Top Tips For Visiting Sesame Place (a guest post)

Top Tips for Visiting Sesame Place in Langhorne, PAOne of the things I love most about travel blogging, and writing, is connecting with people who share my passions; food, travel, giving back, and helping others make the best off all those things.

When one of those people does me the honor of agreeing to share their insights here on my blog… hello, Awesome! Today I’m thrilled to welcome Shobha George, author of the brilliantly written, muse worthy blog, Just Go Places.  Sit back, relax, and take notes as Shobah shares her Sesame Place tips. 

If you have a toddler then you know all about Elmo.  Not that there is much to know – just that Elmo loves you.  And, he will tell you repeatedly that he loves you. 
 
I have had the dubious pleasure of raising two Elmo addicts myself.  Luckily they are now recovering from their love of Elmo and his theme park, Sesame Place (although I still have flashbacks).  
 
My parents live near Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  Every summer when my children were younger, we would spend a large chunk of our summer at Sesame Place.  My children LOVED Sesame Place. I enjoyed making them happy (helped feed my martyr mother complex).
 
Here are my top tips for surviving Sesame Place.
 
  1. Get there early when the park opens at 10 AM.  Otherwise the line to get into the park gets really long.  Plus you can keep your car closer to the park entrance without paying for the VIP parking.  Regular parking is expensive enough and not usually included in your theme park ticket itself. 
  2. In the morning, head to the right side for the amusement park rides such as the tea cups and flying rides. When it gets hot later in the day, you’ll want to be on the water rides.
  3. For an under-5 theme park, Sesame Place does not have a lot of shade.  I would suggest you go to the beach area and get yourself a beach umbrella and set yourself up for the afternoon.  Bring buckets and spades for the kids to play.  The beach is also conveniently located in the middle of the water area, right next to Ernie’s Waterworks (the sprinklers) and the lazy river.
  4. Sesame Place gets really crowded in the summer.  The Philadelphia summer camps visit en masse to this park.  If you can, I would go in the morning, get your hand stamped so that you can leave around lunchtime and then visit again in the late afternoon when the crowds have dissipated and the sun’s intensity has lessened.
  5. The evenings are great at Sesame Place.  In the summer, it’s still pretty warm in Pennsylvania in the evenings.  You will definitely be able to enjoy the water park area but without the crowds.
  6. The Sesame Place parades are really fun! The participants are really enthusiastic and seeing the Sesame Street characters is a real treat for young children.  I will never forget my daughter’s face when Elmo shook her hand.  She had such a look of adoration which I doubt I will see again unless I got her Taylor Swift tickets.  Unfortunately, the Taylor Swift tickets in London are going for £350 (about $525) a ticket so that’s not going to happen.
Top Tips for Visitng Sesame Place - a Guest Post from Just Go Places
Any children over the age of 5 will find Sesame Place a bit tame.  I personally think Hershey Park is a better theme park because it is larger and cheaper.  Of course, though, you don’t get the Sesame Street characters.  
 
I’m going to start my second round of Sesame Place visits this summer because my toddler niece has started her Elmo obsession.  My kids and I can step in occasionally to give my brother and his wife a break.  After all, that’s what families are for.  That and having a good chuckle as I drop an overtired, overexcited toddler off at home as I drive away.
 
Shobha blogs at www.justgoplacesblog.com about family travel. Be sure to stop by and say, “Hi.”

Trying on The New Glass Slipper: Cinderella Movie Review

Cinderella Movie Romantic Secret GardenI like my espresso with lemon peel, my books – paper, and my Disney princesses animated. Call me old school, a traditionalist, or just plain old… I know what I like, and how I like it. Or, I did.

Being the diehard fan of classic Disney, Maleficent fell a bit short for me and I wasn’t in any rush to pay fifteen dollars to see Cinderella. Even my daughters weren’t particularly piqued by the previews. Though the teen was enamored by the elusive {s in out-of-stock-everywhere and going for a 300% markup on eBay} Cinderella themed line of cosmetics at MAC. 

Then a “Royal” invite from Disney hit my inbox and all that sticking to ideals stuff few out the window. What girl can resist a wax sealed invitation to the the ball – even a digital one? Not me. Or my daughters. So we pulled out the chest of party dress and headed out to a private screening of Cinderella.

