Nickelodeon Universe, East Rutherford, NJ, US
After being under construction for an eternity, the boondoggle now known as American Dream finally opened (partially) in late October, 2019. As a New Jerseyan, I was excited about the prospect of having a new amusement park in the state, especially one open year round. However, given Nickelodeon Universe's high ticket prices and the fact that Sandy’s Blasting Bronco wasn't ready to open with the park, I decided to wait a bit before making my first visit. With the COVID shutdown behind us, my brother (who lives fairly close to the mall) and I made plans to visit during the week between Christmas and New Year's.
On peak days (which is basically anything except for weekdays when school is in session), Nickelodeon Universe operates two ride sessions. We booked tickets for the Tuesday 11am-4pm session, which after tax came to $80 per person. During the booking process, one is required to agree to a waiver, which states:
the Ticket Holder...agrees that Ameream...shall not be liable to the Ticket Holder or any Minors or Other Persons for any injuries, losses, claims, costs, expenses, suits or damages, whether caused by negligence of the Ameream Parties or any third party or in any manner or cause whatsoever...including, but not limited to, economic loss of any kind, death, personal injury, infectious or contagious diseases or other illnesses...
I can understand the need for having a COVID disclaimer, but this waiver basically indicates that it's impossible to sue them if they don't maintain the rides and someone gets hurt. I don't know how well this holds up in court, but anytime I see a ridiculous disclaimer like this it makes me question my desire to visit that establishment. Anyone else feel this way?
Anyway, we purchased tickets and proceeded to the mall on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Parking in the mall's parking garages is currently free, although they plan to implement a parking fee at some point. Finding the entrance to Nickelodeon Universe proved to be a little bit of a challenge, as the signage was not great. The entry process was pretty standard for vising an amusement park in 2020: we went through the temperature check, scanned our tickets, and waited a few minutes for the park to open.
General impressions of the park are that it's more warehouse/industrial looking than the version in the Mall of America, but it was still bright (at least during the daylight) thanks to skylights and windows. We did a total of 20 rides on 9 different attractions. Most rides had little to no wait, with the exception of Shellraiser and Kraang Prime Pandemonium due to social distancing.
Slime Streak - Rode twice, first near the middle of the train and later in the back. Rows were left empty between parties for social distancing. This filled the role of family coaster quite well. It's not particularly wild, but it does maintain some decent speed throughout its course. The cars are pretty tight, but I was able to fit my 6'3" self without much trouble.
Shredder - Rode three times. One party per car for social distancing. This ride is pretty tall for a spinning coaster. Rather that using this height for high speeds or big drops, it instead is a relatively slow but long ride. Seriously, the ride duration seemed much longer than one would expect from its 2,247 foot track length. My brother claimed this was his favorite ride at the park.
Timmy's Half-Pipe Havoc - We didn't get much spinning on either of our two rides. Maybe there wasn't enough weight, as we were the only ones on our ring of seats. It was still fun, but a bit repetitive without the spinning.
Sandy’s Blasting Bronco - Rode four times, including front, middle, and back. Highlights were the launch and the second inversion, which was quite whippy in the back (or in the front when traveling backwards). There was a little bit of a rattle, but nothing too bad - comparable to Fahrenheit I'd say. I wouldn't be surprised if we see this cloned elsewhere, as it packs a lot into a tiny footprint.
TMNT Shellraiser - Rode three times, once in the front row and twice in the back. They were loading one party per car for most of the day. However, with 5 minutes before closing they were loading parties in both rows. I guess clearing out the line trumps social distancing. Anyway, the ride was pretty good, especially the first half. The launch was pretty quick and forceful, while the beyond vertical drop provided some good airtime. Other than those two elements it's mostly inversion after inversion, but at least the inversions are all different and most provide some brief hangtime. There was a rough spot in the valley after the beyond-vertical drop, but otherwise it was quite smooth for a Eurofighter with shoulder restraints.
Skyline Scream - This is an S&S Combo Tower, which is supposed to launch up, stop at the top, rotate to allow everyone to take in the view of New York City, and then launch down. On our first ride we launched up and completed the rotation, but then it faulted and we were slowly lowered to the ground. We came back later for another attempt, and the same thing happened, except this time we didn't even get to the rotation at the top. Upon a third attempt (we were determined to get a complete ride) we finally got to experience the drop.
Kraang Prime Pandemonium - Zamperla Discovery 360. They were only loading half the seats due to social distancing, with resulted in about a 3 cycle wait. We were given a decently long ride, with numerous inversions. Being indoors adds to the experience, as it definitely appears as if your feet could hit the roof.
Aang’s Air Gliders - This is a Zamperla Air Race, and, like all of them, it provided a fun but repetitive ride. I appreciated the customized theming.
Jimmy Neutron’s Atom Smasher - I believe this is only the second Chance Unicoaster I've encountered, after the one in the Mall of America. While the ride experience is nothing to write home about, I do appreciate a rare flat ride.
COVID protocols were generally pretty good, with social distancing markers being observed in lines and hand sanitizer being provided before each ride. The one area of potential concern was the dining area, as the tables were pretty close together. There was a large party at the table adjacent to us who were definitely inside our 6 foot bubble.
Oh, and speaking of dining, there is one eatery in Nickelodeon Universe, which serves pre-made wraps and sandwiches, popcorn, hotdogs, chips, and the like. The wraps were actually decent, just overpriced at $10 each. As exiting and re-entering the park is not permitted, there is no other option other than waiting until after you leave to eat.
So, would I go back? I'd say I'm not in a major hurry, given that Great Adventure is closer, cheaper, and has better rides, but perhaps next winter I'll be itching for some indoor activity. The cost, $80 for 5 hours, might make this the most expensive theme park ticket I've ever purchased on a per hour basis. However, we rode 20 rides in that 5 hour session, so $4 per ride really isn't that bad.
Thanks for sharing this.
The waiver wasn't there when I went in 2019 – and yes, it's a bit off-putting. The only other place I've seen one was at Glenwood Caverns, where it was required for admission, but given how broken the legal system is in your country it wouldn't surprise me if such things become more commonplace.
It's up to $80 now?!?
I went with a friend in February. If I remember right it was $60 or $65, which was still way too much for what you get.
Mr. Six said:
The cost, $80 for 5 hours, might make this the most expensive theme park ticket I've ever purchased on a per hour basis.
I paid, I think, like $14 to ride the coaster at NYNY in Vegas back when it was called Manhattan Express. It's about a three minute ride.
That works out to roughly $280 per hour...for a Togo.
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