Trip Report: AJ's Epic Theme Park Summer-Part 5 (Holiday World)

Edited: October 22, 2014, 9:41 PM

Previously on AJ's Epic Theme Park Summer: Kentucky Kingdom & Beech Bend

Trip 2, Part 5: Holiday World-July 27th, 2014

Unlike the other days of the trip, our day at Holiday World had been kept a closely guarded secret. All we knew was this: 8 A.M. departure, group lunch, very late night, and bring a swimsuit. If I remember right, it was about a 45 minute drive to the park, so we still got there plenty early. After a group booing of Satan's Lodge, the "66 Minutes of Sleep Tour" (as Paula Werne of Holiday World dubbed us) pulled into the parking lot.


We got to the front entrance, met Paula, and were given our schedules, admission tickets, group meal tickets, meal vouchers, and discount coupons. Now, before I reveal the schedule, note that Holiday World generally isn't able to offer any type of ERT in July and August, and I believe previous TPR tours to the park have included other perks instead (such as backstage tours). So, here's what the schedule said (quoted directly from lanyard):

9am Voyage walkback and first rides
12n Lunch at Good Old Days Picnic Grove
1pm Thunderbird tour
7pm Gather at Bahari River Island for water-coaster ERT
8pm Change/empty lockers and head back to Holiday World
8:30pm Park closes; gather north of Plymouth Rock Cafe
As soon as the pesky GP leaves, Coaster ERT!
All times are Central. We know. It's embarrassing.

Yes, you are reading that correctly. We got ERT on all three wood coasters AND on both water coasters, plus a backstage tour. Yeah, this day could top Banshee Bash.

Holiday World

Unlike most of the parks on this trip, Holiday World is a park I had visited before. On my previous visit (July 2011), I had a great time and really enjoyed the park. Since that visit, little had changed at the park. Yeah, several new slides had opened in the waterpark and Pilgrims Plunge was gone, but other than that Holiday World was pretty much how I remembered it. However, there was one big difference between this visit and my previous one: this time, I was with TPR, and we were essentially receiving a VIP experience.


The day began with a walk to Voyage, but we never went through the park entrance.


Instead, we were treated to a tour under Raven, along the lake, and under Legend to get into the park.




Once inside, we weren't taken to Voyage, but instead we went to the Plymouth Rock Cafe for a surprise breakfast (nice to have something other than make-your-own waffles for a change).


At 9:30 we were taken to Voyage and let in the line before all the GP who had sprinted to Thanksgiving to ride the first couple trains of the day. Voyage was just as I remembered it...the best traditional wood coaster I know of as long as you can endure the ride.

After getting off Voyage, I joined up with Caroline, Judd, and Nathan to tour the rest of the park before lunch. Due to Holiday World's traffic patterns, this meant some lines (especially for Legend, which only had one train), but we still managed to do everything but the kiddie coaster (Howler) in 2 hours. I'll let you guess what we had for lunch (if you've been following the report it should be pretty easy). During lunch, several members of Holiday World's management came out to discuss Thunderbird (which had just been announced a few days prior) and hold a Q&A session. I don't remember any specific questions, but based on what was said I'm confident Thunderbird is going to be a win for Holiday World even if enthusiasts don't care for it, and while I wouldn't travel all the way to the park just for the coaster I definitely will ride it at least a couple times next time I visit.

After lunch it was time for the backstage tour. Before departing the picnic area, however, we were all given Thunderbird souvenir cups, apparently not yet released at the park. These came in handy as it was a hot day. Once everyone had their cups full of their beverage of choice, the tour began with a walk along Voyage all the way back to the spaghetti bowl area of the ride.



Normally this area is impossible to access, so it was neat seeing what it looked like when you're not flying through it.


The tour then continued over to the Thunderbird construction site, where footers were being poured.


We were shown where the station, equipment room, queue line, access pathway, restrooms, and Pepsi Oasis would be located, then taken back into the park through a gate near Hyena Falls.




At this point, my group decided to do the remaining rides of interest in the ride park (they all needed the Howler credit and we wanted to ride the "RMC Log Flume"), then head to the waterpark for the rest of the day.

It's not hard to find stuff to do in Splashin' Safari, so I had no problem spending several hours there. I ended up doing all the slides but Bakuli and Zinga (both of which I did on my previous visit), then just hung out until it was time for ERT. Water-coaster ERT was probably the highlight of the day, as both Mammoth and Wildebeest are outstanding rides that could beat 90% of the legitimate coasters out there for fun factor. I ended up doing three or four rides on each during ERT thanks to a lack of lines.

