Construction of Adventureland Park began in the spring of 1973. 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, KS, and even 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 flyers and website just before opening. The newly created park was to open in July 1973 but damage from the tail end of a tornado delayed the opening until late August. 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 ride roster that year.
In 1977 construction began on Adventurelands 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.
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. In 1990, the "Riverview" theme area was transformed into the "Dragon Island," home of Adventureland's double-looping upside-down steel 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 at a cost of approximately 5 million dollars. "Outlaw Gulch" consisted of three spectacular rides: The Wrangler, The Chuckwagon, and The Outlaw roller coaster. Reaching new heights in 1999 Adventureland announced the addition of the Space Shot. The Space Shot is a 235-foot structure that towers over Adventureland launching riders up at 4.5 G's and ending with a free fall of negative 1 G.
2002 marked Adventureland's most ambitious expansion yet. An 8 million dollar project nearly doubled the size of the hotel, added a second courtyard, new pools with interactive water features and new poolside rooms and suites. It also added a new "first of its kind" 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 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 Island. The first water attraction in this area is Kokomo Kove.
On February 20th, 2010 (about 4:00pm), a fire broke out in the toy store of main street after its roof collapsed due to the weight of ice and snow. The collapse caused an electrical fire. The fire went out of control and engulfed the corner portion of main street and destroyed the "hotel" 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. Initial discussions with park officials state that the park intends to open on schedule for the 2010 season despite the fact that no initial plans have (yet) been made to replace the destroyed structures. The reason the buildings were destroyed so quickly was due to the fact that the age of the buildings didn't require them to have sprinklers installed. The park opened as planned on April 24th, 2010, with the half 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."
Adventureland is located near Altoona, just East of Des Moines.
Themed areas and attractions
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 even 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 Island (opened June 22, 2008) is a new location behind Outlaw Gulch that is be home to the Kokomo Kove water play area which opened in June 2008.
- 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 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, but 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, originally was built as Riverview in 1979 and 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. Look for the big pig in the "Iowa Farm" section of the park; it's actually a small concession stand.
- 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 other service-type establishments.
The "dress up" old time photo shop on Main Street has been in the park since the 1970s. Several merchants on Main Street, such as the sign maker and airbrush shop, are not Adventureland employees. They lease the location and operate their business during the season. (This is similar to many of the crafter shops at Knott's Berry Farm in California.)
Also on Main Street, there is a theater (currently used for corporate events) with a ticket taker window. Inside that window is an animatronic figure that is reprogrammed each year to repeat spiels about new attractions in the park.
- 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 the like. Other food in the section includes 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. That's why 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 sit in this section of the park as well.
- Space Shot Midway is built around the "Space Shot" ride. Another attraction is the "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
- Chuckwagon, a miniature western-themed Ferris wheel (opened in 1993)
- 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 1970s)
- Kiddie Kars, various themed cars spin slowly around a central axis (opened 1974)
- 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 1974)
- Dragon – (opened May 12, 1991) Double-looping steel roller coaster built by Hopkins.
- The Outlaw – (opened April 24, 1993) A wooden roller coaster by Custom Coasters International (CCI).
- Tornado – (opened July 4, 1978) A wooden roller coaster designed by William Cobb.
- The Underground – (opened in 1996) An indoor dark ride using a roller coaster ride system. Ride and cars by CCI. Animated figures by Themed Environments and Effects.
- 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. It replaced Wrangler, a carnival Scrambler ride.
- Splash Over (opened April 29, 2006) - A thrill/water ride where riders are propelled and inverted through a curtain of water that randomly ranges from a light mist to a complete soaking. It replaced the Mixer, which opened in 1997.
- River Rapids Log Flume (opened in 1974) - a log flume ride with two drops. In 2005, an on-ride photo system was installed that takes a picture during the second drop. Pictures can be viewed and purchased near the exit.
- A-Train - A small train that travels around one side of the park, then loops and returns back on the same track. Its only stop is the station on Main Street. For the 2009 season, the train station loading area was reconfigured so guests exit through the candy shop, rather than enter through it. The direction of the train was also reversed so it starts out going through the storage tunnel first, rather than before returning to the station and the end of the ride.
- Balloon Race (opened 1980s) - a Zamperla family ride that spins riders in hot-air-balloon-shaped cars.
- Dodge 'Em Cars (opened 1970s) - Traditional bumper cars ride.
- Falling Star (opened 1980s, replaced The Rainbow) - Chance-Morgan rotating platform ride.
- Der Flinger (opened 1976) - A paratrooper-themed ride that is similar to a Ferris wheel but starts flat on the ground and raises up.
- The G-Force (opened in 1993) - A Huss Rodeo spinning ride on the order of a Scrambler. Each car is decorated with a different nation's flag; the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, and Greece are a few examples.
- Galleon (opened early 1980s) - A giant Zamperla swinging ship ride.
- Giant Skywheel (opened in 1991) - A huge Chance-Morgan Ferris wheel. In 2007, it lost its "Fuji Film" branding and the center sign was replaced with an Adventureland logo.
- Himalaya (opened in 2000) - Spinning, tilted Himalaya ride.
- The Inverter (opened in 2000) - (by Chance-Morgan) Takes guests up 50 feet (15 m) in the air and hangs them inverted.
- Lady Luck (opened in 1975) - A Chance Trabant ride themed as a roulette wheel.
- The Lighthouse (opened 1970s) - Visitors sit in a small gondola which spins around, while being thrust sideways and upwards.
- Round Up (opened in 1975) - A traditional carnival Tilt-A-Whirl ride.
- Sidewinder (opened in 2004) - A spinning pendulum ride that swings riders slightly more than 180 degrees.
