Where we were was Santa Claus, Indiana. You maybe know it as the location of Abraham Lincoln's childhood home. Certainly they're aware of that. But it's also arguably the birthplace of theme parks, because in Santa Claus in 1946 opened Santa Claus Land, a small amusement park in which all the rides and all the decor and everything was set to match a particular theme, that being, obviously, Ramadan. That proved popular, and the park grew, eventually adding other holidays and renaming itself Holiday World. In the mid-90s it built The Raven, instantly recognized as one of the all-time great wooden roller coasters, and between the fact of the roller coaster and the acclaim it got for that, the park took its place as a world-class theme park. bunny_hugger says she keeps going back and forth about whether Kennywood or Holiday World is the better amusement park, falling to whichever one she'd visited more recently. She hadn't been to Holiday World in half a decade. The major point of this trip, besides Stricker's Grove, was to get there, and to give me my first taste of it.
We got into the parking lot about a half-hour before the park was to open, and it was already a hot day, which is a mixed thing. Hot weather brings crowds to the park, but, they might well be going to the water park, in which case we'd get the benefit of the atmosphere without the enormous lines for the non-water-park rides we wanted to go on. Well, we got pretty substantial lines anyway.
And it was really, really hot, the kind of hot and muggy that I remembered from Singapore days. Mercifully, Holiday World has among its quirks that it just gives out, for free, drinks. Not cups of water, though you can have that; they have abundant ``Refreshment Stations'' where you grab a cup and fill up with as much Pepsi-brand soda as you want. Have you even heard of another park that does that? (I have, actually: apparently Lake Compounce in Connecticut does. We'll find out on New England Parks Tour.) That's good by itself, but on a scorching-hot day like this, ``as much cold drink as you can take in'' is a lifesaver. Also, great for a diet-soda-drinker like me: they have besides Diet Pepsi also Diet Dr Pepper and Diet Mountain Dew. It's always great having a choice of diet sodas and I'm one of those that likes Dr Pepper. I'm less fond of Mountain Dew but that's a good chance of pace sometimes too.
Holiday World's main parking lot is opposite the highway from the park --- just as Kennywood's is, really --- so you enter by subterranean tunnel --- again as with Kennywood --- and you get a great view of The Raven (``#1 Wooden Roller Coaster On The Planet! 2000 through 2003'', according to its sign boasting of its Golden Ticket Award) going up to the entrance. The sign above the ticket booth told ``All Rides Will Be Operating Today ... Except ... Sparkler'', an elevated swings ride in Fourth of July Land. Shame, but, not something we were dying to ride. bunny_hugger saw something horrible at the ``All Rides Will Be Operating'' sign past the gate, though. They were loading on another ride, ``The Raven''.
Holiday World has three world-class wooden roller coasters --- The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage --- and riding any of them would be a treat. But to miss out on The Raven? Maybe we'd get lucky and the ride would open later in the day, perhaps, but maybe there'd be nothing to do for it but be disappointed. Or come back the next day: the ticket booth offers the chance to buy a second-day ticket at a discount from the regular price. We decided to get second-day tickets and trust that whatever had The Raven broken it couldn't last two days. We'd learn inside that we didn't have to buy the second day's ticket at the time we bought the first --- you can buy a next-day ticket anytime, and apparently for as many days in a row as you want (hopefully there's a point where they just convert you to a season pass) --- but we wouldn't end up regretting what we bought.
The first area you enter in Holiday World is the oldest, the former Santa Claus Land, so you get right up to a Christmas Tree and a statue of Santa everybody gets their photograph taken in front of and public address systems playing Christmas carols. There's toy shops and mostly kiddie rides painted in red and green, or white with light blue to suggest snow, and the blend between 90-degree heat and mugginess and Christmas being spilled out all over the place made me think of being in Singapore in December.
We wanted to get a couple of rides in first, so walked out of Christmas Land into Thanksgiving Land. If all this sounds kind of like being in a Rankin/Bass special, you're getting the feel of Holiday World right. The different holidays are pretty strongly themed, in the decor and the architecture and even the sounds of the place. It's so enchanting.
Trivia: When Hudson's department store opened in 1891 at the corner of Gratiot and Farmer streets critics said the store would not last: it was too far from Detroit's downtown, and besides, the spot was unlucky as it was previously occupied by a church. Source: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of America's Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson.
Currently Reading: The Life Of Elizabeth I, Allison Weir.