cement figurines on the property, all of which are connected to some sort of childhood tale. Rather than rehash the history of the Enchanted Forest here, I simply took a photo of sign that hangs in the castle explaining how the Enchanted Forest came to be. 

The story behind the Enchanted Forest, displayed on the castle wall.

After paying for your entrance in the gift shop (which also functions as the exit, so you have to go through it twice - get your wallets ready! There’s no escaping the toys and trinkets!), you enter the forest and immediately spot Humpty Dumpty balanced precariously on the forest wall. Beyond him is a modest sized castle, complete with drawbridge and an alligator-infested moat. Fountains and other water features can be found throughout the Enchanted Forest as well, making it lush and musical-sounding.

Peek-a-boo! Is anyone home?

We hit up the castle first. Inside there is only one room on the main floor, featuring Snow White’s magic mirror, a talking wizard, and a few implements brought up from the dungeon. Down the stairs, the dungeon is dark and dank, so bring a sweater! I have memories of being terrified of the dungeon as a child, and it didn’t disappoint as an adult. It isn’t scary to me now, but it freaked out my three-year-old daughter (to her delight) and made my one-year-old son cry, so I guess things haven’t changed. There are only three rooms in the dungeon, but one of them featured a zombie-looking thing shaking around - that’s what did it for my son. Of course, as soon as we escaped back upstairs, the daughter HAD to go back down and check it out again. She may be a little morbid like her mother.

My husband trapped in the castle. 

Once we emerged from the castle, we kept left. If you turn right, you will end up at the washrooms, and then to the fish pond and out of the exit. And then you’d miss EVERYTHING, so keep left.

My son enjoys a hobby horse ride. 

The left path loops a considerable distance into the forest, which is incredible all by itself. The trees are massively tall, the forest floor is lush with ferns, flowers, moss, and a plethora of beautiful plants I don't even know the names for.

Some of our favourite ‘exhibits’, not featured in the correct order as they are found on the pathway, include:

The Homes of the Three Little Pigs

This interpretation of the Three Little Pigs’ houses is quite literal. There is a small hut made out of bound straw, one made of sticks, and one made of brick. You can go inside all of them. The brick one is the most comfortable to get in and out of, and it has two doors so there’s no shifting around inside to access the exit, but the other two are worth a peek as well.

My daughter checking out the Little Pigs' stick house.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

No adults inside this one, unless you are extremely petite! But for kids, this is a fun exhibit. You can enter the old woman’s shoe house, go up a narrow, twisting set of stairs, and exit out of the top of the shoe via a steep slide. The slide is quite steep, so your kids might freak out a little. My daughter, who is usually stubbornly independent, insisted that my husband catch her, and my son literally had to be extracted out.

The Home of the Three Bears

This house has plates of porridge, three different sized chairs, and a second level inside with three little beds. My kids loved the houses that featured beds - they laid down in all of them. It was big enough for all four of us to squeeze into, which made it easier to drag the kids out when it was time to move onto the next sight.

The home of the Three Bears.

The Pirate Ship 

The pirate ship is mostly just a massive ramp reaching up into the trees. The ramp is pretty steep, so beware of your kids taking a tumble if they run down too fast. But when you are at the top, there is a pretty cool view of the forest pathways.

Way, way up on the elevated end of the pirate ship.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ Home

Once again, this little house had seven beds, and I believe my kids reclined in all of them because they were in there for about 20 minutes before we could convince them to move along. The front door is tiny and not for most adults to squeeze through, but a larger hole in the back of house makes it possible to reach in and drag your children out!

The Farm with the Digging Machines

I think this is supposed to be Old MacDonald’s farm, but I wasn’t sure. The barn isn’t open to the public, and the chicken coop features an animatronic farmer collecting eggs, so I didn’t find the exhibit very thrilling. But in the farmyard, there are two digging machines set up in a sandpit, and my kids had a total blast digging sand with them.

We might have to invest in one of these digging machines at home!

Along the way are all sorts of other exhibits, such as a hollowed out burned tree you can climb inside, Little Miss Muffet, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, the cow jumping over the moon and so much more. Some of the nursery rhymes referenced I hadn’t even heard of, so it is almost like a learning experience when you visit!

