Adventureland (Iowa)

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Slogan Iowa's Largest and Most Complete Family Resort Complex
Location Altoona, Iowa, United States
Coordinates 41°39′16″N 93°30′00″W / 41.654447°N 93.499886°W / 41.654447; -93.499886Coordinates: 41°39′16″N 93°30′00″W / 41.654447°N 93.499886°W / 41.654447; -93.499886
Opened August 19, 1974
Operating season Daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, weekends late April, May, and September
Area 180 acres (0.73 km2)
Total 100+ Rides, shows, and attractions
Roller coasters 5

Adventureland is a family-owned amusement park in Altoona, Iowa (just northeast of Des Moines). It features over 100 rides, shows and attractions.


Construction of Adventureland Park began in the spring of 1973.[1] According to park operators, the Disney company assisted with some early park planning. Years later, Adventureland gave advice to the operator of the Wild West World Park in Wichita, Kansas, and allowed them to use photos taken at Adventureland in early promotional materials while that park was under construction. These photos could still be seen on the park fliers and website just before opening. The newly created park was to open in July 1974 but damage from the tail end of a tornado delayed the opening until August 19, 1974. The first full season for Adventureland began in 1975. Attractions such as the Skyride from the World's Fair in Spokane, Washington along with several others were added to the ride roster that year.

In 1978 construction began on Adventureland's largest wooden roller coaster, the Tornado, which opened on July 4, 1978. The Tornado was soon listed among the top ten wooden roller coasters in the world.[1]

Two years later the County Fair area, with its games of skill, was added. Also in 1979, Adventureland purchased the aging Riverview Amusement Park in Des Moines, and moved some of the attractions to their own themed area just south of the park. Some of these attractions included the infamous weight guessing booth, Hi-striker game (now in storage at Adventureland), Haunted House ride (now the station for the Dragon roller coaster), Mirror/Funny Maze (found upon exiting the Dragon roller coaster ride at Adventureland), Umbrella (children’s ride that went around and had different vehicles to choose from complete with horns), Skee-ball games, The classic Riverview carousel (now in storage at Adventureland), as well as other well-known and loved attractions. In 1990, the Riverview theme area was transformed into the Dragon Island, home of Adventureland's double-looping upside-down steel roller coaster, which opened on May 12, 1990.

1993 brought the largest park expansion since Adventureland was built. Outlaw Gulch, a western themed area, was built on 12 acres (49,000 m2) at a cost of approximately $5 million. Outlaw Gulch consisted of three rides: The Wrangler, The Chuckwagon, and The Outlaw roller coaster. In 1999 Adventureland announced the addition of the Space Shot. The Space Shot is a 235-foot (72 m) structure that towers over Adventureland launching riders up at 4.5 G's and ending with a free fall of negative 1 G.

In 2002, Adventureland undertook an 8 million dollar project that nearly doubled the size of the hotel, adding a second courtyard, new pools with interactive water features and new poolside rooms and suites. It also added a new water ride in the park, a spinning white water adventure, called Saw Mill Splash. The ride is themed around an old saw mill, and fits into the western motif of Adventureland's Outlaw Gulch area.

In 2006, Adventureland added two more rides. The Splash Over is a new dimension in rides combining the high flying thrills of a traditional park ride with the fun and excitement of a water ride. The Frog Hopper quickly hops young riders up 20 feet (6.1 m) in the air, then bounces them gently back down.

