New Jersey’s most exciting new amusement park in years, Diggerland USA, hosted a media preview yesterday. When the park opens to the public on June 14, 2014, it will be the first construction-themed park in North America, replicating a successful idea coming out of Great Britain. This is something unique, and very different from everything else around here. It’s not the same differently-themed cookie-cutter rides you see in all the amusement parks around New Jersey. Every ride is based on a real construction machinery. It’s not replicas or toys, but the actual diggers, excavators, dumpers, backhoes, etc. And at Diggerland, when you say “rides”, it usually means riding that machine around a dirt track.
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Diggerland USA was built by the Gurlya family which owns the Sahara Sam’s Oasis, and it’s located on Cooper Road in West Berlin, NJ, right behind the water park. Development was surprisingly quick, just a few month since the initial announcement and ground-breaking in January (more impressive considering the hard winter we had in NJ).
After a short presentation by Diggerland CEO Ilya Gurlya and his father, “Sahara” Sam, guests were taken on a short tour of the park’s attraction. Unfortunately, thunderstorms came down in the area, and the tour had to be interrupted for safety reasons, so I couldn’t try all the rides as planned. A more detailed review of all the Diggerland rides will be coming soon. Asfor the rides, some of the bigger ones require minimum 48″, but many of them allow lap-riders to be 36″ or 42″, so little kids can go with their parents.
The first ride that was shown was Spindizzy, which Ilya Gurlya operated himself. Like I said before, these are not the standard rides, and Spindizzy is a real excavator whose oversized bucket can seat 8 people. The machine will spin in place, creating an exciting thrill for the passengers. And yes, the operator will have to spin himself. Next to it, Dig-A-Round is the local version of a caroussel. It might look more traditional, but it’s mounted on top of a digger as well. The Sky Shuttle is a platform mounted on a telescopic forklift, which goes up over 50 feet to offer spectacular aerial views of the park.
This is when the thunderstorms occurred, so from then on we could only walk around and look at what else is in store. There’s a series of excavators that guests can operate to dig big holes in the dirt (with a “mini” version for younger kids); big dumper trucks or smaller skid steers racing around an obstacle course; small tractors and mini land rovers where the youngest guests can test their driving skills on a simplified course; the “excavator express”, a series of yellow cars that will carry people around the park. With just a few exceptions, all these are actual machines built by JCB. You get to drive the real thing! During the heavier rain, kids were shown the arcade which offers a variety of games, from shooters to car and motorcycle racing, to several prize games.
Also for the kids, there is a big play area. You’ll find there a climbing wall, and a massive playground with slides of all sizes, but the most impressive is the huge rope course, an 8-floor structure where kids can climb, navigate netting bridges and zip down the lines back and forth.
After most people left because of the weather, we were lucky to hang around and get a chance to try the backhoe adventure course. Each backhoe can take 3 passengers, who take turns driving it on a dirt track. My 3-year old was too short for it, which doesn’t mean I couldn’t have fun myself with him in the backseat. It was so exciting driving the massive backhoe on the obstacle course, so I’m sure all the other track rides will be a major hit once the park opens in June!
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