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This abandoned Wild West-themed park is full of secrets



Slide 1 of 28: Known as Ghost Town in the Sky, this abandoned Wild West-themed amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, has seen as many ups and downs over the decades as its old roller coaster. Here we explore Ghost Town from its heyday to its decline, through eerie images courtesy of Abandoned Southeast and photographer Leland Kent. Read on to explore this unusual abandoned theme park…
Slide 2 of 28: In 1960, R.B. Coburn, a Virginia-born businessman, purchased Buck Mountain, a mountaintop site towards the bottom of the Great Smoky Mountains, with grand plans to build his own theme park. The site overlooked the town of Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
Slide 3 of 28: More than 200 local workers were hired to build around 40 life-sized replica Wild West-style buildings inspired by Coburn's visits to other American ghost towns. The buildings perched right on the mountain's peak would eventually make up the park’s main attraction, known as Old West.
Slide 4 of 28: Ghost Town was created by former Disney designer Russell Pearson and reportedly cost around $1 million (£757,000) to build. According to Abandoned Southeast, the park spanned roughly 120,000 square feet (11,148 sqm) of land. Around 200,000 feet (61,000m) of plywood, 300,000 (91,400m) feet of lumber and 20,000 lbs (9,000kg) of nails were used to construct the old-fashioned buildings.

Slide 5 of 28: The park opened its doors to the public in 1961 and was immediately a huge success. It was promoted as “North Carolina’s mile-high theme park” and became one of the state's most popular and visited attractions throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
Slide 6 of 28: To visit the park, passengers had to board a double incline railway to the top of Buck Mountain. The exciting journey included multiple slopes towards the peak, varying from 30 to 77 degrees in steepness, and afforded picturesque views overlooking Maggie Valley.
Slide 7 of 28: In 1962, Coburn installed a two-seater chairlift built parallel to the incline railway to take even more visitors up to Ghost's Town's entrance. It reportedly moved at a rate of 310 feet (94m) per minute and could transport up to 1,200 visitors per hour.
Slide 8 of 28: At the time, the impressive chairlift, which climbed more than 1,250 feet (381m), was apparently North Carolina's longest. Sadly as the years passed, like the rest of the park, the chairlift suffered from more and more problems and began to break down.
Slide 9 of 28: Ghost Town comprised of several different towns located at different heights of the mountain. They included Mining Town, Mountain Town, Indian Village and Old West. Pictured are the buildings located on the main street of Old West which are still pretty well preserved. In fact, live shoot-outs were staged every hour in the middle of this street. Visitors would line up on the sidewalk for the best view of all the action. More recently, the abandoned Western town has been used as a location for a number of films such as Dean Teaster's Ghost Town (2007), Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (2008) and Ringside Rosary (2010).

Slide 10 of 28: At the height of its popularity, Ghost Town attracted thousands of guests every year. In the early 1970s, the park welcomed 400,000 visitors during its peak seasons, from families to Wild West enthusiasts.
Slide 11 of 28: Located at the heart of Ghost Town was the theme park’s most popular spot, Old West. The town, which is still mostly intact, included a replica bank, saloons, a church, jail and more to re-create an authentic Wild West experience for guests.
Slide 12 of 28: A lot of the action happened on the town’s main street. Visitors could live out their Wild West dreams and catch a live country music show at the Red Dog Saloon or enjoy can-can dancers putting on a performance at the Silver Dollar.
Slide 13 of 28: Ghost Town also had its fair share of amusement rides which were added over the years. They included the park’s famous Red Devil coaster (later re-named Cliffhanger), Casino, bumper cars and Sea Dragon. Discover America's most jaw-dropping roller coasters only for the brave
Slide 14 of 28: The Red Devil coaster, one of Ghost Town's main attractions, opened in 1988. Unusually, the steel coaster's boarding station was at the top of a hill. It then rolled around a 90-degree curve into the main drop and an inverted loop.

