Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana, USA
Happy Halloween Weekends
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Useless stats: this was my 6th visit to Holiday World (2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2011).
Saturday morning I packed up my wife, my 10 year old son, and my 7 year old son and we left Cincinnati bound for Santa Claus. This trip was originally set for last weekend, to coincide the Coasterbuzz fall affair. That was ultimately cancelled, and the weather was looking nasty, so we waited a week and were rewarded with a forecast of 70-80 degree temps all day. Fantastic for October in the Midwest. Around 10:30 local time the Holiday World skyline came into view. We promptly drove past and stopped at Santa's Lodge to pick up our park tickets. The Santa Claus attractions are really pushing tourism this month, and we paid $175 for a double queen room plus 4 park tickets (3 adult, 1 under 54"). A few minutes later and we arrived to a mostly empty parking lot, right near Ravens second hill.
I like to walk near the Raven fence, comparing the "short" lift hill to the tunnel way down in a deep ditch. It's very deceiving. The hills visible from the parking lot look so gentle...
As we approached the front gate, I saw a spunky little "witch" smiling and welcoming guests. She was doing her best to deal with a guest who was disgruntled about something, and who walked away in a huff. The witch, otherwise know as Pat Koch, sincerely and desperately called out... "Sir, this is a business. Have a great day". I don't know what the issue was, but I'm betting the witch was in the right. I shook her hand and then strolled with my family into Holiday World.
It was nearly noon "our time", and we grabbed some pizza at Kringle's cafe. The pizza was decent, the breadsticks surprisingly warm and delicious.
With the necessities taken care of, it was time for the real fun: a spin on The Raven. The line was just out of the Poe house. While in line my older son asked where the dive show was. "You can actually see it from this line, it's right over"...As a matter of fact it isn't. Totally gone. No concrete, no sign of the dive tank, nothing but a big hole. We did spot the bench lined up neatly near the woods, and a bulldozer nearby. Are they building a 400' tall Windseeker there for 2013? Or perhaps a new dive theater? We'll have to wait and see. 20 minutes later we climbed aboard the middle of Raven's single operating train. I love the way the entire station shakes and rumbles as the train hits the breaks. It was a middle of the road ride by Raven's standards, which means it was still fantastic. Not rough, not as smooth as it can be, but just fine for an October morning. Raven strikes me as a normalish sized coaster taken at 3x speed. Drop, tunn... Did we just skim the lake..plunge.....leftrighthopleft...brakes. Slam, bamm, over just like that. We all loved it as usual.
When I ride the Raven, I like to imagine riding along with Will Koch in 1995 on his first flight. What was he thinking?
1. That was an awesome awesome coaster ride!
2. This huge, risky investment of my family's money and reputation turned out better than I could have dreamed.
3. This changes everything for the future of my park!
4. I've got an incredible coaster in my own park!
I believe he was thinking all of these and more, beaming from ear to ear, giddy as a child on Christmas morning, anxious to share the joy of his creation with the world.
We all skipped down Raven's exit, jolted by the adrenaline rush and bad hair only a coaster can give. Next stop:Legend.
Legend may be my favorite coaster of all. Unfortunately today, I could not have been more disappointed. On the bright side, there was no line. But it performed badly. Dispatch intervals were eternal, there was no grease on the track, and it was horribly understaffed. Instead of the typical crazy lateral filled out of control ride, today it was forceless and boring, a shadow of itself. My worst Legend experience in 12 years. Oh well, I'll have to wait until next year to get a decent Legend ride.
Since KI removed their antique cars, at other parks we hop on them every chance we get. Holiday Worlds version, called "Lewis and Clark" is unremarkable but still fun, especially if you are 7 or riding with someone who is.
10 minute wait. Like KI's, these are set in a nicely landscaped area. Come to think of it, this is a big prime piece of real estate in the front of Holiday World. They could squeeze a great little Wooden Warrior style family coaster in there, and link it to 4th of July, Halloween, or Christmas. On the other hand, this is a nice quiet area, and it would be shame to tear it up.
Graveyard Smash time. Somehow I'd never gotten around to seeing a show at the Hoosier Celebration Theater. We arrived just in time, finding a crowded theater, yet a few open seats in the front center row. We all loved it. My 10 year old son is getting dangerously close to being too cool for this sort of thing though, but even he got into the fun. You have about 10 monsters ranging from Dracula, Wicked Witch of the West, zombie bride, zombie punk rocker, zombie Jack Sparrow, and so on. All singing and dancing to Halloween parodies of everything from Dynamite to Thunderstruck. Hilarious and fun. Warning, the performers get in your face if you are up close or on the aisles.
