Dr Ted’s Musical Marvels: Instruments that Play Themselves

Dr Ted’s Musical Marvels: Instruments that Play Themselves

As a youth, Dr. Ted Waflart frequented a local Louisville amusement park with his buddies. His favorite ride was the carousel, but he couldn’t let his friends know that. So he rode roller coasters with them. However, whenever Ted passed the carousel, he slowed his pace, for it was the calliope music, rather than riding the carved horses, that really captured his attention. Today Dr Ted’s Musical Marvels, in southern Indiana’s Dubois County, showcases Dr. Ted’s mechanical music instruments that he has collected and restored for over 40 years. Read more

Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana: Family Friendly Theme Park

Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana: Family Friendly Theme Park

RavenDon’t get me wrong. I love adventure. That love affair, however, doesn’t extend to the sensation of falling to my death. I am not a roller coaster lover, never have been and probably never will be. Nor can I tolerate spinning and spinning on a ride until I am nauseous. But I love theme parks anyway. I enjoy the festive atmosphere, the shows, and the rides that don’t totally freak me out or make me lose my lunch.

I visited Holiday World, in Santa Claus, Indiana, with my daughter and granddaughter and was pleasantly surprised at the number of options both for me and for my granddaughter who is too old to go on rides designed for little kids but not quite ready for the big stuff. My daughter went along with whatever we wanted to do. Holiday World categorizes their rides by Child, Mild, or Wild, helpful in determining which rides to choose. All of the rides we went on were rated Mild. The park is family friendly in other ways, too, from the shows to budget-friendly menus, including free beverages.

The Rides
We did actually go on a roller coaster. It wasn’t the Voyage, the #1 Wooden Coaster in the nation according to TIME magazine.

Roller coaster

We went instead on the Howler, about as much as I could brave.

Kids roller coaster

All three of us rode the carousel.


And later took a twirl on the Turkey Whirl.


I took a pass on the Kitty’s Tea Party, though, and I’m glad I did. At the rate that my granddaughter was making the teacup spin, my daughter came stumbling off of the ride in dizziness. I could only imagine what state I’d be in if I’d ridden it.

Teacup ride

The Holidog Express ride was on the short side. Whereas at many theme parks the train goes around the park and you get somewhat of a guided tour, this one was more entertaining for small kids, going past cute nursery rhyme scenes.

Holidog Express 1

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

When my granddaughter saw all the other kids driving the old-fashioned cars on the Lewis & Clark Trail, she jumped right into the driver’s seat at took off at top speed. I thought for a minute that we’d be the first car ever to jump the track.

Old fashioned cars 1

Old fashioned cars 2

I didn’t get photos of my two favorite rides because one ride was too wet and the other too dark. I had taken freezer bags with me to tuck my phone and wallet into during the water rides, but found that Holiday World provides free lockers at the Raging Rapids. Put the items you don’t want to get wet into the locker, take the key, and your possessions are kept safe and dry for the duration of your ride. We didn’t get too wet on the Raging Rapids after all, whereas the folks on the other side of our raft got drenched in the waterfall. If you do get drenched and want to dry quickly, Holiday World has family dryers near the exit of the ride. The cost is $5, but since we didn’t need it, I didn’t check to see how they work or how well they work.

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My other favorite ride was the Gobbler Getaway. You sit in a car that takes you along a dark track and shoot a laser gun—er, a turkey caller—to try to round up the turkeys in time for Thanksgiving.

The Shows
From “Santa’s Storytime” and “Holidog & Friends” geared toward the little ones to song-and-dance shows and a thrilling diving stunt show, those who want a break from the rides will find an option to suit them. Several shows are scheduled throughout the day in both indoor and outdoor theaters. We had time for just one performance, which was a Christian show called “EPIC Praise.”


Free Beverages and Reasonably Priced Food
Something I haven’t seen before at any theme park is free soft drinks. Holiday World has several Pepsi Oases throughout the park with complimentary self-serve soda and water. Food prices are listed on the web site along with an allergen-friendly menu, a healthier options menu and nutritional information, making it easy to plan ahead.

Pepsi Oasis

Splashin’ Safari
Pay one price and you get into both Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. In fact, you don’t have to leave one park to go to the other. The Splashin’ Safari entrance is located within Holiday World. Because we had only until early afternoon before we had to leave, we didn’t get a chance to experience Splashin’ Safari, but it looked like a lot of fun with water coasters, water slides, wave pool, a river ride and areas geared toward young children.

More Free Stuff
Besides free soft drinks, free sunscreen is available in both Splashin’ Safari and Holiday World. In addition, inner tube use in Splashin’ Safari, parking and Wi-Fi are all free.

Even though we got in quite a few rides before we had to leave, there were still a few more rides, a lot more shows and an entire waterpark that we left unexplored, which means we will have to make a return trip. No matter whether your family includes older kids or adults who love wild rides, small children or wimpy grandmas, you’ll find plenty to fill at least one day, if not two or three, at Holiday World and Spashin’ Safari.

Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, located at the junction of Highways 162 and 245 in Santa Claus, Indiana, are open May through October, but the schedule varies throughout the season. Check the web site for the exact schedule, hours and ticket prices.

Disclosure: My visit to Santa Claus was hosted by the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. However, we paid our own way to Holiday World. Any opinions expressed in this post are mine.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


It’s Christmas Year-Round in Santa Claus, Indiana

It’s Christmas Year-Round in Santa Claus, Indiana

400,000 pieces of mail are postmarked in the tiny town of Santa Claus, Indiana’s, post office each Christmas season. In addition, around 13,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus from children all over the United States are delivered here each year. It isn’t only during the holiday season that Santa Claus celebrates, though. The town embraces and capitalizes on its name, attracting tourists who come to celebrate Christmas year-round.

