You know when you hear one of those truly brilliant ideas, and you say to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s exactly how I felt when I first entered Diggerland USA. Because adding construction trucks to an amusement park … well, to paraphrase Chandler Bing, “Could it be any more obvious than that?”
If you go
100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin, N.J.
Diggerland, located in West Berlin, N.J., is based on a British theme park, and is, in short, every kid’s dream. What makes it truly unique is that the rides aren’t some weak imitations of what you might see on a construction site: kids get to drive, dig and ride real construction trucks, from diggers to dumpers and everything in between. And believe me, our visit gave me a much greater appreciation for the workers behind those neon vests and hard hats—maneuvering heavy equipment is no joke!
Pretty much all the rides have a height requirement of 36 inches and many require an adult ride operator, but the kids still undeniably feel like they’re in the driver’s seat (sometimes quite literally) as they navigate through obstacle courses, transplant dirt piles, or do a little off-roading. But that means that if your littles don’t quite meet the height requirement, there’s not a whole lot for them to do; it’s better to delay your trip until they hit that next growth spurt.
When you need a break from being part of the crew (it’s a stressful job, after all), let some of Diggerland’s employees handle the gearshift on Backhoe Adventure, take a tour of the park on Excavator Express, or enjoy an elevated ride on the Ground Shuttle.
If you’re looking for traditional amusement rides, Diggerland’s got those too—although with a construction truck twist, natch. The seats on the merry-go-round are made from excavator buckets, while the Spin Dizzy whirls you around from your seat in a hydraulic excavator. Even the stage show, a staple at amusement parks, is digger-themed. The daily stunt show features heavy equipment performing feats you would never dream they could accomplish (particularly when they’re dragging your commute out by hours).
For families that are evenly split between truckheads and non-fans, there are a handful of attractions that transcend the theme, including one of the world’s tallest ropes courses (four stories!), a 32-foot rock climbing wall, a playground-esque Kid Zone and an arcade. And while it might seem like a little odd, animal enthusiasts will enjoy seeing the two Nigerian Dwarf Goats who call the park home (their names, Dozer and Diesel, make them fit right in).
Diggerland only opened two years ago, so it’s still a bit of a hidden gem waiting to be dug up. Fortunately, that translates to free parking, cheaper tickets and shorter lines than you might find at the “name-brand” parks (something you’ll be thankful on a hot day with very little shade). Outside food is not permitted, though, so expect to chip in for at least a cold beverage or frozen treat while you’re there. If you do bring a lunch, limited picnic space can be found outside the gates (or plop down under some of the pines like we did).
The park regularly hosts special needs events (a nod to the owners’ younger sister), as well as Diggerland XL, for those adults who never quite outgrew their construction truck phase.
While Diggerland isn’t exactly located in a metropolis, the website recommends a number of inexpensive local hotel partners if you want to stay overnight. Or make Philadelphia, about 20 minutes away, your home base and rent a car. The park is located directly next to Sahara Sam’s Oasis, an indoor/outdoor waterpark, which can be a great place to cool off and make a day of it (tickets are sold separately, although Twilight Tickets are available for visits after 3:30 p.m.).
While you might not have been the one to come up with the brainstorm for Diggerland, your kids will think you put on your good idea jeans the day you decided a trip to Diggerland was in order. And that’s something not even Chandler could mock.