This summer, round up a posse and head on up to Stanhope, NJ, home of Wild West City–the "Best of the West in the Heart of the East." Good ‘ole fashioned fun for everyone!
One of the cheesiest and most beloved family destinations in all of New Jersey is up in the north-western corner of the state, a fitting location for New Jersey’s own Wild West City. This attraction, which bills itself as a Western Town, has been around for as long as I can remember (as of this writing, 56 years, and no, I am not yet in my 50s…), and yet it still delights children of all ages. The setting and the adventures are nostalgic, a throw-back to a less complicated, and yet still entertaining, time.
Wild West City is located in Stanhope, New Jersey, and is open weekends from the beginning of May-mid June, daily until Labor Day, and then on weekends through the beginning of October. No matter what day you go there are tons of things to do, especially for younger children and the young-at-heart. While teenagers might find the cowboy antics and activities to be “old hat,” anyone of any age who is willing to suspend their disbelief for the day will have a fun adventure.
Wild West City is designed to look like your stereotypical movie Western town: one long, dusty, slightly run-down main street, lined with shops, businesses and taverns along both sides. And Wild West City does not disappoint—that is exactly what it looks like! Many of the buildings are open for exploration, including the city jail, where you can place your kids behind bars (only for a couple of minutes, unfortunately); a blacksmith’s forge, complete with demonstrations; a dressmaker’s shop; a bank, which houses many museum-quality artifacts; and more. There is a one-room schoolhouse and a tiny chapel, surrounded by an amusing graveyard full of graves with funny slogans such as “I told you I was sick,” and “beneath this sod we two do lie side by side my wife and I…”, and “on the 22nd of June John Fiddle went out of tune.” .
Of course there are several gift shops offering a variety of western-themed and Native American items for sale. And there are numerous eateries, including fast food places, an old-fashioned candy shop, an ice cream parlor, sit-down restaurants, and saloons, which offer parents the opportunity to enjoy some Western libations.
What really makes Wild West City so special are the numerous shows and live productions the take place throughout the day. While generally campy and silly, they are also well-choreographed and acted, so that even more cynical visitors will enjoy them. There is a story-line of sorts, relating , naturally, to the bad guys arriving in Wild West City and the inevitable shoot-out between the villain and the sheriff. Different shows involve horse-back riding demonstrations; “bull-whip” stunts; action scenes where the characters are introduced; and the shoot-outs. During the epic event between the sheriff and the villain, kids can be “deputized” to participate in the round-up of the bad guys.