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    Does anyone remember Santa Claus Land? Way back when, years and years ago when Holiday World was known as Santa Claus Land? My husband does; he remembers taking a trip or two to Santa Claus, Indiana to ride the rides around 1979-1981. He recalls getting on an aluminum/steel structure affectionately called the Scrambler that sat in a gated, grassy area just in the middle of what he remembers as a field. He rode it with his two cousins, who were about ages ten, five and three. He has a memory of his youngest cousin screaming and crying and begging for the ride to end. He has a few pictures documenting the trip, but those are all the momentos he can scrounge up.

    They may be distant, but these memories are still tangible for every kid or grown-up who has ventured through the gates of Santa Claus Land since it first opened in 1946. Since the amusement park changed its name in 1984 to Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, millions have continued creating those memories. Our hope is that we remain healthy enough and strong enough to lock our memories in for a lifetime and never forget that Holiday World is a fantastic place. That's what I discovered over the weekend as my family and I walked through the gates for the very first time.

    Holiday World

    Holiday World is broken down into different themed areas throughout the park, which I loved. I thought it brought a nice home-like feel to the whole experience. We were given a one-on-one tour with a park communications coordinator, and she gave us a nice walk through of each section with tips on where to eat and where to get good photos.

    The themes in Holiday World are of course holidays we all know: there's Christmas (the original part of the park where much of the history of Santa Claus Land remains), Halloween, Fourth of July and, the newest area, Thanksgiving. Throughout the different holiday-themed areas are many attractions for both thrill-seekers and less adventurous visitors. They span from the loveliest of "kiddie" rides in the Christmas section to the newest attraction, Thunderbird, a steel winged coaster that opened just this year in the Thanksgiving section.

    My family and I spent a good part of our day in Holiday World going through the different sections and riding every ride we could fit into our day. In Christmas, you'll find children's rides suitable for the youngest of riders - all rides in this area are for under 54" - and parents do not ride with their children. You'll find Prancer's Merry Go Round, Rudolph's Round-Up, Reindeer Games, Comet's Rockets, Dasher's Seahorses and Dancer's Fish. In Halloween there are rides more suited for taller children, and parents can ride with their kids. Here you'll find the world-famous Raven wooden roller coaster, Scarecrow Scrambler, Frightful Falls, The Legend wooden roller coaster and HallowSwings.

    Venturing on to Fourth of July, you'll discover a plethora of rides. There's Raging Rapids, Lewis and Clark Trail, Star Spangled Carousel, Indian River Canoes, Rough Riders Bumper Cars, Liberty Launch, Revolution and Eagle's Flight. Also in the Fourth of July section is a kid-centered play area with a huge playground and a small sprayground water structure. Here you'll find Holidog Express, Doggone Trail, Kitty's Tea Party, Holidog's Treehouse and The Howler. As afore mentioned, the Thanksgiving section houses newer park attractions. It was added in 2006 to include The Voyage wooden roller coaster, Gobbler Getaway, Turkey Whirl, Mayflower, Crow's Nest and the very newest ride, Thunderbird.

    Splashin' Safari

    Splashin' Safari opened in 1993 and now covers over 40 acres of water park bonanza fun. It has been touted as the number one water park in the nation by USA Today. Admission to Holiday World includes both fabulous parks, so you may have to set aside two days to experience everything. Our children got a chance to play around in the water, but we quickly discovered we needed more time to really take it all in. We're already planning a trip back next summer and hope to make it an overnight stay, spending a day in each park. See below for tips on making a trip to Holiday World a destination weekend getaway.

    Of course in Splashin' Safari you'll find the renowned Mammoth and Wildebeest water coasters. Mammoth wins the title of number one water coaster every year, and Wildebeest is known as the world's longest water coaster. Park goers will have a blast soaking up the sun and sliding along many attractions including Hyena Falls, Hyena Springs, Kima Bay, Bahari River, Bakuli, Bahari Wave Pool, Safari Sam's SplashLand, Jungle Racer, Zinga, ZOOMbabwe, Otorongo, Monsoon Lagoon, Watubee and The Wave.

    The Eats

    Holiday World and Splashin' Safari offers visitors many places to grab a bite to eat. There are two air conditioned indoor restaurants: Kringle's Kafe in Christmas and Plymouth Rock Café in Thanksgiving, which very fittingly serves traditional style Thanksgiving meals! My family and I ate at Kringle's Kafe, where they serve a great family meal deal for $31.99 - an insider's tip from our brief media tour guide gave us that one. It includes a whole pizza and breadsticks. We also stopped in to the adjoining Mrs. Klaus's Kitchen for a chocolate covered rice krispie treat and ice cream later in the day.

