Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana, USA
I was super excited for this trip to Holiday World. It would be my first since 2006 (just my wife and I at Holiwood nights), and the first for my boys. My oldest is 9 and finally getting over his fear of coasters, my youngest is 6, fearless, and 48.00001" tall.
We left Cincy around 5PM on Wednesday and stopped in downtown Louisville for dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory. For some reason we always do well at these, getting a decent meal in a neat atmosphere for what I consider a bargain. Plus it is right off the highway. Then we were off on I-64 to Santa Claus. "One hour from the bridge" claimed the billboard.
The kicker was, my boys had no idea we were going to Holiday World. They thought we were headed to a family reunion (we were, on Friday). They love Kings Island (our home park) and had a blast at Dollywood earlier this summer. I taught them about HW through pictures and various TV specials (Toughest fixes, Bert the Conqueror). When the Voyage was in view, my wife and I broke the news. I locked the doors to keep them from making a fast break for the fences, as I would have at their age. They were confused, shocked, stupefied, and finally, ecstatic. True, I had denied them the fun of the days of anticipation that comes before something fun. But I hope they fondly remember when mom and dad punked them big time with a surprise Holiday World trip.
We checked into Santa's Lodge and admired the Christmas decor in the lobby. Very merry indeed. The rest of the hotel is function over form though. I wanted to give my boys a HW brochure to drool over while getting ready for bed. Interestingly I saw none in the rack. When the clerk explained that they were out, I had to laugh. Of any hotel in the world, surely this one would have brochures for Holiday World. Oh Well. My Verizon signal was weak, so no pics or youtubes on dad's "fun phone". Our imaginations would have to get us through the night.
Thursday we arrived at 9AM (30 minutes before opening). We got a nice spot in the mostly empty lot, navigated the ticket line, and made out way to the 4th of July "rope" just past the Holiday Theater. Our plan was to sneak over to the height measurement station (for my 48.000001" tall son) by the Alamo, then make a dash for the Raven, the ideal "starter" big coaster. The rope dropped right on schedule, though I would have liked some pomp and circumstance to go with it. I like how Kings Island plays the national anthem and thought that would be perfect here. Anyway, my youngest son got the coveted red wristband which lets you ride *almost* every big ride in the park. Having two qualified coaster rider sons had been a dream of mine for years, and this day it came true.
Raven's line was one row wide, back to the rod iron Raven "gateway". Twenty minutes later we were clinking and clacking our way up the hill. From the top, I spotted Pat Koch greeting guests at the front gate. I wanted to meet her and tell her how much joy her family has brought mine, but that will wait for another day. Long story short, Raven delivered the perfect mix of terror and fun for my boys. Walking down the hill into Halloween, my 9 year old took a look at Legend, did some mental math and comparison to what he just rode, and announced he would ride Legend "later". We settled for a fun spin on Halloswings and headed into Splashin' Safari.
At 10:30 came our second "rope drop" and a dash to Wildebeest. The line was already over 30 minutes, and worth every second. Even my wife, not a thrillseeker (but a good sport) claimed "I loved every part of it". The bewildering announcement of Mammoth the day before now made perfect sense, for reasons of capacity and water coaster awesomeness. We would have rode again if not for a 90+ minute line that quickly formed.
Next was a nice dip in the Bahari wave pool. The water here, and everywhere in the park, was just about right for the heat of the day.
Water rides, wait times and notes:
Jungle Racer: 20 minutes, scoreboard down
Zinga: we left the line due to estimated 45+ minute line
Zoombabwe: 25 minutes, great slide
Ottorongo (Ron): 15 minutes, short but wicked
Watubee: 20 minutes, we just love these family tube slides
Lunch was a piping hot pizza, quite good as park food goes. We spent 20 minutes at Kima Bay (my kids would spend all day here if we let them). Our last water park ride would be Pilgrim's Plunge. I like how you can walk from the water park, though it is a long walk. It feels even longer on the hot concrete, and our feet were getting beet to a pulp. Next time we may wear our crocs and set them near the ride exits while we ride. After 20 minutes we were ready to board, and we found out the hard way about the aforementioned *almost*. The listed height limit is 48" with shoes, 47" barefoot. The operator insisted on using the 48" measuring stick even though my 6 year old son was barefoot. I discreetly pointed out her mistake, but she stood firm. Oh well, better safe than sorry. She did say that we could come back with shoes and skip the line. So we did just that after a long hike back to the lockers. True to her word, she let us right on and even sit in our row of choice (front, of course).
