Many Willamette students may complain about the lack of weekend activities in Salem. However, with the warmer weather coming, there is no better time to go have fun outside. One popular attraction outside of Salem will be opening for the season this weekend, just in time for the warmer weather: the Enchanted Forest.
The Enchanted Forest is a small, family-owned amusement park located just outside of Salem, near Turner, OR. Once you see the Bavarian architecture from the parking lot, you will realize that the Enchanted Forest is not your average amusement park. The park has a storybook theme that makes you question whether you are in reality or in a dark nightmarish fantasyland from a 19th-century fairytale — a feeling exacerbated by the forest surrounding the park. With its unusual attractions, such as the elongated witch’s mouth, the park does an excellent job of providing a combination of childhood joy and a creep factor that is enough to unnerve both children and adults.
There are enough activities in the park to keep anyone entertained. When one first enters the park, they will pass through Storybook Lane, where they can see interactive depictions of familiar childhood stories and nursery rhymes, such as Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill and Alice in Wonderland. Later on, visitors will encounter Tofteville, “The Wildest Little Old Town in the West,” which is home to a haunted house, shooting gallery and barbecue restaurant. Near the end of park is a Bavarian-themed village that includes Irish music performances and water light shows. The park also includes some rides, most notably Big Timber Log Flume Ride with a 40 degree vertical drop, as well as the Ice Mountain Bobsled Roller Coaster. Other activities include musical comedies, treasure panning and much more.
Susan Vaslev is the eldest daughter of Roger Tofte, who founded the park in 1971. According to Vaslev, the park isn’t just for kids. College students frequently visit the park and, as Vaslev said, they tend to enjoy the Big Timber Log Flume ride, the Ice Mountain Bobsled Roller Coaster and The Challenge of Mondor, an indoor target shooting ride. Students also enjoy the comedy theatre, and although the shows are based on fairytales, Vaslev said that they are full of humor that college students enjoy.
Vaslev also said that the time before opening each year is full of intense preparation. Weather conditions this winter have made preparation for opening day challenging.
“There is so much preparation work that can only be done close to opening, like outside painting and pressure washing, and this year the temperatures were so low, not to mention snow, that added more pressure to the preparation for opening,” Vaslev said. “It always feels great to be open again and all of the intense last minute preparation completed. The best part of reopening is meeting all the visitors and seeing them really enjoying themselves.”
The park used to be somewhat of a well-kept secret, but last season, attendance increased. This could be due to the fact that the park is said to be haunted and was recently featured on an episode of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures in June 2018. Despite the allegations, Vaslev does not believe the park is haunted.
“I was seven years old when my father was building the park and 14 years old when we opened up in 1971,” Vaslev said. “I watched everything be built from scratch and never experienced anything supernatural. However, there are several people who work here who believe differently, so each person needs to make their own decision about that. If there are people who do not visit because they think it is haunted, there are also people who enjoy coming and deciding for themselves.”
The park will be open weekends only until May before opening everyday for the summer and then closing for the season in late September. Admission is $13.50 for adults, and Vaslev wanted students to know that they are welcome to bring their own food into the park. The only drawback for some will be getting there, as the park is located off I-5, away from Salem and its bus routes. The best way to get there would be to carpool with a friend who has a car.
From its allegation of being haunted, to its rides and haunted house, the Enchanted Forest is a unique destination to visit on a weekend, especially before the summer crowds arrive.
Photo Caption: An artistic depiction of the iconic witch attraction at Enchanted Forest. The park opens for the season on March 22.
PC: Kate Carpenter