We are fortunate to live just 15 minutes away from Sesame Place, a theme park that will send little Elmo lovers over the top with excitement. And really, what child doesn’t love the furry red monster? We became season pass holders when Finnegan turned one and have renewed our passes every year without regret. We first learned about Sesame Place before we had children through the Sesame Place Classic 5K road race that’s held every spring in conjunction with the opening of the park. The race is popular and draws a pretty large crowd every year, both in the 5K and the associated children’s fun run. It was quite a thrill for us in 2007 when we became the only husband and wife winners of the race, which landed our pictures on the front page of sports section of the local newspaper.
Unlike most amusement parks, Sesame Place has many attractions that are well-suited for toddlers as well as kids up to around eight. Finnegan just turned four and he’s tall enough (and brave enough) to go on most of the rides. While Declan isn’t tall enough for all of the rides, there is plenty to keep him busy and happy. This summer, since it has been so hot, we have been spending most of our time in the numerous water rides and attractions the park offers. Finnegan’s favorite is the Count’s Splash Castle, which is a large multi-faceted play area that has water spraying out in virtually all directions and features four water slides. The tour de force of this area is an enormous bucket that, once filled with water and upon the Count’s countdown, dumps 1,000 gallons of water on the people below.
Declan prefers Ernie’s Waterworks, which is ideal for toddlers, and is designed as a mad cap water plant that is filled with holes and leaks, allowing children to run around the area getting wet. Declan also likes the Teeny Tiny Tidal Wave – a large kiddie pool, over which Ernie personally presides. There are other water slides too for children 42 inches or taller that we haven’t tried yet since Finnegan seems to be tracking more closely to his mom’s growth curve.
There is a water slide near the pools that younger kids can go on with their parents. This always has a long line, but Finnegan loves it.
After the water rides, our next favorite thing to do is the Neighborhood Street Party Parade that features all of the Sesame Street characters. The parade is held twice a day and goes down the entire main artery of the park. These lively events feature elaborate musical numbers, dancing and singing performed by all of the characters complete with back-up dancers. These parades are eagerly anticipated throughout the day and people start lining the parade route early in order to get prime viewing spots. Get your camera ready because the characters do get off the floats and interact with the kids during the songs. Our only parade pictures are from the off-season during the Christmas time opening when we took my niece – it is much more crowded in the summer.
While our kids prefer the water attractions, there are a few dry ‘rides’ that they love. I use the term ride loosely because their absolute favorite is Big Bird’s Nest – designed for little kids. It can be a bit of a free-for-all as some kids try to build elaborate structures out of foam blocks while others are out to knock them down. Our kids do a little of both, but Finnegan spends more of his time on the destruction side or jumping over the blocks. The area is limited to kids 5 and younger, which allows the area to work. When some parents ignore the 5-year age limit, it does get a little too wild, but most of the time it’s just the right level of crazy for our boys.
Finnegan’s other favorite ride is the Vapor Trail, the only roller coaster in the park. It goes pretty fast and was more intense than I expected, but the ride designers know what they are doing because most of the young kids love it.
There are many other rides that young kids can go on, but any first time visitor should also plan to go to at least one of the shows that the park offers. For the Elmo lovers, there is the Elmo’s World Live and Elmo Rocks, which features all of the main characters. If the weather is nice, we prefer Elmo Rocks, which probably appeals to a wider age range as well. The nice thing about Elmo’s World Live is the inside air-conditioned venue. All of the shows are well-done so I don’t think you will be disappointed in any of them.
Since we go to the park frequently, we’re a bit guilty of not trying the extra things that are not included with our season passes. For example, we’ve never done one of the character dining experiences or played any of the games so we can’t comment on those.
There are plenty of dining options in the park – everything from concession stand options to sit down places. You can eat as healthy (or unhealthy) as you choose. For parents that need their coffee fix throughout the day (or who doesn’t), there is a Starbucks in Elmo’s Eatery. For those on a budget, you can bring your own food and there are picnic areas just outside the entrance to the park. The area surrounding the park also has quite a few inexpensive chain restaurants that are child-friendly including Red Robin and Cheeburger Cheeburger.
If you are going to Sesame Place for a one or two day visit, spend some time on their website to plan your trip and decide what kind of ticket(s) to buy. The regular ticket allows you to come back the next day for no extra cost. If you will go to the park twice in the same season, it is cheaper to buy a Season Pass, which also gets you a 30% discount on all food and merchandise. There are many upgrade options as well to consider.
The area immediately surrounding the park is full of strip malls and an actual mall. It is not picturesque and I wouldn’t recommend staying there unless you just want to visit the park for two days and have a place close by for your kids to nap. If you are coming from out of town and want to escape in the evenings to a nicer area with good restaurants and unique shops to explore, we highly recommend staying in Lambertville, NJ or New Hope, PA. The Delaware River separates these two towns and besides the restaurants and shopping, there is the Delaware Canal Towpath for running and riding bikes and there is even a brewery to tour. We’re partial to Lambertville, but you can easily walk between the two towns. We have a post coming soon about Lambertville and New Hope so check back soon if you will be visiting that area.
Have you been to Sesame Place before? Do you have any suggestions for the park or planning a visit?