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Sesame Place San Diego Tips – Theme Park Family Travel Guide

Sesame Place San Diego Tips – Theme Park Family Travel Guide

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When in Southern California you’re looking for activities that are budget-savvy and family friendly, especially for very young children. Bonus points for warm-weather fun that helps you stay cool in the San Diego sunshine. Sesame Place San Diego theme park and water park is sure to check all the boxes – with enough entertainment for an entire day’s worth of play!

Sesame Place San Diego theme park neighborhood with kids near sign, stoop and lamp post

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I received complimentary admission for my family to experience Sesame Place. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sesame Place San Diego

Sesame Place opened to guests on MARCH 26th 2022. This new theme park takes the place of the Aquatica San Diego water park. In the rebranding, some of the water play areas that were there have remained and new additions have been made. This includes toddler and preschool friendly amusement park rides.

Sesame Place San Diego is only the second Sesame Place in the nation. Sesame Place Philadelphia opened in 1980.

Keep reading my family travel guide and find out out what there is to do at Sesame Place San Diego theme park, best time saving tips and how to get discounted tickets.

Entrance to Sesame Place San Diego with Big Bird on signage

Sesame Street Bay of Play at SeaWorld

Sesame Street Bay of Play has been a longstanding area at SeaWorld San Diego. This enjoyable section is a highlight for toddlers and preschoolers with play structures, character greetings and kid-friendly rides.

“Can you tell me how to get to…Sesame Place”? The new Sesame Place San Diego is owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, but let me clear up a little confusion.

Sesame Place San Diego directional signage for attractions

While the Sesame Place San Diego theme park and water park is owned and operated by SeaWorld San Diego, the water park is not located near SeaWorld.

  • SeaWorld San Diego is in Mission Bay area (near the beach) and about 10 minutes drive north from downtown.
  • Sesame Place is located in Chula Vista, about 20 minutes drive south from downtown. Address of the new theme park: Sesame Place San Diego – 2052 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista, CA 91911
Sesame Place San Diego front entrance with kids standing in front

Sesame Place San Diego Tickets

Purchase discounted tickets ahead of time from my partners at Get Away Today. A single day pass discounted Sesame Place San Diego ticket is a very low $59 per person (ages 2+ require a ticket). A Season Pass is something to consider if you plan to visit more than once in a year.

General parking is a cost of $30 per vehicle and $35 for up-close parking.

San Diego Discount Travel!

My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted theme park tickets and San Diego-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

When you’re ready to book your San Diego vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package of two or more days.

When is Sesame Place San Diego Open?

Sesame Place San Diego celebrated a grand opening, March 26th, 2022 with amusement park attractions and water park rides. None of the other San Diego water parks are open year-round, generally opening in late spring and closing early fall. It’s assumed that Sesame Place water park areas will not operate year round, but I’ll update if I hear more details.

Park hours upon opening appear to be 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays. Hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday (with an extension to 7 pm beginning in the summer months). There are some block out days during the “off-season” so be sure to check the park calendar online before your visit.

Rainbow color of souvenirs inside Sesame Place San Diego

Can’t Miss Rides at Sesame Place San Diego

Sesame Place San Diego is combination theme park and water park. There’s a healthy mix of both rides and water attractions designed for a variety of ages. These 7 “dry rides” are brand new to the amusement park.

Dry rides are mixed in around the park near the water park attractions. Shoes, bottoms and tops must be worn while on these “dry” rides (ie: no swimsuits).

Sesame Place San Diego height requirement signs

Pay note to the height requirements for each attraction. Ride companions must be 14+ years old. With the exception of the carousel, hand-held infants are not permitted to ride any of these attractions. There is signage at the front entrance with height restrictions for all rides.

