I have always been a sucker for standalone attractions. I have definitely seen my fair share of mini golf, go kart tracks and museums. Just when I thought I had seen it all, I stumble upon Dig This in Las Vegas.
Dig This gives guests 14-and-older the chance to actually drive real construction equipment on a dirt field just a few miles off the Las Vegas Strip. Guests can choose to drive either a Caterpillar excavator or bulldozer (or both if you’ve got the time and money!) to pilot themselves through a series of “challenges” designed to get you acclimated with these massive machines.
Dig This Las Vegas is the brainchild of owner Ed Mumm, originally from New Zealand. Ed moved to the United States and actually did some of the ground clearing on his own home by bulldozing trees and digging holes using actual construction equipment. After realizing that this work was a lot of fun, he decided to open up a business where the public could experience the same euphoria he felt. He equates it to being a kid and playing with toys in a giant sandbox and after experiencing this for myself last week, he’s absolutely right!
Upon my arrival at Dig This, the first thing that my friend and I did was a breathalyzer test. No matter how you slice it, this is still Las Vegas. I am sure there have been a few times where a tourist just hit it big on the roulette wheel and decides to spend all of his/her winnings taking a bulldozer for a joyride after knocking back a few glasses of wine. However, for obvious reasons, operating this kind of machinery under the influence is an extremely bad idea.
With such powerful “toys,” comes great responsibility. After guests pass the breathalyzer test they are off to a safety orientation. My instructor/coach, Walt, lead me through a brief presentation of what I was about to get myself into.
This isn’t rocket science, however, if not carefully watched, these machines can cause some series damage to yourself or each other. We learn the basics on how to drive the excavator forward and reverse, and also how to swing the arm around and open and close the bucket.
Before you know it, we are whisked out of the safety orientation and onto a dirt field overlooking the Las Vegas Strip where we hop into our own excavator and fire it up. Walt is on a wireless headset giving us instructions the entire time. Also, everyone on the headset is on the same channel so you can hear everyone communicate back and forth and chat with each other the entire time. This comes in handy for trash talking purposes if your friends can’t seem to get the hang of it and you feel the need to tease them the entire time.
Once inside the cab of an excavator, reality kicks in. Via my wireless headset, Walt tells me to look to my left and turn the key and fire it up. It’s a great feeling to hear that engine turn over and experience the rumble of the machine as it cranks up. While I remember the basics of the safety video, the particulars of how the two joysticks sitting on both sides of me and the two travel sticks in front of me work have fallen out of my brain.
Luckily, Walt walks us through the basics again via the headset once inside the cab and frankly, it’s not something you can just learn by watching a video. Much like riding a bike or playing a piano, you just need to feel it to get the hang of it. Within minutes I am driving my excavator around the dirt field and learning how to dig a hole 10 feet into the ground – and actually doing it!
Each new task you do builds on the skill set you learned in your last task. After digging the hole, and have a basic handle on how the arm works and how to scoop dirt in the bucket and dump it into a pile, we move on. Next up is taking 2,000 pound tires from one end of the field to the other and building a pyramid with them. Unlike dirt, which can fall out of the bucket easily (and it’s no big deal if it does), if you drop a tire or stack it improperly? You need to go and pick it back up.
It may sound easy to pick up a gigantic tire with an excavator, but it takes strong hand/eye coordination skills (something I have always lacked) and a good grip on the controls in order to do this. However, once you start doing it on your own without instruction, it’s like being “in the zone.” You become so focused and determined to accomplish this task and move on to the next. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time.
After building the tire pyramid, next up is a game of excavator basketball. I drive my excavator to the end of the field and park it up on a dirt mound. In front of me are three tall road cones with a basketball placed perfectly on top of each cone. The goal is to successfully take the bottom teeth of my excavator’s bucket and place the top of the cone between two of them. With just the right finesse, I then have to tilt the bucket back so the basketball falls right in. Then I take the basketball and swing my excavator over where the bucket is over one of those 2,000 pound tires placed on the ground and drop it in. If you nudge the cone just an inch or two in the wrong direction, the basketball hits the ground and it needs to be reset.
Once you complete all the challenges, you get a little bit of free time and then your time is up. The time seemed to fly by while I was sitting in the excavator. Once back inside Dig This HQ, I am presented with a personalized diploma and what they call “retail therapy.” Dig This t-shirts are for sale and they even have items like dirt scented candles for sale.
Sure, there are a ton of entertainment options in Vegas and there are many stories you can go back home with saying, “You’ll never guess what I did on my last trip to Las Vegas!” I have done nearly all the attractions in Las Vegas from my many trips over the years and nothing is as unique, fulfilling and fun as Dig This. Next time you are out there, you’ve got to give them a try. For more information visit www.DigThisVegas.com and tell them Theme Park University sent you!