Holiday World

Thunderbird

Thanksgiving
Roller coaster - 52 inches to ride
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America's first launched wing coaster, this $22 million Bolliger & Mabillard coaster opened to the public on April 25, 2015.

With a 1:18 ride time, this isn't the longest coaster, and at a top speed of 60 mph, it isn't the fastest, either. But it is an non-stop collection of looping and twisting elements, set in the Indiana woods, where those branches seem of-so-close as you fly by on either side of the track.

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Thunderbird is a magnificent work of art showing that designers have moved way beyond just constructing steel and concrete beasts. Don’t get me wrong, this ride is not a narrative coaster by any means but it does have some nice decorative touches and is laid out as a companion to the surrounding nature rather than in contrast to it. And it is a big, extremely photogenic coaster. I was quite impressed. From the barn themed queue (which reminded me of Powder Keg at Silver Dollar City), to the upstairs loading area, to the comfortable restraints (far less aggressive than those I sampled at Dollywood’s Wild Eagle a few years ago), to the launch barn, the launch itself, that amazing first inversion, and the rest of the course, Thunderbird is a great ride that turns in on itself and careens through an inspired layout twisting, turning, looping, and head/foot chopping like an eagle – I mean, Thunderbird – gliding through a tight canyon. What a fun ride! It isn't the fastest, longest, or bestest coaster in the world, but it is a hoot, and easily the most accessible coaster experience at Holiday World.

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