A young patron of Dig World in Katy
Photo: Courtesy of Dig World
Most parents remember the first time their child walked up to an Art Car, climbed inside a fire truck, or peeked into a cockpit.
It was the childlike wonder of big machines that inspired Jacob Robinson to open Dig World, a new construction-themed attraction in Katy.
Sprawling over a three-acre parking lot adjacent to Katy Mills, Dig World allows customers to climb inside and use real construction equipment.
Depending on their size, kids can use excavators, drive a crawler down a track, navigate all-terrain vehicles, and scoop dirt from a 50,000-pound pile.
Robinson, father of 6-year-old Pierce, who had a passion for construction sites and dump trucks, became aware of a similar attraction in New Jersey. He had a feeling it would take off with the Texans, he said.
One ticket grants two hours for Dig World’s handful of attractions, which include three tracks where visitors drive compact loaders. The tracks vary according to their winding.
Sitting inside an excavator, children use a joystick to play three games. The machine’s bucket has been replaced with a chain and hook, and operators attempt to pick up a duck decoy and put it inside a tank, pick up giant Lego bricks, or move cones.
A child who is 48 inches tall is allowed to operate is tall enough to operate an all-terrain vehicle or skid steer loader.
“The kids are living a dream,” Robinson says, “It’s really cool to see smiles on the kids’ faces, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Much of the enthusiasm for building comes from YouTube series, including “Blippi the Handyman,” he says. “Kids are just fascinated by it.”
Adults are often equally enthusiastic about taking control of vehicles, saying, “I’ve always wanted to drive one. »
“These are real machines, not a miniature version,” he says.
Seatbelts are mandatory, but helmets are not, and safety is enhanced on moving vehicles by the kill switch employees hold while helping a cyclist navigate a track. If a novice steers too close to the edge, the employee shuts off the engine and puts the driver back on track.
The machines have been reconfigured to limit the degree to which an arm can reach, to disengage hydraulic functions and to slow down the speed.
Even with safety measures in place, adults are often more shy than children, says Robinson.
Kids are usually like, “Leave it to me,” he says. “They just want to go.”
For the littlest diggers, Dig World offers garden games, bouncy houses, a playground and, for an additional fee, gem mining using running water and a sieve.
Inside the retail store, construction-themed construction vests and sensory kits are among the offerings.
When Dig Zone opened in March, Robin Smith traveled within opening days, driving three hours from her home in South Texas to pick up her 3-year-old grandson, Michael Hoffman.
Hoffman is “very mechanically inclined,” Smith says, and she knew he would love to operate the giant yellow machinery.
Grandpa had fun too.
Sitting on his grandfather’s lap, Hoffman used the controller to easily pick up the cones, Smith says, crediting his hand-eye coordination.
While pretending to drive one of the stationary machines, Hoffman used her imagination to figure out where he was driving, she says.
Smith says the family would have liked to spend more time using each machine.
“He had a blast,” she said, adding that Hoffman was wide-eyed to climb inside and help run “the real thing.”
“All our grandsons’ favorite toy is a dump truck,” says the grandmother of six. “It’s just a big version of their dump truck, their Tonka truck, it’s a cool postman.”
“I swear every kid that left that park was crying,” she laughs. “The parents dragged them outside. They didn’t want to leave.
Alison Bagley is a Houston-based writer.