Monday, September 18, 2017

A Review of Wild West City in Stanhope, NJ: Is it Worth the Trip?

Readers have been asking me to review Wild West City in Stanhope for some time now. I featured Wild West City in my post about the 10 Classic New Jersey Attractions You Should Revisit because it's a place many New Jersey residents remember from their childhood. Most people are curious what lies beyond the fences, and if it's worth the trip. Many friends recall the Uncle Floyd commercials from the late 1980's, and wonder if Wild West City is even still open. Guess what, my friends? Wild West City is alive and well, open to the public, and just as wild as ever!


Here's my usual disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. Wild West City did not ask me to come review them, and no one gave me anything for free. This trip was actually a gift from Mr. Jersey Momma's parents, which we were most grateful for! 

This post is chock full o' information, but I design my posts for easy reading. Feel free to scroll through to find what you're looking for- bold headlines identify each section of the post!


What is Wild West City?

According to their website, Wild West City is a western heritage theme park recreating 1880's life in Dodge City, Kansas. There are 22 different live-action shows, crowd participation, stagecoach, train, and pony rides, museum exhibits, special events, farm animals, miniature golf, gold panning and more. It is open seasonally from May- June (weekends only), then daily from mid-June-Labor Day. September and early October they are open weekends only (but check their website or call ahead for exact operating hours and days).


Where is Wild West City Located?

Wild West City is located in Stanhope, New Jersey, right off of Rt. 206. It's easily accessible from Rt. 80. There is a large parking lot with plenty of space (and parking is free!). 


What Can I Do at Wild West City?

If you visit the Wild West City website, you'll see that they hold live action shows throughout the day. You can arrive when it opens and pretty much stay all day for the different variety of shows, if you like. Or you can arrive when you're ready and just catch whatever shows are going on. There is no set time that you have to get through those gates! Once inside, there are a bunch o' things you can do besides the live shows, too. 


About Wild West City's Live Action Shows

I admit I was a little nervous about the live action shows. Were the guns going to be very authentic? Would it be violent? Would it be loud? And worse, would they try to pull my anxious kiddo into the show? He hates that! Let me explain a few things. First, Wild West City has a whole page devoted to this on their website. If you're nervous about any part of the gun use, please read their Gun Statement page. They explain a lot there. And from a mom's point of view, I can tell you that the live action shows were tastefully done and only sought to recreate life in an 1800's western town. There weren't characters walking around shooting pretend guns every five minutes. There was no blood and the actors got up at the end of the show to let you know they were all right. And as they beautifully state on their website:

"Wild West City is a town rooted in traditional family values where history and entertainment create an unforgettable moment in time. Wild West City's shows and activities have at their very core the important, ageless theme of the triumph of good over evil, where justice prevails and the good guys still win! Wild West City stands as a testimony to that unflinching, unwaivering, courageous frontier spirit that shaped America."


That being said, please use your best judgement when it comes to your child. If you have a nervous child or one who doesn't like loud noises, please take all of this into consideration:

-the guns were loud (they do sound pretty authentic, if you ask me!). I noticed one or two little ones wearing headphones (maybe they were sensitive to the noise)
-there are 'hold ups'  reenacted on the trains and stagecoach. The actors were all pretty polite as far as bandits go, and they seemed to enjoy bantering back and forth with the guests. But they didn't really steal anything or hurt anyone. 
-kids of all ages were present when we visited, from babies in strollers all the way up to teenagers. 
-even though there was audience participation in some shows, no one tried to coerce my kiddo into the show when he wasn't interested in participating. My guess is they can figure out pretty quickly which kids want to participate and which ones don't!

The truth is that firearms were a part of the 'wild west,' and we can't deny their existence as part of history. 


Besides the Live Shows, What Else is at Wild West City?

There were a lot of choices of things to do at Wild West City. Some of them were additional fees (although only a few dollars, so please keep that in mind). 

Miniature Golf

We played a round of 18 hole mini golf, which was nicely shaded. It's an old course, but well kept, with some cool, retro-looking fellas decorating each hole. 



Panning for Gold

Panning for gold was available at no extra fee, and this was The Jersey Momma's Boy's favorite. I actually had to pull him away after a while, because it was very hot and we were sweatin' bullets (as they say in the west)! But not before we found some gold!



Barnyard Animals

There were a variety of barnyard animals that you could see and touch (all behind fences). A pony, small cow, goats, sheep, rabbits, a turkey, chickens and a pig were all there to greet us. And there are plenty of horses throughout the entire town when you visit, too!



Train Ride and Pony Rides

The train ride was an added fee but it was a peaceful ride through the forest, and fun, too. A bandit stopped our train just before a tunnel (and the tunnel was a little dark, so be forewarned about that in case you have a nervous nellie at home), but as I said before, he was rather polite, and fun to banter with. A bunch of children who had been playing in the picnic area came running down the hill and yelled, 'Hey! You leave those people alone!' I warned the bandit that a posse had arrived, to which he replied, 'Aw, I'm not afraid of them!' I said, 'you should be, that little guy has a sheriff's badge on.' All in good fun, you know!



