As a child of Southern California, Disneyland is in my DNA.
My mother grew up in Pasadena, which isn't Anaheim, but close enough. One of my second cousins worked there as a liaison for visiting foreign dignitaries. To say I was obsessed with the place growing up would be an understatement. We visited almost every summer of my young adolescence. I haven't been back since my senior grad night in 2000, but no matter how black my aging heart gets, those memories remain close to it.
Perhaps that's why I've been intrigued by Salem's Enchanted Forest ever since moving to Portland eight years ago. Like Disneyland, the small, fairy tale-themed amusement park in the woods off I-5 is a monument to the man who conceived it, landscape artist Roger Tofte—except that Tofte practically built the place with his own hands in the '70s.
Until recently, I had never gotten around to visiting. But when I did, I found a place taking more than a little inspiration from the expensive playground of my youth.
If you love Fantasyland, you'll like…Storybook Lane.
Fantasyland is the part of the Magic Kingdom intended specifically for its youngest visitors and loved by its most stoned teenagers. It's where they put all the rides based on the classic Disney films—which are, of course, mostly adaptations of fairy tales and children's books—and while it's meant for little kids, surely more than one zonked hippie has jumped out of their car on the Alice in Wonderland ride to take a hit off the animatronic caterpillar's hookah. (My uncles allegedly did this.) Storybook Lane has the same idea, but God help anyone who thinks it'd be fun to get ripped and skip through this land of enchantment. The first things you see after passing through its version of Sleeping Beauty Castle is a Humpty Dumpty sculpture that looks like a coked-out Roger Ailes, Little Miss Muffet getting sexually harassed by a spider with the face of an old hobo, and a deeply unsettling vignette of Hansel and Gretel.
And that's before you encounter the terrifying Witch's Castle—literally a haggard witch's face where you enter through her mouth and slide down through her hair. Wherever you go, you hear composer Susan Vaslev's sprightly score, which is like the "It's a Small World" theme in its crazy-making repetition, except you can't get away from it. It's a bad trip waiting to happen, man.
If you love Haunted Mansion, you'll like…Haunted House.
Probably could've imagineered the concept a little harder, Mr. Tofte. Why not a haunted condominium? Or, since it's located in the park's Western-themed village, a haunted saloon, maybe?
Instead, it's just a plain, weather-beaten three-story Craftsman home, with no real story beyond "there's spookiness a-transpirin'!" The production value is somewhere between a county fair and FrightTown, relying on hydraulic-powered jump-scares you hear before you see whatever Halloween-store demon they're attached to. But it does steal a few nifty tricks from the world's most famous supernatural manor, including portraits whose eyes trace your movements, objects that seem to float in midair and a wisecracking disembodied head. (He's "the head of the household," get it?!)
To its credit, if navigating tight spaces in pitch-fucking darkness makes you anxious, getting through the house can be a truly nerve-wracking experience. For maximum disorientation, take a walk through the vertigo-inducing Crooked House in Storybook Lane right before entering. Everything is scarier when you've just simulated the effects of a concussion.
If you love Splash Mountain, you'll like…Big Timber Log Ride.
Keeping it 100, Splash Mountain is just a rich-kid version of the classic amusement-park log ride, one which, in typical Disney fashion, forces riders to float through 10 minutes of singing animals before the payoff. (Worse, the whole thing is themed around Song of the South, a film so racist the company has spent 70 years trying to erase it from history.)
In that way, Enchanted Forest's iteration is actually superior. Climb aboard your hollowed-out Douglas fir, and five minutes later, you're holding a souvenir photo of the moment you went plunging 40 feet into recycled pool water with a garbage-bag poncho enveloping your face. No fuss, minimal muss and no "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah"-ass woodland creatures reminding you that you're drifting through a Jeff Sessions fever dream.
If you love Fantasmic!, you'll like…Fantasy Fountains.
Held nightly on the "river" that surrounds Tom Sawyer Island, Fantasmic! is one of the 'Land's grandest spectacles. A live show depicting Mickey Mouse's battle with the forces of evil, it's got everything you could want from large-scale theater—fireworks, giant puppets, pirate ships, mist-screen projections and, in the climactic finale, a fire-spewing dragon that sets the river aflame like it was the Cuyahoga. Now, imagine that, but without the dragon, the pyro, the boats—basically, take out everything except the water—shoved inside a rustic snack bar, and you've got Fantasy Fountains. All day, on a 15-minute loop, over 300 water jets spit and drizzle in a choreographed dance against an array of psychedelic lighting, like a diorama version of the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas. It's not exactly thrilling, but it is sort of relaxing, and will certainly help distract you while you choke down your slice of triple-A ballpark-grade pizza.
If you love the Matterhorn, you'll like…Ice Mountain Bobsleds.
The park's most egregious rip-off tries to convince you that, oh yeah, tobogganing is pretty much the same everywhere in Europe, no matter what generic mountain range you're in. Maybe Disney doesn't own the idea of simulated winter sports—after all, it stole its own attraction's design from, um, the Alps—but the abominable snowman that greets you on your first ascent here looks awfully familiar. At any rate, there's no ride at Enchanted Forest better equipped to remind you that you're too old and fat to experience actual amusement at an amusement park.
Try cramming into one of the enclosed pods that takes you around the track with another full-grown adult. The attendants will tell you it's cool, but oh, it is not. What the coaster lacks in speed it makes up for in whiplashability, herking and jerking until you're convinced they should've called it Mount Smushmore. Men, for the sake of your unborn children, insist on sitting in front.