Ask 100 enthusiasts what their favorite park is and you’re sure to get many different answers. But of the parks named multiple times, Holiday World would doubtlessly be one of the more named. From the free drinks and parking to the world class wooden coasters, there are plenty of reasons to love the park. The only downside to the park is that it’s not really close to any major city which is the main reason I hadn’t visited. But this year I was going to change that. I flew into Louisville on the 29th for Hollywood Nights, the park’s annual enthusiast event. The event promises ERT, behind the scenes tours and most importantly (debatably) trimless rides on Voyage. As I’ve listed before (side note - that list makes me sad. Look at how awesome that list was going to be!) that was a huge draw for me.
So after getting to my hotel in Corydon, IN about an hour from Holiday World and resting a little from my red eye flight, I headed over to Holiday World only to have the pouring rain start. Luckily by the time we got to the park, it had tapered off into a drizzle which meant that standing in line waiting for check in was relatively painless. After check in, I headed off to take the Thunderbird tour that I won in the auction. We got paired with an incredibly friendly maintenance worker who took us all over the coaster. From the launch flywheel room:
To the maintenance bay:
To the station where we could climb all over the place:
He answered all of our nerdy questions and taught us about the ride. Some of my favorite tidbits were:
- Since the LSM launch pulls so much power, the park uses a flywheel to generate the power instead of pulling from the grid every launch since that might cause blackouts/brownouts. The flywheel takes a huge amount of energy to get started (which is done in the morning) but much less to maintain and can be used to generate the electricity necessary for the launch without taxing the grid.
- Thunderbird actually has the ability to launch at speeds near 90+ mph. He and other maintenance personnel have gotten the chance to ride it like that and they raved about it. The park actually asked if it would be possible to run it that way for Holiwood Nights but it was decided that that was undoable since it violates B&M’s rules for running the ride and might affect the warranty. They did mention that it might be possible once the warranty wears out so let’s hope!
Overall, I thought the maintenance tour was really awesome. I’m so glad I purchased it! Next year though, I’ll get my hands on that Voyage lift walk!
After the tour was snack time. I grabbed a snack and chatted with some of the others on the tour with me while we waited to get started with ERT. Ended up meeting a semi-well known after coincidentally finding his YouTube channel a week or two prior. After ERT opened we went our separate ways and it was time to get started!
Since rain was still coming down a little hard for my taste (I hate getting wet), I headed to the one indoor ride open for ERT: Gobbler Getaway. I remember people joking about the concept of “calling” the turkeys as opposed to shooting them and I did think it was silly but in a charming way. I ended up really enjoying this ride. Unlike so many other shooters, all the targets seemed to work and the guns seemed to be accurate. I ended up doing really well too! I credit all of those hours in Verdansk helping me improve my aim.
After riding, it was still raining so I just took a seat outside of the ride and people watched for a little bit before the rain died down. Then when it finally did, I headed to the back of the park.
I’ve ridden a handful of wing coasters before (Swarm, Gatekeeper and X-Flight) and found them exceptionally average and unexceptional. The near misses were by far the best parts but the rides themselves felt too slow moving to be great. While TBird definitely suffers from this as well, it has the launch which sets it apart. After pulling out of the station into the launch barn, you get a little show with flashing lights and sound before you’re launched. Although the launch is no TTD, it packs a kick and is a much better way to start a wing coaster. The rest of the ride lacks the head choppers of other wings while seemingly trading it for closer to the ground elements. My opinion of the lack of head choppers might be different if I wasn’t riding at night but all my TBird rides this trip were at night. And the ride is awesome at night, flying through the woods, even interacting with Voyage. This coaster was awesome and either my favorite or second favorite coaster at the park (spoiler alert)!
I wanted to ride the wooden coasters in reverse order of build date to try to prevent Voyage overshadowing the rest of the coasters so Raven was up first. This ride always seemed to be semi-divisive. Some love it and some not so much. Well for my first ride on it I got the front seat. I ended up being on the latter side of the like-not so much divide. I thought that it was really rough ride, specifically the turnaround after the drop was actually decently painful. The rest of the layout was fine, nothing amazing. No real airtime that I remember. Riding it at night was a cool experience but nothing amazing.
After Raven was Legend. Again I got lucky sitting in the front row and wow, this ride ended up surpassing my expectations significantly! The ride was really smooth in the front seat and a couple of the airtime moments around the water slides were surprisingly strong. The famed laterals on this ride were there in force and I didn’t think they detracted too much (I’m not a fan of lats). Again, riding this ride in the pitch black, turning around just to see steel water slide support beams rushing towards you until you drop narrowly missing them, is an awesome experience!
Alright, let’s talk about Voyage. My expectations for this ride were in the stratosphere. Especially considering that I waited for a night ride that happened to be trimless. I was expecting El Toro level airtime over the first half of the course compared with GCI level twister sections in the back half. I expected a relatively smooth ride but with enough bite to remind you you were on a wooden coaster.
