Palisades Amusement Park was a 38-acre park located atop the New Jersey Palisades in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. It operated from 1898 until 1971, and was one of the most visited amusement parks in the U.S. Today just over five miles (eight km) away, with the New York skyline in sight, a new park in East Rutherford just opened that hopes to reprise the success of Palisades. However, the 8.5 acre Nickelodeon Universe, part of the giant new American Dream leisure mall, is different. Unlike Palisades, it is highly themed and it is entirely indoors, the largest indoor park in the nation.
Highly themed? Just look at this photo, two large heads. The one on the right is Squiggler, one of the characters in the Spongebob television cartoon series, part of the Nickelodeon cable channel for children. The one on the left is a Spongebob wannabe. Characters from Nickelodeon programs have inspired the theming for the rides, and these characters populate the park. Live characters also meet and greet guests.
Nickelodeon theming is prominent in the park’s stage show, which invites audience members to the stage. Dressed in raincoats, they are slimed, just like on TV. That is, a viscous, squishy, and oozy green fluid is poured over their heads. I don’t know why, but kids love it.
All of the parks rides and attractions are beautifully themed, too. Theming savvy Zamperla provided 10 of the new rides. Chance Rides was responsible for three, while Intamin and Gerstlauer each delivered two. S&S, Zierer, Softplay, Amusement Products, and RCI Adventure Products added one each. As part of my visit, I was pleased to ride all five of the park’s roller coasters. It brought my number of different coasters ridden to over 900, not that I’m compulsive. At the rate new coasters are appearing, 1,000 is a reachable goal within the next few years.
There was a gift shop near the exit selling all things Nickelodeon, but it appears to be a temporary location, almost an afterthought. There were several foot outlets scattered through the park, but no games.
Comparing this Nickelodeon Universe to the other one in Triple Five Group’s Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the older park is smaller, 7.0 acres. But it has more rides, 32 versus 22, although the new park will surely add more in coming years. Both have five coasters. The Minnesota park has an undulating floor, like gently rolling outdoor terrain. New Jersey’s park floor is flat, presumably easier to clean. But best of all, rather than simply walking in like in the original park, the New Jersey park is accessed by going down an escalator or stairs, and exiting by another escalator or stairs. How many other parks are accessed by escalator? While it would be shameful to count escalators as rides, they’re still an inspired way to enter a park.
I enjoyed my visit to Nickelodeon Universe, but one thing still leaves me perplexed, Why would people pay good money to visit a theme park to be slimed?