I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
August 19, 2011
The day before school started, we loaded up the SUV and headed for Holiday World.
Holiday World is one of those places we joked about for years. Located in Santa Claus, Indiana and surrounded by miles of farmland, the holiday-themed park seemed sort of… hokey. The whole thing brought to mind a real-life Wally World with rusting rides and cheap “free soft drink” dispensers. But in the spirit of doing something new, we made the three-hour trip from Nashville for the first time a few years ago.
We’ve been back every year since.
Go one time yourself and you’ll understand. Everyone I know who’s visited Holiday World returns a fanatic. Here’s why.
The park is divided into holiday-themed areas, and while it might feel a little silly to, for example, watch a live Santa show in July, our kids LOVE the idea. My 7-year-old often fantasizes about living at Holiday World. My 4-year-old son asks every single day when we’re going back. We’re going to Disney World in October and I actually suspect my children are going to like Holiday World better. Check it out:
It’s the first amusement park I’ve visited that has rides for small children literally all over the park, with a few sections of the park devoted specifically to them as well.
Because there are so many rides, there’s little to no waiting in line for the kids, particularly if you visit the park on a weekday. Many of the children’s rides had no line at all. The longest we waited for anything was ten minutes, and that was very unusual.
Because of this, my kids had a tremendous sense of independence and importance. They chose rides themselves, went and stood in line by themselves, and in some cases, even got to drive boats by themselves!
This particular bumper boat ride was especially memorable because while my children were waiting in line, an older boy standing beside them was, according to Punky, being really mean to Bruiser. He even called him an idiot. Punky told him he’d better stop because every time he was naughty, an angel died. (?????!!!!!) HE DIDN’T CARE. This rocked poor Punky’s world.
For his part, Bruiser put up with the boy’s meanness without saying much. But the moment he got in his bumper boat, he was ready for revenge. He bumped the boy’s boat over and over and over again. “Stop!” the older boy told Bruiser crankily, but my son joyfully ignored him and continued his attack. I may have even shouted “Get him, Bruiser!” as I took pictures. I’m not saying.
I like to think the angels were pretty happy about it, too.
Holiday World has plenty of rides for older kids and adults as well, from amazing roller coasters and thrill rides to rides our entire family could enjoy together, like the Raging Rapids and Frightful Falls— two rides that, incidentally, had no lines. We rode them over and over and OVER again! Scarecrow Scramble always has a bit of a wait, but it’s a good intermediate ride, so Punky and I generally do this one together.
Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride has always been a favorite intermediate ride for Punky and me in years past. This time, though, our car spun throughout THE ENTIRE RIDE. I have never gotten carsick, but even I felt nauseated when the ride was over. I closed my eyes for most of it, as did Punky, and when I opened them, I couldn’t even focus, I was so dizzy.
Fortunately, while we waited for our stomachs to settle, there were lots of other things to do.
We headed straight for Holidog Town, a kids’ area with an immense playground, fun kids’ rides (including an excellent roller coaster for children), and one of my kids favorite parts of the park– THE FOUNTAINS.
The kids LOVE to come here and cool off, and it’s a great spot to have lunch as well. Food is sold in this area and there are plenty of outdoor, shaded tables surrounding the play area so that your kids can eat and have fun.
Afterward, the kids had their first experience with amusement park games.
That didn’t turn out so well.
Don’t worry, though. Once Mommy put down her camera and played a round, SHE WON a Smurf doll.
(I always knew I should’ve been a sharp shooter…)
I should also add that the park also offers free sunscreen and free soft drinks.
Drink stations are everywhere, and there are tons of options, ranging from Pepsi to root beer to Gatorade and Fruit Punch. Choosing what to drink is so much fun, even I got at thrill out of it!
The free sunscreen stations were another nice touch. Holiday World also offers free ID bracelets beside the front gate, which you can write your phone number on and put on your children’s wrists. AWESOME.
Holiday World admission also gets you into Splashin’ Safari, a full-scale water park within Holiday World. In years past, we haven’t even made it over there, because the kids weren’t strong swimmers and the amusement park had more than enough activities for the day. This year for the first time, we went to the water park, and then proceeded to beat ourselves up that we hadn’t visited it in years past.
I put my camera away for the water park, but let me tell you, Splashin’ Safari is every bit as awesome for families of all ages as Holiday World. I am not at all confident about Bruiser or Punky’s swimming skills, so I was sort of dreading the water park, but I shouldn’t have worried. There were SO MANY things for them to do, with absolutely no chance of them (literally) getting in over their heads.
There are at least a dozen (I think even more than that- they were everywhere) water slides specifically designed for the smallest children. The kids could ride down them alone or with a parent, and they ranged from the simplest slides up to long, curvy, “adventurous” kids’ water slides. Best of all, the slides are all designed so that the kids come to a stop before they reach the slide’s end. The water they empty out into is only about shin-deep. So there’s absolutely NO chance that your child will go under.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVVVVVVE.
Splashin’ Safari has not one but TWO enormous children’s water playgrounds, with slides and water cannons and climbing ropes and all that good stuff. We had a BLAST there.
And we even were able to ride two different family raft water slides together. Again, the rafts were big and deep and while the slides were thrilling, there was literally no way that the kids would fall out or go under. And for the extra-cautious, Splashin’ Safari has life jackets for anyone who wants one for their child.
As with Holiday World, there are lots of thrill rides at Splashin’ Safari (not to mention a lazy river and two large wave pools) as well. We can’t wait to try these rides out when the kids get older.
The bottom line? We had so much fun at both parks that we’ve resolved to spend the night next year, so that we can devote a full day to Holiday World and another to Splashin’ Safari.
Here are some tips if you’re planning a visit, first from the website:
And from me:
Bottom line? Holiday World really does give Walt Disney World a run for its money, as crazy as that sounds. It is FAR less expensive, the wait times (particularly for the kids rides) are slim to none, and it is every bit as clean and welcoming as Disney World. I have long dreamed of taking my kids to Disney, and can’t wait to have that experience this fall — but I really do suspect that they’ll like Holiday World better!
And I can’t BELIEVE I’m writing those words….
What do you think of Holiday World?
Disclosure: Holiday World provided media passes for my husband and me. I was not compensated for this post, nor was I asked to write anything about my experience.