Holiday World/HoliWood Nights
HoliWood Nights is often described as the enthusiast event that puts all other enthusiast events to shame. With that sort of reputation, it was impossible not to go in with sky-high expectations. And you know what? Holiday World somehow surpassed them.
Until I find some reindeer at the local pet shop and train them how to fly, it’s always going to be hard to get to Santa Claus, Indiana. But I think HoliWood Nights may now be an annual event for me. It’s just that good!
I had some time to burn before check-in, so I decided to see what kind of tourist traps were in Santa Claus, Indiana. With a name like that, I figured there had to be something. And there was, the Santa Claus Museum.
I thought it was closed when I pulled in. It was eerily quiet. The blinds were down. And there was no one else there. I figured the door would be locked, but it was open. The museum had a toy train and one Santa display, but it otherwise felt like the unofficial museum of Holiday World. Admission was free, but they suggest a $2-3 donation if I remember correctly.
I then made my way over to Holiday World and the check-in process was seamless. Since I had an hour before the organized activities, I got a quick lap on Voyage (more on that later). Then I felt compelled to ride Raging Rapids since I was already in my swim trunks.
Raging Rapids is a misnomer. There are hardly any rapids. This ride is all about the geysers. In some ways it’s more exciting because you can’t see them coming. I think there are 6-7 geysers and they get you acceptably wet. However, the unavoidable waterfall towards the end takes no prisoners. 7 out of 10
Then HoliWood Nights officially began not with coaster ERT, but with water park ERT. I think they had a few slides plus the wave pool open for us, but I only cared about the two water coasters. There was also a delicious buffet of chicken wings and fried fish that I’m pretty sure had a longer line than the slides.
I started with Wildebeest, which is probably my favorite water slide in the world. This slide has some serious airtime, especially if you ride in the back. There’s a reason they tell you to hold on at all times. I’m pretty sure you’d the raft would continue without you if you let go during the two shed drops.
Not only is the airtime above and beyond what one can reasonably expect from a water slide, but it just doesn’t end. It’s like the Avengers Endgame of all water slides. I think there are like 9 or 10 drops in total. 10 out of 10
At most water parks, Mammoth would be the undoubted star. The spinning makes Mammoth more unpredictable than Wildebeest, but the airtime isn’t quite as pronounced. The airtime is still better than 99% of water slides though; Wildebeest is just that special 1%. 9 out of 10
Also, does Holiday World want to give riders hypothermia?
I wasn’t the only one who thought this, but the water on Mammoth was absolutely frigid. It probably didn’t help that we rode it during sunset or the fact the queue was fully shaded with misting fans on full blast.
Then it was time for the coasters. Most of the photos I’m going to include in this report were from two awesome walkback tours the following day. I barely took any night shots since the coasters were in almost total darkness, and that’s what made them especially awesome.
I also want to preface my reviews by saying I have a high tolerance for rough coasters. I personally wouldn’t call any of Holiday World’s woodies rough, but I can totally understand why others may call them rough. I classify them as aggressive, much like Boulder Dash (which I ride an unhealthy amount).
Everyone always raves about the trimless Voyage night rides. At the start of HoliWood Nights, the mid-course was still biting. Were the trimless rides just an enthusiast urban legend?
Once darkness fully set-in, the magic happened. The trims deactivated. And on one of the first trimless trains, an enthusiast puked. Let me repeat that, an enthusiast puked. I’m sure the copious amount of food Holiday World gave us played a factor, but it was clear there was something different about Voyage.
These rides were almost enough to make Voyage supplant Lightning Rod as my number one coaster. Did the trimless rides make that big of a difference? Not exactly. Voyage already hauls on the return trip. The only difference I noticed was on the triple down, which now had some incredible airtime.
What made Voyage special was the fact I was now able to ride it at night. My one gripe with Holiday World is that they often close early, so night rides had eluded me. Not anymore. The outward leg is gets darker and darker until you reach the spaghetti bowl.
There is absolutely no light out there. You’d find more light in a black hole. I had no clue if Voyage was going to turn right or left. All I knew was that I was getting launched out of my seat on every hill. It was a religious experience.
Voyage is relentless. It’s the triathlon of coasters. You have a hypercoaster-like outward leg, a twister section in the middle, and a return leg that feels like you’ve set sail during a typhoon. The ride just doesn’t end and you’re getting airtime or laterals constantly. 10 out of 10
Legend, aka laterals the ride, was an incredible night ride as well. It was almost as dark as the Voyage, which made the already insane laterals feel that much wilder. I felt like the side of the train was going to snap off during the double helix.
But beyond the laterals, Legend has some underrated airtime. The return leg has 3-4 very good pops of airtime, the bunny hill under the water slides has awesome floater air, and the 5th hill has some borderline ejector air (particularly in the back). 9 out of 10
Remember when HoliWood Nights was Stark Raven Mad? The Raven sure does. Before the Voyage overshadowed it, the Raven was considered one of the best night rides anywhere. And you know what? It still stands out.
