In the United States, Las Vegas is often billed as a place where dreams can come true; I am living proof. Dig This in Las Vegas, a construction theme park, is one of the weirdest attractions I have ever seen.
They provide the opportunity and instructions to safely play with heavy machinery at the Dig This Heavy Equipment Playground.
Since I was a child playing with Tonka trucks, I have dreamt of operating heavy machinery.
I remember the joy I felt as a child when I looked out my window and saw a bulldozer and an excavator sitting dormant at the end of the cul-de-sac where a foundation for a new house was being dug.
I ran down the street and sat in the driver's seat of each, pulling handles, hitting buttons, and imagining that I was digging gigantic trenches and destroying lawns.
No keys were left behind, but I longed to become a grown-up and drive these bad boys around one day.
But somewhere between voting for the first time and seeing my friends get married, I realized that grown-ups do not drive construction vehicles often, and certainly not for fun.
That is until the geniuses at Dig This Las Vegas realized there was money to be made on the unfulfilled childish desires of grown men.
Next, they should invent a pool filled with ice cream or a go-kart track made of bubble wrap.
Intro to Dig This
Dig This is located a mile from the Las Vegas Strip. This is convenient, but it also feels like you're a world away. This enormous construction site has all sorts of bulldozers and excavators.
The business model was created when a construction spot closed due to a lack of funding, and some intelligent entrepreneurs made a grown-up playground out of it.
You can have a great experience playing for 90 minutes for $299, the standard package, or even play around all day.
They have all sorts of group packages, so if you want something to do that doesn't involve drinking while in Vegas (and you can't drink, there's a breathalyzer test before you hop behind the controls), this might be just about the best thing going.
I was traveling with my Swiss friend Bastian, and we arrived at the site in the early afternoon, ready to move earth and dig canyons for an hour and a half.
We quickly realized my reservation did not include Bastian, but the crew was incredible about it and were able to accommodate us.
Incidentally, playing with heavy machinery is just one of the many wild things to do in Las Vegas for couples and a group of your closest friends.
Before we started, we had to get a little tutorial and safety demonstration because, you know, we were about to operate heavy machinery with no certification, experience, or any guarantee of competent hand-eye coordination.
If the “grown-up playing in a grown-up sandbox with grown-up toys” parallel wasn't obvious enough, they demonstrated how the driving experience would go in a…you guessed it…sandbox.
While our experienced instructor stressed safety to the 12 or so of us standing around, he did so while making jokes and keeping the presentation from getting boring.
We were then broken into two groups of heavy equipment operators, with half of us getting behind the controls of excavators and the other half in track-type bulldozers.
Controlling an Excavator
I got behind the levers of an excavator. And when I say levers, I mean levers—there are no steering wheels. As a result, it takes a little while to learn how to move.
But you're wearing a headset, and the leader is in your ear, taking you through all the controls and ensuring you know what you're doing.
After some basic instructions and equipment orientation, we started digging a trench.
No, this is not a way for a business to use sucker tourists to pay them for the opportunity to do the company's job (and yes, that is a dig at every “pick your own” orchard out there).
This was a lot of fun, and there were no limits to how I could move soil from one place to another.
I quickly realized I had dug a trench all around myself, creating a sort of defensive moat, which was appropriate because moving hundreds of pounds of earth made me feel like a King, nay, a God.
Another cool thing about Dig This in Las Vegas is that you don't just dig holes and build huge mounds, even though I would've been okay with that for 90 minutes. They have games for you to play.
Next, I got to stack one of those gigantic tires you only see on Earthmovers and the most menacing transformers. It was great fun.
The Tire That Got Away
By this point, I was becoming quite confident in my ability to stack tires (see the earlier comment about becoming a deity), so I wanted to see how high I could lift one of those 2,000-pound tires into the air and fling it onto the pile.
When I did this, the tire did not land on its side. It hit the ground and rolled precisely how a tire should, fast and direct.
As it bounced toward the high chain-link fence forming the perimeter of the facility, I saw a woman walking on the other side of the fence along the sidewalk, and she was walking toward where the tire was going to hit.
I immediately began yelling and waving my arms at the woman, which did nothing.
I watched in horror, relief, and, I'll admit it, amusement once I realized that the fence was, of course, built to withstand much more than a stray tire as it crashed into the fence next to the unsuspecting pedestrian. She was more than a little surprised, of course.
After inadvertently terrorizing innocent bystanders, we completed the day by playing a game of excavator basketball.
The goal was to throw a basketball into the center of the stacked tires, which formed a convenient hoop.
That was also a great time, making me glad I was given an excavator. But the fun was soon over, and I admit time seemed to have flown by.
I felt fulfilled, productive, and a little sweaty; in short, I felt like I had done an honest day's work while also having one of the more unique vacation experiences of my life.
Soon Bastian and I were back to what we did best in Vegas, drinking and partying. But this time, having done Dig This in Las Vegas, knowing (or deluding myself) that I had earned it.
If you're looking for a good time as a Las Vegas tourist, I suggest booking their most popular experience, including using the bulldozer or excavator for 90 minutes at $299.
My trip on the Dig This: Heavy Equipment Playground was provided at no cost in collaboration with digthisvegas.com. All opinions are my own.
Jason Batansky is a 29-year-old entrepreneur, blogger and occasional Daily Beast contributor in constant motion since his first solo trip abroad over 10 years ago.
His three online businesses have allowed him to travel and live throughout South America, South East Asia, and Europe, while working here and there wherever he found reliable Wi-Fi access and motivation, two elements necessary to running online businesses that can be difficult to obtain simultaneously in the world’s most beautiful locales.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
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- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Thursday 19th of December 2013
This is pretty cool. We offer this with some of our travel packages but i've yet to try it.
Monday 25th of February 2013
when i was very young - I visited Las vegas - quite really not my kind of town -
Monday 25th of February 2013
oh my goodness! This looks so fun! My friends and I will totally enjoy this =)
Friday 22nd of February 2013
Wow what an interesting activity, something I never even realized existed! I bet my husband would love this on our next trip to Vegas! Thanks for sharing!