Oaks Park vs. Enchanted Forest: Oregon Amusement Park Showdown
When it comes to amusement parks, Oregon is no California, Florida, or even Ohio. We have a few "family fun centers," sure, in Wilsonville, Central Point, and Florence offering bumper cars, mini golf, and games, but there are really just two fully-fledged theme parks in the Beaver State: Oaks Park and Enchanted Forest. Which one is park for you? It depends on how far you want to go, and the vibe you seek.
Background Opened in 1905 along what was then an active streetcar line (now part of the Springwater Corridor multiuse path), this Southeast Portland attraction has rides and midway games, plus a roller rink (check which sessions feature a pipe organ player), a mini-golf course, a new escape room, and a killer fireworks show on the Fourth of July.
Logistics The amusement park is open from spring break through Halloween (weekends only when school is in session). Ride bracelets for the four-feet-and-taller set run $43.95–48.95, so costs can add up for a family. The train and carousel are free, and there’s no admission charge to enter the grounds. Watch for other events, from the Multnomah County Fair in May to an Oktoberfest in September.
Thrills The 72-foot climb and “past-vertical” drop on Adrenaline Peak brings the screams, while a Matterhorn-esque Rock ’n Roll coaster and Big Pink Slide offer more manageable frissons for younger (and shorter) guests. Pantsless mascot Chipper the Squirrel has been known to haunt a dream here and there.
Vibe Oaks Park has a certain practical magic, the special-occasion feel of an all-American state fair but rooted in a single place that’s easy to get to all summer long, where you can walk a few minutes after the last ride of the day and find yourself at a river beach surrounded by picnickers and stand-up paddleboarders.
Background Roger Tofte built Enchanted Forest on 20 acres of land just south of Salem while he was working as a draftsman and artist for the Oregon Highway Department. He opened the park in 1971 and quit his day job within a few years. The Tofte family still runs the park, which includes a Storybook Lane full of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters and tableaus, a western town, and old-time European village.
Logistics The park is open spring break through the end of September, but weekends only while school is in session. Admission costs have gone up after the challenges of the pandemic and nearby wildfires, now running $22–25 per person, plus $3–5 per ride on top of that, so the cost for a family can really vary depending. There are no unlimited ride bracelets, but there aren’t really that many of them to begin with.
Thrills An ’80s-era roller coaster, a classic log flume, and a wizard-themed shooting quest installed in 2006 are all fairly tame. While the dwarves’ mines and the haunted house are eerie, the biggest scare might be the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole—do not enter if at all claustrophobic.
Vibe From the water and light show choreographed by the founder’s daughter to the thrifted children’s clothes on the animatronic storybook characters in Snow White’s cottage, everything at Enchanted Village screams labor of love. It’s hard not to fall under its transportive spell. There’s nowhere else like it.