Pilgrim's Plunge is a neat ride. I find it intimidating and unique, but kind of misplaced at the same time. It is tucked so far back in the park and even far from the midway that I wonder if people miss it. I'd like to see some tunnels and landscaping too.
My boys were just not ready for the Voyage, so my wife took them on Turkey Whirl while I took a lap in the back seat of my favorite coaster. I'd heard it was rough this year, and I heard right. The jackhammering at the bottom of the first few drops really caught me off guard. Despite the beating, I love this ride. So many cool features (8 tunnels, crazy turnaround, 90 deg. banks, triple down in the dark, queue flyby, epic length, etc etc.) The masterpiece of a coaster madman. However, one ride was enough for this day. I'm looking forward to the new fangled trains everyone's been talking about.
The diving show was a nice surprise. I've seen bits and pieces in the past, but never the full production. The signs say "First 5 rows will get wet", and after "Act 1" I thought they overstated the case, even sitting in the front row. Then came "free style", which consists of the diving team doing belly flops and cannonballs and making miniature tsunamis. I was glad my phone and camera were in the backpack under the seat. Imagine buckets of water being dumped on your lap. It was fun and unique, and my boys loved it. Who could not love a diver lighting herself on fire and then leaping to her doom? We could feel the heat, no pun intended. There was also a "heckler" in the audience who eventually made it to the platform to try to show up one of the performers. My boys fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Next was Scarecrow's Scrambler. I really like the fact that the ride is set against a cinderblock retaining wall. Makes for constant "near collisions". That wall would make a great spot for a Halloween themed mural, perhaps painted by some local artists or students. Unfortunately, there was only one operator. She seemed beat down by the days heat, and was in no hurry at all. A second operator would have been nice.
Time to get wet again, this time on Frightful Falls. Walk-on, even at 4:00PM on a hot afternoon. Not too remarkable, but a fun family ride, I enjoy the panoramic views of the Legend.
Speaking of Legend, it was a walk-on and we scored two quick spins. My boys were shell-shocked but thrilled. I just love this coaster. I always forget this great little hop right before the final turn into the brake turn. When I first rode it in 2000, I thought its layout was more worthy of the title "Son of Beast" than the actual Son of Beast at my home park. My only compaint: why doesn't the bell ring anymore? It's such a cool effect.
We headed up to 4th of July for some fun on the bumper cars and Liberty Launch. 15 minute waits for each. Personally I would have liked a taller launch tower, but then again my boys would have been too scared. So I chalk up Liberty Launch as a nice intermediate confidence "booster".
We needed a break and dinner, and found ourselves at Holidog's Funtown. There is a little place at the entrance with Chili Dogs and such. Those hit the spot, likewise for the shady tables for my wife and I. Its so nice that my boys are old enough to go and explore this area of the park alone. They found fountains, a kiddie coaster, and a maze of slides and climbing fun.
Closing time was approaching, so we hit up final rides on Legend and Raven. Great as usual, and better in the cool, dusky air.
I like to end our amusement park days with a sweet treat, and we ended up at Mrs' Klaus' Kitchen. Among other goodies, they offer this: for about $1.69, you get two banana halves, dipped in thick crunchy chocolate, and covered with nuts. I almost felt guilty paying so little. That would be at least $4 anywhere else. Awesome.
On our way out we stopped in St. Nicks gift shop. I didn't see any shirts or hats I liked, but I did splurge $20 for the Holiday World history book. Surprise, it's autographed by Pat Koch herself. Nice touch. I was hoping for more actual history of the rides and development of the park (like maps from each decade). What I got is a history of things from the POV of the town and the Koch family. A charming read and a nice addition to my coaster book collection (now 5 books strong). I like these little history books: generations from now, they might be the only source for lots of little stories and esoteric details that will otherwise have passed with the people who lived them.
All in all, it was a great day at Holiday World. My boys keep asking when our next visit will happen, and to be honest I am just as excited as they are. I hope Holiday World stays great for their kids, untold decades from now.
Great report! Lucky having 2 kids who are going to be coaster guys; I'm still working on my 3 baby cousins. Did you like the free pop?
Thanks for reminding me...how could I forget about the free pop!
This feature is so well implemented:
1. Includes iced tea and Gatorade (Win, as we are not big pop drinkers)
2. Plentiful: Pepsi Oasis' are everywhere, and you can still get served at food stands in between
3. No lines (for us, except for one by the pizza place in the waterpark, during the lunch rush)
4. They even have "air curtains" at the doorways, to cool you off and keep the bugs and the bees out.
I don't care if the gate admission is hiked, "free drinks" is great.
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