Friday, July 22, 2011

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to ...

... Street! (well, that's how my daughter would say it when she was very young.)

First, a brief disclaimer. It is now summer here in New York City, and very hot. It is also a time when my wife is off for the summer vacation from school so we actually do things out of the house. And lastly, in a month, my daughter is getting married and we will be traveling down to Florida for the wedding, and there are still a few projects that I need to finish before we head down. In fact, I am just taking a break from one of them to write this. So what does all of this mean? Well, you may have noticed that it has been longer than usual since my last blog post, and will likely be so until the summer is over. Oh, if the muse moves me I will sit down and write, as I am doing now, but there might be times when there will be more time between posts than during the rest of the year. (Now on to business.)

Right about the time my son was born, Children's Television Workshop (as it was called then) opened two Sesame Street themed parks, one in Irving, Texas, and one in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Although the one in Texas was only open for two seasons, the one in Pennsylvania fared much better. We didn't get there for its first summer of operation, but did in year 2. My son was a year old, my daughter was three. It was a small park then (3 acres) and had water activities and dry activities for the toddler set. There were no motor driven rides, everything was geared for the child to be active. There was a building which contained educational exhibits for the younger child, as well as sets where pictures could be taken in Ernie's bathtub, on the steps of 123 Sesame Street, or with (a fiberglass) Oscar the Grouch in his garbage can. There were banks of computers (remember, this was in the early 80's - people didn't have these things at home) with games using music, colors and numbers.

Although my son was not yet walking by himself, there were many things that he could take advantage of, and while I was climbing cargo nets with my daughter (well, I was almost 30 years younger back then), he was crawling around in Big Bird's Nest. Both of my children, along with my wife and myself, were able to enjoy all of the water activities which included a large wading pool, and a lazy river type tube attraction. All of the food served in the park was healthy food, and there were no stands selling the usual theme park fare. However you could buy a package of carrots or fruit as a snack. Even the restaurant served healthier options such as a whole grain pizza. It was just the thing you would expect from the producers of Sesame Street.

Then our children grew up and the activities of Sesame Place were a bit too childish for them, so they (and their parents) continued to get their theme park fix yearly at Walt Disney World. Sesame Place faded into our memories.

This summer my twin grandsons are just a bit younger than two years old, and my son and daughter-in-law decided that Sesame Place would be a good option for a summer day for the twins. My wife and I accompanied them there this week. And as expected, things were different than when we were last there.

In that time, the park has been operated by Anhaeuser-Busch (the beer company who operate Busch Gardens), and now by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. As you would imagine, the focus has changed a bit away from the purely educational to a more commercial venue. However, it is still a great day with the toddlers.

Our visit came as we entered a heat wave, so the day was very hot, and we spent the early afternoon in one of the many water based activities which are still a big part of the park. This was the most baby friendly of the water areas, but still included three large sections with increasing depths, but still shallow enough in all areas for the twins to enjoy. There was water spraying and gentle waves that the kids played in, having a wonderful time keeping cool. (I have to say that I did as well - playing with the grandtwins and cooling off myself.) And unlike the visits in the 1980's, none of us came away with painful sunburns. We have all gotten smarter since then. When we were as fully saturated and cooled down as we were going to get, we changed into dry clothes and started exploring the rest of the park.

After a day of activities (the merry-go-round was a bit hit with the boys) and the necessary souvenir shopping...

... we had a reservation for dinner with Elmo and Friends. While the food was good, this was almost entirely about meeting the characters during your meal as they came around and visited with you. The boys enjoyed interacting with all the characters that they knew from Sesame Place on TV.


After dinner we all went to see Elmo's World Live! The boys love Elmo's World and here was Elmo in his world right in front of them!

And of course a visit to Sesame Street itself to meet up with Ernie and Bert.

And like any good theme park, the day ends with a parade.

Yes, the park has grown from 3 acres in the 1980's to 14 acres today, and the emphasis on education and healthy eating, while not entirely gone, has been changed to a more entertainment oriented atmosphere, but it is still great that toddlers have a theme park that has been created for them. There is plenty to do and characters to meet, and parents (and grandparents) can have just as good a time as the little ones. It was fun coming back here after two decades away, and I fully expect to be back a number of times with the grandtwins again over the next few years.

(More pictures from our day at Sesame Place can be seen here.)

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a great looking theme park. So much fun.