By Alison Fox and Deanne Kaczerski
October 25, 2019
Mariah Tyler

The indoor Nickelodeon Universe theme park opened just outside of New York City on Friday, and it will make every '90s kid’s dreams come true with mentions of old-school favorites such as Rugrats and Legends of the Hidden Temple.

The indoor theme park, which organizers call the largest in the western hemisphere, is the first attraction to open at the much-anticipated American Dream complex, which includes 3 million square feet of rides, a DreamWorks Water Park, a Big Snow ski and snowboard center, and high-end shopping in East Rutherford, NJ.

Mariah Tyler

For its part, the Nickelodeon theme park will excite visitors with more than 35 rides, including a double-decker Rugrats Reptar Go-Round carousel, a Legends of the Hidden Temple Challenge ropes course where you’ll search for the silver monkey, and Ren & Stimpy’s Space Madness.

Younger fans will love exploring PAW Patrol's Adventure Bay, where they can look for Marshall, Chase, and the rest of the brave pups, or hop on board the Bikini Bottom Crosstown Express in search of SpongeBob himself. And thrill seekers will love the scream-inducing Shellraiser, the world’s steepest roller coaster that charges the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to battle the Shredder villain.

Mariah Tyler
Mariah Tyler

On Friday, light streamed through the glass roof of the park as roller coasters zoomed around the building and a giant, orange Nickelodeon blimp overlooked the fun.

Don Ghermezian, the president and CEO of American Dream, said on Friday “you would be hard pressed” to say that “this isn’t the most incredible place that you’ve ever seen.”

Jeffrey Davis, the director of attractions at American Dream, told Travel + Leisure he recognized the complex took a long time to get off the ground and said he thinks people will be happy with the final project.

“We understand… the importance that everybody is watching this,” he said. “We know that people are going to come and be critical – I think they’re going to be blown away, not only by the amusement park, but the facility itself.”

Ultimately, Davis said part of the park’s draw is that there is a little bit for everyone (his favorite happens to be the Shellraiser).

“The whole family can come here, it’s not like a theme park where you may go and it’s for kids or for teenagers,” he said. “You’re going to bring kids of all ages, parents, grandparents on a ride together.”

This is not the first theme park for Nickelodeon: the entertainment giant has a park in the Mall of America in Minnesota as well.

Tickets for the park go for $49.99 for an all-access pass, while children 2 years old and younger are free. Tickets for opening weekend were already sold out.

Mariah Tyler
Mariah Tyler
Mariah Tyler

In addition to the theme park, the complex’s NHL-regulation-size ice rink also opened on Friday. It will host open skating, hockey tournaments, and more. Between the amusement park and the water park, Davis said about 1,300 jobs have been created — and those are mostly local.

“This is a journey that we’re all still on,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said at the opening day press conference. “This is a great first step.”

Next month, organizers said they plan to open the DreamWorks Water Park, which they say will be North America’s largest indoor water park. Thrill seekers will embrace the 142-foot drop on the world’s tallest indoor body slide (one of more than 40 slides in the park) while beach bums will love the 31 Jonathan Adler-designed luxury cabanas.

In December, visitors will be able to ski and snowboard indoors (and keep doing it all year round) when the Big Snow opens. According to organizers, it will feature slopes from easy beginner trails to those for experts. And when you’re ready to hang up your equipment for the day, you can spend time in the ski chalets, kept at a chilly 26 degrees all year long.

The final element to open will be the luxury shopping, planned for March 2020, that will undoubtedly give the complex its mega-mall designation. Helmed by stores like Hermès, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Tiffany & Co., the mall will include more than 350 shopping experiences, according to organizers.

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