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Story Land.


Field review by the editors.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Storyland is proof that New Orleans isn't all voodoo, jazz, and adult shenanigans. This little patch of the Big Easy is for kids, and while it may be full of innocence and charm, it was born out of some bottom-line business calculations.

Story Gator.

Storyland was principally bankrolled by Harry Batt Sr., who owned the local Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park. Harry had set up some kiddie rides in New Orleans' City Park, but business was lousy. Then in 1956 he became acquainted with a garden of colorful, oversized fairy tale characters in far-away Oakland, California, named Children's Fairyland. (Perhaps he saw this promotional film). Batt reasoned that something like that would attract kids to his rides.

History is hazy about what happened next. Some say that Harry acquired the building plans openly from the Oakland attraction. Others say that he engineered a not-quite-authorized copy with the help of Josef Lentz, a New Orleans artist who'd designed perspective-skewed expressionist stage sets for Orson Welles in the 1930s (In our minds we imagine Harry handing Josef a bunch of Children's Fairyland postcards and commanding, "Build me this.")

Cheese Moon and cow.

Old Woman's shoe.

However it happened, the result was Children's Storyland (its original name), opened on Dec. 30, 1956. It was an instant hit; 13,000 people showed up on opening day, half-a-million in the first year. Harry had more than enough customers for his rides, which have multiplied into Storyland's neighboring Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

Kids, naturally, don't care about why Storyland is here; they just want it to be fun. That's guaranteed by the tough-as-a-gator statues, which are arrayed beneath centenarian oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and designed to be scrambled over and climbed on (They survived Hurricane Katrina with only a few nicks). Captain Hook's pirate ship floats in real water. Old King Cole's castle offers a stairway to its battlements. A slightly corpse-like Snow White reclines among woodsy clutter. Two examples of the park's original copycat work are the crazy-angled Shoe House (Its tiny doorway was Storyland's original kids-only entrance) and Pinocchio's Willie the Whale (renamed from the terrifying "Monstro" in the Disney film). Lodged deep within Willie's walk-in gullet is the tail end of a swallowed fish.

Snow White.

The park's initial population of 13 nursery rhyme scenes has now doubled, thanks to Storyland's good fortune of being in a city with some of the best fiberglass artists in the world. Dedication plaques show new additions arriving every few years, such as a Carter-era Rocket Ship and the memorable Reagan-era Dragon Slide, where kids plummet earthward on the monster's belching flames.

There are additions from local mythology as well, strange as any fairytale. These include "The Story Gator" with its Bermuda shorts and concertina, and "Mama" Coleen Salley, a popular New Orleans teacher and author who sits on a bench with her diaper-clad marsupial sidekick, "Epossumondas."

Storyland is also a welcoming stop for kid-free adults, who enjoy it as a kind of outdoor gallery of over-the-top art. Through its website, City Park encourages businesses and adult party planners to rent Storyland after-hours for grown-ups who apparently aren't afraid to ride the dragon or hobnob in Willie's mouth. "It's guaranteed to be a soiree they'll never forget."


City Park

7 Victory Ave., New Orleans, LA
On the southwest side of City Park. Entrance is on the north side of Victory Ave.
T-F 10-5, Sa-Su 10-6 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $4. Free for kids under 3 feet tall. No pets.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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