Seven reasons why you should visit Holiday World in 2024

January 6, 2024, 11:14 PM · To start 2024, each weekend I will be offering some reasons why you should consider a visit to a specific theme park this year.

First up: Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana.

1. They won't nickel-and-dime you

If you've resigned yourself to spending money with every breath inside a theme park, prepare for some fresh air. You won't have to get out your wallet to park at Holiday World, because parking is free. And once you are inside the gate, soft drinks and sunscreen are free, too. It's a refreshing change from the rest of the industry, where parks seem eager to charge you at every opportunity. So if you want to reward that type of respect for the customer, vote with your dollars and plan a visit to Holiday World.

2. It's not some corporate-run park

Founded by Louis Koch in 1946 (nine years before Disneyland opened), the park originally was known as Santa Claus Land. The Koch family still owns and runs the park, which became Holiday World in 1984 with the addition of its Halloween and Fourth of July lands.

Industry consolidation continues in 2024 with two major chains merging (Six Flags and Cedar Fair). A trip to Holiday World shows support for independent parks that deliver qualities (such as the freebies above) that the big chain parks long left behind.

3. It's two parks in one

Holiday World also includes the Splashin' Safari water park next door. And I when I say "includes," I mean that. One ticket gets you into both parks. That's a great value. (See a theme here?)

4. The Water Coaster Capital of the World

That's what Holiday World & Splashin' Safari bills itself as, with three world-class water coasters in the water park, including Mammoth, the Guinness World Record holder for the world's longest water coaster, at 1,763 feet.

5. The roller coaster line-up is world class, too

The Voyage continues its run on our list of the world's best roller coasters, joined by The Legend and The Raven to deliver one of the best line-ups of wood-tracked coasters anywhere. A Bolliger & Mabillard launched wing coaster, Thunderbird, expanded the park's coaster line-up in 2015.

6. And there's a new coaster this year

In 2024, Holiday World will open its first Vekoma Family Boomerang coaster. Good Gravy! will put riders aboard giant Thanksgiving dinner gravy boats for a wild ride than no amount of tryptophan will allow you to sleep through.

7. You've got to go out of your way to get there

Located south of Interstate 64 and one hour west of Louisville in the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana, Holiday World isn't exactly part of any big tourist hotspot. (No offense to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial just down the road.) Now while some might consider that a minus, I consider it a plus for a dedicated theme park fan. It's fun to be surrounded by other fans who are willing to go out of their way for a great experience, rather than a crowd of people following the herd to the same old same old. That's what you will find in Santa Claus.

So those are just seven reasons why you should consider putting Southern Indiana on your roller coaster roadtrip itinerary this summer. If you've been to Holiday World recently, we'd love to hear about your experiences with this park, in the comments.

Keep following Theme Park Insider for more reasons why you should visit other parks this year, too. A great way to keep in touch with us is by signing up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

Replies (4)

January 7, 2024 at 9:50 AM

Holiday World will always hold a special place for our family. Coming out of the pandemic in 2020, my family was feeling the strain of working from home, home schooling, mask mandates, et al.. On a whim, we planned a road trip with four days at Holiday World, we purchased the "Fun Card" that was about $100 average per person. What we found was one of the hidden gems in the theme park industry in this country. We've actually been back two more times!

The free perks are amazing. How many times have you purchased a $7 bottle of Pepsi, only to have to go warm? No worries here! And, it isn't just soft drinks, they have Gatorade, Flavored water, etc.. There are four world-class roller coasters with the Voyage and Thunderbird better than the top end coasters at most corporate owned parks.

I worked at a waterpark through high school and college, and I am not the biggest fan of waterslides/waterparks, but I can say Splashin' Safari is one of the best waterparks in the country. We had a blast, and their water coasters are all amazing, and Mammoth and Wildebeest are two of the greatest water rides ever built because of the way they use the natural terrain.

January 8, 2024 at 7:49 AM

I've always really liked Holiday World, but #7 always makes it a challenging place to visit for us. Santa Claus, IN isn't within driving distance of our home, and just isn't anywhere near other places we routinely visit. The last time we visited the park, it was part of a Midwest trip where we flew in and out of St. Louis driving between the Gateway City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Santa Clause. Holiday World is also within an easy drive of Louisville, KY (and Kentucky Kingdom), and both Nashville, TN and Indianapolis, IN are other major cities within a few hours of the park.

I think for me, the slow pace of development at this park impacts how often I think about Holiday World and my desire to return. As an independent park, they just don't have the resources to add major new attractions every year like many of the "big boys", so there isn't the same appeal to visit this park every 3-5 years like there is to visit other parks around the country. Good Gravy looks like a good addition (I expect it to be on par with Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood, which I found surprisingly good), but it's not worth driving 10+ hours for or hopping a flight and trying to cobble together a week-long Midwest itinerary.

January 8, 2024 at 11:35 PM

Holiday World is tricky because it's probably my favorite non-Disney or Universal park in the country but it's not one I feel particularly compelled to return to as they generally go 5+ years between major attractions. My last visit was in 2018, and while it's possible it could find its way into this year's plans, that'd be more due to proximity to other parks than due to a specific desire to visit it.

That said, if you haven't visited Holiday World before and are going to the Midwest this year, I'd highly recommend trying to fit a day at the park in to your itinerary. For wood coaster and waterpark fans, it's an absolute must visit park, and while others may not find it has as much to offer for them, it's still a charming park with a unique atmosphere and some excellent customer service.

January 9, 2024 at 2:11 PM

Holiday World is home away from home during the summer for my family! Glad to see it getting some love!

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