Next it was Sparkler time, or Spookler time to be precise. A great little ride, it fits this side of the park well. One cycle wait. It goes up, it goes around, and it doesn't give me the goosebumps that Windseeker does. It also provides some new views, including a maintenance shed with all of Legend's trains neatly lined up outside. That dashed any hopes that Legend might just reopen today after all. To be fair, I'd read on Facebook and even on the map that Legend was closed for the year, apparently getting its winter spa treatment now instead of waiting for Happy Halloween Weekends to conclude. Still a bummer.
Later that night we saw "Spookler" lit up in a monochrome yet neat white lighting display. My boys jaws dropped as I told them somewhere in Texas they were building a 400' version of this. I wonder if the entire tower spins on that one like here...I doubt it.
We walked up the impossibly narrow ramp to the bumper cars. These are always a hoot despite the smart alecs who decide to drive the wrong way. 2 cycle wait.
It was now the moment of destiny: The Voyage. Last year, both of my boys just didn't have the nerve to tackle this monster, the clincher being my report of nasty washboard roughness. It just wasn't that fun last year, for me anyway. Even the first three drops beat me up. Even though the new Gravity Group trains were delayed again, the track improvements were encouraging.
One bummer was the one train operation today. There are few quieter, less exciting places than the Voyage station during single train operation. That train is gone Forever, and you begin to wonder if it will ever cone back. When you estimate a good 5 trains until you board, multiplied by the eternal dispatch interval, you get discouraged. But hey, this is one of the most amazing coasters in the world, so shame on me for complaining.
It is kind of a miracle that the Voyage even exists. Think about all the stars that aligned:
1. A park (not called Kings Island) willing to build a 6000' long wooden coaster
2. A park with a large enough piece of sloping, wooded, available land
3. A park who really cares about the extras, like tunnels, tunnels, tunnels, station flyby's, tunnels, ridiculously excessive turnarounds and finales, tunnels...
4. A design firm competent enough to engineer the thing
5. A park willing to do whatever it takes to keep it running in top form
If those weren't enough, add these improbabilities:
6. This behemoth is actually themed to pilgrims on a boat, in a section called Thanksgiving. Not a snake or something huge and intimidating
7. The fact that all of this happened just 3 hours from my house
I got off track there, but my point is that Voyage might be the most unlikely coaster ever, built in a park that really didn't need it. But they built it and I'm so glad.
So back to the ride. We were all pumped...my boys have been looking forward to this ever since they chickened out last year. The four of us took our seats in the third car, and off we sailed. In short, we were thunderstruck. What a ride. The only rough spots I detected were on the last sidewinding stretch under the lift hill, and part of the finale, but even these were not bad. Though I forgot to heed my own advice from 2006: don't try to brace yourself too much, instead just go with it and let the coaster have its way with you. It sounds counterintuitive for such a crazy ride, but it works for us. While we loved it, my boys and my wife debated if a second ride would happen, or if one was more than enough. They all leaned towards (one and done). They were stuffed, so why eat a second Thanksgiving dinner on the same night?
Time for a breather. We lined up near Pilgrims Plunge, and 20 minutes later we were on a tram headed to the corn maze. There were two actual hayrides, but we got the vanilla tram both ways. The maze itself was interesting in that it was on uneven hilly land, and in some areas the stalks were barely 5' high. So in some spots you were deep in it with zero visibility, in others you have a commanding view of most of the maze. There were panic flags at various checkpoints, which also helped you navigate since many were visible from afar. Overall a nice diversion from the noise and activity of the park. We skipped the kiddie maze.
Gobbler Getaway. A hoot as usual, though I never know if my low scoring is caused by my aim or a faulty gun...errr turkey caller. I also wonder if I am too distracted by the shooting/calling deal to miss the fun details of the ride itself. With the exception of Toy Story Mania, I'd rather just take in the view on my dark rides.
What else...oh yes, we checked out the Halloween activities in the picnic grove. Face painting, pumping decorating, trick or treating, the usual activities aimed at families with little ones. Worth a stop if you if that fit that group, and very similar to what you'd find at your local fall festival.
We did enjoy the many Halloween dioramas throughout the park. These were set up by park employees, using skeleton mannequins and a wide variety of props. Each won an award of some type, like "best use of theming", or "best use of bobble head Pat". All were tasteful of course, and added a humorous personal touch to the park.
Another Halloween exclusive was the lone "haunted house", in glorious 3D, in the Holiday Theater. Again , no big scares here, save for a few surprise characters who come to life and startle the little ones. And even me. The 3d effects were outstanding. I am not usually impressed with 3d at the cinema. A great family haunted house, made better by the 5 minute wait.
This is getting long winded so I'll try and cut to the chase. My boys are fans of night rides, so we took advantage scored another Raven ride (4 train wait), and my family "Thank"fully regained Voyage fever. Two more Voyage rides (front seat at dusk, third seat in total darkness). 20 minute waits for each. Breathtaking. The 2006 Voyage is back, for now anyway.
