As we entered Wild West City in Stanhope, New Jersey, it felt like we had stumbled into a time capsule, instantly transported back to the 1800s in Dodge City, Kansas. It set the stage for what was to come, and my kids could hardly contain themselves—they were so excited to be at this one-of-a-kind Western experience on the East Coast. This Sussex County attraction opened its gates in 1957, and it’s still providing authentic Western historical, educational, and entertaining experiences today. During our visit, my kids helped the town Marshall find the “bad guys,” they visited the animals at the corral and even took a train ride into outlaw territory. But mostly, my family enjoyed disconnecting from the modern world to experience the historical American West. Here’s why we loved it and why Wild West City is one of our must-see NJ attractions.
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The Wild West City on the East Coast
Going back to the Wild West
Wild West City feels like walking into an authentic Western town. The dusty dirt road, the realistic buildings, including typical shops like the Post Office, Bank, and General Store, and the actors dressed in cowboy hats and 1800s clothing felt like we had stepped into a Western film. We were glad that we brought our own cowboy hats (there are hats for purchase, too) because Wild West City encourages dressing up, which adds to the fun. In town, there were many places unique to stop in and immerse yourselves into the past, like the Saddle Shop, Silver Dollar Saloon, and the Opera House where the Can-Can Girls perform daily. The blacksmith even had a fire revved up and ready to go, making you feel like you were in a working Western town.
Exploring the town
As we walked through the town, we couldn’t help but notice all the realistic details. The Golden Nugget Saloon looks like the real deal with a dark-paneled bar area (go ahead and belly up to the bar for an icy cold brew or root beer) and lighting made out of wagon wheels. The Bank looked authentic with the hardwood floors, wood-paneled teller booths, and historical artifacts laid out for viewing. There are museums and living history artifacts throughout the city, some dating back to the 1800s. It was fun to compare the past to the present when we were looking over everything. My kids were surprised to see the one-room schoolhouse, which looked much different than their school. They even have a small chapel where they host weddings.
Experiencing the live shows
There are various live shows almost every 10-15 minutes throughout the day on the main street of Wild West City. Catch the Pony Express Show, the Can-Can Girls, or the Stagehorse Hold-up (with child participation). It almost felt like we were watching a Western movie play out as the actors mixed suspense, action, and even some comedy into their routines. Yes, there were horses, gunfights, and stand-offs and everything that you would expect to see in the old West, but as quickly as the actors and actresses fell to the ground, they got right back up to show you that their scenes were not all real and all in good fun. All spectators can view the shows right behind standing posts so that they don’t get too close, and many of the actors will involve the crowd to keep the excitement going all day long.
Take a train, pony, or stagecoach ride
Besides the live-action shows and history, there are a few rides too. My kids loved saddling up to go on a real pony merry-go-round ride. Next, we took the train ride, also known as the ol’ 97, right into the badlands of Wild West City. This wasn’t just any train ride—we rode right into outlaw territory! The ten-minute train ride not only went through a tunnel, but we got to see an exciting show right from our seats on the train. The excitement continued up until we departed from the train. We then boarded a stagecoach ride on the Wild West City Stage Line. Two horses pulled the stagecoach, and it traveled to the outskirts of town, but don’t expect it to be a quick ride—there are some surprises on the way. The pony, train, and stagecoach ride are all available for an extra fee.
Visit a frontier farm
Visit a pig, chickens, a rabbit, goats, a cow, and of course, horses all over Wild West City. The animals are typical of what you would find on a frontier farm. There are interesting facts about the animals posted above each fenced-in area, and there are lots of animals all around. My kids loved visiting with the chickens and goats and remarked that the rabbit was the largest they’ve ever seen.
Pan for gold or score a hole-in-one
Of course, no Wild West town is complete without a mine to pan for gold, and Wild West City has one. For as little as $5 or up to $100, you can get a bag of mining ore enriched with gems and fossils. We purchased the $5 bags to see what surprises we would discover. My kids placed everything from their bag on the screen bottom box, and they dipped it into the sluice. As the dirt washed away, they found an arrowhead, colorful gemstones, and even some gold. They could take home everything they found, and Egan’s Mine was one of the highlights of their visit. Next to the mine was Lancaster Greens, a newly remodeled mini-golf course. The course includes everything from a mailbox to a squirrel to a loop that will take your golf ball for a ride. More changes are planned for the mini-golf course in 2022.
Stay for the special events
Wild West City has a bunch of special events throughout the season to add to the excitement of the city. We saw a Civil War Encampment set up by “Bailey’s Boys” 27th Regt, giving us a glimpse into what soldiers did in the past. Though we missed most of the other events this summer, they will have some fall events on the calendar. This October, they will host the Haunted Wild West Fest, which will have Halloween-themed activities during the day in addition to the Wild West City After Dark events too.
What to know before you go
I recommend wearing closed-toe shoes and sneakers since most of the areas are made up of dirt roads. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, you may want to be a bit further back from the action or bring headphones when experiencing the performances because it can get noisy. Parking is free, adult ticket prices are $29.50, children (2-12) are $24.50, and seniors (62+) are $22.00. The train, mini golf, Egan’s Mine, pony ride, and stagecoach ride are available for an extra fee. Want to plan a birthday party here? You can host special events at Wild West City for kids or even adults, with a wedding, party, or bachelorette. Wild West City is open for the season on weekends starting May 1-June 20 and daily from June 21-September 6. After September 6, they are open weekends only through October 31. The hours of operation are 10:30 AM-5 PM Monday through Thursday and 10:30 AM-6 PM Friday through Sunday.
Wild West City
50 Lackawanna Drive
Stanhope, NJ 07874