Originally called Santa Fee, the town was forced to change its name when it applied for a post office because the name too closely resembled the existing Indiana town of Santa Fe. There are several stories of how the name Santa Claus came to be, but the most popular is that during a meeting on Christmas Eve about renaming the town, a gust of wind blew the door open and the sound of sleigh bells was heard. A little girl yelled, “It’s Santa Claus!” and all agreed that’s what they would name the town.

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The Post Office Department started forwarding letters addressed to Santa to the Santa Claus post office in 1914, and the newly named postmaster, James Martin, began answering them. In 1931 the postmaster general tried to change the name of the town to alleviate the post office of the influx of letters to Santa, but the townspeople wouldn’t hear of it, and the name remained Santa Claus.

Today you’ll find many businesses in Santa Claus that focus on Christmas, like the Santa Claus Christmas Store; associate their names with Christmas, like the Holiday Foods grocery store; or simply display a holiday icon, like the Santa Claus statue outside the local Subway shop.

   Subway Santa 2

You’ll find plenty to do in Santa Claus to keep you busy, particularly in the summer months.

Santa Claus Christmas Store
Christmas Store exterior
Start your holiday shopping early in this 9,000 square foot store that’s everything Christmas. There seems to be no end to Christmas ornament displays, Santa statues line shelves high above, and the lights of Christmas village displays twinkle festively. Christmas ornaments designed exclusively for the Santa Claus Christmas Store make great souvenirs. Kids may even be able to visit with the jolly old elf himself when he’s not away at the North Pole. Purchase a Santa Claus postcard, address it and walk it down to the post office to have it mailed with the Santa Claus postmark.

Christmas Store interiorVisiting Santa
Santa Claus Post Office

Post Office exterior
It looks like any other post office, but come November the Santa Claus post office will be flooded with Christmas cards sent to them to have the Santa Claus postmark applied. Postmaster Marian says 400,000 pieces of mail come through the post office during the holiday season when a specially designed giant red postmark is stamped on envelopes. If you take the mail to the post office in person, you may even be able to apply the postmark yourself. Outside of the holiday season, you won’t get the big, special postmark, but rather the regular round black one that shows your correspondence was mailed in Santa Claus, Indiana.

PostmarkApproximately 10,000 letters to Santa are delivered to the post office each year. Postmaster Marian says if letters are addressed specifically to P.O. Box 1, Santa Claus, IN 47579, they will go to the elves to be answered. However, Emily Thompson, director of the Santa Claus Museum, says the elves get many letters other than those addressed to P.O. Box 1. It must be Christmas magic.

Santa Claus Museum and Village
Museum SantaLocated in the area that was originally the heart of town before Santa Claus grew, the Santa Claus Museum takes you through the town’s history. See a diorama of Jim Yellig as Santa Claus. Yellig began assisting with replying to Santa letters in 1930 and was also the town Santa for over 40 years. Yellig sought the help of the American Legion to answer Santa letters and is credited with keeping the tradition alive. His daughter, Pat Koch, says her father didn’t play Santa, he was Santa.

The museum’s display of antique toys takes you back to a nostalgic yesteryear, and one room is devoted to the history of Santa Claus Land, the forerunner to today’s Holiday World Theme Park and Spashin’ Safari Water Park.

Museum_Antique toys

Old Post OfficeThe original Santa Claus post office, used only until 1881, had previously been restored and used as the House of Dolls at Holiday World. In 2012 the building was moved to the Santa Claus Museum property and refurbished to resemble an old-fashioned post office.The building is equipped with a handful of old school desks where children may sit and write letters to Santa.

Writing to SantaChildren drop the letters into the elves’ mailbox and jingle the bells as a signal to the elves to pick them up. All letters that include a valid address will receive a return letter the following Christmas season.

Mailing letter to Santa
Ringing the elf bellsAlso on the museum property is a 22-foot tall, 40 ton concrete statue of Santa, constructed in 1935, as well as the Deutsch Evangelische St. Paul’s Kirche, also called Santa Claus Church. The church belonged to several denominations before being moved in 2012 from its original site about a half mile away to the museum property. The church is used for events like Christmas concerts and the Halloween Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Cement Santa

Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari
Holiday World
Pay one price for admission to both Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. The Holiday World Theme Park is divided into four holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Fourth of July and offers thrilling rides and entertaining shows. Bring your swimsuit and cool off in the Splashin’ Safari’s Water Park.

Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort
paddle boats
Although I would technically consider it an accommodation, there is so much to do at Lake Rudolph that I’ve included it in this list of attractions. Ride paddle boats, play a round a mini golf, fish, or swim. Lake Rudolph even has its own small water park.

Santa Claus’ peak season is the summer when the holidays are furthest from most people’s minds. However, a visit to Santa Claus will put you in the holiday mood, no matter if it’s 90 degrees outside.

Santa Claus is located in southern Indiana. For information on more Santa Claus attractions, visit the Spencer County Visitors Bureau web site.

Disclosure:  My visit to Santa Claus was hosted by the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. However, any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


Camp in comfort at Lake Rudolph, Santa Claus IN

Camp in comfort at Lake Rudolph, Santa Claus IN

It’s always holiday time at the Christmas-themed Lake Rudolph, where you don’t have to own an RV or even a tent to camp, although you’re welcome to bring your own if you prefer. With plenty to do, including planned activities, paddle boats, game room and a water park, Lake Rudolph is a destination resort that will keep you entertained for a weekend or a full week. Read more