I’ve been tired of amusement parks since my late teenage years. Back in 2000, I had worked as a camp counselor and for one week, the camp traveled to Virginia’s theme parks. I was riding about ten rollercoasters per day. After that, I was done. I dropped my all-attraction wristband into the garbage, refused the stamp upon exit, and left the world of amusement parks behind me.
Then I had kids and, as you may have read in a recent post, my two-and-a-half-year-old was game for fun parks. Since she had a proclivity to play with Muppets—though she no longer found Elmo and Ernie as attractive on the television set as Dora and Peppa—we decided to take her to Sesame Place.
When I think of the word sesame, the first thing that comes to mind is the bagel. The sesame bagel doesn’t exactly make a great statement. It says I’m a slightly-more-exciting-than-plain bagel. That’s sort of what you can say about Sesame Place. It is slightly more exciting than one of those plain old amusement parks, where the ticket is about a tenth the price of Sesame Place’s admission.
Sesame Place offers about a dozen dry rides and another dozen wet ones, with a few shows to boot. (Here, the phrase “to boot” does not actually mean in addition; it means to get rid of. The show we watched was like pumpernickel: awful. It should be booted.)
But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Entering Sesame Place
When we entered the park, my daughter climbed my leg, as if she had seen a spider. (Recently, she’s grown an aversion to insects and arachnids.) But it was no bug. It was the giant version of Abby.
Imagine how fucked up this is for a toddler psychologically. On Sesame Street, the show—which, as most parents will corroborate, is the everything bagel of children’s television—my daughter always loved the characters. They were sweet and cuddly-looking and mostly small, which was obvious even to a toddler. Whenever Elmo or Abby stood beside a human, they were clearly much smaller in size. But at Sesame Place, these beloved monsters were suddenly giant monsters. Thus my daughter was as interested in approaching Grover as any tourist to New York is in chatting with one of those aggressive Elmos in Times Square.
She tightened her grip every time we saw the gigantic version of a Muppet she once loved. We were no longer walking through the park; we were scurrying through the place in defense mode. When we finally got past the gauntlet of future nightmares, we took my two-year-old on every ride she met the requirements for. They all spun. While I liked watching her smile and hearing her proclaim the experience “awesome”, I did not like seeing all ten of her smiles at once and did my best not to puke on her, which is probably my most consistent parenting skill thus far.
But things got more nauseating, and it wasn’t because of any of the rides. The new sick feeling came with the show, Elmo the Musical. When the performance started, Cookie and Elmo walked right past us, which, as you probably guessed, nearly caused a panic attack in my two-year-old. Things got worse still when the protagonist announced the mission: We need to find twelve circles. It hit worst when it took them fifteen minutes to find circle number one. (That rate of discovery would have made it a three-hour theatrical saga and having calculated that gave me a panic attack. I even started holding up circles from my own collection for the sake of quicker progress.)
In fairness, after Elmo or Cookie found the disco ball in the club—circle number one—we transitioned quickly to a beach scene and then to the finale, where the writer did all parents a favor and revealed eight planets in seconds to complete the circle hunt. (Clearly, these are oblate spheroids, one parent tried to point out to a few children, but a few adult audience members appropriately chloroformed that parent in order to kill the likely child protest over eccentricity in the celestial bodies.)
Back in the park, the nausea hit again, this time in the cafeteria. The hamburger that we purchased resembled a biopsy from Oscar the Grouch.
Seriously though, the real problem with Sesame Street is that it’s not inexpensive, there are only a few rides, and while the dry rides appeal to small children, the water rides are not appropriate for them. (Perhaps if your kid can swim, still likes Sesame Street, and enjoys spinning repeatedly in circles, it’s an okay day. But still the price doesn’t seem to match the offerings.)
After the parade, which my daughter actually enjoyed (though only if the monsters kept their distance), we went to one of the few water attractions she could enjoy. And she did, discovering the fun in running from painted cookies on a wall to an ankle deep pool flavored with urine, (or at least flavored with urine for the kid I spotted taking big gulps of it).
Things were sunny at Sesame Place in that pool. But then the lifeguard, who was wearing a bra beneath her suit—not the fashion statement that signals expertise in a poolside rescuer—told everyone that she was going to take her one hour bathroom break and that the pool would close. Nobody listened at first because who could believe that during the peak of summer an attraction at Sesame Place would close for an hour instead of the park implementing something like shift changes. But who knows, maybe staff members did need an hour break for the bathroom, especially if they ate the burgers and went on all the spinning rides.