The Indiana Insider Blog

Holiday World brings back iconic first ride

What do you give a park for its 70th birthday?

If you’ve been around the block a few times, you already know that Holiday World started out as Santa Claus Land, with an opening day of August 3, 1946.

That’s right. Nine years before Disneyland. Santa Claus Land was the very first theme park.

And the very first theme-park ride was the Santa Claus Land Railroad.

Santa Claus Land Railroad

Over the years, colorful storybook statues were added and the ride was renamed the Mother Goose Land Train. As the park grew, its name was changed to Holiday World, and the train was renamed the Freedom Train.

Holiday World's Freedom Train

Alas, three years ago, the train was retired. We searched the world over for help in restoring it, but the options always ended up with a call to replace so much of the original material that we felt it would no longer be the same train generations had grown up riding.

We sadly put our train in storage and introduced Holidog Express to fill the void.

But we always knew it wasn’t forever.

And so, in celebration of our 70th Birthday Season, we’re bringing back that original train as part of a display of our history.

Here’s a look at our painters restoring the train’s original colors. It took nearly two weeks, but we’ve scrunched the video into 25 seconds:

Do you enjoy hearing this sort of story? Then please be sure to check out our new podcast, with “news, views, and queues” about Holiday World’s past, present and future. Our “pod squad” includes two of our fourth-generation owners, our park president, plus interviews with members of our staff.

And if you’re feeling lucky, be sure to enter our Lots o’ Lights Sweepstakes, with a chance to win four tickets to Holiday World and overnights in a Holiday Cottage at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort.

Winter won’t last forever!

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Written by : Paula is Director of Communications at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, where she began the first theme park-hosted blog in 2005. An IU grad who grew up in New England, Paula is married with three sons and a grandson.