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Believe it or not, Santa Claus, Indiana is a real place. Not only is it a real place, it’s home to one of the coolest theme parks around, Holiday World. If you’ve never visited Holiday World, consider planning a trip. It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s one of the cleanest, friendliest theme parks I’ve ever been to. Check out more in this ultimate guide to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Ultimate Guide to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana

In 2017, my family was invited to the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana to experience their main attraction, Holiday World. While they covered a majority of our expenses on our trip in 2017, I plan on sharing my honest opinions with you about our time there. I’ll share with you what to ride, what to eat, and where to say in this ultimate Guide to Holiday World.

The History of Holiday World

Back in the 1940s, Holiday World was known as Santa Claus Land. It consisted of a toy shop, toy displays, a restaurant, themed children’s rides, and, of course, meet and greets with Santa. In the 1980s, it began to expand and include other holidays, like Halloween and the 4th of July, and changed its name to Holiday World.

Entrance plaza of Holiday World and Splashin' Safari

1993 saw the addition of Splashin Safari water park, and the Thanksgiving area was added to Holiday World in 2006. In 2016, Holiday World celebrated its 70th birthday. Today, it encompasses four themed areas, two full theme parks, and over 125 acres of land.

How to Get to Holiday World

First, you’ll need to know how to get to Holiday World. A good old fashioned road trip is the best bet for getting to Santa Claus, Indiana. It’s five to six hours north of Birmingham, two and a half from Nashville, and about three hours south of Indianapolis. It’s not near any major airport, so you’ll need to factor in some driving time at some point.

Where to Stay in Santa Claus

Next, you’ll need to know where to stay. Several hotels are within a 20 mile radius of Holiday World, but I would highly recommend staying at the Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort. Our stay there was included in our trip, but it cannot be beat for convenience and proximity to the theme park.

Lake Rudolph has the perfect cabins for families visiting Holiday World.

We stayed in one of their brand new Holiday Cottages that sleeps 5-7, has a fully furnished kitchen, AC/Heat, a full bathroom, Wifi, 2 flat screen TVs with cable, and a screened in porch! Our cottage was a fantastic place to come back to at the end of a long day at the parks.

Sarah’s Tip: Staying at Lake Rudolph has perks like a free shuttle to and from Holiday World, mini golf, and other fun activities. 

Fun for Kids in Holiday World

After securing your lodging, plan to research what’s fun for kids. My girls’ favorite section was Christmas. Rides in Santa Claus Land have a maximum height of 54″. My girls loved being tall enough to ride without mom and dad!

Kid friendly playground at Holiday World

Their second favorite area was 4th of July. There is a small splash pad, kiddie coaster, and other rides for small children. Caroline probably rode the kiddie coaster four times! Other favorite attractions included Gobbler Getaway (Thanksgiving), Turkey Twirl (Thanksgiving), and Scarecrow Scramble (Halloween).

Grown Up Fun in Holiday World

Adults can also have fun in Holiday World. If you are a coaster fan, do not miss Thunderbird. It’s quite a hike from the front of the park back to this ride, but it is SO worth it. It’s the only steel coaster in the park, and the ride is exhilarating from start to finish.

I am not a huge fan of wooden coasters, but Neil rode The Raven and I rode The Legend, and, while we both agreed that we are getting too old for those, they are great, classic coasters. Fans of other classic rides will enjoy the Halloswings, Rough Riders (bumper cars), and the Liberty Launch.

What to Do in Splashin’ Safari

What about the water park? Your admission to Holiday World includes admission to Splashin’ Safari. It has so many activities for families to do as well. We rode rides, swam in the wave pool, climbed the play areas, and relaxed in the lazy river. My biggest tip for this area is to rent a locker for the day. Lockers are $15 for all day rentals and can be opened and closed them as many times as needed.

Splashin Safari park view from high atop a water slide.

Sarah’s Tip: No-Ad SPF 45 Sunscreen is offered freely throughout Splashin’ Safari and Holiday World. Lather up because there isn’t a ton of shade in Splashin’ Safari!

What to Eat in Holiday World

Lastly, let’s discuss food. With a few exceptions for special needs and infants, food and drinks are not allowed in Holiday World . However, we found the food to be just fine, and our drinks were free! All soft drinks, including lemonade and Gatorade products, are free with paid admission. This was a huge perk for us. On our first day, we ate at The Alamo (Mexican style food, obviously).

Up close view of guacamole on tacos at Holiday World

It was one of the better theme park meals I’ve had. The rest of our dining included standard fare like hamburgers, pizza, and chicken nuggets. Furthermore, there are allergy friendly and gluten free options in different areas of the park. Check the guide map to plan for your family’s dietary needs.

Overall Value

To sum it up, Holiday World was a great experience for us. The park was clean and the staff was friendly.

Sarah’s Tip: Purchase your tickets online ahead of time. You’ll save your family $20 before you even hit the road! In addition, Holiday World offers free parking and free Wifi in their parks. I would highly recommend Holiday World as a long weekend trip for your family.