I walked off disappointed that my ride wasn’t like that. So the second half of the ride mostly lived up to expectations. I loved the twister layout and thought the speed it took through it was like a GCI. The first half on the other hand was the source of my disappointment. I didn’t think there was much airtime at all, certainly not the level I was hoping. And it was a lot rougher than I expected too. It felt like a Gravity Group which I usually like but didn’t in this case. Don’t get me wrong, this coaster is still a very good one and it sits at my #3 wooden coaster but I prefer El Toro and Goliath @ SFGAm over it. I think one of my mistakes was sitting in the middle of the train. Not to mention that due to social distancing, the park wasn’t sending full trains so the ride was probably running slower than usual. Next time I go to the park, I’ll try the back or the front. So yeah, that’s what I thought about Voyage, certainly a controversial opinion for an enthusiast. Even stranger for me since I tend to love Gravity Group coasters.
After I got off Voyage, the event was officially done for the night so I headed back to my hotel. Side note: wow, I forgot how in the middle of nowhere Holiday World is until I had to drive back and spent half of my time on pitch Black Country roads before making it to the interstate, which was still empty but at least it was lit well.
The next day I spent the morning at Beech Bend before making my way back to Holiday World for the photo walk back. It definitely wasn’t as hands on as my tour was the day before but it was also free so no complaints there!
After getting some shots, I did some shopping around the park and took my gimbal around to get some video of the rides. Eventually, the park closed to day guests and we had the opportunity to get some dinner before ERT started. After waiting in a HUGE line, I eventually got my dinner. And then ERT started and it was time to get some rides in!
Side note: Holiday World also had an auction for physical items from the park. My eyes were set on one of the signs that hung on the Voyage trains. After the disappointment of my ride on Voyage the night before I put a price on the item (meaning I wasn’t willing to write a blank check to get it like I might have if it had lived up to expectations) and was gladly keeping pace with the top bidders as the auction ended during dinner. After the dust settled, turned out that my $400 max bid didn’t stand a chance compared to the $680 winning bid. Good thing I didn’t want it at all costs or I would’ve ended up potentially out $700+!
It’s a kid’s coaster 🤷♂️ but I didn’t get it while the park was open so knocked it out first during ERT.
Rode it in the very back this time around (behind half the OVC crew funnily enough - pre-expose) and thought it was just as rough as before. Interesting ride but too rough for my liking.
This time I rode it towards the back. After my awesome ride the night before I was expecting a similar ride but I found the mid-back to be a lot rougher. It wasn’t as bad as Raven but it definitely was noticeable and detracted from the ride a little bit. But overall, I still think Legend > Raven.
This coaster is 100% slept on. I had another pair of awesome rides on this beast. An aside about wait times during the event. On the first night, Legend and Raven were both station waits where TBird was a walk on. Voyage on the other hand was about an hour wait. On the second night TBird remained a walk on while each of the other rides had their wait times increase by 15 minutes or so. This caused some consternation within the Facebook group for the event (Facebook is awful but when that’s the primary vehicle used by the park to communicate, what can I do?) with some people complaining about the wait times and other people complaining about the people complaining. Internet interactions are always weird ones…
At that point in the night it was around 10pm and ERT closed at 11. Voyage still had nearly an hour wait and after my disappointment with it the previous night I was wondering whether it was worth it waiting. I decided to think about it while I shot errrr I mean gathered some turkeys.
Gobbler Getaway x2
Had a couple more awesome games. Wish my aim was that good in Warzone.
So I decided that there must’ve been something I missed and as such I needed to try the ride again. After another hour wait, I was on towards the front of the train again. And again I was let down. The first half of the ride still had next to no airtime for me and although barreling through the darkness is cool, it wasn’t really unique after doing the 2 other woodies at HW that weekend. The second half this time around was really impressive and saved the ride from plummeting off my top 10 wooden coasters entirely. The twists get taken so fast, it reminds me of a great GCI.
But still, even that wasn’t enough to redeem the ride for me when I was expecting a proto-religious experience.
After getting off of Voyage, I immediately headed to the hotel and after another pitch black, grueling, tired late night drive I made it. I packed and passed out, ready to wake up early the next morning to head to Kentucky Kingdom.
As far as Holiday World went, I think it’s important to separate out two things: the hospitality/park and then the ride collection. To me the ride collection was disappointing for a park I spent years hyping up. Maybe my next visit I’ll have my expectations lower and be impressed but this time I was disappointed. The hospitality, on the other hand, was top notch. The park was really well taken care of and I was impressed with all the stops the park rolled out for us enthusiasts given that we are in the middle of a pandemic. I’m really glad I went and I’m preliminarily planning on heading back next year to hopefully bring up my ratings of the coasters in more normal (and less crowded) operations!