Slide 15 of 28: Unfortunately under Coburn’s ownership, the park reportedly suffered from poor maintenance and bad management which eventually led to its downfall. Although it's claimed that Coburn spent thousands of dollars trying to maintain the park, Ghost Town's attractions would regularly break down.
Slide 16 of 28: The chairlift and incline railway especially needed constant and expensive maintenance. In 2002, things went from bad to worse when the chairlift malfunctioned and trapped passengers, leaving them stranded. A few days later, Coburn closed the park for good and put it up for sale.
Slide 17 of 28: Ghost Town stayed closed for the next five years and the park fell into a further state of disrepair. The park’s desperate need for major renovations and the prospect of high maintenance costs made it a hard sell for any future owners.
Slide 18 of 28: Ghost Town reopened in 2007 under new ownership. Millions of dollars had been spent on restoring the park and its rides. Some rides and the double incline railway were never fully operational again but new attractions were added.
Slide 19 of 28: A brand new area called Heritage Town Square opened in an attempt to attract more visitors and families. Located at the chairlift terminus, the spot included a themed restaurant.
Slide 20 of 28: In true cowboy fashion, Heritage Town Square also had a mining-themed shooting gallery. Pictured are sinister headless mannequins decked in Western-style clothing, some of the spooky remains of the abandoned area.
Slide 21 of 28: In 2007, the Red Devil was renamed the Cliffhanger after a much-needed makeover. However, massive repairs were required and its opening was pushed back to 2009.
Slide 22 of 28: Sadly, the Cliffhanger was short-lived. After it opened in 2009, state inspectors found something wrong with one of the ride's seats. It was closed again for repairs and failed to pass a test run in 2010. It was shut down indefinitely.
Slide 23 of 28: The Ghost Town train was another attraction that didn't reopen in 2007. Today the engine and carriages are slowly being taken over by nature. Take a look at these ruins where Mother Nature ran riot.
Slide 24 of 28: Sadly, ticket sales in 2008 were "sluggish" and, combined with the effects of the economic recession, the park went into debt. In early 2009, Ghost Town's owners failed to secure any further funding and declared bankruptcy.
Slide 25 of 28: Despite strong fears that the park wouldn't reopen for the 2009 season, the owners were able to secure help from a private business owner. Ghost Town opened in May but suffered another poor few months. Smoky Mountain News reported that it failed to cover its operating costs and workers didn't receive their last weeks of pay.
Slide 26 of 28: After a rocky year in 2009, more bad luck befell the park. In February 2010, a mudslide partially damaged the park and also blocked one of its access roads. On top of that, more financial problems plagued Ghost Town and it didn't open for the year's season.
Slide 27 of 28: Two years later, businesswoman Alaska Presley bought the Ghost Town property at auction for $2.5 million (£1.9 million). Unsurprisingly, the park required repairs that cost millions of dollars and over the next few years, parts of Ghost Town opened sporadically, some areas only temporarily. Take a look inside more of America's abandoned theme parks.
Slide 28 of 28: The park closed for good in 2016 and Presley decided to sell up. While there were hopes for a new buyer, a company called Ghost Town Adventures, to refurbish and reopen the park in 2019, those plans were shelved. Smoky Mountain News reported that the park is once again under contract, but this has not been confirmed. Only time will tell whether the park will be restored to its glory days. Now take a look at American tourist attractions that no longer exist

Spooky shots

Known as Ghost Town in the Sky, this abandoned Wild West-themed amusement park in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, has seen as many ups and downs over the decades as its old roller coaster. Here we explore Ghost Town from its heyday to its decline, through eerie images courtesy of Abandoned Southeast and photographer Leland Kent. Read on to explore this unusual abandoned theme park…

Big plans

From vision to reality

A huge investment

Welcome to Ghost Town in the Sky

Stunning scenery

Chairlift up the mountain

Long way to the top

A sprawling park

Ghost Town comprised of several different towns located at different heights of the mountain. They included Mining Town, Mountain Town, Indian Village and Old West. Pictured are the buildings located on the main street of Old West which are still pretty well preserved. In fact, live shoot-outs were staged every hour in the middle of this street. Visitors would line up on the sidewalk for the best view of all the action. More recently, the abandoned Western town has been used as a location for a number of films such as Dean Teaster’s Ghost Town (2007), Mandie and the Secret Tunnel (2008) and Ringside Rosary (2010).

Peak popularity during the 1970s

Old West had it all

Wild West-style entertainment

Brimming with attractions

Ghost Town also had its fair share of amusement rides which were added over the years. They included the park’s famous Red Devil coaster (later re-named Cliffhanger), Casino, bumper cars and Sea Dragon.

Discover America’s most jaw-dropping roller coasters only for the brave

The Red Devil coaster

Thing started to go wrong

The end to Coburn’s ownership

Closed for business

The park reopens

New additions to Ghost Town

A brand new area called Heritage Town Square opened in an attempt to attract more visitors and families. Located at the chairlift terminus, the spot included a themed restaurant.

Shooting gallery in the Heritage Town Square

The Red Devil becomes the Cliffhanger

A series of unfortunate events

Ghost train goes bust

The Ghost Town train was another attraction that didn’t reopen in 2007. Today the engine and carriages are slowly being taken over by nature. Take a look at these ruins where Mother Nature ran riot.

Things went from bad to worse

Sadly, ticket sales in 2008 were “sluggish” and, combined with the effects of the economic recession, the park went into debt. In early 2009, Ghost Town’s owners failed to secure any further funding and declared bankruptcy.

The downward spiral continued

Despite strong fears that the park wouldn’t reopen for the 2009 season, the owners were able to secure help from a private business owner. Ghost Town opened in May but suffered another poor few months. Smoky Mountain News reported that it failed to cover its operating costs and workers didn’t receive their last weeks of pay.

Mudslide hits Maggie Valley

Another (partial) reopening

Two years later, businesswoman Alaska Presley bought the Ghost Town property at auction for $2.5 million (£1.9 million). Unsurprisingly, the park required repairs that cost millions of dollars and over the next few years, parts of Ghost Town opened sporadically, some areas only temporarily. Take a look inside more of America’s abandoned theme parks.

What does the future hold for Ghost Town?

The park closed for good in 2016 and Presley decided to sell up. While there were hopes for a new buyer, a company called Ghost Town Adventures, to refurbish and reopen the park in 2019, those plans were shelved. Smoky Mountain News reported that the park is once again under contract, but this has not been confirmed. Only time will tell whether the park will be restored to its glory days.

