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Happy Halloween Weekends at Holiday World, Saturday October 13, 2012

Buckeye Brad

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Happy Halloween Weekends

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Useless stats: this was my 6th visit to Holiday World (2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2011).

Saturday morning I packed up my wife, my 10 year old son, and my 7 year old son and we left Cincinnati bound for Santa Claus. This trip was originally set for last weekend, to coincide the Coasterbuzz fall affair. That was ultimately cancelled, and the weather was looking nasty, so we waited a week and were rewarded with a forecast of 70-80 degree temps all day. Fantastic for October in the Midwest. Around 10:30 local time the Holiday World skyline came into view. We promptly drove past and stopped at Santa's Lodge to pick up our park tickets. The Santa Claus attractions are really pushing tourism this month, and we paid $175 for a double queen room plus 4 park tickets (3 adult, 1 under 54"). A few minutes later and we arrived to a mostly empty parking lot, right near Ravens second hill.

I like to walk near the Raven fence, comparing the "short" lift hill to the tunnel way down in a deep ditch. It's very deceiving. The hills visible from the parking lot look so gentle...

As we approached the front gate, I saw a spunky little "witch" smiling and welcoming guests. She was doing her best to deal with a guest who was disgruntled about something, and who walked away in a huff. The witch, otherwise know as Pat Koch, sincerely and desperately called out... "Sir, this is a business. Have a great day". I don't know what the issue was, but I'm betting the witch was in the right. I shook her hand and then strolled with my family into Holiday World.

It was nearly noon "our time", and we grabbed some pizza at Kringle's cafe. The pizza was decent, the breadsticks surprisingly warm and delicious.

With the necessities taken care of, it was time for the real fun: a spin on The Raven. The line was just out of the Poe house. While in line my older son asked where the dive show was. "You can actually see it from this line, it's right over"...As a matter of fact it isn't. Totally gone. No concrete, no sign of the dive tank, nothing but a big hole. We did spot the bench lined up neatly near the woods, and a bulldozer nearby. Are they building a 400' tall WindSeeker there for 2013? Or perhaps a new dive theater? We'll have to wait and see. 20 minutes later we climbed aboard the middle of Raven's single operating train. I love the way the entire station shakes and rumbles as the train hits the breaks. It was a middle of the road ride by Raven's standards, which means it was still fantastic. Not rough, not as smooth as it can be, but just fine for an October morning. Raven strikes me as a normalish sized coaster taken at 3x speed. Drop, tunn... Did we just skim the lake..plunge.....leftrighthopleft...brakes. Slam, bamm, over just like that. We all loved it as usual.

When I ride the Raven, I like to imagine riding along with Will Koch in 1995 on his first flight. What was he thinking?

1. That was an awesome awesome coaster ride!

2. This huge, risky investment of my family's money and reputation turned out better than I could have dreamed.

3. This changes everything for the future of my park!

4. I've got an incredible coaster in my own park!

I believe he was thinking all of these and more, beaming from ear to ear, giddy as a child on Christmas morning, anxious to share the joy of his creation with the world.

We all skipped down Raven's exit, jolted by the adrenaline rush and bad hair only a coaster can give. Next stop:Legend.

Legend may be my favorite coaster of all. Unfortunately today, I could not have been more disappointed. On the bright side, there was no line. But it performed badly. Dispatch intervals were eternal, there was no grease on the track, and it was horribly understaffed. Instead of the typical crazy lateral filled out of control ride, today it was forceless and boring, a shadow of itself. My worst Legend experience in 12 years. Oh well, I'll have to wait until next year to get a decent Legend ride.

Since KI removed their antique cars, at other parks we hop on them every chance we get. Holiday Worlds version, called "Lewis and Clark" is unremarkable but still fun, especially if you are 7 or riding with someone who is.

10 minute wait. Like KI's, these are set in a nicely landscaped area. Come to think of it, this is a big prime piece of real estate in the front of Holiday World. They could squeeze a great little Wooden Warrior style family coaster in there, and link it to 4th of July, Halloween, or Christmas. On the other hand, this is a nice quiet area, and it would be shame to tear it up.

Graveyard Smash time. Somehow I'd never gotten around to seeing a show at the Hoosier Celebration Theater. We arrived just in time, finding a crowded theater, yet a few open seats in the front center row. We all loved it. My 10 year old son is getting dangerously close to being too cool for this sort of thing though, but even he got into the fun. You have about 10 monsters ranging from Dracula, Wicked Witch of the West, zombie bride, zombie punk rocker, zombie Jack Sparrow, and so on. All singing and dancing to Halloween parodies of everything from Dynamite to Thunderstruck. Hilarious and fun. Warning, the performers get in your face if you are up close or on the aisles.

Next it was Sparkler time, or Spookler time to be precise. A great little ride, it fits this side of the park well. One cycle wait. It goes up, it goes around, and it doesn't give me the goosebumps that WindSeeker does. It also provides some new views, including a maintenance shed with all of Legend's trains neatly lined up outside. That dashed any hopes that Legend might just reopen today after all. To be fair, I'd read on Facebook and even on the map that Legend was closed for the year, apparently getting its winter spa treatment now instead of waiting for Happy Halloween Weekends to conclude. Still a bummer.

Later that night we saw "Spookler" lit up in a monochrome yet neat white lighting display. My boys jaws dropped as I told them somewhere in Texas they were building a 400' version of this. I wonder if the entire tower spins on that one like here...I doubt it.

We walked up the impossibly narrow ramp to the bumper cars. These are always a hoot despite the smart alecs who decide to drive the wrong way. 2 cycle wait.

