Motherhood is an endless “To Do” list and taking my kids to Sesame Place has been on my list. Summer 2011, however, became The Summer That Swim Team Took Over Our Lives, so we never made it. Luckily, Sesame Place has opened its doors with a winter offering, “A Very Furry Christmas.”
The theme park has a holiday-themed makeover and while water rides are shut down, there are still many popular rides open including Elmo’s Flyin’ Fish, Blast Off, the Vapor Trail, Peek a Bug, Grover’s World Twirl and more. There is an entire jungle gym type of area with climbing challenges for kids of all ages from the very small to much older kids (think cargo nets and a slippery Cookie Monster’s Mountain).
There are multiple shows throughout the day that emphasize the values of sharing and giving in the holiday spirit (Christmas is the holiday that is most emphasized, though mostly in a secular sense). You can find a description of the shows here.
Having never been in the summertime, I cannot compare the experience to a summer visit. What I can tell you is that the JavaKids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I worried whether JavaBoy, age 7, would be too old for the experience, but he enjoyed the rides, especially Blast Off. Ever the ham, he got called up on stage to dance with Cookie Monster in one of the shows, which also made his day. The climbing area was a huge hit and let them burn off a lot of steam. JavaGirl is at the perfect age to take in the wonder of it all. Our children are not theme park veterans, so if your kids have graduated to serious thrill rides this park may not be for them. But what made Sesame Place and in particular, A Very Furry Christmas, nice for us as a family was that it was a miniaturized version of a Disney experience — you had characters, shows, rides, a parade and a big tree lighting, but weren’t completely overwhelmed. We went on opening day and the lines were quick. Everyone we encountered was polite.
For my children, seeing the characters in the shows was enough of an up-close experience, they didn’t even feel the need to wait in line to see hug them and get a photo. However, if you choose, there is a character dining experience option available. I peeked into the restaurant where it occurs and it isn’t particularly glamorous, though the kids looked happy. Think of a large elementary school cafeteria with Abby Cadabby running around.
There is, of course, an option to get a photo with Santa and this was one of the few places we encountered a line. Given that we were in jeans, we decided not to get a photo, but it had a lovely set to do so.
The drive to get to Sesame Place was not bad from Northern Virginia and while it is possible to get there and back in a day, given the late hour of finishing up, we opted to get a hotel room and then check something else off my list — visit the Please Touch Museum. If you haven’t been to Sesame Place before, be forewarned that though there are signs marking the highway exit, the last turn is not well marked, we nearly missed it!
Another hint — line up early for the parade, look for the dots on the edge of main street and that is where you are allowed to line up. It may be worthwhile to pack a small towel or blanket to sit on while you wait, though the gift shop will be more than willing to sell you one! Seating for most shows begin half an hour before showtime and it is worth it to get a good seat. Lockers are available to store the various gear families invariably bring, no outside food allowed in. Lesson learned the hard way — they do not sell camcorder supplies in their gift shops (oops) and I don’t remember seeing SD cards either.
My final take: Definitely worth the trip if you live in the Metro DC area or closer, a family fun experience that will probably be one of those “remember when” memories forever, and it makes me even more determined to return in Summer 2012 to see what it’s like to visit in shorts! For more information on ticket prices and other questions, visit this site.
Disclosure: My family was invited to attend as media for opening day and received complimentary tickets. I was not required to write about it nor did this impact my opinion of the event.