Field Report: Holiday World of Santa Claus, IN
If you like amusement parks, but hate the crowds that places like Six Flags, King's Island, or Disney World draw, you might want to consider a trip to Holiday World. Nestled in the beautiful wooded hills rolling down toward the Ohio River, Santa Claus, Indiana (yes, that really is the name of the town) is home to Holiday World. It is a four hour drive from Indianapolis by Interstate (I-65 South to I-64 West); somewhat longer if you decide to be adventurous and explore the country roads. Be adventurous.
It is a relatively small amusement park, but it has everything you could want: reasonable admission, bumper cars, a log flume ride, two of the top five wooden roller coasters in the country, live shows -- musical and not, carnival style games, kitschy gift shops, amusement park food, unlimited free Pepsi products at drinks stands located throughout the park, a water park called Splashin' Safari within the park, and -- best of all -- the lines for the rides are fairly short.
We spent two days at the park, the first mostly in the amusement park area and the second mostly in the water park. The bumper boats were somewhat frustrating because we aren't terribly skillful at steering powered boats -- especially backward … The fifth ranked wooden roller coaster in the country is called The Legend. I managed to survive it -- twice! But the automatically timed photo taken of each rider is not one I'll ever show anyone … It was very hot the first day so we decided to take in one of the shows (in an air conditioned auditorium of course). Professor N.O. Brain and his (loud and screechy) assistant Sy N. Slab gave a high energy and humorous presentation demonstrating such things as the electrical conductivity of pickles.
When we required nourishment to continue our day of fun, the park proved to be very kid-friendly, if not exactly conducive to adults sticking to their diets. They offered hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, chicken nuggets, pizza -- by the slice or whole, nachos, etc. Of course, sweets were on offer as well: ice cream, cotton candy, giant lollipops -- a dentist's nightmare!
The mid-summer humidity drove us to the water park the second day, staking out our lounge chairs as soon as the area was opened. We spent hours floating on the Lazy River, jumping waves in the giant wave pool, and going from one great waterslide to another -- there are eight of them in the park. Be careful not to fall off the inner-tubes; you'll get a nose or lungful of water and a swimsuit Wedgie! If you forget your sunscreen, the park provides that for free, too. All in all, a very friendly place and excellent value.
The one problem with a trip to Holiday World is that if you expect to eat decent food, you will be disappointed. Santa Claus, Indiana is a tiny town. There isn't even a McDonald's or a gas station! We stayed at Santa's Lodge -- the only place to stay other than a campground. The lodge did have a restaurant, but the offerings were limited, over-priced, and lousy, which we discovered the first night.
Remember what I said earlier about being adventurous? If you want to eat decently, get in the car and drive. The second night we went to Owensboro, Kentucky to a Texas Roadhouse for an excellent steak dinner. The third night we went in the opposite direction to Jasper, Indiana to a German place (the area has a heavily German population). Amusement parks are great, but a decent meal at the end of the day is worth a 45 minute drive.
Despite this, it was a worthwhile and fun experience for kids and adult alike!
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