A few weekends ago, we heard about a carnival in Elk Grove Village, one of the suburbs of Chicago, and decided to go check it out. I was admittedly pretty excited about it — it was the first time I’d been to a carnival in years, and the first time Lillian’s been to a carnival ever, so we thought it would be fun. This post tells the story of our adventures from that day (with way too many pictures!)
As far as preparations for visiting a carnival with a two year old, we actually passed on bringing the stroller, since we seem to be using it less and less lately — Lillian seems to prefer walking in most cases. She’s also been getting to that age of not taking afternoon naps as reliably as she used to, and not seeming to need them as much, but we made sure she got one that day because we knew we might be out on the late side. We ended up arriving at the carnival around 6:00 in the evening.
Skipping ahead, here’s a peek at the Ferris Wheel at around sundown (which you may have already seen if you follow me on Instagram):
When we first arrived at the carnival and were buying our tickets, one of the first things I noticed was the “Fun & Safety” guidelines posted up on all the rides. Pregnancy was one of the things that warranted a recommendation not to go on the rides, along with such serious conditions as heart trouble, high blood pressure, recent surgery, bone injuries, and being barefoot.
I was curious as to whether this was a hard-and-fast rule, or more of a guideline (some kind of effort to avoid liability) that no one would really bother to enforce. If I learned anything from that time we tried to go whale watching while I was pregnant last time, it’s that the rules for letting pregnant women do things can be kind of arbitrary.
Mind you, I had no intention of going on the crazy-fast upside-down rides, but something like taking a spin on the Merry-Go-Round with Lillian seemed like it should be safe and gentle enough if it was allowed.
The verdict? Maybe it was indeed not intended as a strict rule, or maybe I didn’t look pregnant enough, or maybe things were chaotic enough that the attendant couldn’t carefully inspect the physique of everyone getting on the ride, but the no-pregnant-ladies thing didn’t seem to be an issue.
When we first got on the ride, Lilian gripped onto the front of my shirt rather than the pole, which was a bit awkward as the horse started moving up and down.
But she got the hang of it in no time, and by all accounts had a blast on the Merry-Go-Round.
Not pictured: the part where the ride was over but she didn’t want to get off, and refused to let go of one of the poles (with a grip that was nothing short of incredible for a two-year-old). A full-on collapsing-to-the-ground-and-screaming tantrum ensued once we finally managed to pry her off the ride, but I think we handled it okay — we asked her sternly if she wanted to leave the carnival and go back to the car, or calm down. She calmed down, and actually behaved pretty well for the rest of our time at the carnival.
Another nice thing about this particular carnival was that it wasn’t super crowded — for every single ride we wanted to go on, the wait was never longer than a few minutes (basically however long it took for the ride to stop and the people currently on it to get off). The whole concept of waiting in line is a pretty new one to Lillian, and there were a number of times when she tried to run right up to the gate, but we had to guide her to the end of the line instead. I guess it’s good practice for eventually going to bigger, more crowded amusement parks someday though.
As far as other kiddie rides go, this one featuring hatted alligators that went around in a circle was a big hit:
And this little train ride too, which was actually a bunch of miniature trucks strung together for the kids to drive in a circle (shh, it doesn’t have to make sense):
Here’s a photo of Lillian driving one, though unfortunately it came out a little blurry:
According to the height measurement rulers, Lillian was somewhere between the 36″ and 38″ mark, meaning she could go on these rides all on her own, and a lot of the rides with higher requirements let younger kids on if they were accompanied by an adult. In the slightly more adventurous category, there was this miniature roller coaster which was somewhat bigger and higher than the “dragon wagon” rides I remember from when I was a little kid:
Joe took Lillian on this one (I didn’t want to push it too much with the being pregnant thing) and although I was a little concerned that the roller coaster would be too fast or scary for her, she seemed to love it, grinning the whole time it was in motion. The only picture I was able to get of this one, though, was from before the ride started:
Another ride Lillian asked to go on was this Frog Drop ride, which was basically a miniature version of those thriller rides that lift you up and drop you in a free fall, only it went up and down a bunch of times (like a frog hopping I guess). Lillian got on and seemed to be really enjoying it at first, smiling delightedly the first few times it went up and down:
But then shortly after this picture was taken, she started crying to get off (luckily the ride was over pretty quickly after that). The first thing she did after exiting was to ask for some of the funnel cake I was eating, and in retrospect I’m not sure if the ride scared her all that much or if she was mostly concerned that I would eat it all before she could get off.
She and Joe went through the Fun House after that (again at Lillian’s request) and this one may have indeed been a little too old for her — she needed help from Joe in several places in order to get through. Here they are coming through the spinning barrel hallway thing at the end:
We ate some delicious overpriced carnival food and went on a few more rides (mostly repeats of ones from earlier) and before we knew it, it was starting to get dark. So, we decided to use up our remaining tickets to take a spin on the Ferris Wheel, which was really pretty all lit up at night:
Once again I flaunted the Fun & Safety guidelines on the pregnancy thing, and once again nobody seemed to notice or care. The Ferris Wheel was a pretty good size, and could fit four people to a car, which was nice. Here is a view of the carnival all lit up at night as seen from aboard the Ferris Wheel:
Happily, Lillian didn’t seem scared at all of being up so high. Here is a very grainy photo of the two of us enjoying the ride:
The lights on the Ferris Wheel were constantly changing colors, as can be seen behind Joe’s head in this picture:
It made for some pretty neat pictures when looking straight up from where we were sitting:
I think Lillian enjoyed those views as well.
The whole time we were on the ride, she kept saying “And now we’re going up! And now we’re going down!” as well as announcing which colors the lights were changing to. We had a narrator, people!
Once the Ferris Wheel ride was over, we let Lillian play one of those “pick a duck” games, where you pick a floating plastic duck out of a stream of moving water and the number on the bottom corresponds to which prize you win. She won a small blue stuffed turtle.
We had heard that there were going to be some fireworks nearby that night, but since they didn’t start until 9:30 we figured we’d probably leave before then. But lo and behold, the fireworks display started just as we were getting back to our car in the parking lot, and the view couldn’t have been better, so we stayed to watch.
Last year on the Fourth Of July, Lillian was frightened by the fireworks, just hiding her face the whole time they were going on. When the fireworks started this time, she seemed a little freaked out, and insisted on getting into her car seat and buckling in.
From there on out, though, she seemed to be really enjoying the show, which I didn’t really understand until about halfway through, when I realized she was watching the whole thing in the reflections on the car next to ours.
She was talking excitedly about the fireworks for days afterwards, which seems like a good sign — with the Fourth Of July coming up at the end of this week, and us planning to visit another fireworks display, it’s probably good that she got this low-key opportunity to watch them indirectly from a safe place.
Anyway, I should wrap this post up here, so that concludes the (excessively photo-filled) story of our carnival visit — the first of what will hopefully be lots of carnival and amusement park adventures over the coming years!