Sesame Place Abby's Fairy Flight Ride
Abby’s Fairy Flight is a spinning chair ride

Sesame Place Dry Rides

  • Abby’s Fairy Flight – Spinning swing chairs –36″ height requirement to ride with companion, 42″ to ride alone
  • Cookie Climb – Self-powered tower climb – 38″ height requirement to ride with companion, 48″ to ride alone
  • Elmo’s Rockin’ Rockets – Circling rocket that moved up and down – No height requirement, 48″ to ride alone
  • Rub-A-Dub Sub – Submarine swings up and around- No height requirement, 36″ to ride alone
Sesame Place San Diego Rub-A-Dub Sub height sign
Look for signage like this at each location outlining ride stipulations
  • Sesame Street Soar and Spin – Spinning “hot air” balloons- No height requirement, 42″ to ride alone
  • Sunny Day Carousel – Classic merry-go-round with ponies- No height requirement, 42″ to ride alone
  • Super Grover’s Box Car Derby – Steel roller coaster with mild dips and turns- 38″ height requirement to ride with companion, 42″ to ride alone
Sesame Place San Diego Super Grover's Box Car Derby
A short ride but faster than it looks!

Sesame Place Water Rides

There are some thrilling water slides at Sesame Place water park! If your older children balk about going to a Sesame Street-themed amusement park, these daring water rides will change their mind!

Many of the rides offer options for open or enclosed slides. I’ve included the height requirements next to each attraction. There are height measurements at the entrance to each attraction.

Sesame Place Cookie Monster Mixer water slide with photo center building in foreground
Cookie’s Monster Mixer is one of the most popular rides for older kids

In addition, many rides have requirements for life jackets. Guests under certain heights may be required to wear a life vest when taking part in these attractions.

  • Bert’s Topsy Turvy Tunnels (formerly Kiwi Curl) – Single tube water slide. 42″ requirement; Guests under 48″ are required to wear a life vest
  • Ernie’s Twisty Turny Tunnels (formerly Woohoo Falls) – Choose a single tube or double raft then ride down one of three 60-foot slides, two enclosed and one open-air. 42″ height requirement; Guests under 48″ are required to wear a life vest
  • Cookie’s Monster Mixer (formerly Tassie’s Twister) – Sits up to four in a clover-leaf style raft on a twisting slide that is six feet tall with a dramatic funnel ending. 48″ requirement
Sesame Place San Diego Honker Dinger Dash water slide
Sesame Place San Diego Honker Dinger Dash water slide
  • Honker Dinger Dash (formerly Taumata Racer) – Guests lay on their stomachs, holding a mat in a high speed race to the finish line. 42″ requirement
  • Oscar’s Rotten Rafts (formerly Walhalla Wave) – Family-style raft with long twists and turns. 42″ requirement
  • Snuffy’s Spaghetti Slides (formerly Whanau Way) – This series of body slides each offer a different ride and include 4 enclosed and two open slides. 42″ requirement; Guests under 48″ are required to wear a life vest

More Sesame Place San Diego Water Park Attractions

The Count’s Splash Castle (formerly Walkabout Waters) – This four-story interactive play area features splash pad areas with short slides (for guests 42″ and up). Kids will enjoy the bubbling water features and small sprays for all ages.

There’s also a 500-gallon bucket that fills up and dumps on everyone beneath it. My kiddo enjoyed splashing in the water but refused to go inside the play area for fear of the downpour.

The Count's Splash Castle at Sesame Place San Diego with kids playing in the water

Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides (formerly Slippity Dippity) – The short slides here have a maximum height of 48″ (ie: no grown ups). This means kids need to climb stairs and slide down by themselves, while parents wait at the bottom. Or bring two adults and have one at the top with the child and another to catch at the bottom of the slide.

Elmo's Silly Sand Slides at Sesame Place San Diego with little girl sliding into the water

Big Bird’s Beach (formerly Big Surf Shores) Swells can build in this giant wave pool but the water near the shoreline is tame enough for babies and toddlers to stand and splash in. Anyone under 48″ needs to wear a life jacket and be accompanied by an adult in the water.