- Silly Silo (opened in 1974) - A Chance-Morgan Rotor: Spins guests around in a large cylinder as they become stuck to the walls while the floor drops out.
- Sky Ride (opened in 1975) - Traditional chairlift ride originally from the World's Fair in Spokane, Washington.
- Space Shot (opened in 1999) - Visitors blast off into "space" up a 235-foot (72 m) tower and free fall safely back to the ground. An S & S Power ride.
- Tea Cups (opened in 1976) - A traditional spinning tea cup ride.
- Town Square Carrousel (opened in 2000) - A replica of an antique carousel. It replaced the old carousel where the Himalaya now stands.
"Kokomo Kove" is an all-new water play structure for 2008 located in a new area known as Adventure Island. It 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 waterslides 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.
- Ben Ulin magic show, 2010 will be his 23rd year.
- Soda and Sounds music shows. 2009 shows include: Country Junction, Sugar & Spice(Girls show), Boys Rock (Boys show), and Summer Breeze. In 2007, the park mascot, Bernie (a dog), began performing there with a children's show. The 2009 show is themed around Bernie's Imagination, and involves Bernie, a Wizard, a genie, a mermaid, Dr. Doolittle, and Peter Pan.
- The original Soda and Sounds 2009 cast: Aly Olson (Des Moines)16, Jessica Sieck (Grinnell)19, Katie Moulton (Ankeny)18, Madison Glover (Ankeny)18, Mary Harding (Des Moines)21, Alex Anderson (WI)20, Casey Coppess (Urbandale)18, Jake Skarin (Mitchellville)18, Jonathon Brugioni (Ankeny)19, and Ryan Elliott (Ankeny)18.
- The Chapel music shows (music groups, and some that use the same cast as Soda and Sounds).
- Adventureland Band. Small marching band that appears mostly on Main Street.
- Royal Hanneford Circus - perform several shows daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 2007 was going to be the last year for the circus at Adventureland, but in 2008 an announcement was made that it would be returning. 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.
- Boys Rocks. Male members of the Soda and Sounds show perform boy band hits to a soundtrack coming from a portable sound system.
Former Attractions and Shows
- Acrobat Act - in the Palace Theater.
- Arcade - a small arcade was around the corner from River City, where the mini donut stand now is.
- Aquatheatre dolphin show. The Underground built in its place. You can still see the Aquatheatre if you look through the cracks in the wood while waiting in line.
- Carousel (-1999) - a previous carousel located on Dragon Island, replaced by the Himalaya in 2000.
- Daniel and the Dixieland Diggers (-1999). Animatronic music show in the center of Main Street, replaced by the Carousel.
- Der Flitzer (1975-1990) - A small German mountain-themed coaster. The Giant Skywheel now occupies its space. Prior to its stay at Adventureland, it operated in the German fair circuit. After its stay, it operated at a park in the Netherlands and then a park in Germany. It is now operating at yet another park in Germany.
- Game Show (actual name unknown) - Contestants are selected from the audience to participate in stunts and games ala 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.
- Mirror Maze (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, but a few "fun" mirrors still exist in the exit queue.
- The Mixer (1997-2005, replaced by Splash Over) - Spins and inverts visitors on several axis.
- Petting Zoo - in the Iowa Farm section of the park where the red barn sits.
- Queen Riverboat - In the early few years of the park, there was a riverboat-style craft 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 Rainbow - replaced by Falling Star.
- Super Screamer (1976-1999, replaced by The Inverter) - A smaller roller coaster (an S.D.C. Galaxi) which operated until 1999. It then operated as Screaming Mummy in Pharaoh's Lost Kingdom in Redlands, California, closing in 2006.
- The Wrangler - Scrambler ride replaced by Sawmill Splash.
- 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.
The games department consists of three games areas:
- Alpine Games - Alpine is located near the front of the park close to the Giant Skywheel. In addition to several carnival-style games, it also features Water Wars, a water balloon battle, and a Hy-Striker game added in 2009 near the Sky Ride. Despite being one of the two larger games areas, Alpine fails to bring in as many guests as the other two games areas.
- 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 1979, 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).
On July 4, Adventureland presents fireworks at 9:45 p.m. before a 10 p.m. park closing. In many years,the nearby Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino follows with their own 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.
There are five park areas are available for company picnics, reunions, or other large gatherings.
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.
Mascots and characters
The park's official mascot is "Bernie Benard," a dog. 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 PR 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." A third dog character, Heather, is also seen in the park, as well as a fourth dog character, 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'll 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 as well.
Adventureland Inn contains two tropical courtyards, three large pools, a swim-up bar, and two spas. The hotel has 187 rooms and suites, including pool-side rooms. The hotel also has conference and meeting rooms. A lobby area gift shop features many Adventureland park items.
There are two restaurants, including the Parkview Restaurant for family dining. Hotel guests have access to free rides to the park on Molly the Trolly (a cable-car themed bus).
The hotel saw a major expansion in 2002 which added additional rooms and a new pool area.
The campground at Adventureland is open year round and provides full service hookups, modern showers and restrooms, RV facilities, tent camping, and recreational areas. The campground also provides a free shuttle to the park.
- Official Website
- Aerial Map of Adventureland 3/25/2000
- Aerial photo of Adventureland, pre-1978, a photo taken while The Tornado was under construction.
- Theme Parks Online's Adventureland Website
- Theme Parks Review's Adventureland Website
- Photo Archive (1996-2008)
- Riverview Park, a historic nearby amusement park which was purchased by, closed, and partially incorporated into Adventureland in 1979.
- Video of The Underground, via YouTube.com.
- Video of The Tornado, via YouTube.com