In 2008 Adventureland has embarked on its most extensive addition yet – a new water area named Adventure Bay. The first water attraction in this area is Kokomo Kove.[1]

On February 20, 2010 (about 4:00 p.m.), a fire broke out in the toy store of main street after its roof collapsed due to the weight of ice and snow.[2] The collapse caused an electrical fire. The fire went out of control and engulfed the corner portion of Main Street and destroyed the section that encompassed the bingo parlor, restaurant, toy store and arcade. The fire was brought under control about an hour later and was completely extinguished an hour thereafter. None of the adjacent structures or rides were harmed and no one was injured. The buildings were destroyed so quickly because, due to their age, sprinklers were not required to be installed. The park opened as planned on April 24, 2010, with the east side of Main Street completely cleared to dirt surrounded by a chain link fence. Banners on the fence stated that "Plans are well underway to build Main Street back better than ever." All of Main Street was rebuilt when the park opened in April 2011 and featured an even larger arcade with an indoor ride, the G-force. The park's scrambler ride known as the Wrangler was brought out of storage and moved to the G-force's location when the G-force was moved into the Main Street arcade.

On December 15, 2011 (about 3:45 a.m.), another fire broke out, this time destroying the Rally Round corn dog stand. Crews said the fire had engulfed the structure when they arrived but they were able to put it out quickly. According to fire officials, an electrical transformer behind the corn dog stand was the cause.[3]

On September 6, 2013, Adventureland posted on their official Facebook page that a new attraction called Storm Chaser would be added. A 3D rendering of the ride posted on the page, as well as an interview with park officials, showed that the new ride is a Mondial WindSeeker model. Park officials also stated that it would be replacing the aging Silly Silo due to the ride's frequent down time, and the company no longer making parts to fix it.[4]

On July 8, 2015, Adventureland announced that they were adding a new roller coaster called The Monster, a Gerstlauer Infinity coaster and the first of its kind in the United States. It opened to the public on June 4, 2016 after park employee previews a few days earlier. It replaced the Log Ride, which ran since the park first opened.[5] The Monster features a unique nighttime LED light display made up of 137 track mounted fixtures that synchronize to the ride vehicles, and 46 ground lights.[6]


Adventureland is located off exit 142A of I-80, along U.S. Highway 65, near Altoona, just east of Des Moines, Iowa.[1]

Themed areas and attractions[edit]

South side view of the A-train station
The top of the Space Shot
Giant Skywheel

The park contains many design nods inspired by Disneyland: The entrance has a train station with two tunnels (on the left- and right-hand side) leading in to the Main Street area, just like at Disneyland or Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (and also similar to many other parks built since Disneyland opened in 1955); over in Outlaw Gulch, there are several tombstones that have virtually the same wording as tombstones outside of Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion attraction; the rocking pirate ship (Galleon) has played a soundtrack that included splashing water and an excerpt from the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, "Yo Ho". Adventureland is a theme area of its own at Disneyland. The different themed areas in Adventureland are:

