Elmo, the furry red star of Sesame Street, may be eternally 3 years old, but the Philadelphia-area amusement park that puts the monster and his pals center stage turns 25 this year, with a season of events and offers to make it worth the trip.
Sesame Place is a 14-acre water park, perfect for kids who aren't quite ready for the thrills of places like Six Flags or Hershey but would love to get wet and meet their favorite characters from the television show.
But there's something for everyone. Older siblings who have lost interest in Elmo (or claim they have) might like the six-story Sky Splash, which looms over the park with a giant Rubber Duckie; the Vapor Trail roller coaster; a three-story-high web of nets and climbs, and the Big Slipper, a water slide full of twists and turns. Little ones could be happy all day splashing in wading pools like Little Bird's Birdbath or spinning in the giant teacups on Grover's World Twirl.
Nobody will want to miss the lively "Rock Around the Block" musical parade down the middle of the park at least once a day when weather permits. (Check the park's daily program for times.) You've never seen Cookie Monster, Telly Monster or Ernie bust moves like this before. Elmo's World Live, one of several other shows offered indoors, brings kids onstage for a celebration of dance.
For those on the lookout for characters, we spotted favorites like Zoe, Telly Monster and Cookie Monster saying hello to youngsters about an hour before parade time.
Sesame Place is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Aug. 28, with a reduced schedule through Oct. 29. A single-day ticket costs $39.95 for adults and children 2 and above. Children under 2 are free. Twilight admission -- after 2 p.m. when the park is open until 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and after 4 p.m. when it's open until 8 p.m. -- is $23.95.
If you'll be visiting the area several times this summer, Sesame Place is offering a $64.95 season pass in honor of its anniversary. If you're going just once but can arrange to stay overnight, go for Elmo's Two-Day Pass, which offers two visits for the price of one. Parking is $10; $13 for the slightly closer "preferred" lot.
Where to eat
If you want more face time with Sesame Street friends, you can eat breakfast or dinner with Big Bird and various pals. The breakfast buffet is $14.95 per adult (age 12 and over) and $12.95 per child 2 to 11; dinner, which features chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese for the kids and entrees like beef bourguignon and grilled salmon for adults, is $24.95 per adult and $14.95 per child. Children under 2 eat free.
Reservations must be made for dinner. A park admission ticket is required for both meals.
The park has three restaurants and several snack bars, but the lines can be long. Coolers and so-called "picnic lunches" are not allowed inside Sesame Place, so consider eating before you come or at the picnic tables right outside the entrance.
There's a Pizzeria Uno on the entrance road to the park, and Oxford Valley Road, which runs behind Sesame Place, has various chain restaurants.
If you can, purchase and print out tickets online at www.sesameplace.com. That makes one fewer line to stand in on your way in. Just don't forget to bring photo identification to prove the tickets are yours.
It's possible to stay dry at this water park, but on a hot day, you won't want to. Plan to wear and stay in your swimsuit. Do bring towels and plenty of sunscreen, especially for the children.
Bring your own stroller, if you can -- even if your kids have outgrown it. It'll be helpful for lugging your change of clothes, towels and snacks. Lockers can be rented for $7, but you must also put down a $5 deposit, and possibly stand in line to recoup it on the way out.
Label your stuff, and remember where you left it.
Prepare young kids for the lines typical of any popular amusement park. Even some wading pools have time limits, which can be tough on a toddler who waited longer for a chance at the Rubber Duckie Pond than he got to spend in it.
Where to shop
Franklin Mills (1455 Franklin Mills Circle, Philadelphia, 215-632-1500), about 20 minutes from Sesame Place, has outlets like BCBG, OFF Saks Fifth Avenue, an Ann Taylor Factory Store and more.
Where to stay
The Ramada Inn about 10 minutes away in nearby Levittown may be in an industrial neighborhood, but it has lots to offer Sesame Place-bound families at a reasonable price -- a playground, an outdoor pool and nightly children's entertainment. 6201 Bristol Pike, Levittown, Pa., 215-946-1100.
The Courtyard by Marriott Langhorne offers guests shuttle service to Sesame Place. 5 Cabot Blvd. East, Langhorne, Pa., 215-945-7980.
Sesame Place is about 2 1/2 hours from Baltimore by car. Take Interstate 95 North into Pennsylvania to Exit 46A, Morrisville. Follow Route 1 North to Oxford Valley Road; turn right. Make a right at the third traffic light to enter the park.
For more information
Visit www.sesameplace.com, or call 215-752-7070.
For more regional trips, see Page 37.