"Our problem is telling the world what the heck we got here", says Bruce Zaccagnino, who created the Flemington attraction nearly twenty years ago. It is indeed difficult to describe the jaw-dropping feeling you get when you take this effortless trip into the realm of unfettered imagination along the mile-long one way labyrinth that is Northlandz.

Somehow, along the way, most of us lose the fantastic power of childhood that entitles us to "live" inside a dollhouse, model airplane or a train set. We graduate from the realm of tree forts and clubhouses to the big make-believe ballroom of adulthood, where we choose our corners and our partners. There is nothing childish about Northlanz, although children will equal you in your amazement at this incredible endeavor. A dynamic moving sculpture of Americana, Northlanz is an environment where you can get lost in a universe of ideas.

"Ridiculous, isn't it?" says Zaccagnino gesturing this way and that as we walk the perimeter of canyons full of busy villages, shining cities, towns glued to the sides of mountains overlooking cavernous mines, all linked together by roads and rails built with attention to the most minute detail. Everywhere there are bridges crossing precariously from here to there, from past to future. We pass a golf course, a state fair with a huge roller coaster, a log mill, a monastery, Swiss pasture land, a plane crash, and the world's only toothpick farm poised over rivers that have cut through abysmal chasms. Ridiculously indescribable.

Then there are the trains- 135 miniature trains, starting, stopping, disappearing through tunnels, winding their way through 3,000 scale foot mountains, 38 foot long bridges, thousands of houses, millions of trees. The walk through Northlanz actually takes you up three levels so that you see villages at eye level; through little windows at people inside the houses; and again from far above to appreciate the grand synchronically of movement in the trains. Each time you look, on and on over the deep, deep ravines you will see something new.

Along the outer edge of the trek are 107 kiosks which combine to make a full-blown art gallery. And you will see the world's largest dollhouse. Each hour the Wurlitzer pipe organ plays from the Northlandz theater. Outside the main building you may also enjoy a 1/3 scale railway.

Sometime during the construction of Northlandz, one Swami Jagadishswaranandji from the Hindu Geeta Temple in Queens made his way through the nearly-complete world-class wonder. He was so astounded by the creativity of the breath-taking endeavor, he bestowed Bruce Zaccagnino with the highest honor given by the Hindu faith, the MAAN PATRA. The proclamation reads "... you have divine wisdom, artistic talent and humility which is a gift from God, granted from eternal nature to a very few people in the world."

What happens when artwork becomes life’s work? When creator becomes a caretaker? SOME KIND OF QUEST, from Sylvain Labs, Greencard Pictures and director, Andrew Wilcox, is a film that invites you into the singular world of Northlandz, and into the ornery mind of the man—and steadfast wife—who brought it all to life.

Northlandz occupies a large building on Route 202 S. at River Road just north of Flemington. The superstructure of the present exhibit required enough wood to complete over 40 mid-sized homes. The exhibit is the culmination of 25 years of planning and construction by Mr. Zaccagnino. Call 908/782-4022 or visit their website.

495 Route 202 S. at River Road, Flemington. 908/782-4022

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse

    Artisanal cheeses, wood fired breads, 100% grass-fed beef, whey fed pork, and suckled veal, 100% grass-fed ice cream, pasta made with Emmer wheat and our own free-range eggs, and pesto made with our own basil! Bread and cheesemaking workshops are held on the working farm as well as weekend tours and occasional concerts.

    369 Stamets Road, Milford

  • Made To Order

    Delightful fantasies beyond words! Gold, Platinum & Silver Jewelry, Wildlife Photos, Crystal, Lighthouses. Perfume Bottles, Santas, Witches Balls, Oil Lamps, Paperweights, Chimes, Art Glass, Wishing Stars. Also offering jewelry and watch repair

    44 Main St., Clinton


This story was first published: Autumn, 1996
Stay in the Loop!

Get our newsletter, This Week in the NJ Skylands, with updates, special offers and good ideas!

Read current newsletter

Privacy Statement