Christmas magic, summer fun combine into one family adventure

Family fun destination is less than 4 hours from Dayton.

Every day is Christmas at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind. — and Thanksgiving, Halloween and Fourth of July for that matter. The family-oriented Indiana amusement park was recently ranked as the No. 3 best amusement park in the country by Family Fun magazine, behind only Disney’s Magic Kingdom, in Florida, and Disneyland, in California. And best yet, Holiday World is less than a four-hour drive from Dayton.

With rides and attractions for all ages as well as family-friendly accommodations nearby, a trip to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari might make this summer one to remember.

Santa’s summer home

Santa Claus Land was Indiana businessman Louis Koch’s retirement project. He opened the then small Christmas-themed park in August 1946. In the decades that followed, the park thrived, so much so that the Koch family expanded the seasonal themes to include Halloween and the 4th of July and changed the park’s name to Holiday World in 1984.

In the years that followed, Splashin’ Safari Water Park (1993) and Thanksgiving (2006) were added to the now 120-acre theme park that has been named the “World’s Friendliest and Cleanest” by Amusement Today and the “Top Value Park” by Consumers Digest. For the third consecutive year, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari have received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.com, awarded only to establishments who consistently receive outstanding traveler reviews.

And with Santa’s busy season still months away, he has time to read stories and sing Christmas songs daily at Santa’s Storytime Theater.

Ride and slide

Thrill seekers can get their fill of airtime on award-winning wooden coasters like The Voyage, voted by Amusement Today readers as the No. 1 Wooden Coaster in the World from 2007-11. The Voyage was recently named the “most insane” wooden roller coaster on the premiere of the Travel Channel’s “Insane Coaster Wars: Splintering Speedsters.”

The Raven, The Legend and Giraffica will also elicit a scream or two.

Little thrill seekers will have a ball in Holidog’s FunTown and kids of all ages can get a birds’ eye view of the park on the Sparkler swings or take a leisurely ride in antique cars on the Lewis & Clark Trail.

New this year in the 30-acre Splashin’ Safari water park is Hyena Falls, four thrilling in-the-dark waterslides.

Hyena Falls joins guest favorites like Wildebeest, the park’s first water coaster, named the No. 1 Water Park Ride in the World in 2010 and Mammoth, the World’s Longest Water Coater, which debuted in 2012.

There are also two wave pools and attractions for the little ones like Safari Sam’s SplashLand and Monsoon Lagoon.

Munch and lunch

Of course there are mouth-watering funnel cakes and deep-fried Oreos and Mrs. Klaus’ Kitchen is a must for fudge lovers, but there are also plenty of healthy options like fresh fruit and Lemon Italian Ice. There are also gluten-free, vegetarian and diabetic-friendly options available throughout the park.

You can chill out in air-conditioned comfort at the Plymouth Rock Café – think turkey and all the fixings, or the Kringle’s Kafe – burgers, pizza and salad.

Guests can quench their thirst free of charge all day long at one of the Pepsi Oasis stations located throughout the park. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari has been serving up free soft drinks, lemonade and iced tea to thirsty guests for more than a decade.

Rest and relaxation

If you want to bunk in close to the action, there is no better location than Lake Rudolph Campground and R.V. Park. The 160-acre campground, which has rental options from tent sites to family cabins, is in Holiday World’s backyard – or visa-versa – and offers free shuttle service to and from Holiday World.

It’s easy to keep busy at Lake Rudolph Campgrounds which has nature trails, playgrounds, basketball courts, mini golf, a swimming pool and gem mining. Guests can rent paddleboats or kayaks or spend the afternoon fishing on Lake Rudolph as they watch The Raven speed by.

New this year is Santa’s Splash Down WaterPark a $4 million complex that includes five new water slides. Nearby, the Blitzen Kitchen serves up soft-serve ice cream and pizza.

Before you go

Discount tickets are available for $39.95 at www.holidayworld.com, general admission is $44.95 and includes both Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. If one day isn’t enough, you can buy a next-day ticket before you leave the park for $27.

While many of the comforts of home are included at Lake Rudolph, cabin and rental RV guests do need to bring their own blankets and a few other supplies. For a complete packing list, visit www.lakerudolph.com.

Park Perks

Free parking: Simply pull into the parking lot and find a spot no need to stop at a pricey parking tollbooth. Trams run throughout the day to get you closer to your car after a long day at the park.

Free Unlimited Soft Drinks: That is not a misprint – free and unlimited. Pepsi Oasis stations are located throughout Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari serving up all-you-can-drink soft drinks, pink lemonade, Gatorade and water. In addition to free soft drinks, some restaurants also offer complimentary fresh-brewed iced tea and coffee. No special cups required, drink as much as you want and feel free to mix up your own cool and creative concoction.

Free sunscreen: No need to lug around bottles of sunscreen as free sunscreen kiosks are located throughout Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. Just pump out as much of the water-resistant and fragrance free SPF 30 sunscreen as you need. Guests can reapply the Ocean Potion Sport Lotion all day long.

More freebies: You can tweet or post, upload or text till your heart’s content as the park offers free Wi-Fi. Inner tubes and life jackets are also available for use free of charge at Splashin’ Safari.

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