Keeping Your Cool at the Amusement Park

By | August 28, 2012

So, you have young kids and are heading out to the amusement park… What are you? Nuts?

This is what people asked me when we were planning to take our kids to Cedar Point in Ohio earlier this year.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Cedar Point. Last time I was there they had a whole Berenstain Bears theme for their kids area. It was close to the front and right on the main drag. Six years ago, a bunch of parks changed ownership, partnerships were hatched, and property merged. I am assuming this is when the bears were kicked to the curb in exchange for a Peanuts theme. But I digress.

I am writing to share what worked (and what didn’t work) when we took our two- and five-year-old kids to the amusement park.

My first bit of advice: Make a bee-line to the kids’ rides, preferably those in the back. The rides in the back make sense only if you can get to them in less than 15 minutes. If not, head for the closest. Interest wanes fast, and if you take your time (like we did) you get a lot of whining and complaining. Maybe it would have been better if we had ridden the easy-going drive-the-car ride before heading back. But instead, we jumped on the Sky Ride, and then leisurely walked around the back the park before coming up on the kids’ section. BIG MISTAKE. By the time we reached Jr Gemini Children’s Area, the fragile balance that is a functioning family unit was beginning to sway. It was only some amazing parenting that kept the kids pleasant enough to enjoy a few rides.

Of course, even kids get tired of the kids’ rides after awhile. That’s when they turn to Ferris wheels and carousels. So chose the timing of mainstream rides carefully. In most cases, the grown-up rides are simply off limits to the shorter set. But kids love merry-go-rounds. While there was hardly ever a line for the little kid rides, after noon we found the line for the Ferris wheel growing. Our two-year-old wasn’t going to wait 30 minutes in the hot sun for a ride he didn’t understand (why can’t they ever have shade?!), so that leads me to my third piece of advice:

Play in the fountain. Seriously. Why is it always 105 when you go to the amusement park? After a day of chasing shade, you will find you’re still sweating like a bear in a fur coat. And if you’re this hot, the kids are too. If you see running water they can play in, by all means stop. Their clothes will dry, and it’s really very likely to be the most fun they’ll have all day.

There are other tidbits that might make the visit easier: split the trip into two days, so you’re not fighting to “get your money’s worth” in one afternoon; spend the late afternoon at the beach; take a siesta and head back the hotel or campsite for naps. But we didn’t do any of these, so I will leave the dispensing of that wisdom to those wiser than me.

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