Beyond the train ride there is a little pony corral where kids can take a pony ride if they like. Sadly, The Jersey Momma's Boy is too big for pony rides these days, so I didn't get a photo of them.

Stagecoach Ride

The stagecoach ride was also an extra fee and it was one of my favorite parts of our visit. We rode on the bottom level (you could also sit up top). Would you believe that same pesky bandit returned? 'Ah, you again?' we all said. It was a lot of fun, and The Jersey Momma's Boy was laughing, which made it even better. It's a bit of a bumpy ride, but nothing awful. The coach doesn't go too fast, and it's pulled by beautiful horses. You get to ride around the city and back. 



Town and Saloon

Here's a little secret that many people don't tell you about Wild West City. There is an actual saloon in there! I mean, you can get a beer if you want to, since there's actually a legitimate bar inside. You can't say that about too many attractions these days! You can also grab a bite to eat in there if you desired. 


You are free to explore all of the little shops in town. There's a general store for souvenirs, a candy shoppe that sells snow cones and cotton candy, among other sweet treats, a post office, a bank, and many other nooks and crannies to pop in and out of. 


There are artifacts and cool things to see in each building.



What Can I Eat at Wild West City?

There is food available for purchase at Wild West City (snack bars, snacks, pizza, chicken tenders, shrimp baskets, etc), but you are free to bring your own picnic items into the park, too. There are plenty of picnic tables scattered around, and they are nicely shaded.


Near the picnic areas even are more buildings to explore, including a one room schoolhouse and a chapel. 


How Much Does it Cost to Visit Wild West City?

Your regular entry fee (as of the publication date of this post) is $17.25 for adults, $15.25 for kids ages 2-11. Seniors 62 and up are $13.50. But I must tell you, there are plenty of coupons floating around out there! The KidStuff coupon book offers a discounted admission for Wild West City, and there are often Groupons available, too. There are special event days where admission is discounted or even free, so be sure to check their event page for details (Scout Day, for instance, Mother's Day, etc.).

Also note that your admission fee allows you to spend the entire day at the park. You can bring in your own food, and parking is free. There are 22 live-action shows, and there is nothing like this attraction anywhere in our immediate area. Where else can you visit the Wild West in New Jersey??


Groups, Birthday Parties and Special Events

Wild West City can also host groups and birthday parties on premises. Check their website for more information.  Throughout their season, Wild West City has fun themed events, special weekends and special guests. Be sure to check out their calendar of upcoming events before you visit, in case you want to pick a special time to go.


JERSEY MOMMA TIPS

*bring your own food for a picnic and save money that way, too.
*dress the part! So many people were there wearing cowboy hats, cowboy boots, or carrying holsters with their favorite toy guns. It's all in good fun and I assure you, you'll feel right at home.
*the pathways at Wild West City are all dirt (like those pictured above). It is stroller friendly as long as your wheels can manage this kind of terrain. Wheelchairs might have some difficulty getting in and out of the smaller buildings, but the pathways and other attractions would be no problem as long as your chair is equipped for dirt or rocky paths.
*wear good walking shoes since most of the walking involves dirt paths.
*bring hand sanitizer or wipes for little ones (there was sanitizer available near the farm animals, too)
*be sure to explore all of the buildings and watch as many shows as you can to get your money's worth.
*keep an eye out for coupons and Groupons- they're always out there!
*check their event calendar before you visit.
*be sure to get your Wild West City badge at the main entrance. It's fun to be sheriff!


So, is Wild West City Worth the Trip?

Wild West City opened in 1957 (you can read more about their fascinating history here). It passed hands, closed and reopened only a few times during its existence, and has been run by the Stabile family since the 1960's. A family owned and operated business like this is hard to come by. You don't find many of them around anymore, and there's something to be said for a business rooted in family history. Staff members we encountered at Wild West City were friendly, welcoming and happy. They seemed to take pride in their park and wanted the guests to be happy. And you know what? They were! Guests at the park were smiling and laughing- everyone seemed to be having a genuinely good time. Do you know how many kids I saw on their phones or playing on their tablets? None. NONE. NOT ONE. 


Here I am at Wild West City. I look like I'm having a good time, right?

So, is Wild West City old? Yes. Has it remained largely unchanged since the 1960's? Yes. Will you encounter chipped paint, wooden buildings, musty artifacts, and old school performances? Yes, yes, yes and yes. But that is the charm of it all. People tell me they love 'mom and pop businesses,' but these small businesses can't survive if you don't get out there and support them. What you'll find at Wild West City is a little piece of Americana, memories from your childhood, friendly cowboys, and family entertainment. Plus, kids just seem to love it. There's nothing like hearing your child say, 'that was so much fun, mommy!' or 'that place was really cool, wasn't it?' In this digital age, that's just priceless.

Visit Wild West City at 
50 Lackawanna Dr.
Stanhope, NJ 07874
1-973-347-8901
or check them out on

For more classic Americana attractions to visit in the great Garden State, be sure to check out my post of the top ten classic New Jersey attractions that you should revisit! Click the image below to read:

 Click here to read!

1 comment:

  1. That's a fun place to take the kids for a day trip!

    ReplyDelete