The Raven at Holiday World Review
The Raven is a wooden roller coaster at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari‘s Halloween section in Santa Claus, Indiana. It was designed and built beginning in 1994 by the now-defunct roller coaster manufacturer Custom Coasters International, with the help of designers Dennis McNulty and Larry Bill; it opened on May 6, 1995. The Raven takes its name from Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem “The Raven” and features sudden drops and turns which mimic the flight of a raven. From 2000 to 2003, The Raven was voted the world’s “Best Wooden Roller Coaster” at the Golden Ticket Awards, which are presented annually by Amusement Today magazine. It was named an “ACE Roller Coaster Landmark” by American Coaster Enthusiasts on June 23, 2016. On today’s episode of The Coaster Geeks Podcast, we talk about it here!
Prefer to listen? Check out the Coaster Geeks podcast below and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts
I stumbled on Holiday World by accident. It was 2016 and the year Michele and I did our epic second annual coaster tour across America from Colorado to Maine to Texas. We rode more than 100 coasters on that trip. About mid-way through our trip, Michele had to fly back home to Alaska to pick up a service dog that we were delivering to a client in Texas. I dropped her off in Chicago and made my way south. I stopped in a diner for lunch and whipped out my phone and searched “roller coasters in Indiana.” Holiday World popped up.
I turned off of the highway and into the rolling hills and cornfields and saw the massive orange Thunderbird in the middle of a swatch of corn. I knew this was going to be good. If you haven’t been to Holiday World it is in, you guessed it, Santa Claus Indiana and the entire park is, well, holiday-themed. While this is not a review of the park, we will do that show in detail, later on, we are here to talk about The Raven. It is located in the Halloween section of the park and the first coaster you will see as you go through the gates. I was wishing my coaster buddy; Michele was along for this first ride but we did make it back in 2018 and 2019 as part of the coaster tours.
Michele: The Raven is a classic wooden roller coaster at Holiday World in little Santa Claus, Indiana. This is a park well known for its wooden coasters, and it was The Raven that kicked off this reputation! It was the very first woodie they added, built by Custom Coasters International back in 1995, which actually makes the ride surprisingly young. And as Holiday World will be the first to tell you, The Raven had quite the reputation in the years past, racking up the awards to show it. As you walk in the park’s main entrance, the lift hill for the coaster is direct to your left. Adorned on the structure is a sign reminding visitors of The Raven’s past, namely, that it was voted the “Best Roller Coaster on the Planet” for 3 years straight! However, given that those years were 2000-2003, does The Raven still hold up as one of the ‘Best’ out there?
You can find The Raven in the Halloween section of the park. One aspect to Holiday World that I didn’t know until getting there was the hilly nature of the park. Between the Christmas-themed entry area and the Thanksgiving section, the path is a winding road on a downward slope. Because of the fluctuating grade, there are a lot of horizontal paths. So, although The Raven’s station is pretty close to the front entrance geographically, it takes a few minutes to walk there. Most of The Raven’s layout, though, is hidden from view off in the woods.
Once you do arrive, you’ll walk under a really cool wrought iron entry sign. And in case you didn’t see the lift hill structure sign out front, this sign also will inform you The Raven used to be the best in the world. Once in the station, you walk through a stairwell corridor painted to be pitch black. “The Raven” name comes from the Edgar Allen Poe poem, so there’s a loose theme here. There’s a statue of Raven atop a skull sitting in the loading area, so I guess that helps? I don’t think most guests would make the connection without being told though. This isn’t necessarily bad, given Holiday World is a regional park, but I think they did a better job with the storylines behind their later coasters.
A brief dip and turn and you begin to ascend the 80-foot lift hill. At the top, a slight turn and you’re heading down an 85-foot drop into the woods! If you’re in the back here, you really get dragged over the drop for some ejector airtime. The bottom of the drop plunges you into a tunnel. Emerging from the tunnel, you rise up into a hill, which’s purpose is not so much for airtime, but rather to line you up for the next element: a 360-degree turnaround that skims right over a lake.
This low swoop is a great maneuver for several reasons. Obviously, anytime you come really close to the water on a coaster, it’s a cool feeling. But further, if this was your first ride, there would be no way you could even know this lake existed–much less that the coaster interacts with it.
After the lake turnaround, you head back into the woods. A pair of hills with marginal airtime precede the finale of the ride: back-to-back banked turns. This sounds tame, but it’s actually fairly intense. They are hard curves, and you get some nice lateral G-forces. After the second s-curve, you head into the final brake run.
Easily the best part of The Raven is the fact it is a terrain coaster. It not only flies through the woods, but it traverses a hillside as well and it goes over a lake. The Raven is a great example of how the surrounding environment can boost a ride’s excitement. The top speed is only 48 miles per hour, but it feels much faster because of the trees and ground zooming by around you.
By its modest stats–80 foot height, 48 mph speed, short duration–and relative age compared to its fellow thrill machines at Holiday World, The Raven should be the least of them. But, honestly, it outperformed my expectations; I enjoyed The Raven more than I felt I should have. I liked it more than The Legend, and I rode it more times than The Voyage. Going in, I guess I knew about The Raven’s reputation in the back of my head, but I really didn’t have big expectations for it.
So, is it “the Best Wooden Roller Coaster” in the world? No. It can’t compare to new-age wooden behemoths like El Toro or Lightning Rod. The glory days have gone, but that doesn’t mean The Raven can’t carve out a new niche: as a classic woodie that delivers a better ride experience than its appearance would suggest, but one that still falls short of “great.”
Final Rating – 8.0 out of 10 (Great)
What are your thoughts on the first classic woodie from Holiday World? Have you been out there, and how does The Raven compare to the other coasters at the Santa Claus, Indiana park? We would love to hear what you have to say!