By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
If you have a monster truck fan in your house, he or she will probably be thrilled to know that the home of Grave Digger is just across the state line: Diggers Dungeon in North Carolina is about 40 miles from the Virginia border. This fun place with old monster trucks on display, rides, kiddie fun, a petting farm, café, and a store is sure to be a hit with fans, especially those of Grave Digger. This may not really be a “day trip,” since it’s about four hours away (or a bit more if you’re in the northern or western parts of Fairfax County) but die-hard fans may not mind the long day. Anyway, it’s a “must-stop” pit stop en route to the Outer Bank beaches, or a good side trip if you’re in Virginia Beach for a vacation.
We “discovered” this spot only last year (it had always been dark by the time we got near the OBX!) and liked it so much we went twice during our weeklong beach stay. Our little monster-truck fan in the house was excited to see the real Grave Digger in several iterations. North Carolina is the home of Dennis Anderson, who in 1982 in an old garage in nearby Kill Devil Hills, NC, created a “monster:” a massive machine pieced together from parts of old vehicles. “Grave Digger” now is the world’s most famous monster truck and Anderson is a four-time Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam® World Champion. Since this is the home of both Anderson and Grave Digger, you can see many of the old versions of the monster truck. The trucks — some popped up vertically, some halfway buried in the ground — make for fantastic photo ops. There is no admission fee, so this makes for a cheap couple of hours of family fun!
There are other monster trucks as well (we saw Northern Nightmare and Maximum Destruction), a race car, and a monster truck shop where from the outside you can take a peek at the work being done.
There is also a petting farm with small animals (when we were there they had chickens, bunnies, turkeys, donkeys, and goats) and kids’ activities: a moon bounce and a fun track where your kid can ride a little motorized “monster truck” around ($3 per ride). Kids go around the nice-sized track a couple of times and even get to pass under an actual Graver Digger! This is a neat thing for young kids; just note that they drive themselves and ride alone, so your kids need to reach the pedals of this go-kart-sized car. The trucks themselves are cute and have a little theme: monkey, alligator, and police
Grown-ups, don’t be jealous: you can take a ride on a monster truck, too! In fact, everyone can ride on a monster truck (not Grave Digger) on the lot next door that goes over a few mounds (including going over an old school bus!) in a figure-8 dirt track. Rides are $5 per person (cash only) and very much worth it. Kids need to be a certain height and age to be properly secure in regular-size seats (regular seat belts). And here’s a tip: if you’re going on a hot summer day, as we did, bring a towel or something to sit on. This is an open truck that sits out in the sun and the seats get VERY hot! Also, call ahead to be sure the truck is having rides when you want to visit. Hours are typically until 4 pm each day but can change without notice.
You can have lunch at Digger’s Diner, which offers typical café fare plus some really good ice cream in a fun atmosphere: it is brightly decorated with Grave Digger paraphernalia and the staff is nice. And of course be sure to stop by the Diggers Dungeon store, where you can buy all sorts of merchandise (trucks, toys, shirts, home goods) and where they often have events such as autograph signing sessions. Check the Diggers Dungeon website for special events and current/seasonal hours. Also be sure to check out any clearance bins: we got some great monster truck shirts — some from past Monster Jam events, some related to specific trucks — for quite a bargain!
Diggers Dungeon is at 5650 Caratoke Highway, Poplar Branch, NC 27965, or about 20 miles north of Kill Devil Hills. Hours vary by season; call 252-453-4121. Admission and activities are free except for the kiddie rides and big monster truck ride.
Love monster trucks? See our “giveaways” tab for a chance to win tickets to the January 2014 Monster Jam show at Verizon Center!
All text and photos (c) Fairfax Family Fun