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First look at the brand-new Sesame Place theme park in San Diego

March 30, 2022
9 min read
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There's a new theme park on the block — and it's a very familiar block, home to Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and friends.

Sunny weather and a perfect blue sky were on hand for the opening day celebrations for Sesame Place San Diego. Kids of all ages were on hand as Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and the gang officially opened the combination theme park and water park just outside San Diego.

We had a chance to visit on opening day to witness the glee of guests as they got to meet their favorite Sesame Street characters. Whether a guest is 4 or 40, there is something here to bring a smile to anyone’s face.

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Here's what you need to know if you've always wanted to hang out in a real-life, Sesame Street-themed land

(Photo courtesy of Sesame Place San Diego)

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Sesame Place features

Full of the friendly characters and the colorful fun of Sesame Street, the new 17-acre park offers a wide range of activities. This park is the first of its kind on the West Coast and only the second in the nation. It has 18 Sesame Street-themed rides, interactive experiences, shows and water park features, including a gigantic wave pool and several twisty tunnel water slides.

A lazy river circles through the middle of the park, which is dotted with splashing waterfalls and kid-safe wet and dry rides for kids for kids ages toddlers on up.

On my visit, there were playful Sesame Street characters roaming throughout the park and interacting with kids.

Elmo, Abby, Bert & Ernie, Count von Count and others posed for photos and welcomed hugs from their adoring fans. The interactions were mellow, charming and very heartwarming as we could clearly see the kids were over-the-moon excited to meet their Sesame Street heroes. I even had a fun conversation with Big Bird that rekindled some fond memories.

(Photo courtesy of Sesame Place San Diego)

Rides and slides

The majority of rides, shows and attractions are geared to the young children who have always been the primary focus of the Sesame Street audience. However, park designers took the entire family into consideration when creating experiences for all ages.

From every vantage point during our visit, we were delighted by something interesting to see, hear and enjoy. Laughter was the soundtrack for the day.

To help park guests determine which rides fit best, Sesame Place has given each experience specific height requirements. Signs at the park entrance and at each ride inform guests of the height minimums and safety protocols. Most rides are possible for kids of all sizes when accompanied by an adult.

(Photo by Jon Bailey for The Points Guy)

Related: First look inside the new Peppa Pig theme park

Splashy water activities

Many families headed straight for Big Bird’s Beach, a giant wave pool where toddlers and smaller children can wade into gentle waves with their parents at the shallow end. Deeper into the pool, larger waves give older kids a bigger thrill. Life jackets are mandatory in this area for children under 48" tall; they are provided at no charge and color-coded on racks by size for easy selection.

Other water fun includes:

  • Bert’s Topsy Turvy Tunnels — tube ride down enclosed or open-air slides.
  • Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides — six slippery slides for smaller kids.
  • Honker Dinger Dash — race down slides on a mat.
  • The Count’s Splash Castle — interactive water playground with giant water bucket drop.
  • Oscar’s Rotten Rafts — family-sized rafts slip down a twisty course.

Related: New theme park attractions coming in 2022

Family-friendly rides

If getting wet is not in the cards, Sesame Place has you covered with an array of other fun rides. During our visit, the Sunny Day Carousel proved to be particularly popular. While not the flashiest ride, it has a great location within the Sesame Street Neighborhood, positioned in the midst of fun interactive games and surprises.

(Photo courtesy of Sesame Place San Diego)

The collection of dry rides includes:

  • Abby’s Fairy Flight – family swing ride.
  • Cookie Climb – pull yourself up the cookie towers.
  • Elmo’s Rockin’ Rockets – rockets glide in a circle and go up and down.
  • Rub-A-Dub Sub – the S.S. Duckie submarine goes up, down and all around.
  • Super Grover’s Box Car Derby – a family-friendly roller coaster.

Related: Regional theme parks that are closer to home and just as fun as big names

Shows and parade

Of course, the devoted audiences of Sesame Street begin their love of these iconic characters when they are wee little bundles of fun. Babes in arms, toddlers in strollers and young kids ready to run and play can find plenty of activities designed just for them.

For example, the colorful Sesame Street Party Parade is a crowd pleaser and really had us tapping our toes to the music. All the characters are included as the parade makes its way from Sesame Street Neighborhood through the park. There is a lot of dancing, singing and interaction, and the smiles on the kids’ faces were testament to how much they love these characters. Even young babies in strollers seemed mesmerized by the fun commotion.

(Photo by Jon Bailey for The Points Guy)

A new singing, dancing and character-filled show is debuting at Sesame Place's San Diego location. Welcome to Our Street stars all the favorite characters as they each welcome guests to their home in their own special way.

The show is very well done and, by the end, kids and their families were clapping along and smiling from ear to ear.

Sesame Street neighborhood

The complete Sesame Street neighborhood is brought to life in full scale, including the famous 123 Sesame Street address and front stoop. This area is positioned at the park entrance and includes multiple interactive elements for guests to discover.

(Photo courtesy of Sesame Place San Diego)

For example, Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can is here — and a knock-knock on the top will bring a grouchy interaction.

Ring Bert and Ernie’s doorbell for a set of fun responses from the famous pair. In an area nearby, Big Bird hosts storytime from his giant nest. Even for this grown-up, it was great fun for me to interact with these family favorites.

Certified autism center

A very special program geared to guests with autism is part of the regular Sesame Place experience, with specific programs aimed to make the visit enjoyable for all. The team here is designated as a Certified Autism Center. Patterned after the very successful program at sister property Sesame Place Philadelphia, the autism program here is the only one of its kind on the West Coast.

There is even a special host: Julia, the Sesame Street character with autism.

Related: Tips for flying with a child on the autism spectrum

(Photo by Jon Bailey for The Points Guy)

In addition to a team trained in sensory awareness, motor skills, communications skills and more, Sesame Place has created a Sensory Guide to its rides.

Dining options

Typical amusement park fare, such as hamburgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs and pizza, along with healthier options such as wraps and salads, can be found at various locations throughout the park. Other treats and snacks are also easily available.

(Photo by Jon Bailey for The Points Guy)

Tickets and logistics

  • Tickets: Individual day tickets begin at $64.99 if purchased in advance; children under 2 years old get in for free. Season passes are available starting at $132 and include perks like free parking and guest passes. Bundled discounts are offered for the purchase of a combined ticket with both Sesame Place and SeaWorld included.
  • Hours: Park hours vary right now, and guests are advised to check the website for what days the park is open. Regular park hours are 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. The park is currently open seven days a week during spring break, and then only on weekends until going back to daily operations during the summer.
  • Location: Sesame Place is located approximately a 20 minute drive south of downtown San Diego in the city of Chula Vista. The park address is 2052 Entertainment Circle. The park suggests checking drive times before setting out, due to occasional events being held at the nearby North Island Credit Union Amphitheater that can add to traffic in the area.
(Photo by Jon Bailey for The Points Guy)

Related: The most magical Disney vacation is no longer in the theme parks

Tips for first-time visitors

Parking at Sesame Place is plentiful, but there is a charge of $30-$35 if you don't have an annual pass, so budget accordingly.

You may want to consider reserving a cabana for the day to give your family a shady resting place. A change of clothes and a towel are also must-haves if you want to take advantage of the water-based experiences. There are lockers available to store your belongings.

Last but not least, unless you are certain you are only going to visit once in the year, it may make sense to look at the season pass options.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Sesame Place San Diego)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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