Adventureland Amusement Park and Adventure Bay Waterpark contain over 100 rides, shows, and attractions including some of the country's most exciting roller coasters and thrill rides that can challenge the most avid amusement park enthusiasts. There are also plenty of rides for less adventurous guests including great water rides as well as a full compliment of children's rides spread throughout the park. But the entertainment doesn't stop with rides - Adventureland presents a full array of shows in the park - from thrilling circus acts and magic shows to live music and juggling - there's always something to suit everyone's taste. Simply the most fun you will have all year!
Mascots and characters
The park's official mascot is a St. Bernard dog named "Bernie Bernard". 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 is a family owned and operated theme park that has provided many fond memories for families over the last 40 plus years. It all began in the spring of 1973 when bulldozers and earth-moving machines plowed under cornfields just east of Des Moines to reshape the contour of the land to make way for what is now Iowa's largest tourist attraction, Adventureland Park.
Years before, the grounds belonged to the Des Moines Airport where Charles Lindbergh once stopped in 1924. These grounds later became a family farm where fir trees served as a windbreak for its old farmhouse. The Farmhouse and trees still stand today in the Iowa farm section of the park.
Adventureland was to open in July 1974 but damage from the tail end of a tornado caused the delay of opening day until late August. There was no charge that summer to browse the shops on Main Street. The Palace Theater Show, "A Salute to Iowa Music," could be seen for just $1.00.
Guests were able to take a short walk from Main Street across a bridge, for admission, to the amusement park. A kiddy helicopter ride, carousel, "Jaunty Jeeps," "Silly Silo," "River Rapids," and "Bavarian Scrambler" were among the first rides, and a trolley also took visitors on a short tour around the park.
Adventureland's first full season of operation began in 1975. The "Skyride" from the World's Fair in Spokane, Washington, "Lady Luck," and "Tilt o Whirl." were added to the ride roster. The "Flitzer," a small mountain-scene roller coaster was also built, and the stage at "Soda and Sounds" emerged with its first show.
Again the bulldozers attacked the land, this time east of the park, blazing a trail that would become "The Boulevard." To accentuate the new strip, the "Super Screamer," Flinger, Tea Cups, and "Lady Bugs" were added.
In 1977, another "Tornado" rolled through the park as construction began on Adventureland's wooden thriller that 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.
One by one the list of rides and attractions grew during the next decade. In 1983 guests were asked to tame the "Raging River," and later in the 1980's the "Galleon," "Falling Star" and "Balloon Race" rides were added.
In 1990, the "Riverview" theme area was transformed into the "Dragon Island," home of Adventureland's double-looping upside-down steel coaster. Opening on May 12, 1990, The Des Moines Register's Chuck Offenburger said, "It was better than beating Nebraska in football and better than beating North Carolina in basketball." He also declared the "twisting ride of genial terror to be the maximum Iowa thrill."
The growing continued, and the very next year Adventureland's "Giant Sky Wheel" took shape adding to the park's skyline. Standing nearly 100 feet tall and displaying 6,000 lights that can be seen for miles, it is the largest open gondola wheel manufactured in America since G.W. Ferris built his wheel for the Chicago Exposition.
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.
1997 was a great year for Adventureland Park guests, as two new rides were introduced in the park, The "Mixer" and The "G-Force." Also in 1997, for the first time, Adventureland featured its biggest attraction ever. The Adventureland Circus performed daily under the Big Top with elephants, horses, clowns, acrobats and a tiger.
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.
Striving to be bigger and better than ever in 2000, Adventureland added three new rides. The Inverter, the Town Square Carousel and the Himalaya. Regardless of visitors taste in rides, there was something new for everyone in 2000.
Park guests were greeted by America's favorite "Fat Cat" throughout the 2001 season as Garfield, the well-known comic strip character, and his sidekick Odie made their home at Adventureland. The comic duo brought smiles to the faces of visitors with their whimsical antics and bigger than life personalities.
The park offers much more than just rides, however, each season flowers, trees, and shrubs are added to enhance the landscape. Now over 100 varieties can be found in more than 10,000 individual plants throughout the park.
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 perfectly into the western motif of Adventureland's Outlaw Gulch area.
In 2004 a ride called the "SideWinder" was added to Adventureland. The "SideWinder" is a giant pedulum that pivots back and forth 240 degrees, swinging riders over 6 stories into the sky on a rotating platform that revolves 360 degrees. The "SideWinder" was engineered and designed by Mosier Rides of Italy especially for Adventureland Park.
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. Adults and children can both enjoy this attraction, making it a great family ride.
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, a virtual splash factory of fun for all ages, with hundreds of ways to get wet! Chief "Imaginer" and CEO Jan Krantz has watched the park grow from an amusement facility in 1973, consisting of Main Street and a few rides and shows, to a full-scale 180 acre resort complete with Inn and Campground.
In 2010 Adventureland completed it's new waterpark Adventure Bay. It includes 20 waterslides, Iowa's longest Lazy River, rental cabanas, a swimming pool with a swim up bar, kids splash pad, food and retail stands, an sand beach sun deck and more! In the 2012 summer season a 25,000 square foot wave pool and a kids activity pool were completed, along with a swim up bar just for little ones.
In 2014 Adventureland added the Storm Chaser - a 260 foot 4 million dollar giant tower swing ride. This ride will certainly test the most daring riders! The 2015 season had many fun changes made over the winter. The Dragon Island bridge was expanded and lit, the Palace Theater was completely remodeled and we rebuilt the River City Smoke Shack to better serve our guests some of the best BBQ around! A 24 tap German Bier Garten was added to the Rathskellar and the new Abita Bar in River City gives guests a real taste of New Orleans.
2016 was the season of THE MONSTER! This was Adventureland's first new rollercoaster in 23 years and it is looking scary! With 5 inversions, 10 air time moments and a vertical lift hill, The Monster will test your bravery. Summer is here - come join us at Adventureland!
Adventureland is located off exit 142A of I-80, along U.S. Highway 65, near Altoona, just East of Des Moines.