When it comes to summer in Southern Indiana, you can’t go wrong with roller coasters and camping. Combining these two favorite pastimes, I recently traveled to Santa Claus, Indiana, to explore Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari and Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort.
While I had visited Holiday World every summer in my youth, I have never stayed at Lake Rudolph’s property. I was surprised by the size of the grounds when I arrived. Lake Rudolph spans 160 wooded acres, offering 40 tent sites, 187 full-hookup RV sites, and 153 cabins and cottages. In addition, the campgrounds also feature 135 rental RVs available in three different sizes.
My cabin, a Rudolph’s Christmas Cabin, was one of 14 new cabins added this season, (along with 25 Holiday Cottages). Fully furnished, the cabin sleeps eight. The jewel of my lodgings easily was the large, covered back deck, equipped with a picnic table and gas grill.
The staff at Lake Rudolph also plans plenty of activities to keep even the most obstinate teenager happy.
“We have so many fun activities,” says Lake Rudolph Guest Services Manager Laura Barker. “We love family traditions, where guests come every year and the kids have kind of grown up coming here.”
In the resort, I had access to the Santa SplashDown Waterpark, a camp store, Blitzen Kitchen (featuring pizza and ice cream), golf cart rentals, and fishing and paddle boating on Lake Rudolph. But hearing the faint sounds of the roller coasters running in the morning made me excited to visit Holiday World.
The park, originally called Santa Claus Land, was opened Aug. 3, 1946, by Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch. Today, Holiday World still is owned and operated by the Koch family. In total, the park offers 32 rides as well as 16 water-park attractions — including the Mammoth water coaster and numerous water slides — in Splashin’ Safari. Other great amenities include free soft drinks, sunscreen, parking, and Wi-Fi.
My trip consisted of riding my favorites — Frightfall Falls, Raging Rapids, and The Legend roller coaster. Of course, the afternoon heat was beat by a few hours floating in the Bahari River in Splashin’ Safari. Still, one of the most exciting additions to the park in the last few years — and another favorite of mine — is the Thunderbird steel rollercoaster.
“It is beloved,” says park director of communications Paula Werne. “There was a poll last year of all the wing roller coasters — and there’s only a handful out there — and Thunderbird was rated No. 1.”
It may surprise some, but there is so much to do and see in Santa Claus two days may not be enough. Along with the park and campgrounds, there’s the Santa Claus Christmas Store, Santa’s Candy Castle, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, and so much more. And it’s all just a short hour drive east of Evansville.