Sesame Street Big Bird's Beach wave pool with child wearing a lifejacket

Big Bird’s Rambling River (formerly Loggerhead Lane) – This lazy river is perfect for little ones. Float along next to your child in a double-inner tube. One side has a hole and the other has a seat in the middle (perfect for the youngest kids).

Shade is next to nothing so lather up with sunscreen and bring baby a hat. There is one section of overhead waterfall that can be avoided. – Guests under 42″ should wear a life vest

Sesame Street Big Bird's Rambling River with kids floating in inner tubes

Best Height for Sesame Place Water Rides?

Guests who are taller than 42″ will be able to take advantage of almost all attractions inside the Sesame Place water park. Some attractions require guests who meet the 42″ requirement but are shorter than 48″ to wear a life vest. Anyone 48″ or tall can ride everything and do not need a life jacket.

Visiting Sesame Place San Diego with Babies & Toddlers

You might wonder what there is to do at Sesame Place San Diego with babies or toddlers? While many of the water park’s attractions are geared for older kids, there are still plenty of areas at Sesame Place for smaller children to get wet and have fun!

Swim Safety Tip: There are Coast Guard type life jackets in a variety of sizes located all around the water park, for complimentary use. Lifeguards are stationed in every water area but stay within arms reach of children at all times.

Sesame Place San Diego life jackets on racks

Family Care Center: Take an indoor break at the Family Care Center, located next to Cookie’s Café. This space includes four private nursing areas, bottle warmers, and diaper changing stations.

Sesame Place Water Park Tip: Swim diapers are a must-have. Bring plenty and change your child only inside the restrooms (and not on a lounge chair!). If you forget the diapers or run out, they are available for purchase.

More Things at Sesame Place with Kids

It wouldn’t be Sesame Place without everyone’s favorite Sesame Street characters! This kid-friendly theme park has lots of opportunities for kids to engage with Elmo, Bert & Ernie, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the Grouch!

Sesame Place Bert and Ernie on parade float

Sesame Street Party Parade – Floats carrying fan favorite characters make their way through the streets, alongside energetic dancers and vibrant music. Gather behind the ropes along the parade route for a great view of this street-party style show.

Sesame Place dancers with Zoe and Big Bird with parade float

This colorful presentation is really a can’t miss. I loved the diversity represented during the show in all the energetic dancers. This parade is also a great way for kids to see and wave to their favorite Sesame Street characters.

Floats make their way along the route then stop for several songs and dances. Kids are encouraged to clap and dance along behind the ropes. Any place along the route offers great viewing of the show. On busy days, consider purchasing reserved parade viewing for the Sesame Street Party Parade.

Elmo and Rosita wave from parade float at Sesame Place San Diego

Live Character Show – Welcome to Our Street Check out this whimsical music-filled presentations in the outdoor Sesame Street Theater.

More Sesame Place San Diego Entertainment

Storytime with Big Bird – A sweet, interactive experience featuring the big yellow bird. Big Bird reads a story from his nest for the surrounding audience in the neighborhood area.

Kids are encouraged to sit on the blankets in front of Big Bird and engage in the presentation. The story is short and sweet and there’s a character greeting for photos with Big Bird after the show.

Big Bird reads a story to kids at Sesame Place San Diego

Character Photo Ops – Catch favorite characters for a once-in-a-lifetime meet n’ greet opportunity. Characters may include Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, Oscar the Grouch, Zoe, Grover, Bert & Ernie, Count von Count, Telly and Rosita.

During our visit we found characters greeting outdoors as well as indoors against a green screen. Characters were interacting with kids, hugging and giving high-fives. The photographs can be printed and purchased in any of the photo shops.

