A few decades ago, I was that cotton candy-coated kid running through the Land of Make Believe in Hope, N.J., fueled on sugar and excitement. I can remember being in awe of the amusement park that also doubles as Santa’s summer vacation spot. Now I’m bringing my own kids back and seeing the park through their eyes.
On a recent trip, the kid in me rediscovered the quirky things I loved about the park – walking through a candy cane ‘forest’ and a fireplace to get to Santa, mining for gems and my very first roller coaster. The adult in me made a mental list of things I would or wouldn’t do the next time we visited.
The park’s grand opening weekend for the 2017 season is May 27-29. But before you load up your car, here are my six tips to make the most of your trip.
1.) There are no cookies in the Cookie House. I know, right?! Much as my family and I loved our trip, I was a bit confused why they’d name their central building (which serves as the park’s exit) the Cookie House and then not serve cookies. To be fair, they do sell cookie cutters. But if, like me, you’ve promised your kid a cookie upon spying the Cookie House sign from across the park, you may want to have a back up plan (Hello, ice cream!). It is a helpful place to know, though, as the Cookie House serves as the park’s First Aid location, gift shop, lost and found pickup and has one of the park’s three Discover card-accepting registers. The Cookie House is also where you’d go if you and your child become separated while in the park.
2.) Bring cash. The park’s registers accept cash or traveler’s checks. Discover cards are accepted in three locations: park admissions, and the gift shops at the Cookie House and at Aviation. If you forget cash, there is an ATM located by admissions.
3.) A park made for the younger set. The best part of Land of Make Believe is that the whole park caters to the younger crowd. My 4-year-old found rides that she could go on by herself (based on height). Her face lit up to find she could ride Drop ‘N’Twist, Red Baron, Dixie Car and T-Rex by herself. Other rides asked for riders of a certain height to bring along a parent – like her very first spin on a roller coaster. Check out the ride lineup. The water park wasn’t open on our visit, but it looks like a lot of fun once the hot summer weather hits.
4.) Pack a picnic! One of the best things about the Land of Make Believe is that you can bring your own food. Pack a cooler and fill it with your family’s favorite drinks, snacks and lunch. Whether you have an allergy concern, picky eaters or just don’t feel like forking over half your paycheck to feed your family at an amusement park, you’ll appreciate the fact that you can bring your own food. The park just asks that you not bring in glass or alcohol. Either rent a locker to stash the cooler until you need it, or better yet, go with a collapsible insulated bag that you can stuff in the bottom of your stroller. The park has plenty of picnic groves for groups or individuals. If the fresh cut fries, lemonade, hot dogs and kettle corn are part of the appeal of the day at the park, you’ll certainly find them at Land of Make Believe. Savory options also include cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and sandwiches, pizza and nachos. Sweet offerings also include soft and hard ice cream, flavored slush, cotton candy, kettle corn, sno-cones, waffle ice cream sandwiches and fudge.
5.) Bring a nursing cover-up. As a parent of two small kids, there were a lot of things I appreciated about the park. I liked that I could bring my own food. I loved that I could easily maneuver the area with my stroller (though the park does exclude strollers from the Christmas village, train depot and water park), and I liked that the park offered entertainment for smaller kids who might not be ready for the rides (enchanted Christmas village, maze, train ride, hay ride, mining company and farm area). But I do wish there was an area geared toward parents and children still in the breastfeeding/bottle stage – if only to give them reprieve from the hot summer sun. If you’ve got a little one in tow, plan on bringing a lightweight muslin baby blanket or nursing cover up.
6.) Bring plenty of water. I’m a carry-a-water-bottle-with-me-wherever-I-go-type. I asked plenty of staff members where I could find a water fountain on our recent trip, and there were none to be found in the park area. (The waterpark hadn’t opened for the season, so maybe there was one there, but I can’t say for sure.) Plan accordingly, and bring a few water bottles for your family’s day. If you forget, you can always buy a cold water bottle from the concession stands. Pro tip: Freeze a water bottle to double as your freezer pack in your cooler, and your water bottle on a hot afternoon. Super pro tip: Leave a small cooler in your car with cold drinks (or popsicles if you have a really good cooler) so that when your family exits the park hot, whiny and tired, you’ll have a nice cool treat waiting for you.
Have another tip for making the most of a trip to the Land of Make Believe? Share it in the comments section below.
Land of Make Believe
354 Great Meadows Road – Rt. 611,
Hope, NJ 07844
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