    -Santa's Snacks serves soft pretzels, funnel cakes and nachos
    -Goblin Burgers serves burgers, chicken tenders and hot dogs
    -The Alamo serves tacos, nachos and burritos
    -George's Gluten-Free Pizza and Snacks is the park's great place for gluten-free options
    -Hot Diggity Dogs serves hot dogs and chicken tenders (here you'll also find the park's newest food, The Hot Diggity Dog, a bacon wrapped hot dog deep fried and served on a pretzel roll with cheese sauce and barbeque sauce upon request)
    -Funnel Cake Factory serves funnel cakes and fried Reese's Cups
    -The Smokehouse serves pulled pork and chicken fried steak
    -Wildebeestro serves wraps, fresh fruit cups and popcorn shrimp
    -Bahari Snacks serves loaded steak fries and fried pickles
    -Jungle Jake's serves wings, pizza and chicken tenders
    -ZOOMbabwe Grill serves burgers, baked potatoes and barbeque
    -Safari Pizza serves pizza, chicken tenders and sandwiches

    The Treats

    -Kringle's Ice Cream serves hand-dipped ice cream
    -Mrs. Klaus's Kitchen serves fudge, cookies and cakes
    -Sweet Stuff serves ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy
    -Udderly Blue Ice Cream serves milk shakes and flurries
    -Safari Ice Cream serves ice cream, flurries and floats
    -Chill Factory serves slushies

    The Games

    All through Holiday World and Splashin' Safari you can try your hand at a number of games. They were all pretty affordable for a first round try.

    -Blitzen's Bean Bag Toss
    -Merlin's Castle
    -Monster Ball Madness
    -Spider's Web
    -Three Point Challenge
    -Big Crane Game
    -Boston Tea Party
    -Hoosier Hysteria
    -Kitty Striker
    -Winner's Circle
    -Stars and Stripes Showdown
    -Pilgrims Challenge


    The Shows

    Holiday World and Splashin' Safari plays host to many daily family-friendly shows at different times. There's something for everyone. My family took in Dive!, and we were absolutely enthralled by the acrobatic and Olympic-style dives put on at the Halloween High-Dive Theater. 

    -Santa's Storytime
    -Opening Celebration
    -EPIC Praise
    -WOW: World of Wonder
    -Santa's Photo Time
    -Rock Around the Clock
    -Country: LIVE!
    -Holidog & Friends Street Shows

    Times and locations for each show are available in the daily park map and show guide as well as Holiday World's website.

    Where to Stay

    While we were on our tour, our guide told me many people choose to stay at the nearby Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort if they plan to make an overnight stay on their trek to Holiday World. Other nearby options include the following:

    -Santa's Lakeside Cottages
    -Santa's Lodge
    -Baymont Inn and Suites
    -Big Splash Adventure
    -Comfort Inn and Suites
    -Comfort Inn Ferdinand
    -French Lick Resort
    -Holiday Inn Express and Suites
    -Many other options can be found on the Holiday World Lodging/Directions link.
    Other Tidbits

    Holiday World and Splashin' Safari has recently won many awards to add to its ever growing "trophy" case. Holiday World and Splashin' Safari has been included on these lists:

    -15 Best Amusement Parks for Kids by Parents Magazine
    -Top 10 Theme Parks by Better Home & Gardens
    -USA Today's poll for Thunderbird, the nation's first launched wing coaster
    -USA Today Best Water Park in the USA
    -Trip Advisor "Travelers' Choice" #3 in nation and #10 in the world
    -Voted Cleanest Park for more than a decade
    -Holiday World Diver won first place in World Cliff Diving Competition

    We were able to experience Holiday World and Splashin' Safari with our two children, one twelve and the other four. This experience showed us that when you have a tween or teen and a preschooler in tow, everyone can still have fun with age and height appropriate rides throughout both parks. No one was bored, and everyone had something to do that for an entirely awesome day.

    The parks boast freebies as well, which include free WiFi, free parking, free sunscreen (SPF 30) and free unlimited soft drinks, lemonade, tea, water, Gatorade or coffee. Be sure to log onto the free WiFi as you enter the park to access the "Your Day At A Glance" option available on their website. It will give you an overview of the day at your fingertips, including weather, show schedules, park hours and more.

    Another tip the tour guide gave me was using the HoliCash option, which allows you to load for example $50 onto a barcode wristband that you wear all day. It's completely waterproof, and you don't have to worry about carrying around cash or a credit card, particularly around the swimsuits and wet towels of Splashin' Safari. Hosts and hostesses at any venue can scan your barcode when making a purchase, and it acts just like cash. If you still have money remaining at the end of the day, just cash it back in for a refund before leaving the park. Also, you can rent a small locker in Splashin' Safari for the day, which will hold plenty and costs $10.

    The park also takes severe weather seriously. While we were there, a storm rolled in with the possibility of producing lightning, and an announcement was made park-wide. All rides close down during storms, and people are asked to seek shelter. All rides reopen after a test is done and the severe weather has passed.

    Upcoming Events

    Rock the World Christian Music Fest Saturday, August 22

    Happy Halloween Weekends in October


    My family and I created memories in these parks that will last well past this season as summer ends and autumn begins. They'll surface all along into next year and beyond as we now plan our second trip to Holiday World for Summer 2016. It's amazing that the entire idea of building a park to bring a real Santa to Santa Claus, Indiana started as a retirement idea by founder Louis J. Koch. He wanted children to meet Santa Claus if they were coming to this tiny town of the same name. The family behind the concept has a long history of upholding their original ideals, which are safety, service, cleanliness and friendliness. They will remain legendary as the future brings brighter and better things for visitors of Holiday World. What will they think of next?

    Photos by Erin Nevitt

    Erin Nevitt's picture

    About Erin Nevitt

    Longtime Louisvillian, I am a children's librarian at heart and have a passion for children's lit. I am most recently a stay-at-home mom who is always on the move, searching for family fun in Louisville. If it's free, it's preferable!

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