Santa Claus, IN: Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Most people have heard of places like King's Island, Cedar Point, Six Flags, and Disney World. But not too many people (outside of Indiana and Kentucky) have heard of a great little amusement park called Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Located in southwest Indiana off I-64 (literally in the fields; Eric will point out that a tractor was no more than 100 yards away from the park), this two park theme park is a great getaway if you can't make it over to one of the bigger parks in Ohio or farther. The roller coaster side is holiday themed (Christmas, Halloween, 4th of July, Thanksgiving) so the ride names and shows are named accordingly. The water park side is safari/animal themed.

Eric is a big fan of roller coasters (he grew up two miles from King's Island) and we wanted to make sure to get a trip down there in this summer. We recruited a few of our friends to tag along as we took advantage of their cheaper May prices (we went May 29th) and fewer crowds. May tickets were $35 if you bought them online; the rest of the summer are now $41 if you buy them online and $46 at the park. People under 54" tall and those over age 60 are slightly cheaper, and kids under 2 are free. The park is open longer hours in the summer months but note the times listed on the website are in CST. The admission price gets you into both parks which is a pretty good deal.

The main draw for waiting to go to Holiday World until this year (we actually meant to go last summer) was their newest ride, Thunderbird, which is in the picture at the top of the page ^. Thunderbird is the nation's first launched wing coaster (and HW's only all-steel coaster) and we thought it might be like Wild Eagle at Dollywood (probably my current favorite ride). The weather looked spotty and launched coasters tend to have a lot of down time, so I suggested we head straight to Thunderbird in case we couldn't ride it later.

Eric suggested we do a warm up ride first, especially for the folks who weren't used to riding coasters. So we warmed up on the swings in front of Thunderbird on a ride called the Crow's Nest. It was a great idea and we got hyped up to ride our first coaster of the day.

Quick note before we get on the rides: As I've gotten older, my stomach has been less friendly to me when riding coasters, despite my brain and rest of my body really enjoying them. I also wasn't sure how our friends would handle the coasters, so I picked up a box of chewable Nauzene* tablets that are supposed to settle upset stomachs. I hadn't used them before (I actually wanted to get Dramamine but even the non-drowsy kind seemed like it was not really non-drowsy according to the reviews) and now I am not going to go to amusement parks without them. They worked quickly and saved me and Yu from upset stomachs the whole day. We took two before this ride and after a couple of others throughout the day and were able to feel great and didn't have any problems.

Thunderbird was the longest wait of the day for us on the roller coaster side ... about 15 minutes. I'm sure it will be much longer now that school is out and summer is here, but it was great for us on this day!

It was pretty great! The seats were comfortable (remember to keep your head back at the launch!!) and the ride was very smooth. It was similar to Wild Eagle in that it's a steel wing coaster and smooth, but they are definitely different rides (I think I like Wild Eagle more, but Thunderbird was still very good, especially if you haven't ridden Wild Eagle yet). Launch includes some mist getting sprayed at the front car, then you are off! The launch followed by first loop is the best part. You kind of hang an extra second on that first loop and it's a great way to start the ride. There are a couple more loops and twists (including a full 360 one that gave me spots the first time), then it's over. It's not bumpy at all and is a fun ride. We went on it twice - our first ride of the day and our last.

After Thunderbird, everyone was really hungry. Bloomington is about 2 hours northeast of Santa Claus and in a different time zone, so by this point it was lunchtime for us. We ate at the food place right next to Thunderbird and it was surprisingly good. I always expect theme park food to not be great (because it's usually not) but this was tasty and reasonably priced.

One convenient thing about HW&SS is that there is free Pepsi throughout the park. They have these small buildings called Oasis where you can just grab a small cup and fill it up with any Pepsi product you want, like soda, lemonade, and iced tea, or just get some water. I kind of wish all parks had something like this (or maybe just installed more water fountains). We did a pretty good job of staying hydrated thanks to the placement of their buildings.

For lunch, Eric and I each had a pulled pork sandwich ($4.50 each) and also a peach and pecan cobbler. Our friend Telesilla got this Pulled Pork Parfait (about $8) and I had to take a photo. It's pulled pork topped with mashed potatoes and it looked really good.

After lunch we decided to make our way back to the beginning of the park and hit up all the other coasters and rides we wanted to do on the Holiday World side. (We also were planning on doing the water park on this trip so needed to budget our time well.) On the way we passed the Mayflower. I no longer ride rides like these, even with stomach meds. Nope nope nope. But Eric likes them, and Han, Telesilla, and Yu's wife Yang joined him. Yu and I watched from the sidelines and took photos.