Cinderella 2015 The Magic of Disney Returns

There was Footman, The glass slipper, even a royal Blue Carpet rolled out for the occasion.  All were pale in comparison to the story that unfolded on the screen.

We. Loved. It.

The expected magic of a Disney film comes to life in a story both familiar and new, with gorgeous sets and stunning costuming. Ella’s happy world, filled family, love and farmyard friends, comes to a tear jerking end when her mother takes ill.  Before her mother slips away she shares a secret with her daughter – one that really resonated with the mom in me.

“Have courage and be kind.”

Ella lives by these words, through the heartbreak of her father’s death and the trials of life to come with her Wicked Stepmother (portrayed to skin-crawling perfection by the indomitable Cate Blanchett – I really loathed her) and gaudy, obnoxious… hilarious, Stepsisters. She continues to be kind, have courage in the face of hardship, and believe in magic – as evidenced by her relationship with the house mice.

Stepmother-and-Stepsisters-Cinderella-Movie

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that Gus {Gus Gus} was still in the story. He was always my favorite! Sure they turned Jacques into Jaquelin, but even that worked to tie in the theme of a courageous and kind female character.  I missed Lucifer having a bigger role, but he was there too. Lucifie!

My girls and I laughed, and cried. We swooned over the handsome prince, cheered for the triumph of kindness over cruelty, fell in love with the wise King. There wasn’t a thing I could find to dislike – and believe me, I tried.  Nonso Anozie as The Captain was my absolute favorite. He was gallant, funny, and gave a performance that even eclipsed that of the amazing Helena Bonham Carter. {who can do no wrong, in my book}

Not one to bide with hyperbole – at least when it comes to movies… excuses for not working out, well that’s a different story – give Cinderella a full four pumpkins and an additional sprinkle of fairy dust for the stunning costuming. Do not wait for this one to come out on DVD, it must be seen in on the big screen to be fully appreciated.

Trust me, it’s well worth the $15 ticket and $20 small diet coke.

Some Princesses are tougher

 Disclosure: My family and I were invited guests of Disney for a private screening of the film as well as an event. I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are entirely my own – because you deserve nothing less!

Forest Bathing? Yes, It’s A Thing

Sedona Arizona Snoopy RockSometimes writing about travel does more for funny bone than the two-hundred bucks you paid to go see Lewis Black live at Constitution Hall. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Only the most humorless amongst us can stay straight faced when pitched content for a, “Luxury Survivalist Excursion.”

Some days my inbox is like an episode of Laugh In. Rowan and Martin tossing one-liners at ya… “Come to our Echo Lodge – We’ll let you bring your favorite toilet paper, or we’ll point you to the bushes with best leaves.” So, when an email with the title, “Forest Bathing now available to travelers in Sedona, Arizona.” my first thought was… Sock It To Me!

Two questions immediately followed the giggle;

1. Was bathing in the forest somehow not available before this? Like was there an ordnance?
2. Is the plumbing in this hotel undergoing renovation?

I make it a point to at least skim over every pitch I get. I know how painful writing the darn things is – respect must be paid. As I read this one  it quickly became apparent that the author was a genius in writing an email title with a great hook, and that Forest Bathing was not – as I’d believed, and perhaps secretly hoped  – a bunch of people lathering up with pine sap soap and bark loofahs.

Forest Bathing Sedona Arizona

Forest Bathing, also know as “Shinrin-Yoku,” draws on the traditions of mindfulness and is rooted in a range of transcultural practices that recognize the benefits that time in nature can have a positive and healing effect on human health and happiness. (happiness – I can get behind that)

L’Auberge de Sedona, has just introduced an expert-led Forest Bathing program, designed to help guests connect with nature on a greater level by inviting them to experience their surroundings in new ways. Located along the famed Oak Creek and Coconino National Forest, and nestled within the enchanting Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona, the property has long been a destination sought after for the naturally healing benefits of its environment. 

From healing invitations, to practicing gratitude – L’Auberge de Sedona’s creekside location provides the perfect arena for guests to take a step back and re-connect with the earth and themselves. Guests will be led by certified forest bathing experts at the resort on a gentle, guided walk along the Oak Creek, that will support well-being through sensory immersion in the naturally healing environment.

