I have been seeing a lot of Bentleyville questions floating around social media, especially regarding the wait, the bathrooms, and, oh yeah, the wait. I want to share what I know with you and how I think we got out alive with minimal tantrums from a 19-month-old and a 3.5 year-old (bonus: my marriage is still intact!).
I came up with a game plan ahead of time.
I went to the Bentleyville Gift Shop (located at Grandama’s Sports Garden) before our Bentleyville trip and picked up two light wands, two flashlights, and a previous year’s hat for each kid. They also have other fun toys such as plush animals, snow globes, and clothing items. I chose the light-up items because my kiddos have been really into flashlights lately. (My car looked like a rave was going on inside of it; I can only imagine what the car behind us thought was going on!) We ordered pizza from our favorite local spot, VIP Pizza, and had it ready to go for when it was dinner time.
We picked up the kids from daycare and headed straight for Bentleyville. We arrived at 4:53 and the line was backed up pretty much to the Goodwill on Garfield Ave. It took us 1 hour and 50 minutes to get through to the lit parking lot, 10 minutes to get through the parking lot and about 12 minutes total spent in Bentleyville. In terms of time, I wish we got there around 4:15, and if my kiddos were older, we would have gone after 7:30 pm which I have been hearing has a much shorter wait. As a reminder, Bentleyville is open until 9pm on the weekdays/Sunday and 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
I was able to keep my kids in their car seats all the way to the lit parking lot by slowly bringing out the fun Bentleyville toys, Christmas songs, and the endless supply of pizza. With that said, we still had two tantrums and some serious mom-voicing happen. And because I know it will be asked, yes, I took my kids out of their car seats once we got off the road to the parking lot. They stood and looked out the windows and climbed between the front seats and back and they loved every second of it.
Where are the bathrooms?
There are three port-a-potties lined up together on Garfield, three together on West Railroad Street, and then the last potty spot is in the parking lot. No joke, if you are potty training, bring a potty seat with you–heck, even if you aren’t it might be a good idea! When these kids have to go, that means they have to go!
Bentleyville did a great job decorating the parking lot, so while you may not be in Bentleyville yet, at least there is a glimmer of hope that your kiddos will go from from losing it to aw and wonder. While in the parking lot you pay you ten dollar entrance fee, add your donations, and, don’t forget, it’s the last place for a bathroom break.
Once we crossed that beautifully lit-up Bentleyville entrance, it was like the weight was lifted off of our shoulders. Everyone did a beautiful job with the lights and making it work as a drive through. We were able to stop and wave at Santa through the car, and just like every year, if you see Santa, your kiddos get a Bentleyville hat and cookies. At the end we pulled over close to the Aquarium and buckled the kiddos back into their cat seats to head home.
For most of our wait in the line into Bentleyville, I questioned my decision. Why would we do this to ourselves?! But I have to be honest with my answer. I did it for myself. While I know my kids loved the light display once we were inside Bentleyville, they did not love the wait to get in. I didn’t have to take them this year, but I wanted to because am trying to keep some control and keep as many traditions as we can while still being safe.
What I will say is this: I am happy I did it, but I won’t be sorry when Bentleyville moves back to its walkable format! Don’t forget your canned goods and/or toy donation! Check out our whole Guide to Bentleyville Here.