So, I’m pretty much obsessed with theme parks. Really and truly. My perfect vacation would be a road trip across America visiting every theme park we pass. Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Disneyland, Disneyworld, Euro Disney (ps. don’t go to Euro Disney. It LOOKS like Disney, it SMELLS like Disney- it is, in fact, NOT Disney)- I’ve done ‘em all. I’m so hard core, I’ve even done some pregnant.
When I arrived in Finland NINE YEARS AGO, I heard about its largest theme park up in Tampere. It’s called Särkänniemi. Särkanniemi means awesome in Finnish. Just kidding. But it should.
Because it IS awesome. It’s great for little kids, it’s great for big kids (I’m including myself in that category), it’s reasonably priced (Henry was a whopping five euros, Olli and I were 37 a piece). After NINE YEARS (sorry, that has to be in caps, because I just can’t believe I’ve lived here for NINE YEARS) of dreaming about Särkänniemi, of planning Särkänniemi, of being so sure THIS would be the summer we finally made it- we really actually did.
Last weekend our whole family met Olli’s brother’s family and Olli’s cousin’s family in Tampere to enjoy this theme park to its fullest.
Going to Särkänniemi was less about the crazy rides for me (although I did get one in- you ride on a motorcycle, strapped in from the back. It shoots you out and you loop and zig and zag for a truly wild 30 seconds- fantastic!) and more about the kids. Because we all know that going to a theme park with kids is different from going by yourself. When you go with kids, 90% of your time is spent waving and grinning like an idiot as your kid passes you on the the train caboose for the fifteenth time. But the grins are so genuine, because there is NOTHING CUTER. They’re so happy, they’re so proud of themselves for being independent, you’re so proud of them, you’re so happy they’re happy. It’s a magical thing.
Throughout the course of our day I…
-ate the best burger I’ve ever had. From a restaurant run by Hans Välimäki. He’s a judge on Finland’s Top Chef and the head chef at one of the swankiest restaurants in Helsinki. And owns a burger stand. That sells burgers made of filet. *Mouth waters at the memory*
-watched in awe as Henry approached a costumed character. He NEVER does this. He’s TERRIFIED of anything in a large furry suit. To be fair, he was afraid of the man character in the top hat, but was very comfortable around the mother character in her apron. Hmm…
-saw adult micro pigs, so I could understand how big of a pig pen I’ll need to build when I finally own one.
-took Benjy on his first driving lesson on the bumper cars (Turn, turn, turn- now straight ahead. Turn, turn, turn, now straight).
-got a serious crick in my neck from watching Henry climb all over the Angry Birds climbing structure. Lots of waving and grinning like an idiot. Lots.
-handled more than one meltdown as each kid took turns flipping out from exhaustion. No naps are a dangerous thing at a theme park. We overcame them by loading them up with ice cream cones. And then endured more meltdowns as the sugar crash blew up in our faces.
-thought I lost my keys. They had serendipitously fallen into the outer lining of our baby carrier. THANK GOODNESS.
-watched my boys and niece joyfully take a pony ride through the park. The pony attendant said those three were the happiest riders she’s ever had in all her time of pony attending. They were adorable.
-finished my day with a water ride with Benjy. It was his first- a typical log ride. As we took the little dips and turns, Benjy would proudly announce, “I’m not wet!” ”Just wait!” would be my response. Finally, we hit the final drop and a huge wave of water smashed into us, drenching us from head to toe. I had no idea how Benjy was going to react. And for a split second he was silent. I prepared myself for another meltdown. But then his infectious giggle erupted. ”I’m SO WET!! That was SO FUN!” It turned a typical log ride into THE memory of the day. It was fantastic.
-didn’t take a single picture. Not a’one. Not even with my phone. I intentionally left my beast of a camera home (it’s just SO HEAVY), our point and shoot has died, my new point and shoot is waiting for me in America, and my phone was out of battery. Part of me is really sad about it- I’d have loved to get the kids’ expressions on the pony ride or during the dolphin show or on the Crazy Bus ride or after the splashdown. But part of me is really happy that I just got to enjoy it without the stress of capturing the moment. But I’m not really worried, because when we do our road trip across America and stop at every theme park along the way, there will be enough photos to last FOREVER.
All in all, Särkänniemi was a really FUN day at a time when I really needed FUN with my kids. I needed to laugh with them and play with them and not bemoan their insanity or the filthy flat or the piles of laundry. I just needed to enjoy my children. And I really did. Waving and grinning like an idiot.