Sesame Place Grover greeting with two kids for a photo

Interactive Play Areas

For toddlers and preschoolers that need to escape the stroller and just play, these are the best spots at Sesame Place. Even my 10 year old was delighted to stand on the famous stoop and next to the signature lamp post for a photo op! For those of us who have grown up with Sesame Street, there were many adults in awe, posing in this recognizable area.

Sesame Street stoop with two kids sitting on stairs

Sesame Street Neighborhood – The iconic block from the television series has been recreated here, with interactive play areas for families. This is the perfect place for lots of photos.

Kids can ring Bert & Ernie’s doorbell, use the apartment intercom to hear conversations from characters, knock on Oscar’s trashcan and more!

Sesame Place San Diego neighborhood buildings

Rosita’s Harmony Hills – Outdoor play area recommended for kids under 5 years old. Ample opportunity to run on the grassy field and make music. Parents may join on this soft play area or sit around the outer berm.

Sesame Place San Diego Rosita playarea

Interactive Light Up Bubble Wand – For more interaction around Sesame Place, consider purchasing one of the interactive bubble wands.

There are locations around the theme park to tap the wand and experience extra fun. Look for the “Star Symbol” to unlock surprises around the park.

Sesame Place San Diego interactive wands

Cabanas and Lounge Chairs

Aquatica San Diego water park cabanas remain at Sesame Place! Having a cabana for a day at the pool is a great way to rest and recharge in a private, shaded space. Choose from a variety of options including cabanas that hold up to 12 guests.

  • Located near Big Bird’s Beach Wave Pool
  • Private cabana for up to 8 guests including children & infants
  • Exclusive access to Abby’s Paradise Pool
  • Access to private entrance to Big Bird’s Rambling River
  • In-Cabana Food & Beverage Service available for an additional fee
  • Includes free Wi-Fi
Sesame Place San Diego cabanas

Sesame Place San Diego Dining

All that water play and activity under the sun is going to work up an appetite. Outside food is not permitted inside the theme park, however there are some good (albeit pricey) options.

Sesame Place San Diego water park only offers quick service dining and snack carts. There are no indoor or full service restaurants available. Restaurants are all outdoor counter service and seating is all outdoors.

Walk up dining is centrally located and there are ample patio tables nearby. Additional food service, including a coffee cart, is found around the rest of the park.

Sesame Place dining areas

Look for allergy-friendly meals offered at dining locations, including gluten-free selections. For details about the allergy friendly meals, stop by Guest Services, or any dining location, for an allergen card with food options for those with allergies.

  • Grover’s Grill – Grilled burgers, chicken sandwiches and meatless options.
  • Oscar’s Grouchy Grub – Wrap sandwiches, salads, parfaits and fruit cups.
  • Telly’s Trattoria – Pizza and salads.
  • Monster Snacks – Serving salads, chicken tenders, fries, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • Eats on the Street – Hot dogs, packaged snacks and popcorn.
  • Wavepool Market – Wraps, salads and healthy snacks.

Sesame Place Tip: Consider using the Quick Pay cashless wrist band if you plan on making purchases throughout the day. At the ticket window before entering the park, connect a payment method to a special wristband. Then you can safely leave your credit card in a locker.

Snacking on chicken tenders & fries at Aquatica water park
All the fun in the sun works up a big appetite!

Changing Rooms vs. Restrooms

To save time, I recommend that families wear their bathing suits under their clothes to the water park. There are rental lockers where you can store bags with dry clothing until you need them. Changing rooms are at a minimum here and are especially busy in the hour before closing time.

There are outdoor showers and rinsing stations to wash off chlorine. Restroom stalls are extremely tiny and not appropriate for changing clothes.