Now it was for perhaps the best attraction of the day: pumpkin spice funnel cakes at Funnel Cake Factory, covered with some sort of cream cheese frosting. These are not as nutritious as you might think. But they are delicious. I will try to clone those for the scout campout next weekend. It's a good sign when you ask the workers in the food stand if these are any good, and they all light up with an emphatic, sincere, "they are sooooo good!!!!". They were right, and we got fat and happy.
While munching we walked around the"back stretch" of Holiday World, near the Indian river ride and the "eagle's fright". I like these quiet, mature (tree-wise) paths in parks. This was made all the better by the glorious fall colors and the leaves literally falling by the hundreds and blowing in the breeze. Quiet and peaceful.
Speaking of Eagles Fright, it was begging for riders, so we hopped on for a quick spin. We each got our own bird and enjoyed the peaceful flight in the cool, autumn night.
We arrived at the Christmas plaza at 8, just in time for the laser show. It was a mishmash of funny laser animations projected on a big movie screen, fog effects, and the big cool real lasers that pierce the night and wiggle around, all set to Monster Mash, Thriller, Ghostbusters, and other Halloween staples. Fun show and a great way to end the day.
So that was our day at Holiday Work. It was quite different without the waterpark and the Legend, but I think they did a fine job considering their family market, and taking their first stab at a "Halloween"event. It made for a nice 30 hour fall getaway from Cincinnati. Thanks to HW and the Kochs for a good time!
PS: don't get a room at Santa's lodge near the banquet hall. Loud!
Terrific report on apark I've only gotten to once. But I'm puzzled by something. Unless I read wrong (not out of the realm of possibility)..you said your ride on Legend was not good, then later you seem to say it was closed for the season. Could you clarify?
The amusement park rises bold and stark..kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I never actually said I "rode" it. ;^)
It was indeed closed all day, and for the season.
Just my little attempt at a humorous spin of the truth.
"Forceless and boring" = closed. ;^)
Hardy har har.
I'm surprised Legend was closed. It's my favorite ride there, as well.
Good for Pat Koch for telling the guy "Sir, this is a business... " As truthful as it is, I can only imagine what went on that she got to the point of telling him that. Other than completely free everything, I don't know what people expect out of Holiday World and it's staff. I wonder what this guy would think at a Six Flags park... maybe he got busted for smoking in a non-smoking area.
So the email newsletter says they will unveil 2013 plans on Tuesday and that it includes something for both parks and the renaming of a major ride. What ride do you suppose that will be?
"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
Good for Pat Koch for telling the guy "Sir, this is a business... " As truthful as it is, I can only imagine what went on that she got to the point of telling him that.
I wondered the same thing. She was firm yet polite, and genuinly upset that there was now an unhappy guest. Since it occurred just outside the ticket booth, it was likely over tickets or admission prices or something like that. Admission is around $15 less for the Halloween Weekends, so even that is hard to imagine. I'd love to have the Kochs over for dinner and hear their stories....Last edited by buckeye brad, Thursday, October 18, 2012 5:18 PM
I’m glad someone started this topic. I took a trip to HW on October 6, the inaugural Saturday of their Halloween event. In short, we had a great time, and I’d advise others to check this time of year out, for several reasons.
One, as mentioned, the admission price was reduced significantly, mostly likely due to the seasonal closing of the waterpark. The manner in which this translated to smaller crowds was greater than I anticipated, and just goes to show how much the regional population views this place as a waterpark. I don’t think the line was longer than one cycle on any ride, and even coveted seats, such as the front and back of Voyage, were only three cycles or so. Single train operation was uniform, but given these short waits, there wasn’t any cause to complain.
The second reason to go is based on daylight patterns. Simply put, on a Saturday in October, with the park open until 8:30, you have an opportunity for night riding that is unmatched compared to the rest of the season. We had pitch-black rides on Voyage and Raven that were just glorious; I’m talking about Side B of Abbey Road-level glorious.
As for specifics, my girlfriend and I went for our third annual trip, this time meeting with two of her friends who live in Indianapolis. The two friends had never been on wooden coasters of this magnitude, and it was a real delight seeing their reactions. We were lucky, in that this was Legend’s last day of operation (I too was bummed at the website message saying that it was closed for the season already). During the late afternoon, HW was filming a TV show involving Legend, after which it was closed for the season. However, we were able to get in two rides in the morning and early afternoon prior to this. It seemed to be running somewhat less aggressively than on previous visits, with noticeably less "pop" on that airtime hump just prior to the second tunnel. It was still great, and we viewed it as a fortunate bonus.
