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Thursday, August 7, 2014

a Sesame Street Place adventure - Shelby Davis

Thanks so much to Shelby Davis for sharing her Sesame Place adventure! I went on this trip back in June and LOVED it so much, I'm glad to have another mom who enjoyed it just as much. 

Some GREAT tips for going to an amusement park, but specifically GO to this one! It's so much fun. If your little one likes Sesame Street, you must head to Pennsylvania to this park. Such a great experience for your little one.

Thanks, Shelby, for sharing your ideas and ADORABLE pictures. Love the one of your little guy with Bert and Ernie! :) 

(And sidenote: when we watched the shows, we adults got all giddy JUST like you mentioned! SO exciting for even the big kids to go to this park!)

All photos from Shelby Davis

1. When did you go to Sesame Street Place? Who went with you?
My husband, our 2-1/2 year old son and I went on a Wednesday and Thursday at the end of July 2014.

2. What did you do beforehand to prepare for the trip? How far in advance did you save money?
I read reviews on Trip Advisor, researched hotels, park costs and park map, as well as what they had for attractions and the rides/height restrictions. I made an itinerary on what I thought our two days there would look like. (I did this for Disney as well and it worked out perfectly.)  I purchased our tickets and Dinner with Elmo reservations online and printed everything out to bring with us.  I went grocery shopping a couple days before we left so we didn’t need to spend too much on food while we were down there.  I made sure to book a hotel with a fridge so we could keep our groceries cold. 

We didn’t save money ahead of time for this trip because it wasn’t a huge dollar amount.

3. How much did your trip cost, including hotel, park visits, food, etc. (try breaking it down as much as you remember for us... $$ on hotel, for example, etc.)?
- Hotel was $325 for 3 nights which included breakfast
 - Park was $174 for 2 days
- Parking for one day was $18 (received the second day free)
- Dinner with Elmo was $75
- Souvenirs were $30
-  Dinner on day 2, snacks, drinks and coffees in the park were $100
 - Gas down and back was $140
- Tolls were $36 (seriously?!)
- I went grocery shopping at home before we left and spent about $60 on food to bring with us. We didn’t eat all of it there though (example – pack of 6 granola bars, only took/ate 3)
Total spent =  $958.00

4. Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful Web sites, you used, etc.?  is always so helpful.  That’s my primary website for any and all information, things to know that you’ll never find on a company website. Tips from people who have been there.  I used for hotel prices and for info on the park itself and the park map to make our daily itineraries.  When I went to map our driving route I used google maps.
5. Did you receive any special discounts, coupons, or have some secret tips to share about saving money?
We purchased the two day pass online for $58 per person.  That breaks it down to $29 per day which in my opinion was a great value for what we got.  It’s also a $10 savings per person off the gate price.  The parking is slightly discounted on the website as well, so we paid $18 for preferred parking instead of $20.  There was a special when we purchased our tickets which gave us free parking on our second day, so we only had to pay for one day of parking.

6. Best places to eat, stay, visit, etc.? Things you encourage families with kids MUST do while in that area?
We did the Dinner With Elmo which I highly recommend!!! It was awesome and for a total of $75 for the three of us, well worth it (character dinners at Disney can be $70 per person so the price at Sesame was well received by us!).   We were visited by Grover, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Abby and The Count. My son was in heaven.  Dinner was buffet style and to my surprise, it wasn’t too bad.

We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Morrisville, PA. It’s about a 6 minute drive and I am so happy we chose that hotel. We didn’t want to pay a lot on our hotel, but obviously wanted clean, safe and modern accommodations.  We paid $325 for 3 nights which included a hot breakfast.  The rooms were very nice and had refrigerators (which we absolutely needed), microwaves, and a pool. It was a good place to sleep and eat breakfast and take our little guy for a couple swims in the pool. Really glad we didn’t spend $900 to stay across the street from Sesame Place at the Springhill Suites.  

7. Did you eat there, pack lunches, leave at a certain time and go back, etc.? 
Day 1: breakfast at hotel, arrived at Sesame Place at 10am (that’s their opening time),  we packed sandwiches, drinks and snacks to take into the park with us, ate dinner with Elmo at 5pm and left the park at 6:30pm when we knew our son was on the verge of melting down.
Day 2: breakfast at hotel, arrived at Sesame Place at 9:45am, we packed sandwiches, drinks and snacks to take into the park with us, grabbed dinner there and ate on the street while we waited for their 7pm parade to start.  Left at 7:30pm after the parade.  No naps for 2 days, but our little guy slept like a rock for 12+ hours each night in the hotel. 

8. What is your best advice for visiting Sesame Street Place... pack ___ in a backpack? wear swim clothes? go in afternoon and go back the next day? etc.?
Best tips from my perspective:
Get there at opening to get a close parking spot. It really doesn’t matter which lot you’re parking in, as long as you’re there around 15 minutes before opening, you’ll be a close walk from the gate. 

- Pack your own food for the day – cheaper and healthier.  Adult meal deals are $12, kid meal deals are $9.  So we packed sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, pretzels,  fruit snacks, applesauce pouches, Gatorades, water bottles (and flavor packs). It didn’t feel as bad to spend $5 on an ice cream or $4 on popcorn as well as get Starbucks every day when we knew we were eating healthy lunches and snacks throughout the day and weren’t paying a boatload for them. 

