Thursday, June 23, 2011

Less is Still More: Land of Make Believe, Hope, NJ

Steve channeling his inner princess

You may recall that at the end of last summer, I thought about making a pilgrimage to the almighty Sesame Place in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania for, oh, about seven minutes before abandoning the idea in favor of an easier, cheaper, and closer-to-home destination (See “Less is More: Bergen County Zoological Park” post of 8/29/10).

It was déjà vu all over again this summer when the idea of Sesame Place was kicked around, but passed over for the easier, cheaper, and less-is-more option of the Land of Make Believe, an old-fashioned family amusement park with a retro feel located 60 miles outside of New York City in Hope, New Jersey.

I'm never one to pass up a thrill ride

The park featured traditional kiddie rides like a Ferris wheel, “Thriller” roller coaster, Tilt-A-Whirl, and turn-of-the-century carousel. It also boasted a petting zoo, hayride, Civil War locomotive, and—our personal favorite, because we never pass up an opportunity to get as dirty as we can in as short a time as possible--Land of Make Believe mining company, where kids could dig for gems and fossils and then match up their loot to a card bearing all of the rocks’ correct names and characteristics.

Sifting for treasure at the Mining Co.

A major draw of the Land of Make Believe is a pirate-themed water park, replete with water slides, pirate forts and ships, and wading pools appropriate for even the youngest child, which we decided to save for a less chilly and overcast day.

There were some misses at the park, The standard greasy amusement park fare of pizza, chicken nuggets, and French fries was particularly ho-hum, although there were numerous designated picnic areas. Santa’s Enchanted Christmas Village reeked disconcertingly of mothballs and the abutting Candy Cane Forest which beckoned invitingly and was perfect for photo ops, was off-limits for climbing.

Don't forget to bring cash or your Discover card

The plusses of the park, however, greatly outweighed its minuses. With the exception of food and games, the price of admission was all-inclusive. Parking was free. The property itself was small and manageable with multiple children in tow, as well as shady and blissfully uncrowded. You also know that I am getting old and the mother of three young children when I feel that it’s worth mentioning that the men’s bathroom had a changing table and the woman’s bathroom, in addition to being clean with lots of hand sanitizer and soap available, had two—which is more than I can say for many places we’ve visited. Nothing kills a great day like a nasty bathroom.

Land of Make Believe, 354 Great Meadows Road – Rt. 611, Hope, New Jersey 07844, (908) 459-9000,; Hours: Open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM beginning on the third Saturday in June through Labor Day; General admission (includes all rides, shows, attractions, family picnic grove, and Pirate’s Cove Water Park: Adults: 22.508; Children (2-8): 24.50; Children under 24 months are free, but are limited to certain rides only; Cash or Discover ONLY.

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