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May 10, 2011
The American Wild West is, in many ways, our version of the European Renaissance. The collective understanding has so thoroughly mixed the fact with the fiction that the two are often inseparable.
But when you’re looking for a great, fun weekend out, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of anachronism.
Netcong, Sussex County, is the home of Wild West City, a Western-styled theme park that has been a New Jersey staple since its opening in 1957 (barring one year where the park was closed, in 1962, after an unsuccessful leasing bid). The commercials have been committed into the memories of many in the state, with their insistent jingle of, “We’re going to … Wild West City!”
“We are one of three remaining western towns left on the East Coast,” said Mary Benson, public relations for Wild West City. “Where would you find 22 different live shows for the cost of a movie? The stagecoach and Conestoga Wagons are unique as is our school house and panning for gold. We do have various artifacts in our museums that are quite unique.”
So gather up the family; hitch the wagons and saddle up. We've picked Wild West City for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: About one hour.
Why it’s Worth the Trip: Wild West City is an interactive experience that includes the Main Street 1880 show, described as part live-action theater, part historic recreation, part museum, and part audience participation; stagecoach and train rides; a barnyard zoo and pony rides; a recreation of gold-panning; and, for those more interested in present pursuits than past ones, a great miniature golf course.
How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions.
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: Their Main Street attraction has operating businesses so you’ll be able to find food and snacks right in the park. Picnic lunches are also encouraged. However, if you want to catch a bite before or after your visit, try Carmine’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, Ron’s Landmark, Joseph’s Family Restaurant, or El Coyote. Also hit the Netcong Sweet Shop for your take-home snacking.
While you’re in the Area: Other attractions nearby include the Land of Make Believe, Space Farms,Franklin Mineral Museum, Sterling Mining Museum, Tomahawk Lake, Lakota Wolf Preserve, and Kittatinny Canoes.
Benson promises the visitor to Wild West City is going to get a lot out of his or her experience.
“We offer 22 different live action shows throughout the course of our day," ehe said. "The shows start at 11 a.m. and run every 15 minutes. Each show is different. They range from historical reenactments to comedies to cowboy skills.”
In addition to the shows, the park has a staff of re-enactors that interact with visitors throughout the town. Benson called them “living history,” as the actors are dressed in period clothing and will tell patrons about life in the 1880s.
Alongside the history aspect are several fun shops where guests can pick up souvenirs. They can even purchase photos of themselves in Wild West garb.
“We also have what we call 'Pixie Land,'" Benson said. “It consists of many hand-carved figures in different western scenes. Every (animatronic display) tells a humorous story.”
Admission into the park is $13.50 for adults; $12.50 for children ages 2-12 and $11 for senior citizens. The rides and golf are $3.00 each once you are inside the park. Everything else, including parking. is incorporated in the price of admission.
Benson said there are a couple things to consider before you make plans to visit. “We like to consider the park to be appropriate for all ages, however the younger the child, the more outgoing I suggest the child should be. Sometimes the noise from the reenactments will scare the more timid of children," she said.
Practical concerns should also be taken into account, Benson said. “Visitors should wear comfortable walking shoes; open toes or sandals are really not advised as the Main Street is a dirt street.”
If you’re ready to mix things up a bit and try your hand at taming the wild American frontier 2011-style, give Wild West City a try. The park is open to the general public weekends from May 1 to Columbus Day and daily from mid June to Labor Day from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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