Long Island malls may be a shopper’s delight, but over in New Jersey, the American Dream retail and entertainment complex delivers an exciting experience for families that includes dining, amusement park rides and much more. Located at 1 American Dream Way in East Rutherford, New Jersey — about 60 miles from the center of Long Island — a drive that can take two to three hours depending on traffic, is a perfect day trip. Here are fun things to do, where to eat and shop while visiting the mega fun zone.
THINGS TO DO
Parking is $3 per vehicle, but the first hour is free. There are three floors to this mega-site that spans more than 3 million square feet (americandream.com). There are several interactive kiosks found around the massive mall. Touch the screen and not only will you get directions to your destination, but also receive an estimated walking time.
Among its amusement rides are "The Shellraiser," (roller coaster) "The Shredder" (spinning coaster) and "Skyline Scream" (indoor spinning drop tower). There are also rides for kids and a rotating selection of characters from Nickelodeon shows like "SpongeBob SquarePants," "PAW Patrol" and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Parents can get a retro kick with rides based on classic programs like "Ren & Stimpy," "Rugrats," "Jimmy Neutron" and more.
ADMISSION: $49-$69, ages 3-9: $44-$64; prices depend on date and day of week.
DreamWorks Water Park
Water rides take their themes from DreamWorks film franchises, such as "Madagascar," "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda," but also lays claim to the world's tallest trapdoor capsules ("Thrillagascar & Jungle Jammer"), the world's tallest indoor speedslide ("Surfari Slider") and the world's biggest indoor wave pool. Long Island's Skudin Surf company also has a presence here, as it holds surfing lessons in the wave pool. (skudinsurfamericandream.com).
ADMISSION: $59-$79, ages 3-9: $54-$74; prices depend on date and day of week.
Black light Mini Golf
Set within rooms decorated with space-inspired imagery, the course is under blacklights, making for glowing golf sessions. $20; a combo package for both the Mirror Maze and Black light Mini Golf is available for $28 per guest.
Angry Birds Mini Golf Course
As the name implies, this course’s theme is taken from the "Angry Birds" game characters, and features several holes surrounded by statues and images of the agitated animated avians. $20.
Legoland Discovery Center
For children ages 3-10, there are building areas, play zones and other interactive activities, as well as models of NYC and New Jersey attractions built with over a million Lego bricks. $28.99- $32.99.
An aquarium featuring thousands of undersea creatures, a touchtank and a tunnel that lets you walk under water as fish swim overhead. $28.99- $31.99, $23.99- $26.99 for children ages 3-12. A combo ticket of Legoland and Sealife is available for $48.99-$53.99, $44.99-$49.99 for children ages 3-12.
A museum starring the three-dimensional work of artist Tracy Lee Stum, this experience allows guests to move through flat scenes, forming imaginative optical illusions. $20.
This NHL regulation-size ice rink is only footsteps from the warm water park, with the two separated by a see-through wall. Skate rentals are included in the price of admission. One hour: $25-$29, ages 3-9: $18-$22. Ages 3 and older only.
Massive murals cover many of the walls within American Dream, but one wing of shopping options lies within this indoor boulevard that leads to high-end retail stores. Striking white sculptures that combine human faces with manicured green vegetation dot the area. There are fountains and pools, plush seating and art installations.
The Great American Dream Garden
Found on the lower level, this free space is an Instagrammer’s dream, with trees and dangling greens surrounding a fountain pool that features a small island where a pair of gnome statues stand and smile among flowers and other flora. There are gazebos at both ends, with one that shelters a dry fountain statue while surrounded by more flowers and leaves.
There are more than 100 stores at American Dream, with several more announced to be coming soon. Luxury shops along The Avenue include Saks Fifth Avenue, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander Wang and Anne Fontaine. Amazon 4-Star store carries a variety of items that have at least four stars on amazon.com. There’s a Best Buy electronic store on the third floor and a Build-A-Bear by the garden court. Visitors can also browse sporting goods stores, shoe shops and places to buy fun T-shirts.
There are several spots to purchase food, drinks and snacks like takeout or fast-food options like burgers, pizza and sweets. For a sit and dine option try Carpaccio, at the upper end of The Avenue, serving Italian food. There's also a bar area where guests are welcome to drop in for small bites, beers or cocktails (open until 10 p.m.).
Grisini serves espresso, cappuccino, lattes, teas and hot chocolate — as well as cold drinks — and has several plush chairs and couches placed around tables, making for comfy spots for sipping. A selection of baked goods and sweets is available for purchase.
The stadium across the street is primarily active for NFL games, with the Jets or Giants currently playing through Jan. 9. It might be tempting to extend a trip to see some gridiron action while visiting American Dream — and that’s easy because a covered walking bridge over Rt. 120 connects the stadium parking lot and Deck A at American Dream. In addition, a "Fan Days" deal (available until Dec. 19 for select Sundays) grants 15% off admission to Nickelodeon Universe on game days.
COMING SOON: BIG SNOW
Big SNOW (bigsnowamericandream.com) is currently closed and under repair, with an expected reopening in 2022 — but it’s something to look forward to, as it’s billed as the only indoor, real-snow, year-round ski and snow resort in North America. Visitors can sled, ski or snowboard while on this enclosed, temperature-controlled mountain. All-Inclusive packages and private lessons will also be available again once things are up and running.