It feels like you’re deep in the woods during the ride, but in reality you’re mere feet from the parking lot and a wide open field. Holiday World has just enough trees adjacent to the track to complete the illusion.
The Raven gets progressively wilder as it goes. The first half has some decent pops of airtime, but then comes the fifth drop. This is some of the strongest ejector air out there. That’s followed by some high-speed turns in total darkness. There’s only a quick pop of air, but plenty of laterals. 8.5 out of 10
Last but not least, there was Thunderbird. I used to think it was a middle-of-the-road wing coaster. But I’ve now been converted; Thunderbird is the best wing coaster. The night rides certainly helped, but I came to that conclusion after day rides as well.
The launch is forceful and the combination of audio and fog really amps you up. Usually I’m not a big fan of Immelmanns, but this one has some good whip on the drop afterwards. And that’s followed by a pretty forceful loop.
While the first half is decently illuminated by the pathways, the second half is in total darkness. The zero-G and barrel rolls are pure bliss and loaded with hangtime, but one of the most underrated elements is that funky S-hill. It’s like B&M tried to do one of those aggressive Intamin s-hills, but they decided to do it on their least agile coaster model. Still it gives some very funky airtime. 8.5 out of 10
HoliWood Nights had two auctions. The first was for physical items such as the coaster flags and used ride parts. The second was the experiential auction. I could only imagine what TSA would say if I whipped out a piece of Wildebeest’s conveyor belt, so I was more interested in the experiences.
As were most people. The most fierce bidding happened for the Voyage zen rides. Last I checked, both the Friday and Saturday night zen rides went for over $200! But I was more interested in the ride tours.
The Voyage lift walk, Voyage track walk, and Thunderbird behind the scenes tours all went for over $100. However, I found a steal. The Gobbler Getaway tour was only $25! I jumped all over that. I guess most people at the event were all about the coasters.
I ran into a fellow TPR member from the Japan (Dreaming Airtime) and invited him since the tour included a guest. It was really cool to see the inside of Gobbler Getaway and a unique way to start day two. In some ways, it was sort of creepy to walk through there without the constant gobbling of the guns.
It was really interesting to ride Gobbler Getaway later in the day after getting the tour. I felt like I saw the answers to the test since I noticed a few targets I never knew existed (hint, look up). And the zany ending always leaves me with a big, goofy smile on my face. 8 out of 10
Most of the day was focused on coasters- either riding or photographing them. One of the most noteworthy items was that Voyage started the day trimless. That surprised all of us. By the afternoon, the trim was back on, but it went off come ERT.
I also made sure to hit several of the other non-coasters I missed. For flats, that included Crow’s Nest, Turkey Whirl, and Eagle’s Flight.
Crow’s Nest was a short, forceless star flyer, but it offered some really unique views of Thunderbird. I think this is the model I usually see at local fairs where the tower itself rotates rather than the gondolas. 6 out of 10
Turkey Whirl was adorable. I never thought I’d find a tilt-a-whirl cuter than Story Land’s Turtle Twirl, but Holiday World did it. However, I did miss the covered vehicles since the seats were piping hot. The ride itself was your average tilt-a-whirl though. 5 out of 10
I always thought Eagle’s Flight was a newer Larson flyer, but I discovered it’s actually a classic Bisch-Rocco version. I had visions of snapping. The ride isn’t run as fast as the ones at Knoebels or Lagoon, but the rudders had more movement than any other flying scooters I’ve ridden.
This meant it was possible to get some decent snapping. At no point did I feel like I was going to die (isn’t that what we all go for on these rides), but it was definitely bouncy and the park gave a nice, long cycle too. 7 out of 10
Last but not least, I also made sure to hit the park’s log flume. I actually met up with RAWKIN_coaster38 prior to riding Frightful Falls and she became my riding buddy for the rest of the night.
Frightful Falls only has one drop, but it’s a pretty good one. It’s decently tall and passes through Legend. The other notable thing about Frightful Falls is the super long tunnel at the start. 8 out of 10
After a wonderful buffet dinner with fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and salad (lol theme parks are my cheat day), it was time for the night ERT. However, there was a black cloud over ERT. Voyage was down.
Fortunately the park only had the coaster down for the first half hour of ERT and when it reopened, it was running just as awesome as the night before. Voyage at night truly is exceptional. I parked myself here for the entirety of ERT except for one special treat.
Holiday World decided to do a water cup challenge on Legend. For those unfamiliar with a water cup challenge, you are given an uncovered cup of water and you try to return to the station with as much water as possible.
This would be tricky on a kiddie coaster, so it seemed dang near impossible on something as aggressive as Legend. After hearing the rules, I found a riding position that allowed me to return to the station with a full cup of water! I was in shock, as was everyone else.
A magician never reveals his tricks…unless you sign up to be on my team next year.
HoliWood Nights was exceptional. I could go on and on listing superlatives to describe it, but the key takeaway is that you should do everything in your power to attend this event in future years. Voyage at night is a contender for the best coaster in the world, the park’s hospitality is legendary, and I made several new friends with fellow enthusiasts.
Only 48 more weeks until HoliWood Nights 2020…not that I’m counting.