Holiday World or Kentucky Kingdom
Kentucky Kingdom or Holiday World?
Kentucky Kingdom and Holiday World are both amazing amusement parks we are lucky to have in driving distance from Louisville.
My family and I recently spent one day at Kentucky Kingdom, followed by one day at Holiday World. Below is basic information comparing the two parks.
• Kentucky Kingdom is located in Louisville, Kentucky.
• Holiday World is located in Santa Claus, Indiana. It’s a little over an hour drive down I-64 West (take exit 63).
General Park Info
Kentucky Kingdom is located in Louisville – simple drive.
Holiday World is located in Santa Claus, Indiana – over an hour drive west out 64.
Kentucky Kingdom is Eastern Time – no adjustments needed. Kentucky Kingdom has rides at the front area by the entrance, a portion of rides on the other side of the road that drives through the park, and then Hurricane Bay which is to the center and western portion of the park. Kentucky Kingdom is 63 acres – everything is very close together, but not as big.
Holiday World is Central Time – the extra time you get there is almost reversed with going back an hour. Unfortunately, you lose an hour when you get home so the trip may seem later than it is. Holiday World has rides divided into four sections: Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July. Splashin’ Safari is in the northwest section of the park. Holiday World is 125 acres – it can be a bit of a walk and includes some small hills, but lots of room for more attractions.
• Parking for Kentucky Kingdom is located at the Kentucky Fair & Expo Center and costs $8. There is an area for drop-off/pick-up off Phillips Lane.
• Parking for Holiday World is FREE!
At the time of this article, both parks were about the same admission price for a day ticket. If you went with a two day pass it was slightly cheaper at Holiday World. Both parks offer discounts.
Kentucky Kingdom has discounts through Kroger and Groupon and has specific appreciation days for military and first responders. There are no adult or child tickets – all tickets are one price. Children under 36 inches are free. Guests 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult chaperone age 21 and over.
Holiday World has discounts through Kroger, but also has individual, daily discount tickets for military, nurses, first responders, and foster families. There are no adult or child tickets – all tickets are one price. Children 3 and under are free.
Admission Cost (Subject to Change)
Children 2 & under Free
Military & First Responders can get discounted tickets (Max 4 tickets with proper ID)
Season Passes $74.99
Children 2 & under Free
Military, First Responders, and nurses can get discounted tickets with proper ID
*Season tickets start at $175.
Both Kentucky Kingdom and Holiday World will give you a ticket for a free day later that season if weather causes the majority of the rides to stop for 2 hours or more (due to lightening, wind, etc).
Kentucky Kingdom has free sunscreen and several of their ticket options include free drinks at the park all day with a special wristband.
Holiday World has free parking, sunscreen, drinks, and Wi-Fi for all at the park, every day.
Both parks do not allow outside food or drink (beyond baby food) to be brought into the park, however, both parks allow you to leave, eat lunch at your car in the parking lot, and then re-enter the park. Both parks have long lines that build up around your typical eating times, so eating early or late will save you time.
Kentucky Kingdom has two restaurants that allow you to go inside to sit down and eat- Casa Mia Pizza and Swampwater Jack’s. There are several food stands located throughout the park if you are looking for a quick snack or a sweet treat. Kentucky Kingdom offers the usual pizza, chicken, burgers, funnel cake, and ice cream. There is also one taco restaurant which was my favorite for a vegetarian option. There is also a little bakery toward the front entrance which has some goodies. The Kentucky Kingdome website has options for gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and nut free options. The food is reasonably priced considering you can’t bring your own food in. Kentucky Kingdom has a discount on food for season pass holders.
Holiday World had a few more restaurants options and a few more food stands throughout the park. They also have a section on their map/guide that tells you where you can purchase allergen friendly food. They had Pepsi Oasis stations located throughout the park where you can get unlimited soft drinks. The cups are small, but you can get as many as you want.
Our top place to eat is Santa’s Merry Marketplace by the front entrance. It has multiple options from pizza and burgers to Asian cuisine. There is also a huge selection of sweets. Some of the prices seemed higher than expected for some menu items, while others seemed very reasonable. The Holiday World website also lists allergen-friendly food, gluten free, and healthier options.