  • Adventure Bay (opened June 22, 2008) is a location behind Outlaw Gulch that is home to the Kokomo Kove water play area.
  • Bavaria is a German-themed area. Sky Ride is the major attraction in this area of the park, along with the Rathskellar concession stand and Alpine arcade area. In 2015, the new Bier Garten opened featuring TV sets and German beers. In early years, an accordion player was found in this area of the park to add to the German feel.
  • The Boulevard has several major rides; the biggest is Giant Skywheel, the largest open-gondola Ferris wheel built in the United States since the 1800s.
  • County Fair is a rural-themed area whose principal attraction is Tornado, a large wooden roller coaster, as well as many fair-themed games of skill.
  • Dragon Island, near the rear of the park, was originally known as Riverview. Constructed in 1979, the area contained a number of attractions from the Riverview Park amusement center that had recently closed in nearby Des Moines. In 1991, the area was renamed Dragon Island when the Dragon roller coaster was opened.
  • Iowa Farm follows a similar theme. The big pig in the Iowa Farm section of the park is actually a small concession stand.
  • Last Frontier is a western themed section. This section of the park is home to the Golden Nugget shooting gallery and Sheriff Sam's Saloon (named after former Altoona Mayor and Polk County Sheriff, Sam Wise).
  • Main Street, which resembles a stereotypical turn-of-the-20th-century town square, is the first area that visitors encounter upon entering the park. The principal attractions of this area are the A-Train (a small-scale locomotive which winds around one side of the park) and an antique-style carousel in the middle of the Town Square. Main Street also contains several gift shops, restaurants, an arcade, and service-type establishments such as novelty photography and caricatures. Also on Main Street, there is a theater (used for corporate events).
  • Outlaw Gulch, constructed in 1993, has an Old West theme, complete with a "ghost town". The attractions in this part of the park are The Outlaw (a large wooden roller coaster), Chuckwagon (a small western-themed Ferris wheel), Sidewinder (a swinging pendulum ride whose gondola swings riders over 180 degrees while spinning), and Saw Mill Splash, a water ride. The Royal Hanneford Circus is also presented. During the 1993 season, there was a western-themed band that played a banjo and bottles on the mock stage that still remains next to the kettle corn stand. Also in the first few years of operation, a cowboy-themed comedy show was held in front of the ghost town facade, but it was later removed and the shooting gallery was installed there. The food location also changed from a walk-in drink and snack bar to a front counter serving hamburgers and other fast food. Other food vendors in the section include a kettle corn stand and an ice cream cart. The Shooting Gallery in Outlaw Gulch is a replacement of a former shooting gallery located near Sheriff Sam's Saloon. The gallery operates on light-sensitive photo sensors, which means a camera flash will set off every element. Gallery workers also note that, during rainy days, lightning will also have the same effect.
  • River City is built around the Raging River ride and was inspired by New Orleans and there is usually jazz or zydeco music in the background. The founder of Adventureland was a fan of New Orleans-style jazz. River City may have been influenced by the fictional River City in the Meredith Willson musical The Music Man. Several food stands are located in this section of the park as well.
  • Space Shot Midway is built around the Space Shot ride. Another attraction is The Underground, a ride that incorporates elements of both a dark ride and a roller coaster. The Dodge-Em Cars and numerous kids' rides are also nearby.

Rides for younger children[edit]

  • Chuckwagon, a miniature western-themed Ferris wheel (opened in 1993)[7]
  • Convoy, a semi-truck-themed ride for younger children (opened 1970s, long-time sponsor is Sinclair gas stations)
  • Frog Hopper, a mini version of the Space Shot, seats are raised and then bounced up and down (opened April 29, 2006)
  • Infant Ocean, miniature boats spin slowly around a central axis (opened 1974)
  • Hampton Cars, various themed cars spin slowly around a central axis (opened 1980)
  • Lady Bugs, bug-shaped cars travel on a circular track (opened in 1976)
  • Puff the Dragon, dragon-themed cars spin around a central axis (opened in 1991)
  • Red Baron, small WWI-themed planes spin around a central axis, and riders can control how high off the ground they want to "fly" (opened 1977)

Roller coasters[edit]

Water rides[edit]

  • Raging River (opened in 1983) – A whitewater river raft ride featuring rapids, waterfalls, and geysers, designed by Intamin.
  • Saw Mill Splash (opened in 2002) – Spins visitors down a hill in a large raft and splashes down at the bottom, designed by WhiteWater West. It replaced Wrangler; a carnival Scrambler ride originally found at Des Moines retired Riverview Theme Park.


