Santa Claus, Indiana
Holiday World is a family-owned and -operated theme park located in Santa Claus, Indiana. The theme park celebrates Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the 4 July with rides, live entertainment, games, and attractions. Holiday World is known for its three wooden roller coasters, The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage.
It all started with a name. That name was Santa Claus, Indiana. The kids were expecting something from a place with a name like Santa Claus, but sadly, not much was Christmasy in the small town. That is, until Louis Koch visited. The local entrepenuer took a trip to Santa Claus in 1941 and saw the potential for some type of business playing off of the name. A concept came together in his mind for a Christmas-themed realm where Santa Claus could dwell all year round and kids could amuse themselves with traditional rides like an amusement park. So, on August 4th, 1945, ground was broken for this magical land that would become the first amusement park built around a central theme, soon to be known as a "theme park" after Disneyland opened during the next decade. Just 364 days later, the park's grand opening was held, and
© Holiday Worldthe modern theme park was born along with Santa Claus Land. Now, kids could come to Santa Claus and fulfill all of their dreams about getting to hang out with the jolly old man himself, and then ride around on a miniature railroad or spinning ride.
In 1955, Santa Claus Land's operation was converted to pay-one-price admission, but only for adults; kids could still get in to meet and greet Santa for free. The park was also expanded that year with a new ride area called Pleasureland and later renamed Rudolph's Reindeer Ranch. During the 1970's, Santa Claus Land grew with a new batch of flat rides for the kids to enjoy including Prancer's Merry-Go-Round. But then, bigger kids of all ages were encouraged to take a spin around the theme park when a trio of adult-sized flat rides was added: a flying scooters ride named Eagle's Flight, the Roundhouse round-up flat ride, and the Virginia Reel tilt-a-whirl. The entrance was also moved to a more convenient location for the park's crowds to invade. And in 1981, the park received its first coaster with the debut of Blitzen, a small steel twister.
Then, a pivotal moment came in 1984. Santa Claus Land would be no more, but only because it was simply becoming one smaller part of a larger entity known as Holiday World. No longer would guests simply experience a Christmas-themed park, but now they would also enjoy two other themed section expanding on the holiday idea: 4th of July and Halloween. Nothing could stop the growth of this theme park in a now-competitive world boasting dozens of other theme parks. In the 4th of July section, thrill-seekers could ride along the steel track of the renamed coaster, now Firecracker, while the Frightful Falls log flume served up thrills along with a few splashes in the Halloween area. Two years later, a new flat ride also became part of Halloween, the flying carpet-type ride Banshee. In 1990, towards the end of the white water rapids ride craze among parks, Holiday World invested in their own version, named Raging Rapids.
It was clear that guests enjoyed water rides as much as they did the dry thrill rides in the heat of the summer, so Holiday World invested in an entire water park adjacent to the theme park for the 1993 season that would be known as Splashin' Safari. Now, included in the general admission price, guests could spend time soaking up the water along with the sun on a handful of water attractions. But instead of the holiday themes, rides and slides in this section were given tropical African and South American themes with names such as Congo River and AmaZOOM. The next year, a wave pool joined the collection of water rides. In less than half a century, a simple childrens' attraction in a town with an attractive name to kids had grown into a major theme park with three themed amusement sections and an adjacent water park. But this was only the beginning for Holiday World.
© Holiday WorldThe Koch family wanted a major new attraction that the thrill-seekers could enjoy, so they began talking with the wooden coaster designers at Custom Coasters International who had come on the scene three years earlier. Soon, plans were drawn up and revised until the final product was something that would be a hit with roller coaster lovers the world over, but not many truly had an idea of what this ride would do for the theme park in the long run. The Raven, themed after Edgar Allan Poe's timeless work of poetry, was constructed in the dense, dark woods of the Halloween section with a haunting feet of track that would
© Holiday Worldthrow riders for an intense flight past trees at up to forty-eight miles per hour. It was nothing outstanding by statistics, but it would become one of the most popular rides in the world after opening on May 6, 1995. Now, Holiday World was on the international map for park-lovers and thrill-seekers.
Following the success of Raven, Holiday World was truly discovered for being a beautiful, well-managed, family-operated gem among parks, and the crowds poured in. To keep up with the demand, the late nineties brought new expansion to Splashin' Safari along with a new section for the park's original fans, the kids, named Holidog's FunTown, and complete with a kiddie coaster named the Howler. It was apparent that one wooden coaster wasn't enough to satisfy the crowds of thrill-seekers, so the park went back to Custom Coasters for a second, larger coaster. Five years after Raven, the Legend began
© Holiday Worldswooping through the woods of Halloween with a Sleepy Hollow theme and feet of track incorporating the same terrain-hugging, twisted appeal of the original ride's layout into a larger, 116-foot-dropping coaster. Now, Holiday World had a second hit coaster on their hands. But the park made visitors even happier that same year, when the 2000 season brought an innovative perk for guests of free sodas all day along with admission.