Both parks have a rule of wearing shirt, shorts, and shoes when you leave the water park area and re-enter the amusement park areas (women cannot walk around in their bathing suits and men cannot walk around in only swim trunks in the amusement area of the parks). I highly recommend wearing water shoes (not flip flops or sandals). Water shoes are allowed on the water rides and for the amusement park area and do a great job of protecting your feet from the hot concrete while not being left behind on outside a water ride to potentially be stolen. I also recommend wearing a cover up dress for women/girls and swim shirt for men/boys to prevent a lot of changing room time. Throw the dress over your wet suit and your off to the amusement park side.
Kentucky Kingdom has two changing rooms located near Hurricane Bay. They are rather small. There is a locker area located near each changing room, and also one near the front of the park. These changing areas get crowded easily – especially when the water park closes. It is best to plan ahead and change a half hour or more before Hurricane Bay closes.
Holiday World also has lockers near the front of the park and at the entrance to Splashin’ Safari. Holiday World had a lot more lockers than Kentucky Kingdom. They had bathroom/changing rooms throughout the water area. The changing room we used was very clean and bright. The restrooms were towards the back of the changing areas, and they too were clean. They have private changing areas for moms/dads and kids. There are family restrooms in Splashin’ Safari and by the front gate.
Both parks have the same, keyless locker system. You pay for a locker, select the number of wrist bands you want to have access to the locker, and then go scan your wristband in a locker aisle where you’d like to have your locker. Your wristband will open that locker all day for one fee.
Kentucky Kingdom has regular and large lockers for all day rentals at the front gate and by the wave pool. Every time we have gone to Kentucky Kingdom, it feels like all the lockers are all taken by mid-day. Kentucky Kingom’s lockers are a couple dollars cheaper than Holiday World’s lockers.
Holiday World has a larger selection of regular and large lockers for all day rentals that are slightly larger and slightly more expensive than Kentucky Kingdom’s lockers. Even at mid-day, I was still able to switch from a regular locker to a large locker without any extra fee or problem when I realized our bag and all of our shoes wouldn’t fit in the regular locker when it was time to do the water rides.
Kentucky Kingdom has one, big wave pool (Big Surf) and one small wave pool (Family Wave Lagoon). There are two lazy rivers (Adventure River and Castaway Creek). There are tube rides and slides that include tunnels, funnels, and steep drops. There is also a Splash Zone play area with a giant tipping bucket, and a smaller play area for little kids called Buccaneer Beach.
Some of the newer features are the Family Wave Lagoon (new wave pool), Adventure River (a faster lazy river), Buccaneer Beach (interactive water play elements and slides for the little ones), and several new water slides. There were plenty of lounge chairs available when we went, or you can rent a cabana. Don’t worry if you forgot your sunscreen, they have several stations with free sunscreen throughout the park. I felt like there was plenty to do for all ages. The smaller kids will enjoy the family wave pool and spray areas with smaller slides, while the bigger kids and adults will enjoy the Big Surf (original wave pool) and all the new water slides. If you’re feeling brave you can try Deep Water Dive, which is the region’s tallest water slide with a 12 story drop!
Holiday World has a larger water park area than Kentucky Kingdom. It has two large wave pools and one lazy river. Splashin’ Safari has a lot of fun water slides that also include tunnels, funnels, and steep drops. There are three extra-large water coasters: The Wildebeest, The Mammoth, and Cheetah Chase. Splashin’ Safari boasts the world’s largest enclosed water slide (Zoombabwe), the world’s first giant half pipe water slide (Zinga), and the world’s first launched water coaster (Cheetah Chase). Splashin’ Safari also has a splash pad (Magic Waters), three water play areas (Tembo Falls, Safari Sam’s SplashLand, and Kima Bay) which includes multiple smaller slides and a giant tipping bucket.
Splashin’ Safari also has two wave pools, a lazy river, splash areas for kids, and several different water slides. They also had free sunscreen available throughout the park. Splashin’ Safari seemed a little larger to me, but that may have been because it was more spread out than Hurricane Bay. They were very crowded, and only a few chairs were left that didn’t have towels on them. I would recommend getting there early to get a spot.