A-train engine and car
Der Flinger
Tea Cups
Town Square Carrousel
  • A-Train (opened 1985) – Small train that travels around one side of the park, then loops and returns on the same track. Its only stop is the station on Main Street.
  • Balloon Race (opened 1987) – Zamperla family ride that spins riders in hot air balloon-shaped cars.
  • Frantic Freeway (opened 1974) – Traditional bumper cars ride.
  • Falling Star (opened 1989) – Chance-Morgan rotating platform ride; replaced The Rainbow.
  • Der Flinger (opened 1976) – paratrooper ride.
  • The G-Force (opened 1997) – Huss spinning ride on the order of a Scrambler.
  • Galleon (opened 1985) – Giant Zamperla swinging ship ride.
  • Giant Skywheel (opened in 1991) – Huge Chance-Morgan Ferris wheel.
  • Himalaya (opened 2000) – Spinning, tilted Himalaya ride.
  • The Inverter (opened 2000) – Chance-Morgan ride takes guests up 50 feet (15 m) in the air and hangs them inverted.
  • Lady Luck (opened 1974) – A Chance-Morgan Trabant ride with a roulette wheel theme.
  • The Lighthouse (opened 1974) – Visitors sit in a small gondola which spins around, while being thrust sideways and upwards.
  • Round Up (opened 1974) – Traditional carnival Tilt-A-Whirl ride.
  • Scrambler - (opened 1970s) - reopened as the Wrangler in 1993 in Outlaw Gulch, then reopened in 2011 in the former location of G-Force.
  • Sidewinder (opened 2004) – Spinning pendulum ride that swings riders slightly more than 180 degrees.
  • Sky Ride (opened 1975) – Traditional chairlift ride originally from the World's Fair in Spokane, Washington.
  • Space Shot (opened 1999) – Visitors blast off into "space" up a 200-foot (61 m)[8] tower and free fall safely back to the ground. An S & S Power ride.
  • Splash Over (opened 2006) – Thrill ride where riders are propelled and inverted; replaced the Mixer, which opened in 1997.
  • Storm Chaser (opened 2014) – Swing ride by Mondial, takes passengers up a 260-foot tower and spins them around at 35 mph;[8] replaced the Silly Silo.
  • Tea Cups (opened in 1976) – Traditional spinning tea cup ride.
  • Town Square Carousel (opened in 2000) – Replica of an antique carousel; replaced the old carousel where the Himalaya now stands.

Adventure Bay[edit]

Adventure Bay is the water park section of Adventureland. Except for Kokomo Kove, it was new for 2010. In addition to the water features, it offers changing areas, lockers for rent, lounge chairs, and food service which includes a full-service bar named the Sandbar.

Kokomo Kove water play structure opened on June 22, 2008, and is included in the standard admission price. The Kokomo Kove structure is approximately 65 feet (20 m) tall at its highest point and covers approximately 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2). The feature includes 7 water slides of varying lengths and heights; 123 different water jet features, including water guns, tipping cones, hose jets, and umbrella jets; and 91 different play features, including net bridges and climbs, crawl tunnels, and pull ropes.

The Bermuda Quadrangle is a quartet of tube slides, which can be ridden on single or tandem tubes. Tubes can be picked up and returned at the base of the slide tower, free of charge. There are height minimums of 48 inches (120 cm) for a single rider to 42 inches (110 cm) for a child accompanied by an adult on two of the four slides. There is a weight maximum of 250 lbs for these slides. The slides each have unique features, including sections of complete darkness, four small funnels, and a large funnel.

The Caribbean Cruiser is a lazy river looping one-third of a mile around, with a depth of 3 feet (0.91 m). Visitors can rent tubes for $5 or just cruise along with no tube.

The Reef Racer is six slides hooked together to create a racing slide, where riders lie face-first on mats and slide down, "racing" other guests. You must be at least 42 inches (110 cm) to ride.

The Gang Plank and Pirates Plunge are two speed slides that zip riders along at high speeds. You must be at least 48 inches (120 cm) to ride the two speed slides.

The Typhoon is currently a two- to four-person raft ride. There is one large funnel, and many twists and turns. Minimum height is 48 inches (120 cm).

Breaker Beach opened on May 26, 2012. It is Iowa's largest wave pool.

Shipwreck Shores opened with Breaker Beach. It is a kiddie pool with a pirate ship themed water slide for kids and swim up beverage center just for kids.


  • Ben Ulin magic show in Sheriff Sam's Saloon. 2016 is his 29th year.
  • Coca Cola Cafe. This stage includes a hamburger joint with places to sit and eat a meal around the stage that rises out of the ground for multiple shows daily. The 2016 show is juggler Brad Weston.
  • The Chapel.
  • Royal Hanneford Circus perform several shows daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The circus tent was originally located behind The Outlaw, but in 2008 construction of the new water feature caused the circus to be relocated just behind Saw Mill Splash in Outlaw Gulch with a new access walkway between that ride and the exit of the Outlaw.

