Earlier this month, my family and I took a short road trip and visited the what’s credited as the world’s first theme park. No, we didn’t go to Disneyland or Coney Island, or a Six Flags location. We traveled to Santa Claus, Indiana, and visited Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari.
What? What is that even? Where is that? Are you serious about the Santa Claus part? Formerly known as Santa Claus Land, Holiday World is a theme park created around, you guessed it, holidays. Opened as a Christmas themed park in 1946, the park now also celebrates the Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Attached to the theme park is a water park that is seriously impressive. (Underestimate Indiana at your own peril. ~ed.)
Just what’s the difference between a theme park and an amusement park? It’s really a matter of semantics — a theme park is an amusement park with, you guessed it, one over-arching theme. Holiday World had so much success with Christmas, it went ahead and has added additional holidays over the years.
Despite it being off the beaten path and over an hour from any metropolitan areas, Holiday World has endured over the years. The novelty of a holiday theme, coupled with some serious wooden roller coasters and an outstanding customer amenities has made it a destination unto itself.
We left Indianapolis early one Saturday, and arrived just after the park opened. We quickly walked to the water park and stashed our gear in a locker, and then we started in on the rides. In Thanksgiving, we found The Voyage, a wooden roller coaster that’s won awards, and has the most air-time (feeling of weightlessness) for a wooden coaster. According to my daughter, in those 24.9 seconds, she “literally died.” We also found a turkey themed tilt-a-whirl, and another ride called the Mayflower.
We then moved on to the Fourth of July, which had Teddy Roosevelt “Rough Riders” themed bumper cars, and a ride called “The Sparkler.” In Halloween, we found the award-winning Raven roller coaster. In Christmas, there are several rides for children, and a couple of rides for everyone. My kids thought the theming was fun, and did put a festive mood in the air.
In Splashin’ Safari, the theme is, you guessed it — a safari. It’s been years since I’ve been to true waterpark, and I had no idea there were water roller coasters. Sure enough there are, and my daredevils rode them while I relaxed on the deck to the wave pool. We spent hours and hours at the waterpark, and then hit all of our favorite rides again on the way out of the park.
My family left sun-kissed, exhausted and seriously happy. We didn’t buy a discounted next day passes, but the kids REALLY wanted us to do so. Ever since we returned home, they’ve been asking to go back “for two days this time!” As in, “Can we go back to Holiday World next weekend for two days?” Oh, if only time and money were limitless. We’d so be there.
Here are six things that make a trip to Holiday World extremely awesome:
- It’s out of the way, but easy to get to (straight off of I-64) and the parking is FREE.
- Discounts and ticket deals are everywhere, and you even get a deal on their website if you buy your tickets online.
- Sunscreen is free and available throughout the park. Leave yours at home, and use their SPF 30 all day.
- Soft drinks are free all day long. There are what can best be described as “Pepsi Huts” all over the place, and in them, you’ll find self-service soda foundations. Not having to carry water bottles or spend money on drinks was fantastic. Everyone stayed hydrated and happy all day into the evening.
- The park is hi-tech. Lockers use scannable wristbands. There’s an option to load money onto a scannable wristband as well, making it very easy to walk around pretty empty handed.
- The park is clean. Like the garbage is never over-flowing, the bathrooms always have toilet paper kind of clean. Even with what you’d think would be copious amounts of sugary drinks EVERYWHERE, there is no trash or litter to speak of.
If you’re crossing the middle of the country this summer, or have a bucket list that involves wooden roller coasters, I highly recommend making the trip!
Where is Santa Claus, exactly? It’s on I-64, closer to Louisville than St. Louis, and about three hours from Indianapolis.