The coolest family attraction to hit the New York/New Jersey Metro Area in years has finally arrived. After years of delays, the American Dream shopping and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, N.J., opened in November 2019 and it includes an oasis of thrilling entertainment including Nickelodeon Universe.
Why is Nickelodeon Universe a must see? Let us count the ways:
1. Easy, convenient access
Nickelodeon Universe is less than 30 minutes away from NYC by car or bus (they have an express bus leaving the NYC Port Authority station every 20 to 30 minutes). If you drive, parking is free as long as it’s not game day for the Jets or Giants who play football next door in MetLife Stadium. We stayed in the theme park longer than normal just because we knew the ride home would be swift and easy.
2. Record-breaking thrills
If you’re a family of thrill seekers, make sure the TMNT Shellraiser roller coaster (must be 48 inches tall to ride) your top priority. The 138-foot drop, at an angle of 121.5 degrees, is the steepest in the world! We loved this coaster and its eight inversions so much we rode it three times in a row. If you don’t have fear of heights, strap on your harness and climb Legends of The Hidden Temple Challenge. You’ll navigate a labyrinth of obstacles, beams and ladders as you scale terrifying heights in the world’s tallest, indoor adventure ropes course.
3. Skyline views from all angles
Love the Manhattan skyline? You’ll have jaw-dropping views from the top of the Skyline Scream drop tower. You soar up 200 feet and do a 360-degree spin so you see the city from every angle. You’re also treated to perfect cityscape views while you pause for a few seconds on the TMNT Shellraiser before plunging down the world’s steepest drop.
4. Meet your favorite Nickelodeon characters
Get hugs, smiles and photo opportunities with Paw Patrol, SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dora the Explorer. This was one of the highlights for our 4-year-old daughter who was telling everyone that she met Skye from Paw Patrol.
5. A modern, bright and clean universe
Nickelodeon Universe is a bit like a new car — gleaming, inviting and bright with colors, backdrops and rides that pop. The best part is that the weather is perfect year-round under the soaring, indoor shed. Sanitizer stations next to every ride are a bonus!
6. An amusement park all ages will love
As a parent of a tween and toddler, my biggest concern was would there be enough attractions to satisfy both children. Mission accomplished. We enjoyed several rides together like the popular Nickelodeon Slime Streak Roller Coaster, tranquil Dora’s Sky Railway and Paw Patrol Ferris Wheel. My 4-year-old had great fun for her size on Ren & Stimpy’s Space Madness drop tower and Shimmer and Shine’s Jumping Genies magic carpet ride. Bigger kids and adults will enjoy the dazzling Shredder roller coaster and timeless flying swings.
7. Encouraging kids to take risks, safely
Several attractions will nudge your kids out of their comfort zone. For example, my 4-year-old surpassed all expectations by climbing and traversing her way around Legends of The Hidden Temple Challenge ropes course to keep up with her older brother. Then, both children cast their fears aside when they stepped onto the 70-foot ledge and literally leaped (fully harnessed via rope pulley system) down to the ground. It was a monumental experience that our entire family enjoyed.
8. Have Nickelodeon Universe all to yourself
Not literally. However, you will certainly feel like a VIP if you arrive the moment the place opens. The lack of crowds in those first two hours resulted in no wait times at rides, meaning we went on our favorites several times. Unlike traditional theme parks, the condensed space in the venue keeps you immersed in the action and near all the rides. This enabled us to maximize our experience during these early hours as well as conquer the most popular rides that usually have a long queue.
9. Get slimed!
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Nickelodeon Universe features a mesmerizing Slime Time Live game show on its main stage. Two teams from the audience face off in a variety of silly competitions including bobbing for marshmallows (in slime), putting on dozens of pairs of underwear, answering trivia questions and tossing water balloons. The winner gets the ultimate prize — Slimed! We were randomly selected to participate in the game show. My son said getting slimed was a “life changing experience” and it enabled me to live out a “Double Dare” fantasy from my childhood.
10. American Dream offers much more
We absolutely loved our adventure at Nickelodeon Universe, but that’s just the beginning. The American Dream complex offers a variety of unparalleled entertainment. You have options like:
- Big Snow, North America’s first and only indoor, year-round snow-filled ski resort.
- The Rink, an NHL regulation size ice rink for hockey, figure and leisure skating.
- American Dream mall: Home to over 350 shopping experiences and featuring more than 100 dining destinations.
There’s also more to come at American Dream. Dreamworks Waterpark is slated to be North America’s most massive indoor water park including 40 water slides, wave pool and loads of other attractions. Also coming soon: a Merlin Entertainments’ Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center, CMX Luxury Movie Theater, Kidzania, and a 300-foot observation Ferris wheel.
A few recommendations for Nickelodeon Universe as they continue to evolve:
- More restrooms. It only had one centralized restroom facility.
- More food. There needs to be a wider assortment beyond snacks and “grab ‘n’ go” sandwiches for families wanting to spend the entire day inside the theme park.
When leaving Nickelodeon Universe, our family already started debating our next visit. Do we return to Nickelodeon Universe or strap on our skis at Big Snow?
Disclosure: NYC Dads Group received complimentary passes to Nickelodeon Universe. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are authentic and 100% our own.