Now take a look at American tourist attractions that no longer exist

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Inside the hotel made of gold where the rooms only cost $250 a night



Slide 1 of 15: From its sparkly rooftop infinity pool down to its food, the 25-story Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake luxury hotel is fully made up of gold.The hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam opened its doors to visitors this week after 11 years of construction that cost around $200 million.Room prices start at $250 per night as the hotel's owners are hoping to bring in "ordinary people to the super-rich."Guests who have already stayed at the hotel have said the experience has made them feel like royalty.  Scroll down to see what the golden hotel looks like.Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.From the shower heads to the rooftop infinity pool, everything at the Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel in Vietnam is gold.The five-star luxury hotel in Vietnam's capital — which calls itself the world's first fully gold-plated hotel — opened its golden gates to visitors this week, after 11 years of construction that cost around $200 million. And it's an eyeful: everything from the lobby ceiling to the toilet seat is golden. But while the shiny hotel might look like it can only be afforded by the world's wealthiest, its owners say that with rooms starting at $250 a night, they hope to attract ordinary people, as well as the super-rich.Scroll down to see photos of what the golden luxury hotel looks like.Read the original article on Insider
Slide 2 of 15: The 400-room property, developed by Hoa Bing Group, will operate under the American Wyndham Hotels brand.
Slide 3 of 15: Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake
Slide 4 of 15: Most features inside the five-star hotel have been given the golden treatment, whether it's the shiny gold-plated ceiling in the majestic lobby...

Slide 5 of 15: ...or the golden elevators bringing guests up to their rooms.
Slide 6 of 15: Even the rooftop infinity pool, with sprawling views over the city, was not spared.
Slide 7 of 15: Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake
Slide 8 of 15: But that's not all. All the interior have been gilded, with some rooms containing gold-plated appliances, a regal golden bathtub...
Slide 9 of 15: ...and even golden toilets.

Slide 10 of 15: According to the hotel's website, even the coffee cups are made up of 24-karat gold.Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake
Slide 11 of 15: Source: Daily Mail
Slide 12 of 15: "When I arrive here…I felt like a king, you know, the Pharao…the king of Egypt," Phillip Park, a guest from South Korea said, according to Conde Nast Traveller.
Slide 13 of 15: Source: Daily Mail
Slide 14 of 15: "Our group has a factory that can do gold-plated stuff, so the cost for our equipment and furniture here is quite cheap,", Duong said, according to the Daily Mail.

Slide 15 of 15: Source: Daily Mail

Inside the hotel made of gold where the rooms only cost $250 a night

From the shower heads to the rooftop infinity pool, everything at the Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel in Vietnam is gold.

The five-star luxury hotel in Vietnam’s capital — which calls itself the world’s first fully gold-plated hotel — opened its golden gates to visitors this week, after 11 years of construction that cost around $200 million. 

And it’s an eyeful: everything from the lobby ceiling to the toilet seat is golden. But while the shiny hotel might look like it can only be afforded by the world’s wealthiest, its owners say that with rooms starting at $250 a night, they hope to attract ordinary people, as well as the super-rich.

Scroll down to see photos of what the golden luxury hotel looks like.

From its sparkling rooftop infinity pool down to its toilet seats, the 25-story Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel is, quite literally, dripping in gold.

The 400-room property, developed by Hoa Bing Group, will operate under the American Wyndham Hotels brand.

The five-star hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam opened its golden gates to visitors this week after 11 years of construction, costing $200 million.

Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake

Most features inside the five-star hotel have been given the golden treatment, whether it’s the shiny gold-plated ceiling in the majestic lobby…

…or the golden elevators bringing guests up to their rooms.

Even the rooftop infinity pool, with sprawling views over the city, was not spared.

Almost 54,000 square feet of gilded ceramic was used on the hotel’s exterior walls to make it shine from the outside.

Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake

But that’s not all. All the interior have been gilded, with some rooms containing gold-plated appliances, a regal golden bathtub…

…and even golden toilets.

The hotel took its commitment to gold one step further, stating on its website that every meal is served with a “mysterious golden substance.”

According to the hotel’s website, even the coffee cups are made up of 24-karat gold.

Source: Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake

Room prices start at $250 per night as the hotel is hoping to attract people of all backgrounds. According to the chairman of the Hoa Binh group, which owns the hotel, the Dolce wants “ordinary people to the super-rich…to check-in.”

Source: Daily Mail

Guests who have already had a chance to stay at the hotel have compared the experience to being treated like royalty.

“When I arrive here…I felt like a king, you know, the Pharao…the king of Egypt,” Phillip Park, a guest from South Korea said, according to Conde Nast Traveller.

“I really enjoyed the luxury atmosphere. It has changed my mind about what luxury can be. Other luxury hotels usually use marbles as tiles, but here everything is gold-plated down to the washing basin,” one guest said.

Source: Daily Mail

According to the hotel, some of the rooms are affordable because all of the gold was sourced locally, which helped keep construction costs down.

“Our group has a factory that can do gold-plated stuff, so the cost for our equipment and furniture here is quite cheap,”, Duong said, according to the Daily Mail.

While the hotel hasn’t had that many visitors yet due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, its owners are hopeful that they will make more money in the next year.

Source: Daily Mail

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A theme park in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, celebrates the holidays year round. Here's what it's like to visit.



