Sometimes people think we are crazy. Our activities yesterday will no doubt reinforce that belief in some of our friends and readers. Leslie and I spent about 3 months working 6 days a week in an amusement park in Iowa. We left there a few weeks ago and have started a slow trip down to Florida. So what did we do– that’s right we got in our Jeep and drove for just under 2 hours to visit a theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Back in 1941, retired industrialist Louis J. Koch visited the town of Santa Claus, Indiana and was saddened by the children that were disappointed to discover that Santa Claus was not there. Koch a father of nine children developed an idea for a park where children could have fun and visit with Santa year-round. Initial construction plans were delayed by World War II, but in August of 1945 construction of Santa Land was begun. A year later the park opened with no charge to guests and included a Santa, a toy shop and toy displays, a restaurant and some themed children’s rides. One of the rides The Freedom train (a ¼ scale model of a B&O locomotive) is the only ride that has been in continuous operation since the park opened.
Over the years the park has continued to grow over the years. In the mid 70’s the park started to add rides for adults. In the mid 80’s the Koch family realized that theming possibilities extended beyond Christmas and Santa Claus Land underwent it first major expansion with the addition of a Halloween and Forth of July sections. At this point it changed the name of the park to Holiday World. In 1993 the park continued to expand with the addition of Splashin’ Safari (their water park). In 2006 the park again expanded adding the Thanksgiving holiday area.
First a couple of observations we made about Holiday World before we even arrived. They do not charge a parking fee. They provide free sunblock and free fountain sodas, Gatorade and water throughout the park. Of all the parks we have been too we have never seen this, and we believe that it really shows how much the owners care for their customers. Parking fees and the selling of fountain sodas is almost pure profit that most parks not only take, but in some cases gouge their customers for.
The park was very clean and very well maintained. We walked into the park went a few steps and opened up a map to figure where to go first. We were looking at the map for only a minute before a park employee stopped and asked if we needed any assistance, something we have not seen or experienced outside of Disney. While walking thru the park we observed some non-custodial employees stopping to pick up litter. When the park employees care about the park the guests do also – and we noticed a guest stopping to pick some litter also. This is not something that was evident at Adventureland.
We spent about 6 hours in the park and were able to cover all we wanted to, since we decided to only walk thru the water park area and not spend time in any of the lazy river or pools or ride any the slides. Holiday World has only 3 large roller coasters so we had time to experience other rides in addition to the coasters at the park. A quick word about theming – after visiting a number of parks we have decided that we enjoy the theming and feel it really adds to the experience over a plain amusement park. The theming at Holiday World was excellent, second to only Disney.
First a little about a ride that we did not experience during our visit to Holiday World. The Pilgrim Plunge is a shoot the chute ride. A shoot the chute ride generally consists of a flat bottom boat that slides down a ramp or slide into a lagoon. Unlike a log flume ride a shoot the chute generally has only one drop and a larger boat. It turns out that the Pilgrim Plunge was the world’s tallest water ride when it opened in 2009. What caught our attention was the fact that boats are loaded at ground level and then rise on an open elevator to the top. We have never seen anything like it.
We took a spin on the Hallow Swings a flying swing ride.
Went for a meander down the Lewis and Clark trail. I guess if they had cars and a nice paved trail it would not have taken Lewis and Clark so long. Leslie jumped in the back and I felt like I was driving Miss Daisy around
Of course we had to try the raft ride. At Holiday World it is the Fourth of July area so it has an old frontier theming. Other than Disney we can’t remember ever being on a raft ride that was themed. At one part in the ride we went down the street of flooded old west town.
We also rode the Eagles Flight – a flying scooter ride in which the large rudder in the front of the scooter controls the rotation of the car. Of course Leslie wanted the most colorful bird. Although Leslie has ridden rides like this before, I do not remember every being on one.
We also rode the Sparkler (a flying swing ride in which two people sit on each swing), and Gobbler Getaway (a dark ride which had really great theming in it).
And now for the Roller Coasters. As I mentioned above there are three coasters at Holiday World all of them wooden.
The Raven was opened in 1995 and features sudden drops and turns which mimic the flight of a raven. Wikipedia says the duration of the ride is a minute and a half, but we both feel the duration was just under a minute. The Raven was ranked as one of the top 5 wooden coasters from 1998 to 2005. Last year it was 12th place in the Golden Ticket Awards for wooden roller coasters. We have mixed feelings on the ride, Leslie did not like it much saying it was too curvy and jerky. I thought it was a lot less jerky than the Legend, but seemed kind of short.
The Legend opened in 2000 and is themed after the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Like the Raven the Legend follows the terrain with its just over 4000 feet of track. When the plans were completed for the coaster Will Koch posted the plans on the internet and asked roller coaster enthusiast from around the world for input on the design, theming and name. Enthusiasts from around the country flocked to ride the coaster they helped design and name. The Legend never ranked above 4th on the Golden Ticket Awards and last year was ranked 18th. We did not like the Legend there was too much sideways movement and the cars were a bit rough on our sides and ribs.
The Voyage opened to 2006 and was named the best wooden roller coaster. It has won that distinction every year since and once you ride it, it is easy to see why. The Voyage holds the record for most airtime (24.3 seconds) and most underground tunnels (5) for wooden roller coasters. The track is 1.2 miles long making it the second longest wooden coaster and hits a top speed of almost 70 miles per hour. Where to start? Wikipedia says the maximum vertical drop angle is 66 degrees; however it really feels like 90. There are 5 underground tunnels and an amazing 3 corners that bank at 90 degrees. I don’t know if you can see the bank on the turn in the picture below, but it is amazing. The ride is an astounding 2 minutes and 45 seconds, on the verge of being too long. The Voyage gives an incredible ride, so we rode it twice and would do it again if we ever visit Holiday Land in the future.
We had a great time at a very nice well maintained park. What better way to end a day full of so many holidays, than to think of Christmas time by having a scoop of peppermint ice cream in Santa Claus, Indiana.