My son and I in the hollow tree at the Enchanted Forest.

When I took a peek at what there was to do in Revelstoke online, one particular image kept appearing of a massive treehouse with winding steps stretching up to the top of a huge pine tree. (I think it is a pine - correct me if I am wrong.) I found out that this amazing three story treehouse was found in the Enchanted Forest, so I was excited to climb it. It definitely wasn’t around when I was a kid!

We climbed up the treehouse separately, due to the fact that I had to run back halfway across the forest because we forgot my son’s hat in Snow White’s house (all part of our theme of forgetting stuff during this particular trip). So my husband and kids waited for me on level 2 while I dashed through the forest. When I returned with the hat, I explored level 1, saying hello to the two creepy witches located there. Level 2 has a table and chairs, perfect for a wee snack break. Level 3, at the tippy top of the treehouse, has a bunkbed occupied by another slightly creepy replica of a little boy. I had to bribe my daughter with food to get her to come back down from level 3, as she was ready to nap the day away in that bunkbed!

The giant treehouse at the Enchanted Forest.

Looking out the window of the treehouse gives you a great view of a secondary part of the park, although separate from the Enchanted Forest. This area is called SkyTrek and is a kid and adult climbing attraction, where you walk through the treetops, rappel down the sides of climbing walls, and do skywalks on ropes. There are about four or five sections, but my kids were only old enough to play on one of them, so we opted to skip SkyTrek this time around and do it again when they are 6 years old and able to participate in all of the sections. But it could be worth checking out if you have older and adventurous children.

The cow jumped over the moon...

After we finished the ‘left loop’, we ended back up at the fork where we’d begun, with reclining mermaids and singing frogs. From here, we walked past the main washrooms and towards the fish pond.

Magical mermaids adorn one of the tinkling water features.

At the fish pond, large catfish circle lazily in the water waiting for tourists to shower them with pellets of fish food. A quarter machine that dispenses fish food is located right next to the pond. We didn’t even have to put money in the machine - there were enough loose pellets located in the lip of the machine and on the ground to keep my kids occupied for quite some time.

There are signs posted on the grounds warning visitors not to climb the rocks - signs my three-year-old believed did not apply to her. Did she ever learn a lesson! While she was climbing rocks to get closer to feed the fish, she slipped on some algae and slid into the fish pond, soaking her shoes and the bottoms of her pants. The pond isn’t deep or dangerous by any means, but her shoes reeked like fish in the aftermath of that escapade. A lesson to be learned about listening to your parents!

The kids feeding fish before Avy dunked herself in.

After the dunking adventure, we knew it was time to leave. We had seen all there was to see anyway. But even leaving the park was a fun experience. Just before we left the forest, I noticed a figurine of Jack, protecting the goose that laid golden eggs. He was frozen in the process of chopping down one of the pine trees. Make sure to look up, way up, because at the top of that tall tree is a massive figurine of a giant, clinging desperately to the tree as it is felled. It is a pretty nifty sight.

A giant stuck in a tree, which is meant to be a beanstalk.

In order to exit the park, you are directed to walk through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole (which I thought extremely fitting considering the title of my travel blog!). Of course, no one is forced to walk through the tunnel - there is a little side exit if you’d rather not go that route. But I recommend you do! The tunnel is well lit, with little Alice in Wonderland references hidden throughout. It was a fun way to leave the Enchanted Forest.

It took us, a family of four with two toddlers, about two hours to meander through the exhibits in the Enchanted Forest, seeing every one and spending considerable time at some of them. We did NOT do the nature walk, which extends out past the left loop and includes a boat ride if you so choose. The nature walk restricts access after 4 p.m., and we hit that part of the loop around 3:45 p.m., so it didn’t seem smart to add that extra hike to our day at that point. But if you have older kids who aren’t so taken with the fairytale part of the park, the nature hike might add an extra element of excitement.

Just hanging out at the farm display.

The memories I had of exploring the Enchanted Forest as a kid are pretty fuzzy and vague except for the one Goldilocks moment, but overall, the park did not disappoint. If I did not have children with me, it probably wouldn’t be my first choice to attend, but for young ones the park is pretty magical. My kids are already asking to go back, so I’d say that is positive feedback!

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