Mom's Theme Park Tips: Sesame Place
Daily summer operation at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, is coming to a close, but September weekends are still hot enough to warrant a visit to the water ride-laden theme park. MomSpeaker Lisa Lightner's a vet of the place, and she's got great tips — some of which pertain to families visiting with a child who has special needs or sensory issues — for navigating the streets of Sesame Place to help you make the most of your day there.
Whenever I start gushing about Sesame Place, one of the usual comments I get is “But isn’t it superexpensive?” Yes and no. It is a very special outing, but so many kids love Sesame Street and the characters, so of course you want to visit. I find its prices to be in the ballpark of the other amusement parks and attractions of this caliber.
Make the most of your money at Sesame Place
- Get a season pass, and preferably buy it either in the winter during the sale or in mid-summer when you can get the rest of one year and the whole next year for one price. For the parent or adult who is going to be going there most often, get the the pass that includes parking. I could talk all day about the benefits of a season pass — store and restaurant discounts, early members-only ride times and so on.
- If you cannot get a season pass, look for discounts. These vary from year to year. Sometimes Sesame Place has coupons at McDonald’s or through different retailers; sometimes it’s only online.
- Go after 3pm when it’s $20 less per ticket and less crowded.
- Go when it’s cloudy but warm. It’s less crowded, so you get more ride time.
- There's a Sunny Day guarantee. If it rains for more than an hour on your day, you can come back.
- If the water rides and slides are not a priority for you, then go for either the Count’s Halloween Spooktacular or A Very Furry Christmas. The water rides are closed but dry rides are open and tickets are less.
- Sesame Place is one of the few parks that allows you to bring in a cooler, so that helps cut down on food costs. I love the refillable drink and popcorn things. We get a souvenir plus cheap/free drink and popcorn refills, so I don’t pack snacks in our cooler. It makes sense if you are getting a season pass to get these.
- Sesame Place has a large variety of stay and play options with area hotels. Even if you are within day-trip distance, it might be worth your while to stay if it maximizes your play time. Or you can do after 3pm one day and then go early the next day.
- Consider going all out and renting a cabana. Then plan on going from open until close. Having a cabana gives you a home base, a down-time and eating place and just makes the day more enjoyable. When we rent a cabana we can stay from open until close without the kids unraveling. Adults, too!
- Transferable Passes are a brand new pass! They are a little complicated to explain, but let’s use myself as an example. If I bought myself a Big Bird Season Pass, I could purchase a Transferable Pass. My Big Bird Season Pass would be considered the “host” pass. When I wanted to come to Sesame Place, I could bring anyone (my mom, my grandma, my sister) as my guest. The Person with the Transferable Pass must arrive with the host pass member, and Transferable Passes are limited to one visit per person per day.
- Sync your credit card to the mobile app to make quick and convenient food and merchandise purchases! Once you’ve entered your credit card information, just open your app, and a team member can scan your phone to complete the purchase.
Make the most of your time at Sesame Place
- For starters, do things backwards. Most families ride the water rides early in the day, dry off, then do dry rides. Do yours backwards — do the dry rides first and then the water rides starting in the late afternoon. You will find most lines are shorter that way.
- Again, if your schedule permits it, try to go on a cloudy day and the crowds will be less. I like it because I don’t have to constantly stress about reapplying sunscreen.
- Do one of the character dining options. This way you get a meal and all your photo opps with the characters in just 60-90 minutes. You won’t spend time waiting in lines to meet with characters instead of riding rides.
- Bring snacks or try to plan your meals around peak meal times, so again, you’re not spending time waiting in line. Eat earlier or later than most people do.
- You have to wait in line for shows, so split up so that one parent can wait in line and the other can either do bathroom breaks or another ride. Use the published schedule to pick what shows you want to see.
Other random tips for navigating Sesame Place
- Back behind Ernie’s Bistro there are picnic tables and bathrooms that are rarely used or crowded. You can go there to chill out and relax and get some down time, especially if you have a child who needs breaks.
- There’s another corner getaway spot, behind Teeny Tiny Tidal Wave. If you get there early, grab a chair under the giant umbrella. I use this as our home base while we are doing the water rides. It’s off the beaten path and often quieter.
- Families start “staking their spot” for the parades about an hour ahead of time. Go find a front row spot by using the dots on the pavement. Park your stroller or blanket there and then you can still go do a ride or two until the parade starts. This is on the honor system, but I’ve never had my stroller or towels moved while I was gone. There is a special area for disabilities, but it too can get crowded and is in the sun, depending on time of year.
- The second parade of the day is almost always much less crowded than the first. The exception would be on fireworks nights.
- Check in at Guest Services when you arrive and get a Fast Pass arm band for paying for stuff or a Handicapped Access arm band if you need it.
- Don’t forget about the water slides that are at the other end of the park, behind the dry rides like Elmo’s Flying Fish and Blast Off. Visitors seem to forget that they are back there and quite often the lines are not very long.
- They have special dining areas for kids with allergies.
- If you purchase certain meal options (some of the boxed lunches) online ahead of time, they are discounted.
- It sounds weird, but if you're doing the water rides, plan on walking around the amusement park in your bathing suit and water shoes. The first time I took my MIL with us, she asked me that once we were there. But you look around and that’s what people do.
- I like the bathrooms and changing rooms down by the Count’s splash area the best. I find those to be the most spacious.
- If you are in the metro Philadelphia area and register your special needs child with the Variety Club of Philadelphia, they often have freebie days for our kids.
Taking your family to Sesame Place is a wonderful experience and a must-do, in my opinion. Hopefully I’ve given you a few tips to help you make the most of these special, sunny days!
Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post was adapted from the blog A Day in Our Shoes, which she co-authors. It provides support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.