Elsewhere, as noted above, the park did a good job in theming, even temporarily changing the names of several rides: "Eagles Fright," etc. Also, as short as the lines were, the place wasn’t a ghost town, and seemed fairly activated by employees and other patrons.
Given that I’d like to keep my girlfriend, we didn’t aggressively marathon anything, although we did at least 8 laps of the Voyage, I think. That being said, if your mission is to do lap after lap, this would have been a great day for it.
On a side note, we went back to Louisville for our hotel, and had a terrible time finding anything to eat post-9PM almost anywhere on our way back. We looked around Santa Claus, but even the Jingle Bell Rock Family Sports Pub (which, what the hell is that about anyway?) was closed. Elsewhere, even places touted as a bar and grill closed up at 9. With the time change on the way back, we missed out on some Louisville micro-breweries we wanted to visit, but all in all, that was a minor quibbling, especially since the trade-off was those fantastic night rides.
If next year is anything like this year, drop your hesitation to go to the amusement park on a Saturday, and get yourself there.
Break Trims said:
On a side note, we went back to Louisville for our hotel, and had a terrible time finding anything to eat post-9PM almost anywhere on our way back.
That drive between HW and Louisville is always a barren wasteland when it comes to trying to find food. It's even worse once you get east of Louisville, as I found out the year I thought staying in Florence would be a smart idea. We couldn't even find a McDonald'd drive-thru that was open.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
We found a Skyline Chili just off of I-64 on the east side of Louisville that was open until midnight when we went to Happy Halloween Weekends. But along with what everyone else has been saying, it was an awesome event and I cannot wait to get back next year. The 3D walk through was just as good as any walk through haunted house I've done, but without the blood and gore. It was even a bit starling at moments. Looks like they've added Fridays next year, and I think 2 nights of Voyage in darkness would be a rockin weekend.
"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
Regarding the early closures of restaurants in Southern Indiana: Try living here and working third shift... (unless it's one of the two McDonalds we have in town, no fast food for Andy).
I have to tell my hotel guests where a good place to eat in town when they come up after 9:00 pm. They all look at me crazy when I tell them the limited choices available as most of the bars that sell food don't even serve after 9. After midnight, there is nothing (excepting the McDonalds and Denny's on the north side of town)! The hotel is on the south side of town. It only takes fifteen minutes to get across Jasper, but people don't want to do that because they have already traveled half an hour to get to the hotel. I think people come to Santa Claus expecting a Wisconsin Dells, Gatlinburg, or Branson-like tourist trap and are surprised when it isn't.
Jingle Bell Rock is a small bar that is locally owned and operates where Silent Night Cafe used to be. I have not eaten there, but I did eat at Silent Night Cafe a few times and it was a good place to eat breakfast and get decent espresso, but was hit or miss on hours.
If you take the Dale exit of 64 (NW of Holiday World) there is a Denny's and Wendy's that is super busy after HW closes. Likewise for the Ferdinand exit (N of HW) the Wendy's and McDonald's will be busy. Further into Ferdinand is Los Palenques Mexican Restaurant and Homestead Pizza which both have good food (YMMV). If you are headed west on 64, the Corydon Exit has some food that is open fairly late if I remember correctly.
I've ate at that Wendy's and Denny's, and shopped at the CVS (or was it Walgreens?). That stuff is all new, wasn't there on previous visits (I tend to hit HWN on even years). Glad it's there, it was much needed.
I think my biggest problem with HW is it's location. It's in the middle of no where!
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
If there had been a need for a somewhere to exist around Holiday World, it would already have been built?
My author website: mgrantroberts.com
I, on the other hand, love its location... just 25 minutes or so away. I went to the Christmas store today. I uttered a little sigh as we drove by the park.
If you are headed west on 64, the Corydon Exit has some food that is open fairly late if I remember correctly.
This is what we finally settled on. By any other measure, it's a fairly standard interstate exit. But given its context, it was an oasis.
Yeah there is like a Waffle House, Culver's, KFC and a few other things, but the best part of that exit is the Cracker Barrel. Sometimes Shane and I go there just for breakfast.
Let's not forget Wendel's ;)
In Dale? That closed a while back. Seems the Denny's/Wendy's combination and convenience killed them.
Your post about the Voyage, and being glad the park had enough courage to build it, reminds me of my exact thoughts on Shivering Timbers at Michigan's Adventure. Nobody in the theme park industry or MA's park guests, would ever have thought that a little park like MA would invest in such a huge ride. But, the Jourden's were a lot like the Koch family. They wanted to add something that their guests would be excited about. Now a multi-billion dollar company owns the park, and rarely does anything exciting with it. So, the guests of Holiday world should be very glad that they have someone who cares about them. From what I hear, it is a very well run park.
I didn't do it! I swear!!
PLEASE stop turning EVERYTHING into an MA discussion.
The amusement park rises bold and stark..kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
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