Theme Park Insider Summer Roadtrip, 2010: Holiday World

August 3, 2010, 10:45 AM · SANTA CLAUS, Indiana - We hadn't planned to visit Holiday World during this year's roadtrip. We'd loved our trip last summer to the southern Indiana theme park (turning 46 64 years old today, BTW!), but I'd planned not to repeat any parks from last year's trip.

But when one of my good high school friends from Indianapolis suggested meeting him and his son at Holiday World for the day instead of in Indy, the immediate cheers from the rest of my family made my response a quick "Yes!"

I'll defer to last year's trip report for a broader overview of the park. But I wanted to add a few notes from this year's trip:

The Raven at Holiday World

The day started on a sour note, when we arrived 20 minutes after park opening to find the queue for The Raven already posted at one hour and 15 minutes, along with a note that the coaster would be running only one train all day. That's a Six Flags-circa-2002 move. Ugh.

But we got through the queue in just 55 minutes, and 10-year-old Brian, who's just warming up to roller coasters, declared it "the best ride I've ever been on." I found the ride as exhilarating as last year, a delightful romp through the woods, with the tunnels and trees amplifying the sense of speed. Laurie, who's not a wooden coaster fan, complained of a rough ride, but I found the coaster among the smoother woodies I've ridden over the past two years.

All that said, though, when we walked past The Raven later in the day, around 2:30, the ride was a walk-on. When visiting Holiday World, keep in mind that the Splashin' Safari water park side opens one hour after the Holiday World side, pulling many people away from the thrill rides and over to the water slides. Also, The Raven seems to function here much like Spaceship Earth does at Epcot - it's the weenie that draws in everyone as they enter the park, leading to huge lines in the morning, but little to no line later in the day.

I'm a huge fan of riding the Holiday World coasters in size and chronological order: The Raven, The Legend, then The Voyage. But unless you're among the very first people through the gate in the morning, go do something else in the park until lunchtime, then hit the coasters. In my - admittedly limited - experience, you'll find shorter waits. Throughout the theme park side, we found short-to-nonexistent waits during the afternoon, as so many people headed over to the water park.

The Voyage

Oh, Voyage, what has happened to you? The much-anticipated new Timberliner coaster trains remain MIA; when I visited yesterday, The Voyage was running two trains, one a familiar blue train with the gold and red trim that I remember riding last summer. The second was a red train that looked much like the train from The Raven.

Which made me wonder, did they take a train from The Raven and run it on The Voyage? (Now that I think of it, that might explain why there was only one train available on The Raven. *Update: Yup. See comments.) Whatever the red train's origin, it provided the roughest ride I've ever experienced on a roller coaster. Gone was the smooth, swift ride I enjoyed on The Voyage last summer. This time, I felt like I was riding a train that might at any moment leap from the tracks. Lemme use a racing analogy: The red train carried all of the speed that I expect on The Voyage, but none of the downforce. The train felt loose, whipping me around every curve instead of driving me through them. It's an edge-of-control experience - one, frankly, that appealed to the thrill freak within me. But if you don't know how to ride a "loose" attraction (relax your muscles and go with the flow - like you're riding a horse), it can leave you with a skull-ringing headache.

My friends rode the blue train, though, and said that the ride felt as smooth as ever to them. Go figure. I'd love to hear some other readers' reports.

Turkey dinner at Plymouth Rock Cafe

The Plymouth Rock Cafe remains, for the money, the best counter-service restaurant in the theme park business. Roast turkey and gravy with a roll and three sides for $8.99? With unlimited drinks included? Really? Throughout the park, we continued to find Holiday World's food tasty and reasonably priced. Not only that, Holiday World's employees will do whatever they can to accommodate your needs and requests.

Brian looked longingly at the caramel apples behind the counter at Mrs. Claus' Kitchen. But what he really wanted, he said, was a cut-up, plain apple, with a side of caramel sauce. So we asked, and the employees behind the counter whipped that up for Brian. It's what you can do when you've got a candy store where people actually make the candy, as opposed to retailing something shipped in from a central kitchen. More importantly, it's what you can do when you've create a culture that values customer service over mindlessly following some procedure or script.

Caramel and apples are nice, but Holiday World also creates custom meals for people with food allergies, too. Just ask at the park's main restaurants, and with an hour's notice, they can whip up a meal that avoids up to eight common allergens, including gluten, eggs, nuts or wheat.

Of course, Holiday World offers plenty of guilty-pleasure snacks, as well. Which brings me to the fried Oreos.

Fried Oreos

Frying changes the Oreos' texture, softening the hard cookies to a cake-like texture. Enveloped in batter, the fried Oreo tasted like a combination of funnel cake wrapped around a thin slice of chocolate cake. (FTW!) We spent the extra 90 cents to gild the lilly and slather the whole thing in hot fudge sauce, too. Still, four Oreos in sauce ran only $3.95, and provided more rich, gooey awesomeness than the six of us could eat.

