It has been a very busy August for us. O turned 5 and he had his last few weeks of preschool summer camp this month. But with that behind us and kindergarten right around the corner we decided to hit the road to Pennsylvania to Sesame Place.
I thought it would be safe to do Sesame Place since it would cost us a lot less than Disney and they are more familiar with Sesame Street than Mickey and friends. I also thought that if they did well here we could consider Disney sooner rather than later. I also have to admit that I thought O would be excited about this trip. It turns out that S was super thrilled to be here more than O. She had two goals: 1. to see Elmo. 2. to go to Elmo’s house. Lofty goals, and we were lucky enough to meet Elmo; actually the last family before he went on to his next engagement.
I think the biggest concern for parents with young kids at an amusement park is if they will be able to do anything short of a soft play area. Have no fear, this amusement park is geared towards you! O, a newly turned 5 year old, was able to ride almost every ride at the park. He even was able to ride the lone rollercoaster at the park, and had so much fun too. He was also able to ride all but two water slides, which I was very surprised about. S was able to ride many of the rides and did one water slide (which we knew she was an inch too short for, but Dad insisted on taking her anyways).
There was also a parade in the afternoon on the main street, which both kids loved! All the characters were singing and dancing. Sometimes the characters would go out and give the kids watching a high five or dance with them. It was very exciting for everyone.
Nevertheless, Sesame Place is a zoo since it is a pretty popular destination for most families with young children. Here are some top tips to make the most out of your day at the park:
- If you are visiting over the weekend or a holiday when kids typically have the school day off, consider buying Abby’s Magic Queue passes for your family. Prices start at $15 a person, which is a lot but may be worth it to avoid the long lines especially on a hot summer day. For our family we got the passes that give you priority boarding only once, which worked out great for us. Because our kids are still pretty young, they are also slow like molasses. So they rarely jumped off a ride to then queue up again like older kids do. And because some rides S wasn’t tall enough to do O could do them twice (like the water slides). AS SOON AS YOU KNOW THE DAY YOU ARE GOING, BUY YOUR PASSES ASAP! They limit the number of each pass they give out on a given day, so buy them as soon as you know, otherwise you may be left in the lurch.
- Parking! You can save money by prepaying for parking online. But the caveat is that you need to get there early because parking is on a first come first served basis, except for VIP. VIP gives you a guaranteed parking space for the entire day and you have in and out privileges. You do have in and out privileges at the other two lots, but it does not mean a spot for your car will still be there when you get back. Parking does sell out, so if you don’t think you’ll make it there when the park opens, perhaps don’t buy parking ahead of time. You can always just download the app and pay for parking on your phone while you wait to get into the lot too. Also, there isn’t that much into it between preferred and general parking. You have to cross the street to get to Sesame Place from the general parking lot. But it’s not a large road and there’s a very well marked crosswalk.
- Food! You are allowed to bring in a small cooler with snacks and water bottles, which we did. But you are not allowed to picnic in the park. There are picnic tables located right outside of the park by the preferred parking lot. You could leave a cooler in your car with your food, and just go out to the car and bring it to the picnic area when you are ready to eat. There is food at the park, but there aren’t many eateries and the lines are just way too long! We ate lunch at Cookie’s Cafe. It opened at 10:30am I think, and we went in at 11am. The lines weren’t too terrible at that point, but the VERY VERY VERY slow service meant I didn’t get the food to the table until closer to noon! And at that point the line for the food was out the door!!! It was the same for all the eateries that didn’t require a reservation, like the character dining. Also, based on eating at Cookie’s Cafe, there isn’t much difference between pre-purchasing your meal online. Another option recommended to me by a friend is to walk to a restaurant outside of the park. There’s a Red Robin half a mile walk away. Just make sure you get your hand stamped so you can re-enter the park later.
- Parade! If you want a front row seat to the parade, have someone in your group stake your spots about an hour before the parade starts. Put down some towels and just camp out there while another person takes the kids to ride a few rides before the parade begins. Otherwise you may have to put your kids on your shoulders so they can catch a glimpse of the parade.
- Try to get there right when it opens. It’s not as hot and the lines for rides are very small. We were able to get on a few rides without much of a wait. And then when the crowds came in we used our Abby’s Magic Queue passes to skip to the front.
- There are air conditioned nursing stations!!! Just use the call box and someone will come by to open the door for you.
- Bring refillable water bottles!!! They have water fountains you can refill them, which is super important in summer.
- Make sure you bring your own beach towels, especially to snag the few beach chairs they have at the water park. Wear water shoes! And don’t forget a change of clothes for the end of the day.
- And have a nice camera on you! The characters are always walking around, and if you make a beeline to 1-2-3 Smile with Me, you might be able to see your favorite one–that’s where we met Elmo. The park has staff that also take “professional” photos for your that you can purchase later. But they don’t have any policy against using your own camera. The staff aren’t allowed to take a photo using your camera, so if you want a family photo you can ask the family behind you to snap your shot.
Overall, it was a great experience for the kids. It is a tiny amusement park compared to others in the mid-Atlantic. But it is perfect for little kids. My two biggest qualms about this place is that some parts, like around the lines for the water slides, smelled like urine (yuck!). The other problem is that everything seemed like an upgrade! A show here, a character meeting there were just additional costs. Thankfully, my kids weren’t aware of these extras. But still a nice treat the kids really enjoyed!