Can’t decide whether to hurtle through an amusement park, splash through water slide, speed down a ski slope, or glide over ice? American Dream New Jersey, has all this and more.
New Yorkers know that New Jersey is not in New York, But visitors to the city could be confused. Picking an airport? Flying into Newark, NJ, might have more convenient flight times. Looking to see a football game? The Giants and the Jets both play in the Meadowlands, in New Jersey. And Ellis Island, home to the Statue of Liberty, is technically in both New York AND New Jersey.
New Jersey now also boasts one of the biggest entertainment complexes in the US. The American Dream Mall, right next to the Meadowlands, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, has almost every kind of family activity. From toddlers to teens, or even adult children, your whole family can find their passion here.
American Dream reopened in October, after opening for a brief time last year. The site has actually been in the planning stages for 23 years, and undergone many iterations. At one point, the megamall* was going to be called Xanadu.
[*The developers, the Triple Five Group, say American Dream is not a mall, but an entertainment and retail complex. Let’s agree to disagree and call it American Dream megamall.]
And let’s call this Garden State attraction a family fun destination. The opening and reopening dates changed, retailers dropped out, but, finally, almost all the entertainment parts of this complex are operational. Coronavirus protocols limit capacity, so advance reservations are recommended.
What is American Dream New Jersey?
My youngest daughter went to college in Minnesota, near the Mall of America, which used to have the largest indoor amusement park in North America. Not anymore.
Nick U at American Dream New Jersey is now the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere.
If you are missing your annual Disney World vacation or family ski trip, you can enjoy both! And whether you live in New York, or New Jersey, or are visiting, you can have thrills or choose more sedate activities.
And be back in NYC in time for dinner. American Dream is under eight miles from midtown Manhattan. From my home in Brooklyn, it was less than a 35 minute drive. But on a day when there’s a football game or concert at MetLife Stadium next door, a parade anywhere in the city, a holiday, a rain storm? The drive can streeeeeetch for hours.
Incidentally, during the pandemic, there are no spectators allowed at the Meadowlands.
Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, Indoor Amusement Park New Jersey
If thrills are your cup of tea, head to this indoor amusement park.
Roller coasters criss-cross the ‘sky,’ hurtle up and down steep inclines and spin you upside down. You can go soaring on air gliders, take in the world’s tallest indoor spinning drop tower, or ride Dora’s Sky Railway high above the ground. There are more than 30 rides, and your timed ticket gets you unlimited rides.
There also are ropes courses and climbing structures where you can create your own adventure.
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Covid-19 restrictions require a temperature check and face coverings at all times (except when you are sitting in the dining area).
DreamWorks Water Amusement Park
A 50-foot water slide, lazy river and wave pool are just some of the attractions at this indoor water park. You can ride waves on a simulated surfing area, shoot through high speed tubes or ride a water coaster. There are interactive water features for younger kids. You can also meet Kung Fu Panda and Shrek. Children 2 years and younger get free admission.
DreamWorks Water Park is the largest indoor water park in North America. It has more than 40 rides, slides and other attractions.
If you haven’t planned ahead, the park sells bathing suits and water shoes.
Family Ski Trip
Investing in that first ski trip can be costly, but New Yorkers (and New Jerseyans) can just head to Big SNOW American Dream. You can ski, snowboard, or slide down on a Sno-Go Bike. No worried about whether it will be too warm or too cold; it is always 28 degrees Fahrenheit at Big Snow.
There are two Magic Carpet surface lifts and gentle slopes for the first time skier. And with a vertical drop of 160 feet and a maximum grade of 26%, more experienced skiers can practice a few moves. What’s nice for families is children 6 and under get a free slope access ticket with accompanying adult ticket purchase.
Mini Golf Times Two
Golf 18 holes through alien landscapes at Out of this World Blacklight Mini Golf. And if the dark bothers you, Angry Birds Not So Mini Golf also has 18 holes.
The Rink: Ice Skating
The NHL regulation-size ice rink can foster dreams of playing hockey, if being close to MetLife stadium doesn’t inspire kids to play in the NFL. You have to be at least 3 years old to skate, and helmets are required for kids under age 10.
Lest you think skating will be an inexpensive activity, one hour skating tickets are $12 during the week, $15 on weekends for kids, $19 and $25 for anyone over age 10. And that doesn’t include skate rental.
More Things to Do at American Dream New Jersey
The SeaLife Aquarium, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, and a 300 foot Observation Wheel are coming in spring 2021.The LEGOLAND Discovery Center will include models of New York City and New Jersey landmarks.
Befitting multiple indoor theme parks, American Dream has a 2-story It’SUGAR candy department store. Other retail stores include the largest Lululemon in the tri-state area, the largest H&M, Primark and Aritzia in New Jersey (big is a big word here), and the largest Zara in North America. Old Navy is here, and Uniqlo is coming.
Food offerings include a few restaurants and food food outlets but Grisini Food Hall by celebrity chef Marc Murphy will change that. This food court on steroids will have a raw bar, fresh pastas, pizzas, Mediterranean grill and gelato. Everything will be made in-house with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
Just don’t expect a New York bagel.