- Go on a weekday to avoid lines and crowds. Every review that I’ve read which complains about this park is due to overcrowding during the weekend.  Everything from too many people, long lines, overflowing garbage, etc.  We didn’t stand in a single ride line or character line for more than 10 minutes and didn’t feel overcrowded very often. I was going to purchase the Fast Pass option for us (called Abby’s Magic Queue), but when we got there I realized we didn’t need it. 

- Book a character meal (there are a few to chose from ) to meet and spend more time with the characters.  This was huge for us.  I was on the fence about booking the Dinner with Elmo but I’m so glad we did.  It was one of our favorite things. We got to slow down and let the characters come to us. 

- Bring a change of dry clothes for your water park day.  We thought we were going to spend all of day 2 in the water park but at the last minute I tossed a change of clothes in our bag for each of us.  Halfway through the day we decided we were done. Our son wanted to ride more of the dry rides and the water was a little chilly and he started shivering.

-Pack:  Sunscreen, drinks, hand sanitizer, healthy snacks, CAMERA!!!, chapstick, baby wipes for messy faces/hands, hats for the kids, sunglasses, a small wristlet for mom (for credit cards, cash, phone which I could take with me on the rides if the backpack was in the stroller). 

- Wear: loose, comfortable and cool clothing. Comfortable shoes.
Bring a stroller even if you don’t think your kid will ride in it.  It’s good to have to hold your stuff.

 9. Top 3 tips for spending the day at an amusement park with your children? 
- Be flexible.  We planned on watching the parade on day 1 at 7pm.  I could tell after dinner that our toddler wasn’t going to do well if we pushed him to stay, so we left. No big deal, we watched it the next day.  If he diverted from my “plan” at all, I never once let it bother me.  The trip was about him. 

- Experience the day through the eyes of your child(ren).  I seriously almost burst into tears when my son saw Ernie and Bert for the first time. I’ve never seen his eyes light up so bright and a smile on his face so big.  He glanced sideways at me as if to say “Holy cow! We’re at SESAME STREET Mom?! ”  (My husband would have thought I was a total lunatic if I had cried, so I quickly dabbed my eyes, lol).

- Stay hydrated/wear sunscreen.  Nothing can ruin a fun day faster than a dehydrated child (or parent) who is getting fried by the sun.

10. What would you do differently if you went again on this trip?
The day we left Pennsylvania to drive home I would either leave very early in the morning or stay the full day and drive at night.  We made the mistake of driving home in the middle of the day on a Friday. Bad idea.

Next time we would probably do one more thing in the area, like the Philadelphia Zoo or the Please Touch Museum.  But I didn’t want to overwhelm our son after 2 days at Sesame, I knew he’d probably be too tired to do a 3rd straight day.  Overall, it was a perfect trip!

11. How old were your kids when they went on this trip, and do you think they got a lot out of it, remember it, etc.? Was it a good age span to go to this amusement park?
Our son was 2-1/2 and I think he got a lot out of it.  He knows all the Sesame characters and loves them.  He was able to put everything together, enjoy it all – the rides, the shows, the characters, the water park. It was a great age to take him. He got so much more out of it than he did Story Land last year at 18 months old.  I’d love to take him to Sesame again in a year or two. 

12. Misconceptions: Something you think people don't know or are confused by when making plans to visit Sesame Street Place that you learned from?

I cannot believe this park opened in 1980 and I just found out about it 6 months ago. I don’t think people realize how awesome of a park it is.  I was floored. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. We have taken our son to Disney World, Story Land, York’s Wild Kingdom, Canobie Lake Park and Funtown/Splashtown and this was our favorite for him so far.  

It was a good size and everything was geared towards little kids. I’d rather drive the 6 hours to Sesame than ever drive 2 hours to Story Land again.  It blows Story Land out of the water! Also, it’s very well maintained and very modern.  Sesame Street is old school. I watched it when I was a little kid. But there is nothing old school about this park!

Also, and this is a huge deal that I think others don’t know about – MILITARY FAMILIES!!! Listen UP!  Sesame Place is part of Sea World. Their program, Waves of Honor permits any U.S. active duty military, activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman to one complimentary admission per year to either SeaWorld®, Busch Gardens®, Adventure Island®, Water Country USA®, or Sesame Place® or Aquatica SeaWorld's Waterpark™ in San Diego for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents.

13. Best part about Sesame Street Place? What did your kids LOVE? What was your favorite part?There is SO much to do.  Dry rides, water slides, water play, shows, parade, character meetings, slides and climbing structures, carnival games, souvenir shopping.  There is no way to be bored here. 

Our son loved meeting the characters and the huge netted climbing structure, called Monster Clubhouse.  That was by far his favorite because he loves to climb. His dad and I liked it too, my husband was jumping around like a kid in there.  

I also thought it was awesome when my husband volunteered to dance in one of the shows.  I liked all the shows, especially Let’s Play Together, because it was very interactive.  We all got giddy and excited to meet the characters.  We met them all and it was so fun.  The costumes are amazing, exactly like on TV.  And there were a lot chances to meet characters which I was happily surprised about.  

And my son wanted a bubble maker for his souvenir (I wanted him to get a big bird stuffed animal!), and every single day we have been home he asked for his bubble maker.  So that was a huge deal for him too.

14. Anything else you want to add?
If you have small kids who like Sesame Street, GO TO THIS PARK.  You won’t regret it (as long as you go on a weekday).  As much as I like the theme parks closer to home, Sesame Place is a much better interactive park for toddlers than Story Land or Santa’s Village.  Other than going to Disney, there’s no other place to have such awesome character interaction.

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