sesame place


I have something to tell you, guys. Have a seat, this isn’t going to be easy for me to say and it might be even harder to hear. 

I used you. 

Yep, I brazenly, callously used you.

I swear it was the first time. 

But I can’t promise that it will be the last.

Here’s what happened.

It all started when Brooke said that she wanted to go to Sesame Street. Which is actually Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, but why split hairs. And then her sister said, “Ooh, that would be awesome.” And then, because she’s twelve, she added, “Just don’t tell my friends that I said that, okay?” Fair enough.

And when I came to after passing out because my children BOTH wanted to go to the SAME place at the SAME time, I said, “Definitely! Let’s go in late May or early June!”

And then Brooke, because she’s learned to pin Mama down, said, “On what date will would go?”

And then I looked through the calendar and declared that we would go on June 8th. And then she filed that into her little steel-trap brain and there was no turning back. Which was just a tiny little wee bit problematic when I told Luau about my awesome plan and he did that heavy sigh thing that he thinks that only I do but he totally does too as he said for the millionth time lately, “Jess, we really don’t have the money for this.”

And I knew he was right. Which really chaps my tush, cause it’s way more fun when I’m right and I get to be all indignant, but whatever. It also sucks that we don’t have the money to do whatever we want whenever we want. This whole “new normal” thing can kiss my ass.

But there we were. I’d told my kids we were going and now I had to figure out how to make it happen. And you know I would, right? Cause that’s what we do. Heaven and Earth, kids, Heaven and Earth.

So I nosed around. And made a whole lot of people do a whole lot of digging to basically find out what Sesame has posted right on their website.

Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 5.31.34 AM

And I was all, “Ooooh, I could SO be media!”

All I need is a hat.


So I wrote to the folks at Sesame Place and I told them our story. And I told them about you. And then I told them this.

All of that said, I have never used any of this to market a product, nor advertised or accepted any kind of payment or compensation for anything I’ve ever written on Diary or elsewhere.

However, I LOVE the Sesame Street brand, mission and culture. And at ten, my daughter is nowhere near giving it up, which thrills me to no end. I have always been so impressed by Sesame Workshop’s culture of purposeful and thoughtful inclusion, and after hearing that you go out of your way to open the park to families with autism, I’m even more excited by the prospect of visiting.

Yes, I was buttering them up, but it was (and is) all true. 

And then I made the proposal. If they would help us with the admission cost, I would write a post sharing our experience at the park. To be clear, I didn’t promise anything about content. Had the trip been a disaster, that would have been the post. Had the people not been warm and helpful and Sesame-ish, that would have been the post. Thankfully, that ain’t the post. But still, it could have been. I promised only to write about our experience, whatever it was. And I told them this.

Autism families can be very hesitant to attempt ventures like this with our children. It often takes one of our own sharing a successful experience and ensuring others that a business is welcoming to prompt us to take the chance.

I’ll let you judge for yourself whether our experience was successful. (Or, we can just get that out of the way now and I’ll tell you that it was. It was.)

But now you know the truth. I used you. And I’d love to say that I’m sorry, but I’m not.

When I told Luau my plan, he said, “Are you sure you’re okay with that?” 

He knows how important it is to me to maintain the integrity of Diary. He knows that I’ve refused offers in the past because feeling like I was profiting from my daughters made me queasy. But my answer was this: “I get up at 4 o’clock every morning and write. I’ve never taken a dime and it’s not like I’m asking for a damned spa day; I’m using the resources at my disposal to get my kid something that will mean the world to her and to give our family an indelible memory. Yeah, I’m good with it.”

And so now you know. 

Sesame Place was kind enough to issue me a complimentary pass to the park and to discount the other three tickets by 50%, for which I am grateful. I didn’t actually wear the hat, by the way, so no one other than the woman at the ticket counter knew that their every move was being scrutinized for possible publication. Joking aside, I think that’s important. We were treated like VIPs there, but so was everyone else. 

Ready to come and play?

I give you our day at Sesame. (Minus the meltdown, cause no one takes pictures of those.)








In the middle of the day, my girl melted. Hard. We’d pushed the envelope just a little too far. Katie and Luau were happily running around in the water park and I was trying in vain to bring Brooke back. I had nothing, absolutely nothing that could offer her comfort. But then she found this guy. And everything changed. Gotta love irony.

oscar 1

oscar 2


The other meltdown buster was the Vapor Trail roller coaster.

I hate roller coasters.




But I went on it six times.

Do you have to ask why?


