Bird Watching

Big Bird and Elmo have made San Diego their home as Sesame Place opens this weekend

Sesame Place San Diego, the brand’s first West Coast park, will transport guests to the neighborhood of Cookie Monster and Elmo when it opens Saturday in Chula Vista.

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the parent company of Sesame Place and SeaWorld San Diego, has overhauled the 17-acre property that previously operated as Aquatica San Diego. The water park has been transformed into the colorful and fuzzy world of Sesame Street monsters with many additional attractions.

The new Southern California location features 18 rides, including 11 water rides, such as 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 a member of American Coaster Enthusiasts, got a glimpse of the park a day before it opened to the public. She visited the first Sesame Place in Pennsylvania, which opened in 1980, and said she was “absolutely blown away” by the park in San Diego.

“It’s really welcoming and it’s not intimidating,” she said. “You can tell they really designed this place for families.”

Sesame Place also embodies this welcoming environment for all families as a certified autism center. This certification means that a company has highly trained staff who help it better serve people “with cognitive impairments, including autism, sensory impairments 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 the rides at Sesame Place that feature a sensory guide to help customers determine if it will be an appropriate ride for them. There are also designated “quiet rooms” behind the gift shop for guests to relieve themselves from the sensory stimulation of the park.

The first Sesame Place was the first theme park in the world to earn this designation, according to the company’s annual report.

Jim Lake, president of Sesame Place San Diego, said all park staff are specially trained to understand how to interact with children with autism. He said this training is important and is a key and significant differentiator for the park.

“He provides this inclusive environment for everyone to come here and have a good time,” he said.

Plus, he said the park has something for everyone with its water and dry rides, Sesame Street Party Parade, and a live performance at a new 770-seat theater. On the neighborhood’s main street, there’s a big nest where guests can listen to “Storytime with Big Bird,” a show that’s making its San Diego debut.

“I grew up watching Sesame Street and when I got here I felt…all those memories come back because it really mirrors what you would see on the Sesame Street show,” Lake said.

Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said they looked at the immersive aspect of bringing the set from the TV show to life through an interactive neighborhood at the front of the park.

“Walking down Sesame Street, the show comes alive here,” Swanson said. “You see this as soon as 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 recognition of the character, especially Elmo, which spans generations of people who have watched the public broadcast. .

Swanson said he looks forward to guests seeing a new parade — which isn’t in the original East Coast park — and that San Diego’s weather will allow them to welcome guests year-round. He did not reveal the cost of the revamped park, 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 Saturdays at 10 a.m. The park is located at 2052 Entertainment Circle in Chula Vista.