Just three wee hours north of Nashville is a place that'll bring out the kid in you while cooling off with your kids. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Ind. boasts jaw-dropping coasters (like Thunderbird), loads of rides for little ones, tons of family fun and good food. The popular wooden coaster, The Raven, speeds around the tracks as you walk through the entrance, whetting your appetites for more. Hurry, Mom, let's go ... Holiday World has something for all ages — especially toddlers! I've been many times since my kids were about 3 or 4 and we've never tired of fun things to do. My kids are now 10 and 6, and we recently went back to report that all is still jolly at Holiday World — plus July boasts fireworks every Friday night. Let's go!
Celebrating a World of Holidays
Holiday World & Splashin' Safari has plenty of exciting rides placed in holiday-themed sections. First up? Christmas! Catch Santa by the Christmas tree in the Christmas shop or outside during storytime. He's something else — entrancing onlookers by moving light with his fingers! Other themed sections include 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving, each with their own coordinating decor. But what you REALLY want to do is cool off at Splashin' Safari, right? Chock full of water coasters, water slides, spray features/structures and two wave pools, it's right nextdoor to the amusement park so plan on rides first then the water or vica versa.
70 Years Strong
Holiday World is marking its 70th anniversary with fun things including:
- More than $2 million in track improvements have been made to "The Legend" wooden roller coaster
- Guinness World Records, confirmed that the World’s Longest Water Coaster is Holiday World's "Mammoth"
- A 2016 Certificate of Excellence was given to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari by Trip Advisor
- The park’s very first ride, "The Freedom Train," is on display in the 70th Birthday Plaza
- A huge Memories Mosaic featuring 7,000 crowd-sourced photos taken at the park over seven decades is also on display in the Birthday Plaza
Rides Small and Large
For the Littles There are lots of cute rides for little ones; six in the Christmas section go just the right speed. The playground area near the 4th of July section has a small spray ground smack dab right in the center plus pint-sized rides. Meet costumed characters here, although they are sprinkled throughout the park.
Lilliana riding Dancer's Fish in the Christmas section.
Lilliana riding Tippecanoes in the 4th of July section.
Seth, Kendri and JoJo riding the Kitty's Tea Party in the 4th of July section.
Kendri riding The Howler in the 4th of July section.
For the Bigs: The Raven roller coaster (as previously mentioned) is fast alright, but not as scary as The Legend or The Voyage (the world's tallest wooden coaster). Last year's newest ride, Thunderbird, is a thrill-seeking favorite. Our 10-year-old says, "I thought it looked really scary at first, but when I finally rode it, it was FUN! It's the best ride ever!" Thunderbird launches you into immediate high speeds for a soaring thrill ride. The Voyage sends you up for a big drop! Other popular thrill rides for the older set include the Turkey Whirl and Gobbler Getaway (a unique ride in the dark) in the Thanksgiving section; Frightful Falls (log flume), Hallow Swings and Scarecrow Scrambler in the Halloween section; Raging Rapids, Liberty Launch and Revolution (an intense stand-up spinning ride) in the 4th of July section; and many, many more.
Holiday World's tallest wooden coaster, The Voyage. What a drop!
The Mayflower swings you to all new heights!
Splashin' Safari for Littles: When you just want to relax with your little ones, check out the wave pools or the Bahari River. If they dare to try a slide, Safari Sam's Splash Land is just the place. The slides are not that big or fast, and they drop into a shallow body of water. You can actually see your child go up the stairs and stand in line for each of those slides. They will also love climbing all over the water structure, Kima Bay, which also has seven water slides for kids, or Monsoon Lagoon, with four water slides there, too. You can't ride with them, so they've got to be able to go on their own. There are 19 different water slides for little kids to enjoy. Oh, and you'll love the Hyena Springs spray ground for little ones, too. It's right next to the big kid water slides, Hyena Falls. Splashin' Safari for Bigs: When it's time to get wet, your big kids will LOVE the Wildebeest. It has conveyor belts that help shoot the boat UP the ride and keeps the momentum going for a fast and wet experience. Wildebeest is the world’s second-longest water coaster (the longest is Mammoth, also at Splashin’ Safari). The Mammoth is another ride your family will love. It has seven drops and can spin your boat round and round. It sure is fun! There are 14 water slides in this area.
There I am in the teal with Lilliana (when she was 7) to my right. Yep, going backwards on the Mammoth.
10 Easy Going Tips for Making the Most of It
1. Get your tickets here.
2. Enjoy free parking, free soft drinks, free sunscreen (40 SPF protection with aloe) and free Wi-Fi. There are 11 drink stations and nine sunscreen stations throughout the park — you simply help yourself! Along with sodas, you'll also find tea, water and Gatorade to keep you hydrated.
3. Arrive early. You'll get a better parking spot and dodge entry lines.
4. Rent a locker at the main entrance of the park to stash your swim gear for Splashin' Safari. There are lockers there, too, but the water park opens an hour later than the main park.
5. Get a HoliCash card for your kids to use. You can put money on it for food and not worry about them dropping change. This is a good thing for you, too, if you want to budget yourself. Food prices at the park are reasonable.
6. You can come and go from the park as you please by getting your hands stamped at the exit. This is helpful if you want to avoid buying food in the park. You can pack a cooler of food to keep in your car, or take the free shuttle back to Lake Rudolph (if you're staying there) to eat lunch/dinner there.
7. There's a nursing station for breast-feeding moms near the middle of the park close to the Splashin' Safari entrance.
8. Cell phone service at Holiday World can be sketchy, so if your family decides to split up for a while, establish a rendezvous spot and time.
9. If you opt for park food, plan for an early lunch to avoid long lines. Dinnertime is not usually as crowded.
10. Bring your own towel for the water park. Splashin' Safari does supply water wings and life vests.
Where to Stay? Lake Rudolph!
Lake Rudolph offers many options, including cabin and RV rentals, primitive tent camping sites and spots for your own RV. Don't forget the big perk: FREE shuttle service to the amusement park (there's free Wi-Fi, too)!
The new playground at Lake Rudolph.
New cabins at Lake Rudolph.
We love to stay in the cabins because they sleep eight people, you can cook your own food, and there's a grocery store less than a mile from Lake Rudolph. Other than that, there are not many restaurant options to choose from without driving 15-plus minutes down the road. Lake Rudolph has a pool, splash pad and a couple of water slides of its own. The water slides are actually old ones from Holiday World & Splashin' Safari that are refurbished. There's an inflatable water slide, too. There's a small fee for the pool and slides. Kids can also enjoy playing on the new playground, free mini golf and arcade games. The kids can also have fun tooling around the lake in paddle boats, and you can fish there, too.