Oh, and he took her on it six times too. You do the math. How that child could still stand up after all that rolling and coastering I’ll never know. Yes, I know the roller coaster is made for ages three and up, but that sucker packs a punch. Shut up.


See the look on his face? That’s the *actual* “I’m having fun” face. Different from my “I really hope I don’t puke on the kid on front of us” face. He also took the time to color correct his photo. Clearly he likes you better. Whatever.

Oh, look, more characters!


After dinner, we asked a Sesame cast member if she knew where we might find Brooke’s favorite character, Prairie Dawn. We’d been hoping to see her before we left the park. She excused herself for a moment to go find out, then came back to our table. The next thing I knew, we were on the list for a VIP meet and greet with the characters, including the little pink lady herself.

When Brooke saw her, she went running toward her, flapping her little wings as she ran. When she got to her, she threw herself into a hug and said, “I’m SO glad I found you!”

I might have cried a little.

As it turns out, all you have to do to be a VIP and attend the character meet and greet is to flash a season pass. Or ask to see a really obscure character. That works too.






I love this last picture. Burt was totally messing with Katie. It was a thousand kinds of awesome. (Just don’t tell her friends.)


So there you have it, my friends. My first sort of sponsored post and I have you to thank for unwittingly helping me to make it happen. It was an amazing trip. And I am grateful.

Have a sunny day, my friends. And if you have little (or not so little) ones who would love to see their Sesame friends live and in the fur, think  about it. You might need to save your pennies for a while, but it’s doable.

Ed note: Sesame absolutely, positively lived up to their reputation for us. Just inside the gate, there is a Guest Relations house. There, we told them that our daughter is autistic and we were wondering if they had any accommodations that we should know about. With no further discussion, she was given a bracelet that enabled us (she and three others) to access alternate entrances for every ride in the park. Given that lines were manageable on the day we were there, we didn’t end up using it, though toward the end of the day, we should have. That’s a story for another post.

Moreover, the characters and cast members were fabulous. Everyone we encountered was patient, accepting and warm. Everyone. The characters were incredible with Brooke. Never once did we feel rushed, despite the fact that she engaged every single one of them in some kind of “Brooke Says .. ” or Follow the Leader. She even asked Super Grover to put his foot on his nose, and God bless the fuzzy lil guy, he tried. 

Ed other note: Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of Katie and Luau frolicking in the water (half of the property is made up of various water parks), so you get a whole lot of Brooke and not a whole lot of Katie here. You just have to take my word for the fact that they had fun too. 🙂

51 thoughts on “sesame place

  1. How I have lived this long without knowing of this place??? My daughter is non-verbal and everything Sesame obsessed! And yes, I had my tears looking at this too. So glad you could use me and I could help make this day possible!

  2. Awesome! I really hope to take the kids there! It’s not too far from me, and they both LOVE Sesame Street. They do a few days a year where the park is open only to those with Special Needs. Hoping to catch the next one! 🙂 Glad you all had a fabulous time! (btw, SN day is FREE. You just have to pay for parking!

  3. First off, I didn’t even know Sesame Place existed.. yup.. disappointed in myself! My 3 year old is much more into Sesame than Disney (as of now).. so Id say they’ve already gained a future family visit because of you! And to me, using your writing is no different than me (as a hygienist) working an extra day or 2 to help compensate for a family trip and the chance at more wonderful memories! Thank you!

  4. I’m so glad your family had a good experience (minus the meltdown). I understand how much fun it was for your daughter. We live near Disney World and Universal Studios Florida and my 18 yr old non-verbal son loves to ride the coasters over and over again–the more intense, the better. He loves the g-forces/pressure. 🙂

  5. Not to be totally greedy but no Elmo? And you can tell your friends at Sesame Place they’ll have at least one more family coming. Hopefully in the next year. I looked for spring break but they weren’t open yet (we were driving to Washington DC from MI…these are all kinds of awesome (in your words) and BOTH of my kids love them

  6. Use me anytime, those photos are PRICELESS 🙂 Glad you had a good time, and remember even NT have sensory overload sometimes and they melt down. A small price to pay for a wonderful experience for the family.

    • Jackson’s Mom,

      Thank you so much.

      I hope you won’t mind me saying this — I know that this comment comes from a very loving and generous place, but I always struggle when someone says, “remember, NT kids do ___ too.”

      My NT kid gets overloaded too, for sure. She gets cranky and grumpy and sometimes even weepy when she’s fried. And yes, NT toddlers get overtired or overstimulated and lose their stuffing, absolutely.

      But I think it does Brooke (and all autistics) a disservice to minimize the very real differences between either of those and a ten year old’s autistic meltdown.