In 2002, it was back to introducing new attractions with ZOOMbabwe, the largest enclosed water slide in the world. With the introduction of another new perk for guests, all visitors could now enjoy the rarity of free sunscreen lotion, free sodas, free parking, and admission to both the theme park and water park with admission. The next year, both the amusement and water parks grew again when the funnel-shaped slide Zinga opened along with the Halloween section's wave swinger ride HallowSwings and 4th of July's Liberty Launch, an eighty-foot-tall launched freefall tower from S&S Power. The 2004 season then brought a new duo of attractions for Splashin' Sarari, the Jungle Jets and Jungle Racer, and then the Bahari Wave Pool arrived in 2005. Holiday World announced the new wave pool as the start of an expansion that would double the size of the water park, but the water park wasn't the only major expansion in the works.
© Holiday WorldFor the theme park's monumental sixtieth anniverary in 2006, the first new themed section in over two decades was announced, Thanksgiving, and the highlight of the expansion was stunning to roller coaster lovers. Voyage would take the celebrated qualities of the first two custom-designed wooden coasters to the extreme as one of the largest coasters in the world, at some 6,442 feet in length. After a 163-foot climb, riders would be sent through the back woods of Holiday World with sixteen hills producing the most airtime of any coaster on the planet and a speedy layout with eight elements traveling underground. Yet this record-breaking coaster was only one of many new additions announced; the Thanksgiving section
© Holiday Worldwould also include a new themed dark ride, Gobbler Gateway, and flat ride, while the Bahari River lazy river would be added to Splashin' Safari. The new expansion opened on May 6th, 2006, the same date of both Raven and Legend's debuts in years past.
After such a massive addition to the park, the next couple of years were somewhat more low-key for Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, though that’s not to say they didn’t add anything. Over the next two seasons in 2007 and 2008, Holiday World added the Turkey Whirl ride and Plymouth Rock Café to its new Thanksgiving section. The park also replaced Thunder Bumpers on Chesapeake Bay in the Fourth of July section with the Star Spangled Carousel, and replaced the Kids Castle in the Christmas section with Reindeer Games.
© Holiday WorldBy 2009, Holiday World was ready to break new ground once again, this time with a record breaking water ride. Dubbed Pilgrim’s Plunge, the new ride from Intamin would stand as the world’s tallest ride upon opening at 135 feet tall (though it has now been beat out by Divertical at Mirabilandia). Other than being the tallest water ride, Pilgrim’s Plunge was built with another unique feature—a vertical elevator lift. With such a tall ride, a standard sloped lift was unfeasible, and would be far too slow, so Intamin created an elevator lift system to haul the boats vertically up a tower to the top of the hill. Because it is a water ride, Holiday World decided to make the ride queue accessible from both the theme park and water park.
For 2010, Holiday World decided to continue carrying the momentum it had built up with recent additions by announcing yet another record breaking ride, this time for its Splashin’ Safari waterpark. Wildebeest would open as the world’s longest “water coaster” at 1,710 feet long, thanks to LIM technology which had recently been adapted for use on these tube/water coasters. When the “water coaster” was developed for waterparks years ago, designers first used conveyer belts to haul, then high-powered jets of sheet water to blast riders uphill on slides for the first time. With the adaptation of LIMs for use on these rides though, the limits of what could be done and the length of these rides was drastically increased. Wildebeest demonstrated this with a 38-foot drop, 7 total hills, and covered over two acres. The ride was honored as the Golden Ticket winner for “Best New Waterpark Ride” in 2010, and “Best Waterpark Ride” in 2010 and 2011.
Before the season was over, the park took a tragic blow when park President and CEO Will Koch passé away. Found dead in the families swimming pool, the cause of death was officially listed as a drowning, but the family believes his type 1 diabetes likely played a large factor in his passing. Holiday World would continue to push on, and keep the park in the family as Will’s younger brother, Dan, would take over his position. During his first year as the new President, Dan continue the trend of backing off a notch after such a major addition, and in 2011 did a few ride replacements. Blitzen’s Airplanes were removed from the Christmas section of Holiday World and replaced with Rudolph’s Round-Up. Over at Splashin’ Safari, the Jungle Jets were replaced by Safari Sam’s Splashland, which expanded on the existing structure to incorporate 8 kids slides and countless other interactive water features.
In 2012, the park once again decided to “go big or go home.” As if 2010’s Wildebeest weren’t big enough, for 2012, Splashin’ Safari was to be the recipient of a new ProSlide HydroMagnetic Water Coaster. Appropriately called Mammoth, the new water coaster would serpentine around 1,763 feet of tube-track, taking the record of world’s longest water coaster from Wildebeest by a mere 53 feet, an unstoppable one-two punch for a waterpark.
Over roughly the past sixty-five years, Holiday World has grown from a simple park with a few rides laying claim to the title of the first modern theme park, into a world-class park recognized around the world and consistently rated among the best. With three major wooden coasters unlike any other rides on the globe, four themed amusement park sections, and a water park, Holiday World continues expanding at an ever-increasing rate each season, making for a lot to look forward to in years to come. Where will the park be sixty years from now? Only time will tell!
Present Roller Coasters (4)
|Legend||Custom Coasters International||Wooden||2000||Open|
|Raven||Custom Coasters International||Wooden||1995||Open|
|Voyage||The Gravity Group||Wooden||2006||Open|
|Thunderbird||Bolliger & Mabillard||Wingrider||2015||Open|
Past Roller Coasters (1)
|Firecracker||Pinfari||Sit-Down||1981||1997||Jolly Roger Amusement Park|