Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two Big Kids, One Big Yellow Bird: Part 2

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out Part 1 of this two-part series as well!

When in doubt, begin with a topiary.

Thus far, our tour of Sesame Place has taken us through some of the newer--and drier--areas of the park. But rewinding a couple decades to a time when these newfangled traditional rides were just a twinkle in Big Bird's eye, Sesame Place was all about water.

Rubber Duckie Pond

As Sesame Place scrambled to keep up with growing crowds during its first decade of operation, a flurry of new attractions were added. The park's first water slides made their debut in 1983, in the form of the 130-foot long Zoom Flume and the 75-foot long Slippery Slope. Both became overnight sensations, thus setting the stage for a prolonged period of growth and expansion that focused primarily on the addition of new water attractions.

The oldest existing water slides at Sesame Place--Slippery Slopes, Sesame Streak, and Bert & Ernie's Slip & Slide--are nestled into a cozy little area bordering Elmo's World. (And by "nestled", I mean not particularly easy to photograph...although if you go back to the Elmo's World photos, you can catch a glimpse of a few of these in the background!)

One notable departure from the water slide building extravaganza that took place in the '80s and '90s was the addition of a life-size replica of a certain famous street in 1988. You know which one I'm talking about: It's Sesame Street! If you have a hankering to visit Ernie & Bert, Mr. MacIntosh, or the Sesame Street Engine House, this area of the park will be right up your alley--er, street. Sesame Neighborhood also doubles as a backdrop for the park's Rock Around the Block Parade, in which all your favorite Sesame Street characters dance and march their way from the main entrance all the way to the back of the park.

Ernie's Waterworks

Good Ship Sesame

The piecemeal additions of the 1980s gave way to some serious projects in the 1990s. Sesame Place opened the decade by redeveloping a section of its parking lot into Sesame Island, a 2.5-acre Caribbean-themed area. Sesame Island features its own beach, its own ship, and its own elaborate water play structure presided over by none other than Ernie.

Big Bird's Rambling River

This lazy river may not have crocs, but it does have an Elmo topiary!

The star attraction of Sesame Island is Big Bird's Rambling River, a 1000-foot long lazy river. Should you choose to float this river, don't be surprised if you're sprayed by a geyser, doused by a waterfall, or showered by a water-filled coconut!

Silly Sand Slides

Teeny Tiny Tidal Wave

Just a few short years later, in 1993, Sesame Place carved up yet another portion of its original parking lot to build the 1.5-acre Twiddlebug Land. Attractions in this area include everything from super-sized everyday items (designed to give children a view of the world through the eyes of a Twiddlebug) to a "teeny tiny" wave pool designed especially for the youngest swimmers in the family.

Slimey's Chutes

Sky Splash

The most super-sized of all the attractions in Twiddlebug Land opened in 1995: Sky Splash! This massive, 6-story family raft ride built upon the Twiddlebug theme already in progress with its oversize toy props, including an 8-foot Rubber Duckie that spits water.

And then, almost as soon as it began, Sesame Place's water attraction boom was over. If you'll recall from Part 1, the late '90s and early '00s were dominated by the installation of traditional rides, with nary a new splash to be seen. Until...Enter 2009 and The Count's Splash Castle!

The Count's Splash Castle

Twiddlebug Land can kiss its super-sized crown goodbye, because The Count's Splash Castle is the largest attraction ever built at Sesame Place. Spanning over 38,000 square feet, this interactive water play structure occupies some serious real estate at the back of the park.

Featuring over 90 water play elements, Splash Castle is a feast for the senses. I bet it would take nearly an entire day at Sesame Place to find them all! But according to Paula Pritchard, guests are welcoming this challenge.

"It's been very well received, especially on a sunny, hot day like today. There are over 90 different water elements that the kids can experience, and parents are loving that they have a ride they can experience with their child," she told us. "Even when you're waiting in line to go down a slide, there's so much activity. And even the littler ones who don't like the aggressive rides can splash along in the shallow water. So it's really a great, great fit for us at Sesame."

1000 gallons of water comin' right at ya!

With all those valves, water curtains, hydro blasters and the like to distract you, one could almost forget about the signature element of this attraction. Fortunately for you, The Count himself will remind you when it's about to happen by...wait for it...counting! When you hear that familiar "3, 2, 1..." sequence begin, it can only mean one thing: You're about to get doused by 1000 gallons of water, compliments of that 8-foot tipping bucket that sits so prominently atop the structure. Allow us to illustrate with a video.

After witnessing firsthand the throngs of parents and children who were joyfully splashing around the Castle, I don't think there's any doubt that Sesame Place has yet another blockbuster hit on its hands!

Rides and slides are obviously key components of the overall themed experience at Sesame Place, but they are not the only components. The park also boasts three theaters which host live, interactive shows featuring the various Sesame Street characters. And if that's not enough character camaraderie for you, you can take it to the next level and make a reservation to dine with them too!

Opportunities also abound to take one of these fuzzy friends home with you. Tykes seeking a challenge may opt to hone their developing coordination and motor skills on one of the many kid-friendly games offered at the park.

There are plenty of options for those who wish to own a fuzzy friend... well as those who wish to become one.

But if you've had enough riding, splashing, singing, and tossing for one day, there is always the option of paying a visit to a gift shop!

It may look like a theme park, but it's actually a fountain of youth.

By the time we bid adieu to Big Bird and the gang, Mike and I felt a good couple decades younger. Even if you don't have any little ones in your family, do not underestimate the amount of fun that can be had by big kids at this park! Additionally, do not underestimate the powers of subliminal learning. Between the music, the signage, and the visual stimuli, I'm proud to report that I now feel fully confident in my abilities to count to ten, cross the street, and identify healthy foods. (Mom and Dad would be so proud!!)

We'd like to extend our warmest thanks to the staff at Sesame Place for inviting us to take part in this wonderful event. We hope to visit you again soon!

For more great photos of our adventures at Sesame Place, visit the NPN Facebook page!