      When Brooke reaches her limit, she loses the power to self-regulate. She loses the ability to communicate. Literally. She loses speech. It’s heartbreaking. She gets frantic and panicky. She will often yell, “I’m scared!” She looks as though she would crawl out of her skin if she could. It tears me apart.

      So please, please know that I know where you’re coming from with your comment, and I deeply appreciate it, but, for the sake of our kids, I think the distinction matters.



      • Well said Jess. I’ve often searched for the words to describe my F’s meltdowns (he shakes, gasps for air, reaches out like a drowning boy for deep pressure hugs, can’t speak). “loses the ability to self-regulate”. Yup. That’s it.

        (I too think Jackson’s mom meant it in the kindest way). : )

  7. That’s nothing! In fact, I wouldnt mind if you made a little money off your site – heck, put up a Donate button, girl!

  8. I would volunteer to be used for exactly this purpose a hundred more times. The photos are beautiful, and though Super Grover has always been a favorite, for some reason, the Bert and Ernie hug actually made me tear up.

  9. I am crying! Those photos show a really happy day and your little one LIVING it up. The smiles and the pure joy on her face. . . . thank you for sharing your day with us, and thank you for sharing every day with us!

    Thank you.

  10. Crying here, too.What joy on her sweet face. And when I got to the one of Big Bird…well, I watched the very first Sesame Street episode aired, back when I was 4. *I* want to go and hug Big Bird. Thanks for sharing that with us.

  11. All 3 Bert and Ernie photos are my favorites – the first shows love, the second pride and comfort and the third (with Katie) a sense of humor. Awesome.

  12. We love Sesame Place, too, from my 5 yr old with a diagnosis to my 19 year old and the two in between. We have been three times, over the pat 17 years…so glad you got to see Prairie Dawn and the gang,

  13. I took my girl when she was still mostly non-verbal and was a runner. The cast members saw her orange bracelet and took *SO* much time with her. They made her an instant VIP and were so very, very patient. It was the best vacation we ever had. Thanks for reminding me and for sharing with everyone. The folks at Sesame Place are heroes 😀

    And Jess, I understand about the meltdowns. My nt kids say that it’s kind of like the incredible hulk. You think you don’t want to get anyone angry, but you *really* don’t want to see Bruce Banner angry. One time I tried to tell dd that all girls her age cry. She looked at me and said, “But I get upset, then, I get angry, and then I scream and cry. And when I cry, I don’t stop.” Sometimes I need the reminders too.

    I’m so happy you had a wonderful time at Sesame place! Thanks for sharing and use us any time you like! It makes me so happy that you could go!

  14. Hey, those pictures of Brooke and Prairie Dawn were totally worth it. Although, I think I have some dust in my eyes, as they are watering. Loved this, and I am so glad Sesame delivered.

  15. Oh no! I feel so dirty with you using me that way! And you didn’t even buy me a drink!

    Actually, thank you for using us! We live in PA and have been talking about bringing our autistic son. I should have known that Sesame Place would be fantastic. Those photos have Brooke made me teary too. I love seeing the joy on her face!

      • You see…that is what the Diary community is all about…sharing info! I did not know they did a special day for our kids….that is fantastic!! Thanks for that info!

  16. I went a few years back with my girls. They were indeed great. The pass to the front of the line and alt entrances was a huge help. My daughter did however meltdown a tad bit more but she did I think enjoyed her visit.

  17. I had NO IDEA that a Sesame Street fan had a physical place to visit! Mine are too old now, but it is a public service to let us know. And to let us know who “our people” are. Traveling with an ASD kid is always walking on eggshells for our family and it lowers Mom’s anticipatory stress when we know the place we’re going will try their best to make it easy for us. (Kudos to Disney and JetBlue there from me.)

  18. I’ve been used by people, and I know how it “feels” – this is not it. You did this for your family (financially – I SO get that) but also to share your experience with this community. That is priceless to us. If there is any way for an autism family to have information about something beforehand – that is worth millions because we then can “plan and prepare” (as best we can). I just read about Bradley International Airport doing a 1 day “Awareness” program for people with highly anxious special needs kids that haven’t experienced flying, but a trip is on the horizon. They walk you through the whole process so the kids and parents know what to expect at all times. Most of the anxiety our kids feel stems from not knowing what to expect. Maya Angelo said it best “When you know better, you do better”. The knowledge you share about your trips and all of your experiences help us “do better” and in the planning and preparation of new experiences with our kids. Don’t apologize for that…but thanks for your honesty.

