Disney is unparalleled in its ability to summon our childlike capacity for make believe (to say nothing of unlocking our insatiable desire for merch). The roller coaster mills at Six Flags are a direct route to the childlike thrills of being jostled and whirled and overwhelmed.
But my pick for the best rejuvenile amusement park experience is way more low-rent. For my money, the best environment to revel in your rejuvenile self is the small, often-crumbling playland – the sort of run-down place created a generation ago by a wide-eyed cranky entrepreneur and now barely maintained as a setting for birthday parties and puppet shows.
Just back from terrific Labor Day weekend visiting friends in the Bay Area, where we sampled the local kid/rejuvenile attractions, including the miraculous San Francisco “tech and art” museum called Zeum, a gigantic playground and art walk outside Petaluma and Oakland’s always enchanting Fairyland.
Like a lot of other low-rent kiddie amusement parks, Fairyland is filled with creepy concrete statues of classic kid lit creatures. There’s a puppet theater and a mini Ferris Wheel and an astonishingly slow train called the Jolly Trolley. I visited a similar place in New Orleans that may or may not have survived the devastation last year. Anyone know of others? I love their pre-safety code hazards, their sweet outsider-art depiction of classic children’s icons and their shabby, nostalgic glory.
One thing I can’t abide: the unnecessary restrictions on adults. Grown-ups are expressly forbidden on slides and play structures. I got all hoity-toity and rode the Dragon Slide as a protest. Let ‘em drag me out in cuffs; this rejuvenile will fight for the right to scab my knee with the rest of the kiddies.
08.03.06 Rejuvenile Vacations
USA Today did a snappy piece last week on “rejuvenile vacations” – that is, holidays designed to unleash the inner kid. Part of me worries about the cross-generational phenomenon described in the book being reduced to a travel-agency package-deal buzzword (“Doris! Book me one of them rejuvie vacations in Boca!”), but it’s certainly true that vacations are often the only time adults shed their grown-up selves and let themselves enjoy activities they loved before they “grew up,” be they sipping fizzy florescent drinks or building sandcastles.
So yes, by all means, rejuvenile vacations. On the extravagant side, you’ve got your ultimate pajama parties and your “sleepover suites” complete with pink décor and karaoke machines. You can also go all-out at a place like Camp GetAway, a weekend camp in California’s San Bernardino mountains especially for women seeking a break from their jobs and husbands for a week racing canoes, flinging toilet paper and, in a vast improvement on the summer camps of yesteryear, massages and margaritas. Or you can finally fulfill teenage Rock God dreams at a fantasy camp where adults jam with grizzled rockers and hang out for a week at recording studios and nightclubs.
I myself am heading to a summer camp in Vermont next week that includes a terrific program for kids and simultaneous activities for parents. Thus while my three kids hike through the woods or ride the banana boat around Lake Champlain, my wife and I might be out skeet shooting or mountain biking or doing arts and crafts. Then we all get together and bounce on the trampoline. It’s pretty close to heaven.
What do we get out of such silliness? Hopefully we return to our normal adult routines refreshed and loosened and enlivened. Hopefully we find ways to maintain that energy when we get home. Hopefully we have the sort of fun that doesn’t distinguish between our adult and childlike halves, with the adult doing the work and the kid having the fun. Because that’s a recipe for low-grade schizophrenia, or at least majorly un-fun anxiety. It’s worth remembering that despite the talk of unleashing inner children and reclaiming the joys of childhood, rejuveniles don’t actually want to be kids again. We’ve just finally grown up enough to appreciate all the stuff we missed the first time around.
05.16.06 Play therapy, Jersey style
Can’t say I’ve ever thought of New Jersey as a particularly playful place – I’m more likely to think of thugs or casinos than clowns or carnivals. The Jersey Shore Alliance seeks to correct that perception with a million-dollar marketing blitz aimed squarely at the rejuvenile market.
The Jersey Shore: Your Play Therapy! is a web-based campaign that promotes the region as a “therapeutic environment where people can pack in all the playtime they need.” On a website that includes a nifty online game of skeeball, the Jersey boosters proclaim, “People are meant to play. We have an inherent need for fun and excitement. But most people don’t take the time to play enough. This causes problems. Like stress. Boredom. Insomnia. And chronic crankiness.”
Agreed. I’m not entirely convinced, however, that a long weekend in Red Bank or Ashbury Park would fulfill the playful impulses of cranky, stressed-out adults. My guess is that rejuveniles are more likely to get their kicks at Disneyworld (armed with Rita Aero’s Walt Disneyworld for Adults), a baseball fantasy camp or toy convention. My own pick for the ultimate rejuvenile vacation spot is Tyler Place, a homey resort in northern Vermont that offers adults all the joys of summer camp (Arts and crafts! Mountain biking!) without the ubiquitous bullies and insufferable sing-alongs that made summer camp such a dicey proposition as a kid.