After 81 years in the kiddie amusement park business, Kiddieland in Melrose Park is closing its doors for good on October 4. That means you have less than two months to make your last (or maybe your first) visit.
I grew up in Oak Park and was no stranger to Kiddieland as a child. This spring, I brought my kids there for the first time.
Much to my surprise (and also dismay), it seemed like absolutely nothing about the place had changed in the twenty or so years since I had last been there.
In many ways, Kiddieland is really from another time. Many of the rides look like antiques. The roller coaster appears rickety -- at best. As my children hopped aboard each ride, I said silent prayers that the cables didn't come flying loose and land us on the evening news.
Kiddieland is also full of the typical amusement park trappings like
cheap prizes, cotton candy and video games.
One of the most perplexing features is the "all you can drink" soda stations. All you can drink soda? Seriously?
But I must confess that other aspects of the Kiddieland experience are downright endearing. In a world of sanitized, safe play spaces, kids don't really have that many opportunities to experience the true, teeth-clattering jolt of a bumper car or the vomit-inducing rush of a tilt-a-whirl ride.
I loved this place as a kid. And my kids loved it every bit as much on their first visit. My guess is that there are going to be fewer and fewer opportunities to experience this kind of thing going forward. Places like Kiddieland don't strike me as the future of family fun.
You still have a few weeks to take your kid on a train ride or (for the brave of heart) maybe even a spin on that ancient roller coaster. If you are planning a visit, be sure to take advantage of the discounted tickets available at Jewel.
True Kiddieland enthusiasts will want to place bids for a "last ride" at the closing ceremonies.
We might try to squeeze in one last visit in September -- who knows when we'll have a chance to ride bumper cars again.