Walk into just about any store in America on November 1, the day after Halloween, and the you'll see the Jack-o-Lanterns and ghosts immediately give way to snowmen and Christmas trees. It's as if Thanksgiving has become America's forgotten holiday.
But there's one theme park that hasn't forgotten Thanksgiving, and, ironically, it's in a town called Santa Claus. Indiana's Holiday World honors Thanksgiving with some of its best attractions, including the award-winning The Voyage roller coaster. And this morning, Holiday World showed even more love for Thanksgiving with the launch of its newest coaster, Thunderbird, in the park's Thanksgiving land.
Thunderbird is America's first launched wing coaster, from Swiss designers Bolliger & Mabillard. And it's the park's first all-steel coaster, joining highly rated wooden coasters The Raven and The Legend, as well as The Voyage, in the park's line-up.
Wing coasters provide you a choice when riding: left or right? And that's part of the appeal of wing coasters to theme parks, prompting Holiday World to join Dollywood, Cedar Point, and Six Flags Great America to add this increasingly popular model of coaster to its line-up. The choice of riding on the left or right wing inspires many visitors to want to ride a second time (or more!), to experience the ride on both sides of the track.
Whichever side your choose, crashing thunder and a blast of fog greet you as you depart from the loading platform, an omen of the thrills ahead. Then Thunderbird flies out of its station, accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, lifting riders immediately into a 140-foot-tall Immelmann loop.
From there, you sweep into a 125-foot loop before crossing The Voyage's track on your way through a pair of overbanked turns, twisting in each direction to give both wings a turn on top.
There's no block brake on Thunderbird, as on Cedar Point's Gatekeeper, nor will you find that ride's long sections of straight track to offer you a pause between the twisting elements. Thunderbird keeps throwing its elements at you without hesitation. After the horseshoe turns, you twist through a zero-G roll and an S-curve before the first of the two "headchopper" keyholes.
Wing coasters typically add these illusions to play on the unique perspective of riding at the side of the track, where you feel more exposed to the surroundings than on traditional designs where you ride above or below the track. But these headchopper illusions feel superfluous in Thunderbird's wooded setting, where an abundance of trees will spook riders into pulling their knees close throughout the ride. Indeed, the proximity of the trees help Thunderbird feel faster than its 60 mph top speed.
With no pause between elements, the thrill factor amplifies throughout the ride, reaching its peak with the second headchopper and the heartline roll that follows. You truly do feel that you're about to fall from your seat as you invert through the heartline, emphasizing the wing coaster's suggestion that you are not bound by a track on your flight.
And just when you're ready for a break from the action, it's over. With a ride time of 1 minute, 18 seconds, it's not a long flight, but don't forget that you're not wasting any time on a lift chain, making a slow crawl up an initial lift hill as on other wing coasters. It's all action on Thunderbird, and while there's no break, the ride left me ready and eager to go again, to experience flight on the other side.
Let's take a ride, with complete POV and reverse POV views:
So why the rush to Christmas? With Thunderbird joining The Voyage, we have all the more reason to linger in Thanksgiving instead.
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