Once waterpark ERT ended we all got changed and headed back into the park for coaster ERT. Our ERT began with a half-hour on Voyage, which I rode twice (more than most of the group), then we headed to Halloween for a half-hour on Legend and Raven. I spent most of my time on Raven, though I did give Legend a ride as it was running well at night. Eventually the last train returned on Raven and it was time to head out, so everyone slowly walked out to the bus for a long drive to our hotel (we didn't get in until after 2 A.M.). It had been a great day, in my opinion the best day on the trip, but this was the point where the lack of sleep was starting to take its toll, as evidenced by a group vote to shorten ERT at Indiana Beach the next day in favor of a later departure.

Coaster Reviews:


Holiday World arguably has the best wooden coaster collection on the planet, as their three woodies all rank in the top 50 every year on the Mitch Hawker Poll. Unfortunately, that is all the park has as far as coasters go. Next year's Thunderbird is a very good addition to the park's coaster lineup, and will give them an above average coaster collection, but Holiday World really needs a good family coaster to give kids under 48" something to ride.



There are plenty of people who do not like Voyage. I will not argue that opinion, as Voyage is a rough and aggressive ride that truly pushes the limits of traditional wooden construction. However, I absolutely love this coaster. It is tall, fast, seems to go on forever, and never lets up. The first drop is great and the whole entire out run is full of airtime while being reasonably smooth.


The run back to the station, on the other hand, does give you a bit of brain rattling and focuses more on twists than airtime, but I would much rather ride a wooden coaster that tests you than one that is perfectly smooth but not overly exciting. Would I like the ride better if it were smooth? Absolutely, as I can't ride more than twice consecutively in the ride's current state, but I don't have a problem with the ride as it currently is. Whatever everyone else says, Voyage is my second favorite wood coaster (best traditional), my favorite ride at Holiday World, and the best coaster I rode on this leg of the trip. A



Other than only having one train, Legend was running better on this visit than in 2011. The ride has a good amount of airtime and some of the most intense laterals on any coaster anywhere.


It is also a long ride, but not so long that dull spots start to appear. Lastly, while not glass smooth Legend is not as rough as you might expect it to be. It's a shame the ride only had one train available as I would have liked to ride it more, but I'm glad I got two rides on the coaster. B+



While Raven may be the least intense of Holiday World's coasters, it is still a really good ride (though overrated). The coaster is full of airtime and, like Legend, takes advantage of its surroundings, incorporating a surprisingly large drop half-way through the ride.


Additionally, while it's the oldest of Holiday World's woodies Raven is the smoothest of the three by far, probably due to its lower speed and smaller size. My main issue with Raven is that it's a short ride, about half the length of Legend and 1/3 of Voyage. So which is better: Legend or Raven? Most people say Raven, but I say it depends. During the day, I like Legend better, but night rides on Raven are tough to beat (3rd best night ride after Boulder Dash and Beast...Voyage is 4th). I personally have them both right next to each other outside my top ten woodies but inside my top 25. B+

Non-Coaster Summary:


To be completely honest Holiday World's flat ride collection is below average and is probably the worst aspect of the park, though it is satisfactory for the park's family audience. For flat rides, Holiday World's best may be the new Mayflower swinging ship. While it's not an outstanding ride, it is fun and is an excellent fit in the Thanksgiving area. I only rode a couple other flat rides in the park, namely Liberty Launch (a good double shot tower, but weaker than most others) and Sparkler (great family ride, not at all scary like the taller swing on a stick rides). Many of the park's other flats are of the standard variety. The rides are geared mostly toward families and those not interested in the coasters, with attractions such as a chair swing and antique cars, as well as numerous kiddie rides. Holiday World also has two decent water rides: Frightful Falls, a short but fun log flume, and Raging Rapids, an above average river rapids ride that doesn't get you too wet.

There is, however, one standout non-coaster attraction: Gobbler Getaway. Gobbler Getaway is an interactive dark ride where you have to round up the turkeys for Thanksgiving by, calling them. While not the best of Sally Corporation's dark rides (I'm partial to the Lost Kingdom Adventure and original Ghostblasters attractions), Gobbler Getaway is still a very good and unique ride with some Holiday World humor thrown in.

Splashin' Safari:

It doesn't matter that Holiday World's non-coaster collection isn't anything special as that's not the reason most people visit. Aside from the coasters, Splashin' Safari is the big draw at this park. The waterpark here is the best I've visited and is large enough to be its own attraction. In fact, I could probably spend about 80% of a Holiday World visit here and not be disappointed. In fact, I don't recommend going out of your way for Holiday World if you won't be doing Splashin' Safari as the ride park is really only worth a half day.

Slide Reviews:

Hyena Falls: New since I last visited, Hyena Falls consists of a Tornado Wave (Laughs) and three serpentine tube slides (Chuckles, Giggles, and Tee Hee). I personally found the Tornado Wave slide a little underwhelming, though the standard tube slides were fun (as long as you have two rides...don't do these single). This complex is placed in an odd location as it is quite a walk from the rest of Splashin' Safari, so you'd definitely want to come out here, do everything you're going to do at once, then head back.

