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Timeline: Santa Claus Land, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

Timeline: from Santa Claus Land to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari



1941 Louis J. Koch visits the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, and begins plans to open what is to become the world’s first theme park.
1945 Construction of Santa Claus Land begins (August 4).
1946 Opening day of the world’s first theme park, Santa Claus Land (August 3); includes The Freedom Train, which was retired after 70 years and sits on display in front of The Liberty Bell Gift Shoppe.
1947 Jeep-go-round added (first ever manufactured).
1948 Christmas Room restaurant opened. Deer family introduced, featuring Donder, Blitzen, Comet and Cupid.
1955 Pleasureland ride section opens in the area that is now called Rudolph’s Reindeer Ranch. Admission was charged for the first time: 50 cents for adults, children free. Actor and future president Ronald Reagan visited in March.
1959-61 The Willie Bartley Water Ski Thrill Show, featuring “Human Kites” performs on Lake Rudolph each summer.
1970-71 The Santa Claus Choir, made up of local children, performs regularly at the park.
Early ’70s Additional children’s rides added, such as Blitzen’s Airplanes, Comet’s Rockets, Prancer’s Merry-Go-Round.
1976 Entrance to park moved from State Road 162 to State Road 245. Eagles Flight added (only a few of this classic “Flying Scooters” ride are left in the world), as well as the Roundhouse and the Virginia Reel (tilt-a-whirl).
1978 Lewis & Clark Trail plus Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride added.
1980 Thunder Bumpers on Chesapeake Bay added.
1982 Dancer’s Thunder Bumpers Junior added.
1984 Santa Claus Land undergoes major expansion and changes name to Holiday World. There are now three themed sections: Christmas, Halloween and 4th of July. Frightful Falls log flume added.
1986 The Banshee added to the Halloween section.
1990 Raging Rapids white water raft ride added.
1991 Kringle’s Kafe opens.
1993 Splashin’ Safari water park premiers, including the Congo River, Crocodile Isle, and the AmaZOOM and Bamboo Chute water slides.
1994 The Wave pool added to Splashin’ Safari.
1995 The Raven roller coaster opens in the Halloween section. Voted “Ride of the Year” and the #2 Wooden Roller Coaster on the Planet. Featured on CBS’s 48 Hours and The Discovery Channel.
1996 Watubee family water slide added to Splashin’ Safari. 
1997 Ototongo consisting of three enclosed, opaque water slides are added to Splashin’ Safari.
1998 Monsoon Lagoon added to Splashin’ Safari. The Raven is again voted #2 Wooden Coaster in the World and parks’ staff voted #1 Friendliest in the World.
1999 Holidog’s FunTown added to 4th of July section. The Raven voted #2 Wooden Coaster in the World and parks’ staff voted #1 Friendliest in the World.
2000 The Legend roller coaster opens in the Halloween section. Parks begin offering free, unlimited soft drinks. The Raven is voted the #1 Wooden Coaster in the World and The Legend is the highest ranked new wooden coaster, at #7. The parks are named the Friendliest and Cleanest in the World.
2001 The Raven is again voted the #1 Wooden Coaster in the World and The Legend is voted #5. The parks are again voted the Friendliest and Cleanest in the World by readers of Amusement Today.
2002 ZOOMbabwe, the World’s Largest Enclosed Waterslide, opens in Splashin’ Safari, which begins offering free sunscreen to all Guests. The Raven is voted the #1 Wooden Coaster in the World and The Legend is named #4. The parks are voted the Friendliest and Cleanest in the World.
2003 Huge new family water ride, Zinga, is added to Splashin’ Safari; voted World’s #1 Water Park Ride. HallowSwings and Liberty Launch are added to Holiday World. Raven is voted the #1 Wooden Coaster and The Legend is #5; parks again named Friendliest and Cleanest.
2004 Jungle Racer and Jungle Jets are added to Splashin’ Safari. Both parks are now non-smoking. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari win the Applause Award, the smallest park ever to win the prestigious industry honor. Parks again named Cleanest and Friendliest; Raven and Legend both Top-5 wooden coasters.
2005 Bahari wave pool added, beginning expansion project to double size of Splashin’ Safari.
2006 New themed section–Thanksgiving–added, featuring The Voyage wooden roller coaster plus an interactive dark ride called Gobbler Getaway. Park’s 60th Anniversary Season also includes the addition of Bahari River to Splashin’ Safari. Park hosts Amusement Today‘s Golden Ticket Awards ceremony and again is named World’s Friendliest and World’s Cleanest. Voyage receives the highest ranking ever for a new wooden coaster, at #2. The Raven and The Legend also continue to be ranked top-10 wooden coasters. Park’s seasonal attendance tops one million guests for the first time.
2007 Seven-story Bakuli (“bowl” in Swahili) water slide added to Splashin’ Safari. Turkey Whirl and Plymouth Rock Café added to Thanksgiving section. Named the nation’s “Top Value Park” by Consumers Digest magazine.