It was now the moment of destiny: The Voyage. Last year, both of my boys just didn't have the nerve to tackle this monster, the clincher being my report of nasty washboard roughness. It just wasn't that fun last year, for me anyway. Even the first three drops beat me up. Even though the new Gravity Group trains were delayed again, the track improvements were encouraging.

One bummer was the one train operation today. There are few quieter, less exciting places than the Voyage station during single train operation. That train is gone Forever, and you begin to wonder if it will ever cone back. When you estimate a good 5 trains until you board, multiplied by the eternal dispatch interval, you get discouraged. But hey, this is one of the most amazing coasters in the world, so shame on me for complaining.

It is kind of a miracle that the Voyage even exists. Think about all the stars that aligned:

1. A park (not called Kings Island) willing to build a 6000' long wooden coaster

2. A park with a large enough piece of sloping, wooded, available land

3. A park who really cares about the extras, like tunnels, tunnels, tunnels, station flyby's, tunnels, ridiculously excessive turnarounds and finales, tunnels...

4. A design firm competent enough to engineer the thing

5. A park willing to do whatever it takes to keep it running in top form

If those weren't enough, add these improbabilities:

6. This behemoth is actually themed to pilgrims on a boat, in a section called Thanksgiving. Not a snake or something huge and intimidating

7. The fact that all of this happened just 3 hours from my house

I got off track there, but my point is that Voyage might be the most unlikely coaster ever, built in a park that really didn't need it. But they built it and I'm so glad.

So back to the ride. We were all pumped...my boys have been looking forward to this ever since they chickened out last year. The four of us took our seats in the third car, and off we sailed. In short, we were thunderstruck. What a ride. The only rough spots I detected were on the last sidewinding stretch under the lift hill, and part of the finale, but even these were not bad. Though I forgot to heed my own advice from 2006: don't try to brace yourself too much, instead just go with it and let the coaster have its way with you. It sounds counterintuitive for such a crazy ride, but it works for us. While we loved it, my boys and my wife debated if a second ride would happen, or if one was more than enough. They all leaned towards "one and done". They were stuffed, so why eat a second Thanksgiving dinner on the same night?

Time for a breather. We lined up near Pilgrims Plunge, and 20 minutes later we were on a tram headed to the corn maze. There were two actual hayrides, but we got the vanilla tram both ways. The maze itself was interesting in that it was on uneven hilly land, and in some areas the stalks were barely 5' high. So in some spots you were deep in it with zero visibility, in others you have a commanding view of most of the maze. There were panic flags at various checkpoints, which also helped you navigate since many were visible from afar. Overall a nice diversion from the noise and activity of the park. We skipped the kiddie maze.

Gobbler Getaway. A hoot as usual, though I never know if my low scoring is caused by my aim or a faulty gun...errr turkey caller. I also wonder if I am too distracted by the shooting/calling deal to miss the fun details of the ride itself. With the exception of Toy Story Mania, I'd rather just take in the view on my dark rides.

What else...oh yes, we checked out the Halloween activities in the picnic grove. Face painting, pumping decorating, trick or treating, the usual activities aimed at families with little ones. Worth a stop if you if that fit that group, and very similar to what you'd find at your local fall festival.

We did enjoy the many Halloween dioramas throughout the park. These were set up by park employees, using skeleton mannequins and a wide variety of props. Each won an award of some type, like "best use of theming", or "best use of bobble head Pat". All were tasteful of course, and added a humorous personal touch to the park.

Another Halloween exclusive was the lone "haunted house", in glorious 3D, in the Holiday Theater. Again , no big scares here, save for a few surprise characters who come to life and startle the little ones. And even me. The 3d effects were outstanding. I am not usually impressed with 3d at the cinema. A great family haunted house, made better by the 5 minute wait.

This is getting long winded so I'll try and cut to the chase. My boys are fans of night rides, so we scored another Raven ride (4 train wait), and my family "Thank"fully regained Voyage fever. Two more Voyage rides (front seat at dusk, third seat in total darkness). 20 minute waits for each. Breathtaking. The 2006 Voyage is back, for now anyway.

Now it was for perhaps the best attraction of the day: pumpkin spice funnel cakes at Funnel Cake Factory, covered with some sort of cream cheese frosting. These are not as nutritious as you might think. But they are delicious. I will try to clone those for the scout campout next weekend. It's a good sign when you ask the workers in the food stand if these are any good, and they all light up with an emphatic, sincere, "they are sooooo good!!!!". They were right, and we got fat and happy.

While munching we walked around the"back stretch" of Holiday World, near the Indian river ride and the "eagle's fright". I like these quiet, mature (tree-wise) paths in parks. This was made all the better by the glorious fall colors and the leaves literally falling by the hundreds and blowing in the breeze. Quiet and peaceful.

Speaking of Eagles Fright, it was begging for riders, so we hopped on for a quick spin. We each got our own bird and enjoyed the peaceful flight in the cool, autumn night.

We arrived at the Christmas plaza at 8, just in time for the laser show. It was a mishmash of funny laser animations projected on a big movie screen, fog effects, and the big cool real lasers that pierce the night and wiggle around, all set to Monster Mash, Thriller, Ghostbusters, and other Halloween staples. Fun show and a great way to end the day.

So that was our day at Holiday Work. It was quite different without the waterpark and the Legend, but I think they did a fine job considering their family market, and taking their first stab at a "Halloween"event. It made for a nice 30 hour fall getaway from Cincinnati. Thanks to HW and the Kochs for a good time!

PS: don't get a room at Santa's lodge near the banquet hall. Loud!

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