This is an option I had never thought of before this year. When you rent a cabana, it includes a locker (one less expense), refrigerator, table, seating, and provides a shady place to rest, a place to meet if your party splits up or your children get lost. It’s a great plan for a large family gathering, meeting up with friends at the park, or celebrating a birthday with friends.
Kentucky Kingdom has single strollers, double strollers, wheelchairs, scooters, and scooters with sun shades available to rent. Kentucky Kingdom’s mobility rentals are slightly less expensive than Holiday World’s mobility rentals.
Holiday World has double strollers, wagons with and without sunshades, wheelchairs, and scooters to rent, but you are also allowed to bring your own stroller or wagon through the park. Holiday World’s rentals are slightly higher than Kentucky Kingdom’s.
Kentucky Kingdom has regular and large cabana sizes to choose from and the prices were slightly less for the cabanas at Kentucky Kingdom. The cabanas are not as fancy as Holiday World, but still provide a nice place to relax or meet up with others in your party.
Holiday World has the option of renting Cabanas for up to eight people or Chaise Loungers that have a shaded seating by the lazy river for four people. Holiday World Cabanas and loungers come with bottles of water, but the drinks at Holiday World are free all day, so it’s more of a convenience. Cabanas at Holiday World can also have a meal plan added on which saves you from waiting in food lines that can be long at Holiday World.
Kentucky Kingdom: When my family and I go we usually stay in King Louie’s Playland. It’s towards the front of the park, and the short walk is nice on those really hot days. Inside this children’s area are 12 rides, four of which are new. My daughters are 3 and 1 ½ years old, and really enjoy this area!
This area is usually not too busy. There have been many times when we stay on a ride two or three times because there is no one else in line when the ride’s over. The longest we have waited for a ride is a few minutes. There are several benches to sit on and 2 “King” chairs that the kids flock to. There are a few other rides outside this area that smaller children can ride on as well. Kentucky Kingdom has 2 roller coasters, including the new Lightning Run. Besides the roller coaster there are about 12 other rides that are geared towards older kids and adults.
Kentucky Kingdom has two wooden roller coasters: Thunder Run and Kentucky Flyer. They also have four metal coasters that include T3, Lightning Run, Storm Chaser, and Roller Skater (a junior coaster). When you look up how many rides Kentucky Kingdom has, it will say 52, but this includes Hurricane Bay.
Holiday World is divided into holiday sections with several theme related rides in each section. The Christmas area and Holidog’s Fun Town each had six rides for smaller children. There were a few rides in each of the other sections (Halloween, 4th of July, Thanksgiving) that my 3 year old could ride, but not many that my 15 month old could ride. I felt like Holiday World had more rides for older kids and adults, including 4 roller coasters!
We did enjoy the Raging Rapids water ride (Kentucky Kingdom has a similar ride opening next year) and Frightful Falls (which is a smaller version of Kentucky Kingdom’s Mile High Falls). Holiday World was very busy, even though it was a weekday. Some rides had a wait of over an hour. The rides in the Christmas and Holidog area didn’t have much of a wait, and my children really enjoyed them.
Holiday World has three wooden roller coasters: The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage. There are also two metal coasters: Thunderbird and The Howler (a kiddie coaster). When you look up how many rides Holiday World has, it will say more than 60, but this includes Splashin’ Safari.
Entertainment/Shows – Holiday World or Kentucky Kingdom?
Kentucky Kingdom has something called Dancensation Showcase which has dance show every day at 1pm and 2pm, as well as a schedule of show times on different, specific dates for different types of music. Kentucky Kingdom is also known for hosting local marching bands that play around the park.
Holiday World has dive shows, magic shows, juggling shows, Santa’s story time, singing and dancing mascot shows, a stage at Holidog’s Funtown, and a small stage for a pool side show for kids at Muiki Bay.
Both Kentucky Kingdom and Holiday World provide smoking areas.
Holiday World provides a free phone wristband for parents to put their phone number on and place on their children’s wrist.
Holiday World provides a Boarding Pass for visitors that have a disability that will keep them from waiting on ride queues.
Holiday World has a calming room for visitors who may need a break from the park’s sensory stimulation.
Holiday World offers a kennel for visiting dogs with varying fees for air-conditioning vs outdoor kennels.
Looking for more outdoor family fun in Louisville? Look here!