Slide 1 of 8: Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, opened in 1946 as Santa Claus Land.The name was changed to Holiday World in 1984 when additional themed sections were added to the park.Thanks to its small-town location and friendly staff, a visit to Holiday World is easier to plan and more laid-back than other theme parks, in my experience.Visitors can have seasonal foods, from Thanksgiving dinner to candy cane desserts, even in the summer.Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.When Holiday World first opened its gates on August 3, 1946, the park made history as one of America's oldest operating theme parks dedicated solely to spreading the holiday spirit.Back when it was founded by Louis J. Koch, it was known as Santa Claus Land and every corner of the park had a festive Christmas theme. In 1984, however, the Koch family (who still owns the park to this day) realized that one holiday may be a bit limiting as they continued to expand and the park was renamed Holiday World."There's a wide world of Christmas, but we felt like it was getting to be a little limiting," Leah Koch, a fourth-generation descendant of the park's founder and its director of communications, said. "I'm very grateful that they did that back then because now we get to play with things like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July and we have the freedom to add completely different sections and feelings to each section, too."With areas of the park now devoted to Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas, Holiday World is still making history today, frequently winning awards for safety, cleanliness, and fun.I visited the family-friendly park in mid-June with my husband and oldest son, on the day of Holiday World's grand reopening after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Riding and eating our way through every holiday in just one day, it was easy to see why it has such a long list of accolades.Editor's note: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not currently recommend nonessential travel within the US and internationally. If you do choose to travel, it's best to check each state's health and travel advisories and the CDC's travel recommendations for each country.Read the original article on Insider
Slide 2 of 8: Most families stop for a photo with this Santa statue at the front entrance to Holiday World.As soon as we entered the park, it felt like we'd left Indiana and entered the North Pole. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the ornament-filled spouting fountain and the large Santa statue (two irresistible photo ops), and all around us were Bavarian-style shops and restaurants that look like they could belong to Santa and his elves. The rides and games in this section are all about the kids. Unlike most theme parks, where you wait in line for an hour or more so your child can enjoy one ride, when you enter Rudolph's Reindeer Ranch, your kids can bounce from ride to ride with almost no wait. The maximum height for most rides is 54 inches, meaning kids get to ride all by themselves while parents watch and help them onto Dasher's Seahorses or Prancer's Merry-Go-Round.My younger kids love this area, but my 7-year-old was ready for something a little more daring, so we went straight to the coasters.
Slide 3 of 8: The Thunderbird launches riders from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds.Our first stop of the day was in the Halloween section of Holiday World, aptly named The Raven. I like to start my day with this wooden coaster before moving on to Holiday World's more extreme attractions coasters, but The Raven is no kiddie ride. It twists and turns through the woods surrounding the park and roars to speeds over 50 miles per hour. The Legend, another coaster, is also in the Halloween section of the park. This coaster is based off of Washington Irving's classic tale, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and I felt like I was about to become the Headless Horsemen as I was charging toward each of the five tunnels on this ride.The tallest and most intense of Holiday World's wooden coasters is The Voyage. Named the No. 1 wooden coaster in the US by Time Magazine in 2013, I haven't quite worked up the courage to try this one yet, but it's on my list. When you see the lift hill towering 163 feet in the air as you approach the ride, you'll know why. This one is set further back in the park in the Thanksgiving section, so it's close by Holiday World's soaring steel roller coaster, Thunderbird.This wing coaster — which means that the cars stick out on both sides of the track and your legs are dangling in mid-air — launches riders to 60 miles per hour straight out of the gate. My son was a bit too short to ride (riders must be at least 52 inches tall) so we hung back while my husband tackled the tall loops and winding hills on this one and loved every second of it. There is one other steel coaster at Holiday World that'll cheer up any kids who are disappointed they aren't quite tall enough for the big-kid coasters. The Howler is small enough that kids over 42 inches can ride all by themselves, but that didn't stop me from screaming and giggling through the whole thing. They even let you ride twice if you give a good howl at the end of your first go-round.
Slide 4 of 8: The festive fun at Holiday World extends way beyond the rides. At the front of the park is Santa's Merry Marketplace, where you'll find traditional theme park foods like pizza and burgers, but also the Candy Cane Confectionary, Christmas Cupboard, and the Sugarplum Scoop Shop. I did my research before our visit and knew I wanted to try the Monster Cookie Festive Flurry, a mix of cookie-filled ice cream, whipped cream, and cookies. It was delicious, but plenty for the three of us to share so I'm glad we only got one.But the biggest draw for food fans is the chance to eat a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings any day of the year – even in the middle of summer. The park's Plymouth Rock Cafe, located in the Thanksgiving section, serves turkey, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and anything else you probably associate with the holiday all season long.In fact, guests were so eager to get their hands on Holiday World's green beans, that they begged for the secret recipe. "The green beans are famous, especially among our season passholders," Koch said. "We've got a recipe online and I've tried to re-create it. I do OK, but I still can't quite get it the same."

