The Best Rides at the New Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, According to a Toddler

Nickelodeon Universe, New Jersey American Dream Mall
Photo: Alison Fox

We had just reached the bottom of the escalator — following a detour to marvel at a Zamboni cleaning the ice skating rink — when my 2-year-old nephew saw his favorite dog: Chase from Paw Patrol.

He stopped in his tracks, in awe of the larger-than-life police dog, and pointed, hardly believing his luck. That disbelief followed him throughout the five hours we spent at Nickelodeon Universe, the first attraction to open at the much-anticipated and long-awaited American Dream complex in East Rutherford, NJ.

From seeing his favorite characters to whirling around the many rides that were perfect for his size (there are more than 35 rides in the park for all ages), my nephew was enamored with the entire park and the yet-unfinished mall that went with it. Beyond the rides meant for younger kids, he even loved watching the roller coasters shoot around — or trains, as he called them — as the adults took turns on the Shellraiser, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed roller coaster that happens to be the steepest in the world and is just as terrifying as you would imagine.

Nickelodeon Universe, New Jersey American Dream Mall
Mariah Tyler
Nickelodeon Universe, New Jersey American Dream Mall
Mariah Tyler

As we chased him around the indoor park, I took note of the many rides and experiences that really caught his little eyes. And while not every ride is on this list (some weren’t open and we couldn’t test them), there was plenty to see and do during our morning there.

These are the best kid-tested attractions at Nickelodeon Universe that should be on every parent’s (and aunt’s) list.

Fairly OddAirways

This was by far the favorite ride of the day as we raced around a circle in green and pink cars, shooting up on an angle at each turn and exciting the many young riders. This particular ride (and the idea of flying in a plane in general) was so popular with the 2-year-old, we had to ride it twice.

Paw Patrol Adventure Bay

Stepping into Adventure Bay is an experience like no other, and we had to literally usher my nephew out when it was time to move on because he just didn’t want to leave. Older kids climbed inside Mayor Goodway’s City Hall and the Lookout tower to play and take advantage of the thrilling slides, but my nephew couldn’t get over all the replica cars. He went from Marshall’s fire truck to Chase’s police car to Skye's helicopter, naming each pup as he did. And when we walked by the sunken play area later, he looked at it longingly until we convinced him to try another ride.

Pup Pup & Away

Take in an impressive view of the park from the top of this kid-sized ferris wheel, which swings excitingly as you go around. This was a little nerve-wracking for the toddler at first, but by the end of it he got into the idea of going up and then down again. But the biggest hit, in the eyes of a 2-year-old at least, was the Paw Patrol display in front — while we tried to take his picture, he was more interested in going up to each of the pups to give them hugs.

Blue’s Skidoo

Nickelodeon Universe, New Jersey American Dream Mall
Mariah Tyler

This ride is similar to the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride at Disney, but with Blue and Magenta flying around, allowing kids to control if they go high or low. We went around and around, going as high as we could go before coming all the way back to the ground and repeating it over and over until the ride came to a stop, thoroughly delighting all the kids on board.

Blaze’s Monster Truck Rally

This ride is definitely designed for little kids — it just goes around and around in a circle without any fancy flying. But for a toddler, hopping on board a monster truck to zoom around the Monster Dome with some of his favorite TV characters was an exciting prospect. Waving every time he circled around, he gripped the wheel and pretended to drive, a high-octane experience for the younger set.

Rugrats Reptar Go-Round

Nickelodeon Universe, New Jersey American Dream Mall
Mariah Tyler

This is the ultimate ride for kids — and kids at heart — of all ages. Channeling one of the most popular shows of the '90s, this merry-go-round will appeal to adults who want to relive their favorite childhood memories as well as kids who will love bobbing up and down on a Reptar (and hopefully fall in love with reruns of the show in the meantime). And if you’re looking for an extra dose of dizziness, like we were, you can ride in a spinning teacup.

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