Review: The Raven at Holiday World

Roller Coaster Reviews

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 directly 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?

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The Lead Up

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 statued 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. Which 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.

The only part of the ride visible from anywhere in the park–the iconic, flag-lined, lift hill adorned by the “#1 Wooden Roller Coaster on the Planet” banner.

Ride Experience

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 which skims right over a lake.

This low swoop is a great maneuver for several reasons. Obviously, anytime you come really close to 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 its 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.

The Raven at sunset. I’ve heard (and believe) that it delivers some great night rides with its forested setting. Unfortunately, Holiday World closed at 7pm on my visit and I was unable to experience this.

My Take

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 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 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 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)

POV recorded by Holiday World. Always receive permission before filming on roller coasters!

Your Take

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’d love to hear what you have to say!

This was a part of our 12 Days of Coasters special! Every day from Christmas until January 5th, we gave away a roller coaster review for you to enjoy. You can check them all out here. We thank you for reading, hope you’ve had a merry holidays, and wish you a happy New Year!

Hi, I'm Jon! I have many interests, but chief among them is a love of roller coasters and theme parks. I love rides and parks that deliver cool, unique, and meaningful experiences. I try to capture as much of that experiential goodness as I can in my writings!

2 Comments

  1. Great review Jon! This enthusiast-favorite coaster deserved a solid review on the site.

    Personally, I was VERY underwhelmed when I rode The Raven, but I blame that more on the hype and unreal accolades that the Raven had earned in the coaster enthusiast community. I was expecting it to take me to Valhalla, but for me, both The Voyage and The Legend were more memorable. I’ll say the coaster geeks ruined Raven for me a bit, and not blame it on the ride.

    As you stated, this is a classic or soon-to-be classic and as a lover of terrain coasters, I agree that The Raven definitely deserves praise. It’s a very good ride with an excellent layout and wooded atmosphere. Not life-changing though…

    Reply
  2. When I think of The Raven, my mind immediately jumps to the sad incident that occurred when an ACE member unbuckled her seatbelt and was thrown to her death on one of the ride’s hills. We all want that extra boost of airtime, but at what cost?

    Morbidness aside, I definitely need to re-visit Holiday World during warmer weather when I can enjoy all their rides + the legendary waterpark. Based strictly on memory, I’m inclined to agree with your rating of 8/10 (Legend was probably an 8.5 thanks to the tunnels and length; Voyage was a perfect 10/10 for me).

    Nice ride review, man!

    Reply

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