Slide 5 of 8: On my first visit to Holiday World, a ride attendant asked me to untie my sweater from around my waist and put it in one of the provided baskets while I was on The Raven. I knew from that moment that Holiday World does not mess around when it comes to ride safety. Before hopping on most rides, we took off our hats, emptied our pockets, and placed all of our belongings in a cubby for safekeeping until the ride was over. It may seem like overkill, but these strict safety measures have resulted in Holiday World winning multiple awards, including a few specifically for their ride operators and lifeguards. Holiday World is also surprisingly clean, something I don't always expect to see at a smaller theme park. I've never seen a piece of garbage on the ground, and it turns out that's because the employees are highly attuned to keeping the park free of trash — so much so that Holiday World has been awarded the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award for "Cleanest Park" every single year since 2000. Koch, who started working at the park when she was only 14, says she still can't walk past a piece of trash in the park without picking it up. "That's just been the company culture for years and years," Koch said. "Actually, at one point you could get fired for walking past a piece of trash. We still take it very seriously, but we now lean toward coaching rather than immediate termination." During our COVID-era visit, masks were recommended but not required. While not many guests wore masks, all employees wore them (and thanked us for wearing ours). Floor markings were in place to enforce social distancing in lines and other high-traffic areas, hand sanitizer was available throughout the park, and we frequently observed staff members cleaning handrails and other high-touch areas.
Slide 6 of 8: One of my favorite things about Holiday World is the balance between kid-friendly attractions and grown-up ones. At some theme parks, I feel like I'm dragging my younger kids along for the ride instead of actually giving them a day of carefree fun, but Holiday World really does have something for everyone.We stopped for a few minutes to dance with Holidog, the official park mascot, before heading off to Holidog's FunTown, where all of the rides are kid-approved and my 6'7'' husband can barely fit in the seats. In addition to the rides, there are two play structures (one for big kids and one for little) and a Mother Goose train that circles the whole area. It's always fun on our trips to get a break from the thrill rides and take the kids to a spot that's just for them.
Slide 7 of 8: Splashin' Safari is situated right in the middle of the map so it's easy to pop in and cool off for a few hours or make a full day of it. Splashin' Safari – the world's best outdoor water park, according to USA TODAY – wasn't yet open for the season on our most recent visit in mid-June, but I can't wait to go back because they've added something brand new this year: a water coaster called Cheetah Chase.Cheetah Chase is the park's third water coaster and (currently) the only one in the world that can claim to be a flat-launched water coaster. "All kinds of other water coasters have something that feels like a launch, but this one specifically has that flat track that has the same mechanism that you use to go uphill and that's really where you build your speed to go up that first highest hill of the ride. I've gotten to ride it and it's a ton of fun," Koch said.
Slide 8 of 8: I've traveled to plenty of theme parks over the years, which means I've also mastered the fine art of planning a theme-park visit. Larger theme parks sometimes require you to make plans months or even years in advance if you want to secure a spot at your favorite restaurant or ride. While Holiday World does have busier times (they advise avoiding weekends and most of July and August if you want smaller crowds and shorter wait times), you can still visit with only a minor amount of preparation.The park is also well-known for its generous freebies, which include soft drinks and parking. If you forget sunscreen, it's available for free at Splashin' Safari and in a few spots around Holiday World. On our recent visit, we didn't do much planning other than purchasing our tickets online to guarantee our spot and familiarizing ourselves with the park map. To better accommodate social distancing, the park recently implemented a new inLine reservation system that allowed us to choose a return time from our phones. Instead of standing in line with other guests, we were able to wander the park until it was our turn to ride. Even on past visits, though, I've never waited longer than 30 or 45 minutes for a ride, and the wait for most of the family-friendly rides was 15 minutes or less.After speaking with Koch, I'm already getting excited for future visits because she has big plans to expand on the themes that I love so much. She mentioned vision board dreams of Christmas lodge and Halloween castle hotels, but it sounds like Holiday World has a few more practical ideas on the horizon."I can't share exactly what we have in the making for the future, but I can say that that theming, that's the way we want to go. When you're in the Christmas section we don't want there to be a doubt in your mind that you are celebrating Christmas right now," Koch said. "So we're trying to find ways that we can really amplify the spaces and immerse people in each section." For example, Thunderbird, with its station's fog effects and flickering lights, is the first attraction Koch, her mother, and siblings worked on after her father's passing. It is by far the most highly themed coaster in the park to date."There's no other park in the world where you get to celebrate all of these different holidays all at once," Koch said. "We just really want to make it feel like a celebration of what makes those holidays unique in each section, so that's the way we're heading."Read more:Former Disney employees share 14 things they wish everyone knewDisney fans aren't all keen on the newly painted Cinderella Castle, but the park says it's still putting 'finishing touches' on the landmarkThe best Disney theme-park souvenirs you can ship straight to your homeDisney World is reopening in July, but the pandemic isn't over. Here are the risks and what you can expect.

A theme park in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, celebrates the holidays year round. Here’s what it’s like to visit.

When Holiday World first opened its gates on August 3, 1946, the park made history as one of America’s oldest operating theme parks dedicated solely to spreading the holiday spirit.

Back when it was founded by Louis J. Koch, it was known as Santa Claus Land and every corner of the park had a festive Christmas theme. In 1984, however, the Koch family (who still owns the park to this day) realized that one holiday may be a bit limiting as they continued to expand and the park was renamed Holiday World.

“There’s a wide world of Christmas, but we felt like it was getting to be a little limiting,” Leah Koch, a fourth-generation descendant of the park’s founder and its director of communications, said. “I’m very grateful that they did that back then because now we get to play with things like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July and we have the freedom to add completely different sections and feelings to each section, too.”

With areas of the park now devoted to Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas, Holiday World is still making history today, frequently winning awards for safety, cleanliness, and fun.