2008 Kima Bay, a four-story monkey-themed waterplay attraction with seven water slides and more than 100 waterplay elements added to Splashin’ Safari. Holiday World’s expansion includes the Star Spangled Carousel and Reindeer Games. The Voyage named the #1 Wooden Coaster on the Planet for the second consecutive year by Amusement Today magazine, plus continued #1 distinction in Cleanest and Friendliest Park categories.
2009 The World’s Tallest Water Ride, Pilgrims Plunge, takes riders down a watery 131-foot drop. This shoot-the-chute ride includes an open-air elevator and 45-degree drop.
2010 Wildebeest, the world’s longest water coaster, utilizes linear induction motor (LIM) technology to propel four-person boats up hills and through tunnels. Wildebeest was named the World’s #1 Water Park Ride and Best New Water Park Ride in the 2010 Golden Ticket Awards. Sadly, president Will Koch passed away unexpectedly in June. His brother and business partner Dan Koch is named president and CEO.
2011 Safari Sam’s SplashLand, with eight water slide and loads of water-play elements for smaller children. Also, Rudolph’s Round-Up in the Christmas section and free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout both parks.
2012 Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster, opens in Splashin’ Safari, which is named the #1 Water Park in the Nation by Sparkler vertical swing ride is added to the 4th of July section. Bahari River Cabanas open in the water park and free Wi-Fi is now available park-wide. Rock the World Christian Music fest premiers plus the park’s calendar expands to include Happy Halloween Weekends.
2013 Hyena Falls, an in-the-dark water slide complex, opens in Splashin’ Safari. Kitty’s Tea Party is added to Holidog’s FunTown. Longtime employee Matt Eckert is named President and CEO. TIME Magazine names Voyage the country’s #1 wooden roller coaster and USA Today ranks Splashin’ Safari the best water park in the nation.
2014 Mayflower swinging ship ride opens in Thanksgiving. Mrs. Klaus’ Kitchen gets a theming re-do plus Wildebeestro and Safari Outpost open. On July 24, after “66 Days at Sea,” more than a thousand gather to watch the announcement of Thunderbird, the nation’s first launched wing coaster. Parks are again named the World’s Cleanest and Wildebeest the #1 Water Park Ride on the Planet by the readers of Amusement Today.
2015 Thunderbird, the nation’s first launched wing coaster, premieres April 25, and is featured on Travel Channel’s Thrill Factor with Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. Parks are again named the World’s Cleanest and Wildebeest the #1 Water Park Ride on the Planet by the readers of Amusement Today.
2016 Park celebrates its 70th Birthday Season with the addition of the 70th Birthday Plaza, including the park’s original ride – The Freedom Train – on display and the Memories Mosaic, made from 7,000 photos from over the park’s seven decades. The Legend undergoes major track replacement and the addition of a double-down feature and fifth tunnel. The Official Holiday World Podcast premieres.
2017 Firecracker, a classic Calypso ride, is rescued and restored. It is one of only a handful of this nostalgic ride still operating in the U.S. New Holidog’s Treehouse adds wheelchair accessibility, along with Star Spangled Carousel and Holidog Express. Mammoth is certified as the World’s Longest Water Coaster in the 2017 Guinness Book of World Records.
2018 Smaller children are the focus of the elephant-themed addition, Tembo Falls junior water slides and Tembo Tides junior wave pool. TripAdvisor names Splashin’ Safari the #5 water park in the country and #15 in the world.
2019 Santa’s Merry Marketplace replaces Kringle’s Kafe, expanding the restaurant size by 50% with menus to include old favorites and new cuisine. The Voyage receives 720 feet of new track and the park introduces a new event: Kids World. USA Today names Splashin’ Safari the top water park in the nation, and TripAdvisor inducts Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari into their Hall of Fame
2020 Cheetah Chase: The World’s First Launched Water Coaster opens July 4 due to opening delays from COVID-19. With the addition, the park declares itself the Water Coaster Capital of the World. Cheetah Chase is voted one of the top new amusement park attractions of 2020 by USA Today
2021 Holiday World celebrates 75 years since the opening of Santa Claus Land. The park celebrates by releasing a commemorative book written by IAAPA Historian Jim Futrell, along with co-authors Ron Gustafson, Dave Hahner, Nell Hedge, and Leah Koch. The Raven Evermore project debuts in May of 2021, and includes a complete overhaul of the lake turn. More than 25% of the track gets replaced, and The Raven trains get a new paint job
2022 Holidays in the Sky, drone and fireworks spectacular premieres. Each night, 300 drones take flight showcasing the fun of each of the holidays of Holiday World. 
2023 Holidays in the Sky returns with 400 drones. On August 1, park officials announce their 2024 project: Good Gravy! Family Coaster. Compass Commons Team Member Housing opens in May. New Pre-K Pass is introduced to Season Pass lineup. Mammoth wins the Golden Ticket Award for #1 Water Park attraction, ending Wildebeest’s 12-year streak, but continuing the proud tradition of water coaster excellence at Splashin’ Safari.   

Updated Dec 11, 2023
Media Contact: Sabrina Jones, reach out using “Contact Us” form.