Former attractions and shows[edit]

The Mixer
  • Acrobat Act, in the Palace Theater.
  • Arcade. A small arcade was around the corner from River City, where the minidonut stand now is.
  • Aquatheatre dolphin show. The Underground was built in its place in the 1990s.
  • Daniel and the Dixieland Diggers (closed 1999). Animatronic music show in the center of Main Street, replaced by the Carousel.
  • Der Flitzer (1974–1990). A small German snow-capped mountain-themed coaster, the Giant Skywheel now occupies its space.
  • Flying Scooters (1974-1986)
  • Game Show: Double Dare (to mimic Nickelodeon's Double Dare). Contestants were selected from the audience to participate in stunts and games like Beat The Clock. The Underground is now in this space.
  • Haunted House attraction (1979–1990), part of the Riverview area (now Dragon Island), and one of the attractions moved from Riverview Park in Des Moines. Dragon's Station now occupies its space.
  • High Diving Act, after the Dolphin Show, and before the Underground.
  • Ice Skating Show, in the Palace Theater.
  • Log Ride (1974-2015), A log flume ride with two drops, replaced by The Monster.
  • Mirror Maze (1980–1990). Part of the Riverview area (now Dragon Island), and one of the attractions moved from Riverview Park in Des Moines. A small mirror maze exists at the exit of The Dragon.
  • The Mixer (1997–2005), spun and inverted visitors on several axes, replaced by Splash Over.
  • Petting Zoo, in the Iowa Farm section of the park where the red barn sits.
  • Queen Riverboat (1974-1980s), In the park's early years, there was a riverboat-style watercraft called the Queen. It docked by where today sits the funnel cake stand at River City, which explains why that area looks so much like a dock. The boat itself was a passenger steamer that was used to carry passengers across Lake Okoboji in Okoboji, Iowa. She served from 1884 until 1973 when she was sent to Adventureland.
  • The Rainbow (1988), A German thrill ride added for the 1988 season only. It was replaced by Falling Star.
  • Silly Silo (1974–2013). A Chance-Morgan rotor, the Storm Chaser now stands where this ride was.
  • Super Screamer (1976–1999), a smaller roller coaster (an S.D.C. Galaxi), replaced by The Inverter.
  • Toonerville Trolleys (1974–c.1980s), A set of nine 1890s replica trolleys built by Gordon Wiligrocki. The trolleys were on tracks running the perimeter of the park with various stops, replaced by the A-Train.
  • In 1995, a western-themed stage show was held in Sheriff Sam's Saloon, while Ben Ulin presented a large scale magic show in the Main Street Palace.

Games areas[edit]

The games department consists of three games areas:[9]

  • Alpine Games – Alpine is located near the front of the park close to the Giant Skywheel.
  • County Fair – According to park operators, this is Adventureland's most popular games area. County Fair is a rather large games area and features many popular games, including Speedball, Derby Downs, Center Ring, and Skee Ball. County Fair is unique in that the area is very long, whereas the other two areas are more circular. The north part of the area, sometimes called "The Iowa Farm Section," is where the entrance to Tornado is located. The Iowa Farm Section features Speedball, County Fair's most popular game.
  • Dragon Island – Dragon Island, commonly referred to as simply "The Island", is named for the Dragon roller coaster. The Himalaya is also located there. Dragon Island is actually a peninsula, with the non-water side leading to Outlaw Gulch. Despite not being as big as County Fair or Alpine, Dragon Island ranks 2nd in popularity. Dragon Island has a much different atmosphere than County Fair or Alpine. While County Fair and Alpine have a more fun atmosphere, playing upbeat, popular music that most guests will be able to recognize, Dragon Island has a more mellow atmosphere, playing slow music without vocals. Dragon Island was formerly known as Riverview. This area was added to the park in 1980, after Adventureland bought out the old Riverview Park amusement park in nearby Des Moines. The original attractions in this area, including games of skill, a Haunted House attraction, and a Hall of Mirrors, were moved in from Riverview. When Dragon was added in 1991, the area was renamed Dragon Island. The loading station area for Dragon occupies the space (and part of the actual building) where the Haunted House and Hall of Mirrors was (and a few mirrors can still be seen in the ride exit area).


