Every thrilling experience is unique, but the latest Thrill attraction we’re reviewing is a whole new ballgame. Ordinarily this column has focused on adrenaline-pumping thrills: ziplines, roller coasters, that kind of thing. For a mental thrill (ok, it was kind of a rush too), check out Dig This in Las Vegas, NV.
Dig This is a sparkling example of capitalism at its finest. When the economy started pointing south, the booming construction industry in Vegas shrank considerably. At nearly the same time (2007) the first Dig This opened in Colorado. 4 years later, Dig This was doing well, but construction still wasn’t. Perhaps seeing an opportunity, Ed Mumm expanded Dig This with purchased construction equipment, leased land (originally one of those stalled construction projects), and a local work force that was skilled in heavy machinery but lacking the employers. Here’s a bit more of an overview:
Dig This allows customers to relive their youth playing with toy trucks by letting you drive full-size heavy machinery in their “super-sized sandbox.” Their 2 machines are a bulldozer and excavator, each with their own controls to master and exercises to challenge you. I was lucky enough to get to do the first (of 3) exercises on each machine.
In the excavator, I first had to get used to driving the machine, using the treads and swiveling the cab. Next I used a 16,000 pound arm to puncture the earth, scooping massive buckets full of dirt out of the ground and dumping it into a pile nearby. I wasn’t really accomplishing anything, but that’s not the point. Just being able to handle the controls and feel so much power at your fingertips makes even the simplest movement exciting. I was told that from one position, an excavator can dig a hole 16 feet deep. I didn’t get that far, but mine was at least 12, and I think I could have gone deeper if I hadn’t hit a rocky layer. After that, I got out and watched with the instructor as my co-diggers, Randy and Ken, went on to stacking massive truck tires with a claw attachment and finally, delicately picking up basketballs in the scoop and neatly depositing them into an oversized “basket” of another truck tire on its side. It looked like great fun, and I wished I’d gotten a chance to hone my skills at controlling the arm.
Next up was the bulldozer. This time my challenge would be easy, I thought. Lower the blade, scrape dirt into a pile. Wrong. Well, lowering the blade was correct. But digging the dirt at the right depth, maneuvering the boulders I inevitably dug up, and creating the perfect pile was more complicated than anticipated. Several times, the instructor patiently had me back up because I had lost all of my progress. I’d like to blame the boulders, but at least half the time it was my own fault. The culmination of this was getting to drive the dozer over the top of the pile–“conquering” it. Driving a massive vehicle to the top of a steep incline and feeling it tip ever so slightly over the edge was huge fun. Going down the other side I got a bit sideways and was briefly concerned about tipping over. The machines are so bottom-heavy that I doubt I was ever in danger of doing that, but the thought was sure exciting :)
The whole time I felt a sort of childish glee. For anyone who ever played with trucks, or in a sandbox, it’s like getting to accomplish a lifelong dream you didn’t know you had. I imagine it’s like getting to be a firefighter or astronaut for a day.
My assumption was that it was for rich guys who are in Las Vegas to gamble. Shockingly, I was told that 55% of their customers are women, and many of those are over 50 years old. The controls are certainly responsive enough that anyone can do it. The two men I was with were friends with each other. One of their wives had found Dig This online and bought it as a Christmas present. They both had a great time and developed a little rivalry in their excavator challenges that was fun to see.
Dig This is a wonderful complement to the entertainment options in Vegas already. It’s close to the Strip and easy to get to, absolutely unique, very memorable, and open to anyone 14 years or older. For people who aren’t so keen on the Vegas nightclubs, it’s refreshing to have something to do during the day, where drinking isn’t even an option. If you’ve got the means and the interest (but really, who wouldn’t want to drive a 15-ton rotating claw?), it’s well worth the time.
I’ll close with a minor problem and a point of special recognition. Doing only the basic exercise on each machine got a bit repetitive. Digging the trench with the excavator and making my mini-mountain with the dozer was a lot of the same motions in a row. It never got boring, but I did long for some variety. Of course, they add variety if you do the full-length experience. Watching the extra activities certainly made me envious! On the other hand, I have to commend the staff. The people in the office were friendly and helpful. The instructors were knowledgeable, competent, and absolutely wonderful at putting you at ease. Our instructor, Jason Heisig, was talking to us on a headset the whole time, giving tips, directions, and encouragement. Never once did he make me feel like I was doing something wrong (although I almost certainly was). Instead, he told me how to do things better, or differently, and it was just as easy as talking to a friend. He was superb at managing Randy, and Ken and I all at once. I didn’t get to work with the other instructor that day, Ruben, but he was nice enough to take time out of his job to put the bulldozer in some great poses for my camera.
So I had a great time at Dig This. Really, I can’t imagine anybody not enjoying themselves here. Kudos to a well-run company and creative addition to the Vegas scene! There’s even been discussion of branching out further, so who knows…Dig This might be coming to a city near you!
Dig This – firstname.lastname@example.org
888-Dig This (888-344-8447)
3012 S. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89102
Tickets start at $210. Call for more info.