Congratulations, you have just booked your child’s first Walt Disney World® Resort vacation with a Key to the World Travel® agent! Now is the time to begin to prepare your child for the magic they will experience! Of course, the type of magic that exists at Walt Disney World® Resort cannot be replicated as it is truly a one of a kind experience. You can, however, allow your child to experience a theme park that is similar. This will also allow you a dress rehearsal of sorts if this will be your first theme park experience with kids!
One of my favorite parks to introduce as a first theme park to kids is Sesame Place which is located outside of Philadelphia, in Langhorne, PA. This theme park is based on the kids’ educational program Sesame Street.
Although Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place have differences, the majority of the differences (besides the element of magic) are due to the sizes of each of the parks. In other words, both parks offer many of the same things, but Walt Disney World® Resort has more options due to its size. Some major differences that are worth noting include that Sesame Place contains both a theme park and a water park within the same park. The theme park side of the park only offers basic theme park rides, and are geared to younger children. Walt Disney World® Resort offers 4 theme parks and 2 water parks, all of which are separate from each other. Sesame Place also does not offer onsite accommodations while Walt Disney World® Resort does offer this. Also, as previously stated, the magic that exists at Walt Disney World ® Resort does not exist at Sesame Place. That is not to say that Sesame Place is not fun and whimsical, it is just different.
The following list of similarities between Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place is why I personally recommend visiting Sesame Place prior to your child’s first experience with Walt Disney World® Resort.
Rides at Sesame Place can be Used to Get Little Ones Acclimated with Theme Park Rides
Because the rides are the perfect size for young kids, you may be able to get your child to ride such things as Elmo’s Flying Fish (similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant® found in Magic Kingdom® Park), Monster Mix-Up (similar to Mad Tea Party found in Magic Kingdom® Park) or Vapor Trail which is a miniature roller coaster similar to The Barnstormer® found in Magic Kingdom® Park. You will have a better idea of the types of rides your child is willing to experience. Your Key to the World Travel® Agent would also be able to better provide you with personalized touring plans customized to their likes!
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place have an App that Can be Downloaded to a Phone/Tablet
The App for Walt Disney World® is called My Disney Experience while the App for Sesame Place is called Sesame Place Discovery Guide. The My Disney Experience app is a little more advanced than Sesame Place Discovery Guide in that it includes ride wait times. This mainly has to do with the setup of Walt Disney World® Resort. The Sesame Place App includes an interactive map, hours and show times and events. You can find dry rides, water rides, shows, photo areas, restaurant locations, shopping locations, character meet and greet areas as well as different facilities such as restrooms, lost parents (where you pick up your child if they ever get lost), lockers, ATM, Guest Information, Nursing Stations, First Aid and Defibrillator locations. Using the Sesame Place Discovery Guide app is great practice for getting accustomed to the My Disney Experience app as the concepts between the two apps are the same.
Both Walt Disney World® Resorts and Sesame Place have Character Meet & Greets with Photographers
You can partake in character meet and greets at 1, 2, 3, Smile with Me! where you will be able to meet Elmo and at least 1 other Sesame Place friend. Characters are also scheduled to be in certain areas of the park for meet and greets. A park photographer is on hand to take pictures at every character meet and greet. At this time you can also determine if your child may be frightened of characters as some children find them terrifying. If your child is hesitant, you can practice techniques to put them at ease prior to the ‘big trip’. (link to the blog I have written about kids scared of characters!)
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Offer Character Dining
Sesame Place offers character dining at 1,2,3 Dine with Me! They offer different themes during the course of the year and as such, the characters that appear during the character dining event may change to match the theme. For example, Elmo’s Silly Bones Dine features Elmo, Zoe, The Count, Grover and Cookie Monster while Abby’s Halloween Magical Magician Ball Dine features Abby, Elmo, Zoe, The Count and Cookie Monster. This is another great opportunity to see how your child reacts to the characters as well!
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Offer Daily Parades
While Walt Disney World® has many different parades and performance times, Sesame Place has 1 parade that takes place in the afternoon and the evening (during Summer). The Neighborhood Street Party Parade is extremely cute – I honestly do not know who enjoys it more, myself or my kids! I personally believe it is best to find out if your child will try to run and join the parade at Sesame Place where it is less crowded than it would be to find out at Magic Kingdom® Park on your magical vacation.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Offer Nightly Entertainment
While Walt Disney World® Resort does offer nightly entertainment in the form of fireworks and light shows nightly, Sesame Place is a little bit more low key. Sesame Place performs the Neighborhood Street Party Night Parade on select nights. During this parade, the route is illuminated and a light show is performed via floats. Sesame Place also has a fireworks show, however, this is only done during holidays such as Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. If you have never been to a theme park at night when it is dark, I highly recommend using this as a learning opportunity for your family. Sesame Place can get crowded at night, however, the crowd levels are nothing compared to what you may potentially experience at Walt Disney World®. I personally think it is best to practice your plan for being in the theme parks at night in a smaller, calmer atmosphere.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Offer Daily Shows
While Walt Disney World® Resort offers many more shows than Sesame Place due to its size, Sesame Place also offers daily shows. The park is currently offering 3 shows – Elmo the Musical Live!, Let’s Play Together and The Magic of Art. This is a great opportunity to learn if your child will sit still long enough to enjoy a show!
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Have a Pin Trading Program
The Pin Trading Program at Sesame Place is called 123 Trade with Me and it works similar to the program found at Walt Disney World®. This makes it great practice for the little ones (and the young at heart!). In order to participate in the program, you must find a Sesame Place Team Member wearing a pin trading lanyard, pick your favorite pin and give the Team Member one of your pins. There are 7 categories of pins available – Core, Limited Edition, Collections, Series, Special Edition, Retired Pins and Season Pass Member Pins. The Core pins are available until they are retired. The Limited Edition pins are only available in smaller quantities so they are harder to find. Collections are a group of pins that relate to each other while a Series is a set of pins that are identified as a group. Special Edition Pins are only available for a limited time while Retired Pins are not in production any longer – you can only get these by trading. Season Pass Member pins are exclusively for Season Pass Members.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Have Photo Packages Available
While Walt Disney World® Resort has their MemoryMaker package which allows you download all of your photos and can be pre-purchased for $169, Sesame Place currently offers a few different photo package options. The Furry Photo Package gives you one 6x8 acrylic frame and one 6x8 photo print from 1-2-3 Smile with Me! for $25. The Single-Day PhotoKey Access Pass gives you unlimited access to all of your photos for 1 day and costs $60. (This would be similar to a MemoryMaker for 1 day.) Purchasing a Single-Day PhotoKey Access Pass is a great opportunity to see how the MemoryMaker works since they are similar in concept.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Have Quick-Service Locations Available for Meals or Snacks
If you are like me and do not take your kids out to eat often, this is a great opportunity to gauge your child’s reaction to this experience. Although bringing your child to a restaurant is the same concept, theme park eating at quick-service locations is generally busier and noisier. I would recommend using this time to determine how your child reacts to the experience.
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Have Pressed Pennies
Be sure to have quarters and pennies on you so your children and get the hang of partaking in this fun activity!
Both Walt Disney World® Resort and Sesame Place Have Starbucks In Their Parks
I do not even think I need to explain this one!
If you would like the chance to introduce your children to another, smaller, but similar theme park prior to their first Walt Disney World® visit, contact your Key to the World Travel Agent®. While we do specialize in Disney Destinations, we are able to book other destinations as well and we can come up with the perfect park to introduce your little ones to the joys of theme parks prior to their first visit to the ultimate magical vacation!
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