While the park has sold beer (and sometimes wine coolers) in the past, in recent years they have added more adult beverage locations.

  • Sand Bar (opened 2010) - A full bar located in Adventure Bay. It features cocktails named after park attractions, as well as frozen drinks.
  • Iowa Beer & Wine Shop - Located in the Iowa Farm area next to the Storm Chaser. It features a variety of Iowa craft beers and wines, and a frozen drink called The Monster. In 2016, a new performance area was added with local musical acts playing during the summer.
  • Bier Garten (opened 2015) - Located in the Bavaria section of the park and directly attached to Rathskeller. It serves German beers.
  • Abita Bar (opened 2015) - Located in River City, it serves bottle beers from Louisiana, and frozen drinks.

Other food locations serve canned beers and similar beverages.

Special events[edit]

On July 4, Adventureland presents fireworks at 9:45 p.m. before a 10 p.m. park closing. The nearby Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino puts on a fireworks show at 10 p.m., allowing park visitors a chance to view two shows back to back.

Adventureland also hosts various art and craft shows during the off-season when the park is closed. Visitors enter through an open gate at the front entrance and are allowed only in the Main Street Palace Theater. A back walkway connects it to the Iowa Cafe on Main Street for food and snacks.

During the first few weekends of operation, various school bands are invited to play in the park.

Each year, substance-free days are held in conjunction with D.A.R.E. There are no beer sales during these days.

Over Memorial Day weekend there is a military promotion.

There are five park areas available for company picnics, reunions, or other large gatherings.[10]

On October 3, 2015, Adventureland hosted its first Oktoberfest event. A $10 admission (with free parking) included one beer and access to a limited selection of rides and attractions during this one day event. Dozens of food and drink stands were brought in to the park (many from outside vendors).

Mascots and characters[edit]

The park's official mascot is Bernie Bernard, a dog.[1] A cartoon drawing of Bernie appears on park guides and maps, and a walk-around character poses for photos in the park. Another character, "Toby" the tiger, also walks around the park. According to Adventureland's public relations department, "Toby the tiger has been around about as long as Bernie, but is not in our ads, so he might not be as recognizable." There are two additional dog characters: Heather, also seen in the park; and Henry, who has also been found in take-home stuffed animal size.

For a special promotion in 2001, Garfield the cat appeared in the park with a special photo opportunity on Main Street.

An actor who plays an old west miner type character appeared for many years in TV commercials, and his voice is heard in The Underground narration (and as the voice of the old miner animatronic in the pre-show). A cartoon caricature of him appears as the "must be this tall to ride" sign outside of The Outlaw.

In 2005, a "girl in a cage being carried by a gorilla" effect character was also seen to roam the park. The gorilla is named Gilda. Offer her a banana and she will release the girl in the cage.

At the ticket window of the Main Street theater, an animatronic character named P.T. Barnaby spiels about park happenings each year.

There are many other costumed characters that have appeared in the park over the years.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Adventureland – About". Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  2. ^ Finney, Daniel (February 20, 2010). "Adventureland fire destroys shops near Altoona park's entrance". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  3. ^ "Fire Crews Called to Adventureland". KCCI News 8. December 15, 2011. Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  4. ^ Pratt, Christopher (September 16, 2013). "Adventureland's Silly Silo has taken last spin". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2013-09-17. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Adventureland – Kiddie rides". Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  8. ^ a b "Adventureland – Thrill rides". Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Adventureland – Games". Retrieved 2015-02-14. 
  10. ^ "Adventureland Company Outings". Retrieved 2015-02-14. 

External links[edit]