I visited the family-friendly park in mid-June with my husband and oldest son, on the day of Holiday World’s grand reopening after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Riding and eating our way through every holiday in just one day, it was easy to see why it has such a long list of accolades.

Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not currently recommend nonessential travel within the US and internationally. If you do choose to travel, it’s best to check each state’s health and travel advisories and the CDC’s travel recommendations for each country.

When we entered the park, it was like walking straight into a Christmas card.

Most families stop for a photo with this Santa statue at the front entrance to Holiday World.

As soon as we entered the park, it felt like we’d left Indiana and entered the North Pole. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the ornament-filled spouting fountain and the large Santa statue (two irresistible photo ops), and all around us were Bavarian-style shops and restaurants that look like they could belong to Santa and his elves. 

The rides and games in this section are all about the kids. Unlike most theme parks, where you wait in line for an hour or more so your child can enjoy one ride, when you enter Rudolph’s Reindeer Ranch, your kids can bounce from ride to ride with almost no wait. The maximum height for most rides is 54 inches, meaning kids get to ride all by themselves while parents watch and help them onto Dasher’s Seahorses or Prancer’s Merry-Go-Round.

My younger kids love this area, but my 7-year-old was ready for something a little more daring, so we went straight to the coasters.

Holiday World has four wild coasters (and one mild one) with different festive themes.

The Thunderbird launches riders from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds.

Our first stop of the day was in the Halloween section of Holiday World, aptly named The Raven. I like to start my day with this wooden coaster before moving on to Holiday World’s more extreme attractions coasters, but The Raven is no kiddie ride. It twists and turns through the woods surrounding the park and roars to speeds over 50 miles per hour. 

The Legend, another coaster, is also in the Halloween section of the park. This coaster is based off of Washington Irving’s classic tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and I felt like I was about to become the Headless Horsemen as I was charging toward each of the five tunnels on this ride.

The tallest and most intense of Holiday World’s wooden coasters is The Voyage. Named the No. 1 wooden coaster in the US by Time Magazine in 2013, I haven’t quite worked up the courage to try this one yet, but it’s on my list. When you see the lift hill towering 163 feet in the air as you approach the ride, you’ll know why. This one is set further back in the park in the Thanksgiving section, so it’s close by Holiday World’s soaring steel roller coaster, Thunderbird.

This wing coaster — which means that the cars stick out on both sides of the track and your legs are dangling in mid-air launches riders to 60 miles per hour straight out of the gate. My son was a bit too short to ride (riders must be at least 52 inches tall) so we hung back while my husband tackled the tall loops and winding hills on this one and loved every second of it. 

There is one other steel coaster at Holiday World that’ll cheer up any kids who are disappointed they aren’t quite tall enough for the big-kid coasters. The Howler is small enough that kids over 42 inches can ride all by themselves, but that didn’t stop me from screaming and giggling through the whole thing. They even let you ride twice if you give a good howl at the end of your first go-round.

Even the food at Holiday World is themed to the different sections of the park.

The festive fun at Holiday World extends way beyond the rides. At the front of the park is Santa’s Merry Marketplace, where you’ll find traditional theme park foods like pizza and burgers, but also the Candy Cane Confectionary, Christmas Cupboard, and the Sugarplum Scoop Shop. I did my research before our visit and knew I wanted to try the Monster Cookie Festive Flurry, a mix of cookie-filled ice cream, whipped cream, and cookies. It was delicious, but plenty for the three of us to share so I’m glad we only got one.

But the biggest draw for food fans is the chance to eat a Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings any day of the year – even in the middle of summer. The park’s Plymouth Rock Cafe, located in the Thanksgiving section, serves turkey, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and anything else you probably associate with the holiday all season long.

In fact, guests were so eager to get their hands on Holiday World’s green beans, that they begged for the secret recipe. “The green beans are famous, especially among our season passholders,” Koch said. “We’ve got a recipe online and I’ve tried to re-create it. I do OK, but I still can’t quite get it the same.”

Holiday World takes safety and cleanliness very seriously and has the awards to prove it.

On my first visit to Holiday World, a ride attendant asked me to untie my sweater from around my waist and put it in one of the provided baskets while I was on The Raven. I knew from that moment that Holiday World does not mess around when it comes to ride safety. Before hopping on most rides, we took off our hats, emptied our pockets, and placed all of our belongings in a cubby for safekeeping until the ride was over. It may seem like overkill, but these strict safety measures have resulted in Holiday World winning multiple awards, including a few specifically for their ride operators and lifeguards. 

Holiday World is also surprisingly clean, something I don’t always expect to see at a smaller theme park. I’ve never seen a piece of garbage on the ground, and it turns out that’s because the employees are highly attuned to keeping the park free of trash — so much so that Holiday World has been awarded the Amusement Today Golden Ticket Award for “Cleanest Park” every single year since 2000. 

Koch, who started working at the park when she was only 14, says she still can’t walk past a piece of trash in the park without picking it up. 

“That’s just been the company culture for years and years,” Koch said. “Actually, at one point you could get fired for walking past a piece of trash. We still take it very seriously, but we now lean toward coaching rather than immediate termination.” 

