Dig in for some family fun at a one- of-a-kind, hands-on, construction- themed amusement park just two hours from southern Westchester. Diggerland USA in West Berlin, N.J. is the only park of its kind in North America, complete with real machinery you can ride and operate. When my husband and I visited over the summer with our two kids and other extended family, we made a bee-line for the rideable construction equipment.
Get Behind the Wheel
First we hopped on the Skid-Steers, which are little loaders that you drive around a dirt course. My 8-year-old daughter, Ava, was tall enough to operate it on her own, while my 4-year-old son, Gavin, sat in my lap while I drove. Even a small machine such as the Skidsteer took some getting used to! I drove pretty slowly around the track, hoping not to go off course (though staff will help you if you get stuck or can’t negotiate a turn). Our next stop was the Dumper Trucks, 1,300-pound machines which you also drive, this time around a small obstacle course.
The biggest hit for most of our party was the Diggers (what we commonly call excavators). There are several options – Giant Diggers, Big Diggers and Mini Diggers – all with different height restrictions (though children can be on adults’ laps). My husband, daughter and nephew all seemed to get the hang of the controls very quickly (experience with video games actually might benefit here), but I just couldn’t figure it out! I kept moving the bucket in the wrong direction, unable to load up any dirt or move it around. Guess I’m not quitting my day job! Still, it was pretty cool to sit in such a huge, powerful machine and get a feel for what the experts do.
There are also other fun activities. My son had a blast on the Dig-a-Round ride, a carousel with big bucket seats instead of horses that move around an excavator. Gavin also went on the adorable Barrel Train (pulled by a dumper truck) by himself, getting a nice, slow tour around the park. Of course, once he spotted The Kids Zone, a playground space with slides and areas to climb, he had to spend some time there. We also spent time playing games in The Diggerland Arcade (a good place to get out of the sun for a bit).
As for my daughter and the older kids, they thoroughly enjoyed the Spin Dizzy ride. The name kind of says it all – you get lifted in the air, then spin around and get dizzy as you sit in a specially designed row of seats attached to the arm of a big excavator. Big kids can also test their skills at the Ropes Course (with a safety harness of course) and at the giant rock wall. My husband and daughter made it about halfway through the 4-stories-tall ropes course and would definitely try it again.
Whenever you need a break from all the action, Diggerland does have a full service cafe on site offering all of the family-friendly food you’d expect: pizza, hot dogs and burgers, sandwiches, chicken fingers and salad as well as ice cream and frozen drinks.
The park is now open on weekends through the end of November (it will reopen in spring 2017). Every weekend in October, guests can take part in DiggerFest, the park’s Fall Festival, featuring costume contests, pumpkin launching, themed rides and other fall festivities.
If you would like to stop by an additional venue while you are in the area look into Sahara Sam’s, an indoor/outdoor water park in the same town (saharasams.com).
Andrea White is a freelance writer based in Edgemont.
When You Go …
100 Pinedge Dr. West Berlin, N.J. 856-768-1110
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Days: Open weekends / school holidays from Spring Break (mid-March or April) through Memorial Day. Memorial Day to Labor Day: open every day. Open weekends after Labor Day through November.
Admission: Under 42” tall $24.95 online; walk-up tickets $28.95
MISC: Over 42” tall $29.95 online; walk-up tickets $36.95. Online tickets good for up to 30 days. Parking is free. Wear sneakers and take sunscreen. No outside food or drinks allowed in the park, except baby formula or baby bottles. One unopened water bottle per guest allowed.