A Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream Budget-Friendly Speedrun
If you asked me a year ago or even three years ago to spend the day at Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, I would have promptly declined due to the price and lack of value. Paying $70 for five roller coasters and a few decent flat rides was entirely out of the question for a park that is located only about 40 minutes from my house in New Jersey.
Thankfully, Nickelodeon Universe introduced a Points Pass that gives guests the flexibility to pay per ride as opposed to the All Access Pass which allows for unlimited ride access all day long. Ranging from $6 for the milder rides and $10 for a roller coaster, the Points Pass is easily the more cost-efficient route to gaining all of the coaster credits at the park. I navigated the park’s website and bought a $30 Points Pass, which loaded conveniently onto a QR code in my Apple Wallet.
I previously saw the park from the viewing platform in the mall prior to the Points Pass era, but this was my first time entering the park down the escalator in the colorful Nickelodeon-themed playland. I was impressed by the amount of natural light the park receives through the sunroof, making the park seem warm on even the coldest of days.
My eyes immediately gravitated towards the imposing structure of Shellraiser, the Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter roller coaster with the steepest drop in the world (at 121.5 degrees), and its lift hill that rose through the roof of the building. On a Monday afternoon in late April, post-spring break season, the park was virtually empty as I navigated my way toward the back of the building. To my disappointment, Intamin’s Sandy’s Blasting Bronco and Chance Ride’s Nickelodeon Slime Streak coasters were both down due to maintenance, so those would have to wait for another day. Thankfully, the Points Pass will allow me to ride these for a future visit without having to pay full price.
My first ride of the day would be on Timmy’s Half-Pipe Havoc, the Intamin Surfrider coaster themed to one of my favorite cartoons shows growing up, The Fairly OddParents. I watched the ride cycle and entered the queue where I was greeted with no line and promptly took my seat on the pink Wanda side, opposite from the green Cosmo side.
The ride had some forceful launches and good height, but I was disappointed by the lack of airtime and also that the side I chose to sit on did not spin. After leaving the ride vehicle, I asked the ride operator why my side did not spin, to which he responded “It’s randomized.” I was a little annoyed by this response, thinking I had just wasted $10 by sitting on the side that didn’t spin. Circling back to see the ride later in the day, I caught a glimpse of the pink side spinning, so I guess I just got unlucky with the side I picked.
After warming up with the half-pipe, it was time to conquer TMNT Shellraiser, the custom Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter with a top speed of 62 mph, height of 141 ft, and 7 inversions. I’ve heard mixed reviews so I was excited to ride this as my 170th coaster credit and form my own opinion. Taking an end seat in the front row, I looked at the daunting tower of the vertical lift and beyond-vertical drop. The first half of the ride provided numerous inversions and a punchy LSM launch. Through most of the first half, I anticipated a much smoother experience but was met with an extreme rattle and head-banging for such a new roller coaster that was opened in 2019.
Easily the best and most terrifying part of the ride was the brake hold before the beyond-vertical drop that overlooked the entire NYC skyline from huge glass windows. The view was breathtaking and seemed to last an eternity as it crawled to drop below the neighboring Shredder track. The rest of the ride didn’t do much for me due to even more head-banging and rattling. What I thought was going to be an unforgettable ride turned out to fall flat of my expectations, which were not very high due to reviews of the ride. TMNT Shellraiser works as a one-and-done coaster but not one that I would hop back in line for.
After spending $20 worth of points, I only had one ride left in my Points Pass, so I took a ride on Gerstlauer’s custom spinning coaster, Shredder. I had pretty high hopes for this ride as I’m a big fan of spinning coasters, but this one was extremely lackluster. It provided minimal spinning, bunny hills that provided no air time, and forceless helixes. It was a smooth ride but nothing memorable beyond that.
Three coasters and $30 later, my day at Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream was complete. Overall, I was satisfied with the value since I was able to pay for what I wanted to ride. However, the coasters themselves were not some of my favorites besides the drop on TMNT Shellraiser. In terms of a return trip, I would gladly pay the $10 to ride Sandy’s Blasting Bronco when the ride is up and running again. If you’re in the area and have the itch to pay a few bucks and ride a few coasters here, do it.
Do you have any tips for visiting Nickelodeon Universe at American Dream on a budget in a day? Let us know in the comments section below.
About the Author:
Evan Scharf is a young professional in the digital marketing industry. He formerly worked at his home park, Six Flags Great Adventure, as a Public Relations and Social Media Intern, where he contributed to the opening of the Jersey Devil Coaster. Evan’s passion aligns within roller coasters and theme parks, having ridden over 150 roller coasters and has visited many different theme parks around the country. He regularly keeps up with the latest news and rumors in the industry and is always excited to see what’s new at each of the parks he visits.