  19. We’ve been twice and both times it was awesome. One time my son was enjoying a ride so much that when it was over he didn’t want to get off. You can fill in the blanks there. Ultimately, they let him stay on it and go again with the next group. That satisfied him … and then we joined the back of the line to go again. We didn’t make it last year but will def go again this year. Not that you need it, but just thought I’d throw in my endorsement too. 🙂
    I’m glad you all had a great time.

  20. Re prarie dawn: I might have cried a little too. Thank you for sharing it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. The highs and lows. The struggles and most importantly, the Joy.

  21. Oh, man, now I WANT to go to Sesame Street and I’m 30 and dislike crowds to no end!

    This made me smile. I am nervous because my oldest guinea pig didn’t eat his tomatoes last night (a first) and I have a neurology appointment today to follow up on head trauma and seizures (not related). I really enjoyed the pictures of Super Grover and Oscar the Grouch (my favorite characters). Really needed the smile, so thank you 🙂

    My job has been eliminated and the “new normal” can really go take a long hike off of a short pier!!!

  22. Love this!

    And I don’t feel used one bit. I know you’re being a bit tongue in cheek about that using thing, but I would only feel used if you a) gave away our email addresses or b) got paid to send targeted advertising to us in some way.

    I get up 15 mins early to read you 300 days a year (I do hit snooze sometimes and you don’t post on weekends). I’m happy my labour (it ain’t work, it’s a pleasure) helped in some small way to secure your sweetie a spot in her version of paradise.

    Not used. Never. Thankful in so many ways.

  23. How sweet is your kid? She even made Oscar the Grouch smile!!! That is some serious sweetness! Glad you guys got to experience this…and a big kudos to Seasame Street for making it all easier.

  24. Well, thanks for filling in the blanks re: the Sesame Place inquiries you were making! Glad this happened. I don’t count it as “using.” And I think that with the power of the parent who blogs and has social media connectivity, limiting things to “media” ends up eliminating precisely the individuals who can make your place look incredible. Anyway, thanks for sharing all this; glad it was so incredible.

  25. Use me as often as you like. I kinda like it… nope, I love it! Your pics are beyond awesome. I’m grinning from ear to ear and topped off with teary eyeballs.

  26. It sounds like you had a great day — but I’d suggest that the next time you solicit (or accept) a freebie, that you mention it up front, at the very beginning of your blog post.

    You are legitimately “media” and with that comes the responsibility to *proactively* disclose that you solicited and were provided with a free ticket and 3 discounted tickets.

    • Um, I did. The very first word of the post is “disclaimer”.

      I was very careful to explain that (and how) I received the comped and discounted tickets before talking about the trip. Was that somehow unclear?

    • You lost me, Stan. The disclaimer was the subject of her entire post. This is a loving and giving community. What Jess has contributed to all of her readers is priceless. She takes this responsibility upon herself and she takes it very seriously and with an enormous amount of respect for all of us. Let’s remove any guilt that is not hers to own and applaud her honesty. Please.

  27. I cannot tell you how many conversations with people, especially my husband, I have used (referenced) your post. Girl, your posts make my day, many times over. Feel free to have one one us. 🙂

  28. We’re headed for our first Sesame Place trip this summer. Was there a particular area of the park where you took all the photos with the characters? Thanks. Glad it was such a successful adventure.

  29. Glad to hear it was as awesome for you as it’s been for my family over the years. My personal favorite is Brooke playing some sort of game with Cookie Monster. I know what the character lines can become, and yet he looks like he’s got all the time in the world for her :0)

  30. I’m thrilled you guys had such a great time. I’ll be very honest, we’ve been twice–both on those “special” days (sponsored by Variety of Philadelphia) for families with Autism– and haven’t had such a great experience. Some of it had to do with where our son was at that point in time and what he could handle. We found it to be too overwhelming and some of the attractions which we knew Nik would love were not open on those days. The guest relations/customer service aspect felt kind of slim. It may have more to do with the paradox of “everybody’s special so nobody is special” on those days. Or maybe we were just an anomaly?

    That being said, I don’t mean to discourage anyone from going, I swear! Just prepare yourselves well for whatever your child’s level of needs may be. I think, in hindsight, perhaps we did not. I know people (besides your family, Jess!) who go regularly and have a blast. The SP website is chock full of information and maps of the park so you can plan your visit and pick and choose what you might want to do.

    If anyone us interested in the special days for families with autism (they have another day for families with “special needs” as well), you can find more information on the Variety web site ( They do wonderful things for Delaware Valley families.

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