During our COVID-era visit, masks were recommended but not required. While not many guests wore masks, all employees wore them (and thanked us for wearing ours). Floor markings were in place to enforce social distancing in lines and other high-traffic areas, hand sanitizer was available throughout the park, and we frequently observed staff members cleaning handrails and other high-touch areas.

Holiday World has a family-friendly atmosphere that’s great for young kids.

One of my favorite things about Holiday World is the balance between kid-friendly attractions and grown-up ones. At some theme parks, I feel like I’m dragging my younger kids along for the ride instead of actually giving them a day of carefree fun, but Holiday World really does have something for everyone.

We stopped for a few minutes to dance with Holidog, the official park mascot, before heading off to Holidog’s FunTown, where all of the rides are kid-approved and my 6’7” husband can barely fit in the seats. In addition to the rides, there are two play structures (one for big kids and one for little) and a Mother Goose train that circles the whole area. It’s always fun on our trips to get a break from the thrill rides and take the kids to a spot that’s just for them.

Splashin’ Safari, Holiday World’s water park, is an ideal place to cool down in the summer with water slides, a wave pool, and an area for little ones.

Splashin’ Safari is situated right in the middle of the map so it’s easy to pop in and cool off for a few hours or make a full day of it. Splashin’ Safari – the world’s best outdoor water park, according to USA TODAY – wasn’t yet open for the season on our most recent visit in mid-June, but I can’t wait to go back because they’ve added something brand new this year: a water coaster called Cheetah Chase.

Cheetah Chase is the park’s third water coaster and (currently) the only one in the world that can claim to be a flat-launched water coaster. “All kinds of other water coasters have something that feels like a launch, but this one specifically has that flat track that has the same mechanism that you use to go uphill and that’s really where you build your speed to go up that first highest hill of the ride. I’ve gotten to ride it and it’s a ton of fun,” Koch said.

In my experience, planning a visit to Holiday World is easier than larger theme parks.

I’ve traveled to plenty of theme parks over the years, which means I’ve also mastered the fine art of planning a theme-park visit. Larger theme parks sometimes require you to make plans months or even years in advance if you want to secure a spot at your favorite restaurant or ride. While Holiday World does have busier times (they advise avoiding weekends and most of July and August if you want smaller crowds and shorter wait times), you can still visit with only a minor amount of preparation.

The park is also well-known for its generous freebies, which include soft drinks and parking. If you forget sunscreen, it’s available for free at Splashin’ Safari and in a few spots around Holiday World. 

On our recent visit, we didn’t do much planning other than purchasing our tickets online to guarantee our spot and familiarizing ourselves with the park map. To better accommodate social distancing, the park recently implemented a new inLine reservation system that allowed us to choose a return time from our phones. Instead of standing in line with other guests, we were able to wander the park until it was our turn to ride. Even on past visits, though, I’ve never waited longer than 30 or 45 minutes for a ride, and the wait for most of the family-friendly rides was 15 minutes or less.

After speaking with Koch, I’m already getting excited for future visits because she has big plans to expand on the themes that I love so much. She mentioned vision board dreams of Christmas lodge and Halloween castle hotels, but it sounds like Holiday World has a few more practical ideas on the horizon.

“I can’t share exactly what we have in the making for the future, but I can say that that theming, that’s the way we want to go. When you’re in the Christmas section we don’t want there to be a doubt in your mind that you are celebrating Christmas right now,” Koch said. “So we’re trying to find ways that we can really amplify the spaces and immerse people in each section.” For example, Thunderbird, with its station’s fog effects and flickering lights, is the first attraction Koch, her mother, and siblings worked on after her father’s passing. It is by far the most highly themed coaster in the park to date.

“There’s no other park in the world where you get to celebrate all of these different holidays all at once,” Koch said. “We just really want to make it feel like a celebration of what makes those holidays unique in each section, so that’s the way we’re heading.”

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Cruises

Carnival Shares Rise on Good News

Shares in Carnival Cruise Line rose on Friday after the company said that advance bookings for 2021 “remain within historical ranges at prices that are down in the low- to mid-single-digits range,” according to The Street.

Carnival’s stock closed at $16.16 on Friday – still more than 70 percent off its high for this year but up $1.58, or 10.84 percent from the previous day. That’s also up from its rock bottom low of $7.97 per share on April 2, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Carnival also said it was selling 13 of its ships.

“We have been transitioning the fleet into a prolonged pause and right-sizing our shore-side operations,” Carnival Chief Executive Arnold Donald said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. “We have already reduced operating costs by over $7 billion on an annualized basis and reduced capital expenditures also by more than $5 billion over the next 18 months. We have secured over $10 billion of additional liquidity to sustain another full year with additional flexibility remaining.”

The company also noted in its SEC filing that its AIDA line – one of nine lines under the Carnival umbrella – will resume operations from ports in Germany beginning next month with three of its ships.

AIDA will be the first of the Carnival lines to return to the sea.

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Travel

Northern California Wine Country Is Open, but Travelers Should Take Precautions



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Destinations

Emirates president reveals carrier could lose up to 15% of workforce

Sir Tim Clark said airline has already cut one tenth of its staff amid Covid-19 economic slump

The International Air Transport Association has said that airlines are in line to make a combined net loss of more than $84 billion this year.

Emirates airline has cut a tenth of its workforce during the novel coronavirus pandemic in layoffs that could rise to 15 percent, or 9,000 jobs, its president said, according to a report on Saturday.

