A Day At The Carnival, Toddler Style

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):

Carnival - Instagram Edition

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. 

Carnival Safety Guide

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.

Carnival Merry Go Round

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.

Holding Shirt On Merry Go Round

But she got the hang of it in no time, and by all accounts had a blast on the Merry-Go-Round.

Riding 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:

Carnival Alligator Ride

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):

"Super Truck" Train Ride

Here’s a photo of Lillian driving one, though unfortunately it came out a little blurry:

Toddler Driving Truck

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:

Tiny Roller Coaster

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:

Riding The Tiny Roller Coaster

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:

Frog Drop Ride

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:

Running Through The Funhouse

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:

Ferris Wheel 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:

View From 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:

Riding The Ferris Wheel

The lights on the Ferris Wheel were constantly changing colors, as can be seen behind Joe’s head in this picture:

Riding The Ferris Wheel

It made for some pretty neat pictures when looking straight up from where we were sitting:

Blue Glow Ferris Wheel

I think Lillian enjoyed those views as well.

Looking Up At The Ferris Wheel

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.

Fireworks Over The Carnival

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.

Watching Fireworks

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!


  1. Never too many photographs! And may I say, Sarah, you’re a really great photographer. You got some remarkable shots! It’s great to see Lilly having so much fun, and you and Joe, too! Love You, all!

  2. What fantastic pictures!! And I agree with Ms. Lyle. You can never show us too many pictures! Lilly’s smile is just beautiful, just like her mother’s! Thanks for sharing these with us! Love to you all!

  3. “(excessively photo-filled)” I agree with Ms Lyle, there is no such animal, lol.

    Lily is getting so BIG, and is such a pretty young lady.
    Thanks so much for keeping us posted!

  4. Ahaha, Sarah you rebel! No lettin’ ’em tell you what to do! :) Seriously agree with the above comments, there can never be too many pictures. Lillian is SO ADORABLE!!! I know I’m biased, but it’s true! I like how excited Joe looked to be going on the ride too, lol! I can’t even tell you how glad I am you have this blog. ^_^ Love y’all!

  5. Those flip-flops, Joe! You can take the boy out of Florida, but you can’t take the Florida out of the boy! Looks like a great fun-filled day!

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