They say that laughter is the best medicine, I’m thinking a Forest Bath might be fairly medicinal as well.

Hotel Information

L’Auberge de Sedona 〉 301 Little Ln, Sedona, AZ 86336 〉 (800) 905-5745 〉 website www.lauberge.com

Amenity Information

Complimentary to guests. Private sessions available for $195 per person.

Photo Credit: L’Aburge de Sedona

Getting Your Child A U.S. Passport When You Are The Custodial Parent

Getting your child a passport as the custodial parent

My eldest daughter turns sixteen this year. To honor this milestone we gave her two options. Have the traditional soiree known as the, “Sweet Sixteen” party, or take an epic trip. It was no surprise that a child who wants to major in International Studies chose the trip. What did surprise me were the hoops we’d have to jump through to get her passport.

You see I have the honor of being her custodial parent. I’m beyond grateful to my ex-husband for making the sacrifices he has, they’ve allowed me the joy of getting to watch her grow into the amazing woman I know she’ll be. He and I have made every effort to co-parent, which can be hard when you live on opposite coasts.

Bumps in the road, caused by the physical distance between her parents,  have been few and far between. So when it came to getting her passport, neither of us figured there would be any big issues. He’d sign a form, we’d go down to the office, she’d be ready to take off for Ireland.

BUMP!

It turns out that there are a number of extra steps in obtaining a passport for a minor child when their parents are divorced. Here are are some of the questions we had, answers to which came in the form of a lesson learned.

How Long Will It Take?

At the time this post is being written, the average processing time for a passport book (just the book, not the card) is 4 to 6 weeks. You can pay for expedited processing, which will have the passport in your hand in 3 weeks. Need it faster? Go directly to an Agency office – not a third party authorized processing location, like a post office– and you can have it in 8 days, pending approval of need. Generally this means there is some sort of extenuating circumstance, like medical need or bereavement. 

How Much Does It Cost?

For minors (under age 16) the fee for the first application is $95 plus a $25 processing fee. If you need expedited service that will set you back an extra $60. For the most accurate and up-to-date info on fees, be sure to use the calculator on the State Department’s U.S. Passports & International Travel website.  

What Documents Will I Need?

Since this post is specifically about obtaining a passport for a child who’s parents are divorced, I’ll address that.

  1. Proof of Citizenship: Certified U.S. Birth Certificate.  OR Naturalization Document, Certificate of Citizenship, Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  ORIGINALS not copies! You will get your document(s) back with your child’s passport.  
  2. Evidence of Parental Relationship – a document that lists you as the parent: U.S. or foreign birth certificate, adoption decree, divorce/custody decree.
  3. Photo Identification – for all parities. Make a copy of the front AND back of each ID. For example I made copies of her school ID, her father’s and my driver’s licenses.
    NOTE: If the parent who is not present at the appointment does not reside in the same state, you MUST provide TWO forms of ID for them. I missed this information on the website . As a result we had to make a second appointment which delayed things by two more weeks!
  4. Parental Consent – both parents must be present. Here is where it gets complicated for custodial parents (like me). If one parent can not be there you’ll need to have them complete a Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent. This must be notarized
  5. Passport Photo - here is a good resource for DIY passport photos if you’d rather not stop by say a CVS or Costco and have one “professionally” done.
  6. Application Forms – here are links to PDF versions of the forms DS-11 and DS-3035 Statement of Consent DS-5525  Statement of Exigent/Special Family Circumstance. note: all these forms are also available online at the State Department website. ALSO if you are filling the forms out by hand, be SURE to use black ink. YES, I failed to do that as well! 
  7. Passport Fees – See Above.

After a few hiccups, and maybe more than a full hair-pulling sessions, we got her all set to go. It’s off to Ireland for her first visit there, my third and tagging along will be her Grandfather, returning to his ancestral home for the first time. I can’t wait to experience the Emerald Isle through their eyes! 

Note: As we all know, Government processes change often. I’ve provided these tips as a guide based on my personal experience. That said, be sure to double check with the State Department before applying for your child’s passport.

I have four kids and an opinion.