The Middle East’s largest carrier, which operates a fleet of 270 wide-bodied aircraft, halted operations in late March as part of global shutdowns to stem the spread of the virus. 

It resumed two weeks later on a limited network and plans to fly to 58 cities by mid-August, down from about 157 before the crisis.

However, its president, Sir Tim Clark has said previously that it could take up to four years for operations to return to “some degree of normality”, and the airline has been staging rounds of layoffs, as recently as last week, without disclosing numbers.

Before the crisis hit, Emirates employed some 60,000 staff, including 4,300 pilots and nearly 22,000 cabin crew, according to its annual report.

Clark said in an interview with the BBC that the airline had already cut a tenth of its staff and that Emirates “will probably have to let go of a few more, probably up to 15 percent”.

A company spokeswoman told AFP the airline had nothing to add to the report.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that airlines are in line to make a combined net loss of more than $84 billion this year in the wake of the pandemic crisis, the biggest in the industry’s history.

Clark said in the interview that Emirates was “not as badly off as others” but that the crisis hit just as it was “heading for one of our best years ever”.

The Dubai-based airline had reported a bumper 21 percent rise in annual profits in March.

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Destinations

Emirates airline adds six destinations, including Los Angeles and Boston

Geneva, Dar es Salaam, Prague and Sao Paulo also added to growing schedule

The six destinations will take the airline’s current network to 58 cities by mid-August, including 20 points in Europe and 24 points in the Asia Pacific.

Emirates airline announced plans to resume flights to six more destinations in the coming weeks, including two key US destinations.

The Dubai carrier said it will resume flights to Los Angeles (from July 22) and Boston (from August 15), as well as Geneva (from July 15), Dar es Salaam (from August 1), Prague and Sao Paulo (both from 2 August).

The six destinations will take the airline’s current network to 58 cities by mid-August, including 20 points in Europe and 24 points in the Asia Pacific.

“We’ve seen an uptick in customer interest and demand since the announcement of Dubai’s re-opening, and also with the increased travel options that we offer as we gradually re-establish our network connectivity,” said Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ chief commercial officer.

With the gradual re-opening of borders over the summer, Emirates has revised its booking policies to offer customers flexibility to plan their travel.

Customers who purchase an Emirates ticket by July 31 2020 for travel on or before November 30 2020 can avail of more flexible rebooking terms and options, if they have to change their travel plans due to unexpected flight or travel restrictions relating to Covid-19, or when they book a Flex or Flex plus fare.  

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Holiday

Holiday parks open: What safety measures visitors can expect when they visit UK parks

Over the past few weeks, more people have decided to ditch holidays abroad for breaks in the UK. The welcome move has seen campsites and holiday parks experience a surge in bookings and enquiries this summer. As temperatures soar this weekend and lockdown rules remain eased, Britons are searching for holidays on the UK’s stunning coastline and in the idyllic countryside.

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Holiday parks and campsites are the obvious choice for British holidaymakers looking for a quick break.

But despite offering Britons an isolated, more socially-distanced break, holiday parks are still putting their own safety precautions in place to reassure their customers.

Lovat Parks is an affordable yet luxurious British holiday park company that is working hard to change many people’s perceptions of the traditional British holiday park.

With bookings soaring for 2020, Lovat Parks is experiencing a busy summer.

The company offers customers seven locations across the counties of Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire with luxurious-yet-affordable lodges and camping under the stars.

Lovat Parks prides itself in focussing on wellness, nature and enjoying time away from the challenges of everyday life.

Lovat Parks’ owner Raoul Fraser spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk about the measures his parks are putting in place to ensure customers’ peace of mind.

Fraser explained that holiday parks are fortunate because self-contained lodges and motorhomes have to remain five or six metres apart.

He said: “For holiday homes that are self-contained, by law they have to be five to six metres apart.”

He continued: “We’ve done a lot. We’ve ordered a huge amount of PPE, we’ve got hand sanitiser stations all around our parks, we’ve trained our teams.

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“We are trade bodied – the British holiday and home parks association. The BH&HPA have been great.

“We got risk assessments on all of our parks.

“We’ve got extra cleaning measures in place.

“For our teams, we’re going to buy antibody tests so that they can check to see whether they have had it or not.

“Fundamentally, I think being outdoors in the fresh air will not only help people’s mental well-being but I think you can do it safely as well.

“We don’t have complexes with shops and amusement arcades and things like that – it’s not what we’re about.

“I know the larger operators will face a challenge because of that.”

Sean Power, Head of Operations, Lovat Parks said that they have been “delighted” by the amount of support and interest they have had for the parks.

He said: “We are delighted by the interest in, and support of our holiday parks, ever since the Government’s announcement that the sector could reopen on the 4th July.

“Summer tourism is vital to rural economies and British staycations are set to play a huge role in UK families’ holidays this year, as they look for fresh air and nature to provide a necessary respite from months of lockdown.

“We look forward to welcoming all our guests and holiday home owners over the coming weeks and beyond.”

Lovat Parks has also brought in an external health and safety expert from PDT Safety to undertake a full risk assessment on all the holiday parks.

They are also following social distancing guidelines with visible signs throughout their parks.

Teams are expected to wear face masks in receptions with only one person or family bubble allowed to enter at one time.

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