Sesame Place San Diego changing rooms

What to Bring with You to Sesame Place San Diego Water Park

  • Guests must bring their own towels from home. If you forget a towel, there are some available for purchase in the gift shop.
  • If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the lazy river or wave pool, bring a large sun hat to cover your face and neck. There’s no shade protection in either spot.
  • Sunscreen is a definite MUST. Under the SoCal sunshine, I’d recommend reapplying several times throughout the day. Try using a sunscreen that can be applied to damp skin, like Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray.
Sesame Place beach chairs in front of wave pool
  • Bring a Waterproof Tote Bag. I use my water proof bag to hold a dry change of clothing and then to place our wet suits in after changing.
  • You’ll need a pair of flip-flops for every family member. The concrete and sand are in direct sun so the ground gets extremely hot.
  • Protect kid’s skin with a rash guard. My kids’ swimwear is from Primary – Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT. Choose brightly colored swim suits to spot your kids quickly in a crowd!
Sesame Place water park play around with kids splashing water
  • Drinking water is another must-have to stay hydrated. Guest are permitted to bring in bottled water.
  • If you’ll have your electronics out, bring protective gear for cells phones like the Submariner Waterproof Phone Pouch.
  • Sesame Place has Fuel Rod, interchangeable phone charging stations to swap out portable cell chargers. I recommend purchasing a Fuel Rod ahead of time then taking them with you to swap as needed.
Sesame Place San Diego Fuel Rod station

What NOT to Bring with You

  • Swim clothing that has metal zippers or rivets.
  • No alcohol or glass.
  • Remove valuable jewelry before coming to the water park.

Time Saving Tips for Sesame Street San Diego Water Parks

Sesame Place San Diego offers a “front-of-the-line” pass called Magic Queue. This quick queue option is definitely a good option for those who don’t want to wait as long.

There are three Magic Queue choices to purchase. Each version offers priority access through a separate line outside of the stand-by line. Simply look for the Magic Queue signage and enter through that line.

Sesame Place San Diego magic queue signage
  • Magic Queue-Dry Rides allows one-time access to each of the 7 rides.
  • Magic Queue-Water Rides allows one-time access to Cookie’s Monster Mixer and Oscar’s Rotten Rafts and unlimited access to the other 4 water slides.
  • Unlimited Magic Queue offers unlimited access to all dry rides and water rides.

There is also an option to purchase reserved viewing areas and save time waiting for shows. Consider purchasing reserved viewing for Welcome to Our Street at the Sesame Street Theater or reserved parade viewing for the Sesame Street Party Parade.

Sesame Place San Diego Abby Cadabby character in Sesame Street Party Parade

Maximize Time at Sesame Place San Diego Water Park

On a budget and don’t want to splurge on the line skipping wristband? Try these time-saving tips! Wait times right after the park opens and in the hour before closing are much lower. Plan to get to the park early to park and enter through security. You’ll want to grab a chair quickly and get to the rides right away.

Upon park opening, head straight for the two most popular water rides, Cookie’s Monster Mixer and Oscar’s Rotten Rafts. Then grab a tube and float around the lazy river.

Visit water play areas in the mid-day, after hitting the bigger attractions.

Mid-day, when the park is busiest take the time to snack in the shade then enjoy the larger attractions including the wave pool and The Count’s Splash Castle. In the hour before closing, my son and I were able to enjoy 5 attractions with minimal wait time. This is the best time to hit all the rest of the water slides!

If the dry rides are your priority, head to the farthest areas of the park first, bypassing the carousel at the entrance. Enjoy Super Grover’s Box Car Derby, Abby’s Fairy Flight and Rub-a-Dub-Sub first. After water play in the afternoon, change back into play clothes and visit the other attractions that are closer to the exit just before closing.

Sesame Place Cookie Climb with boy sitting on ride
Cookie Climb

Other Must Know Tips for Sesame Place San Diego

Water park tube rides – Some rides require you to carry your tube to the top, while others have conveyor belts that bring the tubes back up. There are some attractions with long, wet flights of stairs.

If you have a child that has trouble handling both the stairs and an inner tube, you may be carrying both your tube and theirs!

