It's a milestone of sorts, your first family amusement-park trip. Your first chance to pay way too much for parking. Your first time thinking maybe you should've packed lunch instead of eating at the park. Your first hour-long line for a two-minute ride. Your first sunburn. You know. Fun!
I kid. Because I love amusement parks. I love roller coasters and totally rigged games of chance and water rides and occasionally even souvenir shops. And we'd been planning on bringing the kids to Sesame Place at some point, so when friends of ours said they were heading down for a weekend trip, we decided to meet them there.
I was at Sesame Place myself maybe once when I was a kid, since by the time it had opened, I had more or less aged out of it. I remember the ball pit and that's about it. So the park was basically a new experience for me. Which would explain my many, many rookie mistakes.
1. No pocketbooks. Really. You're going on water rides. Unless your purse is waterproof, stow it in the locker. We hit the lazy river first, and I was leaning on kiddette's tube, holding her around the waist (they do supply little life jackets, which is nice, but still), secretly praying that my leather backpack/weekend purse was not going to get doused to the point that my cell drowned. Shortly afterward, I bought a couple of those little clear waterproof containers for the money and such, and stowed the purse in the locker.
Most embarrassing: I worked at Six Flags in high school. I know all too well what happens to unprotected valuables on water rides, because when I was a cashier, people would hand me sweaty, wet dollar bills and I would have to take them without looking too nauseous. Customer service and all.
2. Wear shoes you can walk around in wet. DH and kiddo had their sneakers on. DH, realizing his error in time, bought those water shoes for the two of them. Kiddette and I had sandals on, and neither of us cared so much.
And no, barefoot is not an acceptable option. The ground is hot. Your toes will melt off.
3. Sunscreen ... and then more sunscreen. The kids and I ended up OK, because I kept reapplying. DH, I would swear, had gotten enough on, but apparently he is the fairest of them all, because his shoulders are still red days later. And I thought I was the master of sunburn.
4. Timing is everything. By the time we'd gotten our plastic purses and water shoes and gotten our gear settled, we'd about run out of valuable ride time. The crowds only get bigger as the day goes on, and then the lines get longer.
Fortunately our friend is a world class ninja master in amusement parking. She got us there before the park even opened, she arranged the character lunch, she steered us to the good rides, she knew where to park the strollers so the younger ones could attempt to nap. She'd given us the heads-up to reserve a locker in advance, online. Truly, she knows all.
And did the kids like it? Is Big Bird yellow? They dug the lazy river. Kiddo and I went on a two-person inner-tube slide together, and he bawled when he realized we couldn't go right back on the ride after it was over. He was remarkably patient about the line even, though he did kind of creep his way ahead of the people in front a couple of times. Everyone smiled indulgently, which I'm chalking up to his giant Elijah Wood-size eyes because they seem to have an effect on people.
The character lunch was the first one I'd ever been to, so I don't know how it measures up. It was a decent enough spread (buffet, of course), in that veggies were involved and not all of the chicken was breaded. Cookie, Ernie, Bert, the Count and Abby wandered around for hugs and photos. Elmo, proving he is in fact the A-lister of the bunch, sat in the corner for posed shots, Santa-like, and you could take those shots home for just a little extra cash. (Or you could run over to Elmo when he got up and get some shots that way, like we did.) Big Bird sat in one corner of the room, very still, to the point that DH and I were debating whether there was a guy in there or it was an animatronic thingy. But then Big Bird got up to dance, a little jerkily, and we realized the guy had to move veeeerry carefully in order to hold up that giant head. Which struck me as odd, since out of all of them, Big Bird was the only one who was the exact same size he'd be on the show. How does Caroll Spinney do it then?
You know I'm only obsessing on this because Big Bird was my favorite character.
I wasn't especially worried about the kids being afraid of the giant walking Muppets, and they weren't. Kiddette hugged Cookie Monster a lot. And Elmo. Because she loves Elmo. Sadly.
All the characters have their own shows, apparently, and lucky us saw two Elmo shows. In one, all the characters decided to form a rock band and sing rock versions of their signature ditties, except Cookie, who rapped instead. I died laughing. Elmo wore a black leather jacket, which bothered kiddo, because the sign outside the theater showed them all wearing different rock-star outfits from what they had onstage and he couldn't get past that. Spent the entire show pointing that out, in fact. He'll make a great theater critic.
The second show was a live-action version of "Elmo's World." If you've ever seen the "Elmo's World" segment on "Sesame Street," this is it. Weird crayon drawings on the walls. Mr. Noodle in the window. Dorothy the goldfish. Yep, all there. If you are cringing, you must be a grownup.
Kiddette, however, had her tiny mind blown. She stood clutching the plastic barrier, mesmerized, occasionally yelling "Eelllmooooo!"
Mr. Noodle, incidentally, taught the audience how to Hokey Pokey.
The part of the park I liked, actually, was the part that looked like the show set. I pushed kiddette down Sesame Street while kiddo climbed up on the fire truck (again). There was a hopscotch grid set up in the "alley" next to 123, so I did a little jump to see if I could still do it. Kiddette was quite impressed. "Gainagain," she said, which is kiddette-ese for "I would like you to repeat that." So I did. "Gainagain," she said, but this time I politely declined.
We did manage to get the kids into the car and away without entering a single souvenir shop, but since we'd already bought lunch, dinner, two plastic purse things and two pairs of water shoes, it was kind of a hollow victory.
The next morning, I came in to get kiddette from her crib and, much distressed, she demanded we get her stuffed Elmo from the floor. I leaned down. She hugged it to her cheek. "Elmo," she crooned.
Later, I heard her trying to sing the Hokey Pokey song.