Otorongo: Another standard tube slide complex, but these slides are completely dark. I personally liked the Otorongo slides better than Hyena Falls, as all three gave different experiences: Otto (my favorite) is a single helix followed by a drop, Ron is a serpentine slide, and Go is a straight double drop (beware of this one as you can be launched from your tube at the bottom). Fun slide with excellent capacity leading to short waits.

Jungle Racer: A 10 lane mat racing slide, this is more or less the same as others. These rides are fun when you race against your friends, but are not very exciting to do by yourself.

Watubee: This one was a fairly average family raft slide, and was the only slide I skipped on my previous visit. While this slide typically gets huge lines, we got lucky and rode with less than a 10 minute wait. It was fun, though nothing special and not something I'd want to wait too long for, especially when right next door you've got...

ZOOMbabwe: Some say this is the world's best family raft slide. I'm not sure that I'd go that far, but it is a very good ride. The ride is dark with random light figures on the walls, and it just seems to go on and on. Try to get as close to the weight limit (600 lb per raft) as possible for the best ride.

Mammoth: My thoughts when this was announced: "Looks like fun, but they've got Wildebeest next door and that's a lot better." My thoughts after riding: "Wow, that was awesome!" Yes, Mammoth is an amazing ride, better than 90% of the roller coasters out there and better than almost any other waterslide. The ride just has the right combination of elements and is intense enough to be thrilling yet tame enough for families. You'll also get your boat turned into a pool at the end of the ride, and depending on your group's weight you may even sink it. Even if this ride has its usual 60+ minute wait, DO NOT MISS IT! There were people in the group who normally don't do waterparks but were very, very glad they did waterpark ERT on this ride.

Wildebeest: I'll be honest...Mammoth may be a nearly perfect waterslide, but I still slightly prefer Wildebeest. Wildebeest is just slightly more intense, but it has significantly more airtime and a larger number of drops. Wildebeest definitely feels less like a traditional waterslide than Mammoth, but I still love it and consider it the best waterpark attraction out there.

Overall Thoughts:

Holiday World is a great park in many aspects. They've got a pretty good coaster selection and an outstanding waterpark. Some of the food options are unique (especially the Thanksgiving dinner at Plymouth Rock Cafe), and if nothing else it is reasonably priced compared to other amusement parks (a burger, fries, and a cookie was less than $8). Parking, soft drinks, and sunscreen are all free throughout the park. The landscaping of Holiday World is great, and the theming is reasonable (although a little limited). Every employee I met at Holiday World was great, from the upper management down to the ride ops, and efficiency in ride operations rivals parks like Cedar Point and Dollywood. There are only two significant drawbacks to Holiday World: the lack of good non-coaster rides and the fact that it's difficult to spend a full day at the park without visiting Splashin' Safari. Despite this, Holiday World is one of my favorite parks, and while I don't know that I'd make a special trip to visit on a regular basis I can't think of anywhere I enjoy more while I'm there (except the Disney parks).

Next Time: There's more than Holiday World and corn in Indiana as the Mini New Hotness tour heads to Indiana Beach.

Replies (2)

October 24, 2014, 12:19 PM

Very lovely review there AJ. I always like to see my home parks from the perspective of other people that don't get to go there as much as I do. Its also very neat to see all the behind the scenes work, which is very awesome. I also take it that you got to see all of those footers for thunderbird before it was even announced which is sick! Anyways, I am glad to see that you seemed to have a great time. Thanks for sharing and have a great day :D

Corey Mathery

October 24, 2014, 1:58 PM

I love reading reviews of my home parks, especially from first time visitors, as I do feel there is a local bias with a lot of parks. I figure others must like it as well. Regarding the behind the scenes tours, that is probably my favorite perk of these trips (and TPR's one day events). ERT is fun, but getting to walk around in areas not normally accessible and see the inner workings of attractions is really interesting (see my previous report for a complete tour of the inside of Beech Bend's Haunted House).

As for Thunderbird, it was actually announced a couple days before we visiting Holiday World (specifically the first day of the trip). We were all on the bus heading from Carrabba's to the hotel, and since many people had killed their phones by that point Elissa got on the microphone and narrated the animation to the bus. It went something like this:

"So we're on a boat and looking at the journal...yeah, we've seen all this before. Now there's a storm. Is this a dream? It's a ship in the middle of the sea during a storm, with lightning and thunder. This is just like when Anna and Elsa's parents died in Frozen. (everyone laughs) We're sailing, sailing...oh, there's a bird. (collective groan) It's flying to Holiday World. There we go, B&M track. And a keyhole. Yep, it's a launched B&M wingrider called Thunderbird. Yeah...not at all disappointed we're going to Holiday World this year."

I do think Thunderbird looks like a great ride, but based on my experience with wing coasters I wouldn't be surprised if most enthusiasts consider it the weakest of Holiday World's coasters.

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