Big Bird and Elmo call San Diego home as Sesame Place opens this weekend – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Sesame Place San Diego, the brand’s first West Coast park, will transport guests to Cookie Monster and Elmo’s neighborhood when it opens Saturday in Chula Vista.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the parent company of Sesame Place and San Diego’s SeaWorld, overhauled the 17-acre property that previously operated as Aquatica San Diego. The waterpark has been transformed into the colorful, fuzzy world of the Sesame Street monsters with many added attractions.
The new Southern California location features 18 rides including 11 water rides, like Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides and seven dry rides such as a new roller coaster, Super Grover’s Box Car Derby.
Jackie Edwards, a park visitor from Escondido and member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts got a preview of the park a day before it opens to the public. She has been to the original Sesame Place in Pennsylvania, which opened in 1980, and said she was “absolutely blown away” by the San Diego park.
“It’s really welcoming and it’s not intimidating,” she said. “You can tell that they’ve really designed this to be a family-friendly venue.”
Sesame Place also embodies this welcoming environment for all families as a Certified Autism Center. This certification means a business has a highly trained staff that helps them better serve people “with cognitive disorders, including autism, sensory disorders, and other, sometimes invisible, disorders and disabilities,” according to the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.
For example, there are signs in front of Sesame Place’s rides that feature a sensory guide to help guests determine if this will be a suitable ride for them. There are also designated “quiet rooms” behind the souvenir shop for guests to get relief from sensory stimulation at the park.

The original Sesame Place was the first theme park in the world to achieve the designation, according to the company’s annual report.
Jim Lake, Sesame Place San Diego park president said that all the staff at the park are specially trained to understand how to interact with children on the autism spectrum. He said that this training is important and it is a key and meaningful differentiator for the park.
“It provides that inclusive environment so everyone could come here and have a good time,” he said.

Additionally, he said the park has something for everyone with its water and dry rides, Sesame Street Party Parade and a stage show at a new 770-seat theater. On the main street of the neighborhood, there’s a big nest where guests can listen to “Storytime with Big Bird,” a show debuting in San Diego.
“I grew up watching Sesame Street and when I came in here I felt … all these memories come back because it really kind of mirrors what you would see on the Sesame Street show,” Lake said.
Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment said that they leaned into the immersive aspect of bringing the television show setting to life through an interactive neighborhood at the front of the park.
“Walking down Sesame Street, the show comes to life here,” Swanson said. “You see that right when you walk in, you see the laundry mat, the 123 stoop, Mr. Hooper’s Store — it’s like you’re in the middle of the show.”
He added that a big part of why the Sesame Street brand is so important is because of the character recognition, especially Elmo, that spans generations of people who watched the public-broadcasting show.
Swanson said he is looking forward to guests experiencing a new parade — which is not featured at the original East Coast park — and how San Diego’s weather will allow them to welcome guests year-round. He did not disclose how much the revamped park cost, but said it was in the millions.

“We have 12 parks across the United States … (and) our goal is to have something new every year ,” he said.

Sesame Place San Diego opens to the public on Saturday at 10 a.m. The park is located at 2052 Entertainment Circle in Chula Vista.
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