A final note on service. When we returned to our car, we were frustrated to discover that we'd failed to throw away the coffee and smoothie cups that we'd picked up during our morning drive, which were now stinking up the car. But what to do with them now? No one wants to walk all the way back to the park.

Then we looked up, and what did we see next to our car?

Trash can

Yep, Holiday World's got the details covered.

Next: Universal's Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In other words, Robert finally gets more butterbeer.

Replies (15)

August 3, 2010 at 11:15 AM · Great review of Holiday World, Robert. Glad to see you're taking your family to Harry Potter land. Although I saw you at the Potter media preview, I failed to stop and say "Hello." Your review was great and did the new attraction justice. Hope your kids enjoy Potter as much as you did.
- Brian
August 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM · Robert ... it appears you answered your own question regarding one-train op at Raven. We "borrowed" the second train when it became apparent the new Timberliner trains wouldn't be ready for the heart of the season as had been anticipated. (Timberliner testing resumes after August 15 when we're back to weekends-only operation.)

Back in May, we made a video with Will Koch explaining the adjustments we made on the Raven train so that it could be used on Voyage's track:

Also, for future reference for you and your readers, we do advise waiting till mid-afternoon to ride the coasters, especially The Raven. More tips are here on our website:

You missed our 64th birthday by just one day -- thanks for visiting!

Paula at Holiday World

August 3, 2010 at 11:43 AM · There is a blog posting on Holiday World's page dated for May 20, 2010 with Will Koch explaining "Plan B" for the Voyage since the Timberliners are out.
August 3, 2010 at 12:29 PM · Robert, the last news I heard concerning the Timberliners is that they won't resume testing until the park goes to weekends-only operations. I'm assuming that between Will's passing & summer crowds, there's not much time for Timberliner testing right now.
When I visited Holiday World at the end of May/beginning of June, I rode both trains & didn't notice too much of a difference in the roughness. What did affect the ride was whether or not I was on a wheel seat. The wheel seat was significantly more brutal, but keeping my back off of the seat helped eliminate any pain.
August 3, 2010 at 12:36 PM · Ugh, you're right. I completely spaced that news about the Raven/Voyage. My bad.

So perhaps you've got a choice here folks: Voyage Classic = Blue train. Voyage Extreme = Red train. Take your pick.

August 3, 2010 at 1:47 PM · I am headed there this weekend, where on earth do you get the fried oreos?? I've GOT to have them!!
August 3, 2010 at 2:59 PM · Great report. I'd love to visit Holiday World. You made it seem more appealing than Cedar Point.
August 3, 2010 at 3:05 PM · The food looks amazing. All that for less than 9 dollars, wow, at most diners you would pay more than that.
August 3, 2010 at 3:25 PM · you go to the funnel cake factory stand for the deep fried oreos (or as my mom calls them, a heart attack on a plate)
August 3, 2010 at 5:00 PM · I agree that Holiday World has always had a good value on their food. I have been eight times this year and didn't know they had fried oreos. Where are they?
August 3, 2010 at 5:59 PM · So, Robert, did you get a chance to check out Wildebeest or any of the water park rides this time around?
August 3, 2010 at 6:53 PM · Never hit the Raven first. Everyone does that. Just go straight back through Christmas and into the Fourth of July first unless you want to go the the Water Park. After 1 - 2PM there won't be any wait, and there will be much less wait for the Legend too. The Voyage still has a pretty good line all day, and it seems to never get up and running until after noon, so generally don't run there first or you'll just be sweating and disappointed. Also, the ABSOLUTE WORST time to try and ride the Voyage is just about the time the Water Park closes when hundreds of people will leave the Water Park and IMMEDIATELY line up for the Voyage. It's better to get there before that happens.
August 4, 2010 at 11:00 AM · Food looks great. But where are your veggies? :)
August 6, 2010 at 6:57 AM · After my first trip to Holiday World last year, I've been itching to get back there. Living in Cincinnati, I've had to ask myself - what took me so long?

Two things holding me back from returning this year. I really want to ride those Timberliner trains. The Gravity Group (designers of the Voyage and the Timberliner trains)resides in West Chester, OH the northern Cincinnati suburb right next to mine. Secondly, I am waiting for my 2nd budding coaster fan to grow to 48 inches. The 5 yr old rode Everest 4x this past May!

Do yourself a favor - if you haven't been, make the trip to Santa Claus, IN. Stay next door at Lake Rudolph. You won't regret it!

August 8, 2010 at 10:53 PM · Just a little thought about the red and blue trains on the Voyage. The blue train was manufactured to fit the Voyage's track design while the red was modified to fit the track design. So if you were to ride both you would prob. notice a significant difference in the smoothness of each train with the blue being smooth and the red being rough. On a side note, when the red train gets put back on the Raven you would think that with the train being pushed to the limit on the voyage on what its able to do on the track that it would fly threw the Raven just as smooth as before.

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