At this point the sun had been out for a little while (it had been quite cloudy) and we were getting warm. We wanted to finish all the coasters before heading to the water park, so most of our group thought it'd be nice to go on the Raging Rapids ride to cool down. You WILL get wet on this ride. And if you are like Eric your clothes will not dry out until we are on our way home in the evening. (Sorry babe.) It's still a fun ride if you're willing to get wet (or if you want to pay $5 to stand in the air dryer afterward).

Next we headed to the Raven. I remember riding this ride a ton as a kid (we came to HW a couple of times growing up). It's a great old wooden coaster. There was literally no line so we stayed on for a second time around right away. It is a bumpy ride but also a lot of fun. After Thunderbird, it's probably my favorite of the roller coasters at the park. The pictures where you see both Eric and me in them were taken by our friend Han. Thanks Han!

Next up was the Legend, the other famous wooden coaster here. I don't like it quite as much as the Raven because it's even bumpier (one time I banged my head on this ride as a little kid...don't do that) but it's still a fun ride. Probably most people like this one better than the Raven and there were more people in line for it too.

After these coasters we took a cool down on the strangely-named Lewis & Clark Trail. I don't think Lewis & Clark drove out west in old-timey cars. But hey, it's fun to drive around in them now. The pedals are rather hard to push down but you can gun it which is a lot of fun.

Then we rode the carousel! I haven't been on one in forever and it was a great old-school one.

I sat on a horse that moved up and down.

At this point, it was about 2pm. In May Splashin' Safari closes at 6pm and the rest of the park doesn't close until 7, so we decided to head over to the water park while the weather was nice. (The weather report had told us we had a good chance of storms in the afternoon.)  Yu, Yang, Eric, and I did the water park and Han and Telesilla read and sunbathed. Unfortunately I don't have many pictures of the water park (the photos below are provided by Han!) but I can tell you what we rode:

We started off with the slide right at the beginning of the park, the Watubee. It was okay but took way too long to stand in line for what the ride was worth.

The weather looked like it might turn on us at any second so we used the same philosophy from earlier and headed straight for the best coasters. First we went on an awesome water coaster, the Mammoth. The four of us rode it together with one random single rider and it was great! You get a lot of water spraying in your face which wasn't as fun (I couldn't see anything for most of the ride) but the thrill factor is just as good as a normal coaster. We did have to wait in line for quite a while before riding (at least 30 minutes, maybe 45).

Next we hit up the Wildebeest. I caught so much air on this ride (I was riding in front of the 4-person log) and was glad I was able to hold on so well to the straps. I very literally would have flown off if not. You get some spray in your face again but it's not as much as the Mammoth. This might be my favorite water coaster. It's hard to pick between this and Mammoth but riding in front was so much fun!

The four of us also did the Jungle Racer. Eric won pretty handily (he's on the far left in the photo above) and I came in third. At least not last!

The last good slide we went on was the Zinga. It's the giant purple and blue funnel a few photos up. You are inside tubes for a while then get shot out into that giant funnel! I happened to be going backwards so I couldn't see what was coming up and it was so much fun. All of a sudden I could see Eric after not being able to see him in the dark tube, then we were spinning around a funnel. It was very fun.

Unfortunately we finished with a not-so-great ride, the Zoombabwe. It's inside the whole time and therefore doesn't smell great, and it isn't particularly exciting. I'd skip it.

The water park is really, really fun. We didn't have time to do the wave pool or lazy river or a few other smaller rides, but we definitely got the best ones in. There are lots of things for little kids too (splash park, tiny slides, etc) if you are in that boat. The rides are mostly tube-based and almost all of the rides bring the tube up to the start for you (only a couple do you bring your own). It's really nice!

After we were done with the water park, we headed back to the roller coaster side for another hour or so of riding coasters. We still needed to ride the Voyage, which was rated the #1 wooden coaster in the US by Time, which we would like to politely disagree with. Both the Raven and Legend are better. But you do have a couple of nice drops on the Voyage.

We rode Thunderbird again to finish out the day, then headed home. It was a great day. The weather cooperated (it never rained), it wasn't too crowded, the food was good, the coasters were good, the company was good, and we had a great time. If you're looking for a great small amusement park with a really great water park, check out Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, IN!

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Santa Claus, IN: Holiday World & Splashin' Safari Santa Claus, IN: Holiday World & Splashin' Safari Reviewed by Maria on 3:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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