TRY THIS: Water coasters at Splashin' Safari

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I have no interest in roller coasters. No desire to have my body whipped around at breakneck (well, almost) speeds without any control over the course or outcome. Even in my youth, growing up in a boardwalk town where such structures made up much of the skyline, I opted out of such thrills.

And so, when I go on my just-about-annual trek to my favorite amusement park, Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, I find plenty of excuses to skip award-winning coasters The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage.

I do, however, make a beeline for the Wildebeest and Mammoth, the two longest water coasters in the world.

ae-holidayworldmammoth-lift-hill2-15col.jpg Mammoth, above, and Wildebeest, below, offer state-of-the-art ways to get soaked. (Photos courtesy of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari)

Now, I know full well that there’s no actual physical effort involved in riding a coaster, roller or water. The challenge is entirely mental. Once you’ve strapped yourself in, there’s no choice involved. But something about the water coasters attract rather than repel me.

The Wildebeest came first, in 2010, and racked up four years of first place finishes as the top water park ride on the planet by Amusement Today magazine. As with most log flume rides, a conveyer takes you up to the top, but unlike previous flumes, this one is equipped with linear induction motors that propel the watercraft rather than just let gravity and the flow of the water do the work. The initial four-story drop is followed by seven hills, a pair of underground tunnels and a dizzying helix hitting a top speed of 36 feet per second. Moving upwards during parts of a water
ride takes a little getting used to, but that’s just part of the giddy fun.


The newer water coaster, Mammoth, towers seven stories from highest to lowest point. Instead of the single-file seating of the Wildebeest, Mammoth puts riders in a six-passenger rotating raft and propels them along a 1/3-mile course that includes 45-degree drops. The boats are nine-feet wide but the channels and tunnels are 12-feet, meaning there’s room to careen and spin all the way through. And there are moments when even a watercraft with the likes of me in it achieves air time. And some of the three-minute ride (long for a coaster or water slide) is spent in the dark.

Yes, you get wet. Very. And, like my daughter, you may become disconnected from your hat. But unlike water slides, you don’t get dumped into a pool and you don’t have to climb a mountain of steps to get to the launch site. You can see—if you ride with your eyes open—the kick that your co-riders are experiencing and, if you are like me, you’ll be laughing yourself silly all the way down.

If You Go: Holiday World

One ticket ($44.95/adult, $36.95/children and seniors) includes admission and all rides and shows at both Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. Parking is free and the parks boast complimentary sunscreen and soft drinks.

ae-rudolphs-christmas-cabin-exterior-15col.jpg You don’t have to rough it at Lake Rudolph Campground. Amenities include sizable rental cabins.

The easiest overnight accommodations are right across the parking lot at Camp Rudolph.

While the name may imply that you need to bring your own tent ($42/night in season) or mobile home ($50/night), the campground offers other options as well. Cabin rentals ($205-265)/night) are available. They include the new Rudolph’s Christmas Cabins featuring a sizable deck, electric fireplace, and appliances and can sleep four adults and four children. There’s also non-moving rental RVs ($145-195) for those who want to pretend to be king of the road without having to pay for gas.

Improvements in 2014 include a new bathhouse to serve the small onsite waterpark at Lake Rudolph, new paddleboats for heading out on the lake during downtime, and an upgrade to the miniature golf course. Alas, the promised WiFi is spotty or non-existent at many of the sites.

Reservations can be made up to a year in advance which, surprisingly, you may have to do for the very crowded weekends leading up to Halloween, when the Christmas-themed park takes on a more macabre spirit.• —Lou Harry


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  1. I am also a "vet" of several Cirque shows and this one left me flat. It didn't have the amount of acrobatic stunts as the others that I have seen. I am still glad that I went to it and look forward to the next one but I put Varekai as my least favorite.

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