Water Shoes – Water shoes are not allowed on rides but with all the hot concrete, you’ll need to wear flip-flops for walking between attractions. There are cubbies to place your shoes inside at each ride.

Ride Safety – Remind kids to hold on tightly to the tubes, rafts and mats. Once the ride starts, if a hand slips off it can be almost impossible to regain balance. Hold on tight!

Water Ride Accessibility – Accessibility to slides is very limited. Guests are expected to be able to climb long stairs and stand in line. There is no wheelchair access for slides. Those with health issues may find walking on concrete and climbing stairs to be a challenge.

Is the water heated at Sesame Place San Diego? Some of the pools do have warmer water temperatures. You’ll find heated water at Big Bird’s Beach, Big Bird’s Rambling River, The Count’s Splash Castle, Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides, and Abby’s Paradise Pool.

Sunny Day Guarantee Policy – Did bad weather affect your day? Don’t be grouchy! Visit Guest Services to exchange your ticket for a Sunny Day ticket, valid for a return visit any operating day one year from the date issued.

Sesame Place Oscar the Grouch on a parade float

Certified Autism Center

Sesame Place San Diego is a designated “Certified Autism Center”. What does that mean for families traveling with a special needs child? Here are a few need-to-know bits of information:

As per the website, Sesame Place employees have received “specialized training to ensure they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to cater to all children, including those with special needs. Training focuses include: sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness”.

Sesame Place parade with Zoe and Big Bird

Families may acquire a Special Access Pass. This provides guests with priority boarding up to six times on any of the dry rides and three of the wet rides at Sesame Place San Diego.

Noise-cancelling headphones are provided for guests upon request. WhispEars™ are provided by KidCo. Available on a first come, first served basis at either The Family Care Center or The Welcome Center.

Service animals are permitted within the park.

Need quiet time from sensory stimulation? There are two designated Quiet Rooms with adjustable lighting and comfy seating. Each room is locked and guests may access by requesting the code at the welcome center.

Sesame Place character statue with two kids

Sesame Place Shopping

As to be expected, there are ample spots for families to purchase coveted Sesame Street merchandise! Check out Hooper’s Store and Sesame Souvenirs to buy in the park. 123 Trade With Me is the place to purchase souvenir pins for trading.

Sesame Place Hooper's Store with merchandise

Consider buying ahead to save both time and money. These are a few buy-ahead souvenirs to purchase and bring into the theme park.

Seasonal Celebrations at Sesame Place San Diego

The Count’s Halloween Spooktacular – weekends September 17th – October 30th, 2022.

A Very Furry Christmas Celebration – select dates November 12th – December 31st, 2022.

More Water Park Family Fun

Looking for more water park fun in San Diego county? The LEGOLAND water park in Carlsbad (north San Diego) is a part of the popular theme park. Purchase discount LEGOLAND California tickets ahead of time that are bundled with the theme park.

If you find yourself on the opposite coast at Walt Disney World, a visit to either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach is a Disney vacation must-do! These Disney water parks are intensely themed and great for all ages.

San Diego Travel Tips

If you’re planning to vacation in the Southern California area for several days, these are the things to know about visiting Sesame Place San Diego.

Kids riding on the Sesame Place Sunny Days Carousel

Should I Plan on 2 Days at Sesame Place? This theme park is great for a multi-day visit, especially for kids in the younger age bracket who will most appreciate the dry rides. While you can experience it all in a single day, you’ll need to purchase Magic Queue to bypass the long lines and maximize your time.

What Hotels are Best for San Diego Travel? I recommend choosing one of the centrally located hotels in San Diego, near Mission Bay or Mission Valley. This area will put you close to SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo and beach destinations. Driving from Mission Bay, LEGOLAND California is about 30 minutes north and Sesame Place San Diego is about 30 minutes south.

This article originally published August 12th, 2019 about Aquatica Water Park and has been updated and republished with a new date to reflect the theme park switch to Sesame Place.

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