Dollywood: Visit #1
By: Kevin Michaels
Click here for photos from 6/26/15!
This is our first ever visit to Dollywood! We have heard many good things about this park, and while we know that it isn't the "thrill capital of the world" that some other parks claim to be, we're sure in for a good time.
We arrived to the park around 9:30am and parked in Lot B for Butterfly. This looks like a pretty long walk to the actual park, so we took the tram over. They said that by taking the tram, it saved us about a half a mile of walking. We used our ACE membership to get a 5 dollar discount at the gate for each of our two tickets. That isn't a huge discount, but it's a discount none the less.
Park opens at 10am
The park opens here at 10am, but they allowed us to enter the park. Because we have never been in the park, we just made a random choice as to which way to go. We headed to the left and wound up in the right direction. They had a holding point near a wooden roller coaster called Thunderhead and they opened that up at 9:50am, allowing the guests to further venture into the park and split up.
May as well do Thunderhead first, right?
Since we were right here, there's no reason to go and try to find another ride and then come back to Thunderhead, so we made that our first ride of the day. The ride queue opened up at 10am sharp and we got in the queue line and waited for the front row. There was only a 2 train wait for the front row and they had 2 trains in operation, so this should go quick. The ride itself? It was pretty fierce. This roller coaster will rattle you but I actually enjoyed it. The trains were comfortable enough to the point that it didn't matter how beat up I got on this one.
Lumberjack Lifts, really?
To me, this looks like a kid's ride but we walked right by it, so why not stop and do it? I actually thought this would be a difficult task, getting myself to the top of the lift but it was pretty easy. There must be something built into the ride to make this easy because I really don't think I can lift my fatass up with a rope and sitting in a chair.
Mystery Mine; Do I fit?
The next ride in line was the Mystery Mine. I had tried out the test seat to see if I would fit on the ride and the green light didn't come on. In the past, I have tried test seats and the test seats always fail me so I figured I'd give the ride a try. I was able to fit on the ride and this was actually a cool and unique ride here at Dollywood. Very different from any other roller coaster we have been on!
Fire Chaser Express
Next, we came across the Fire Chaser Express. Because this is one of the newer roller coasters at the park, we were told to go here first but I figured why rush here and skip over the rides that we were walking past already? This is a great family roller coaster. It launches you forward to start and then later on, you get a backwards launch. I came off the ride saying "Who needs Batman Backwards when we have this?" I know the ride didn't go very far in reverse, but it was a very cool ride with some awesome special effects. There was no line for this by the time we got to it for the first time. They had no loader here telling us where to sit, either. Mystery Mine had one, even though there was no line. There is only 2 rows on Mystery Mine, so it didn't matter much where we wound up sitting.
This is such a beautiful park...
So far, we're doing good. The weather isn't nearly as hot as it was at Carowinds, but it is getting hot. The weather had forecasted for some thunderstorms, so let's hope they hold off long enough to the point where we can get our rides in. This park is absolutely beautiful and it has a great family environment to it.
Wild Eagle; Awesome Statue!
Next in line was the Wild Eagle. I had a feeling that this was a winged roller coaster. I didn't and don't do much research about a park before I visit it for the first time. If it's a park that I am encouraged to visit by fellow theme park goers, then I'm going to go. I don't go in with a game plan, nor do I try to find out what rides are in the park.
The statue for Wild Eagle was absolutely amazing and it is now my number one favorite statue for a roller coaster. It puts Leviathan, Hydra and El Diablo to shame. That eagle was awesome. The ride itself? We sat in the front row and I would probably rank it as number 4 of the 4 wing coasters we have been on. The restraint was really tight and uncomfortable over my shoulders during the ride.
Tennesse Torando; Arrow?
As we approached Tennessee Tornado, I was looking at the track and said that this looks like an Arrow Dynamics ride. As soon as I said that, I saw the train for the ride go by and knew for a fact that it was an Arrow. Great, this ride probably won't be very good. The ride operators boast this as being the fastest roller coaster at Dollywood. Just because it is the fastest, doesn't make it the best. There was only a one train operation for this ride and the queue line was huge; thank God there was no line for this one!
From my standpoint at this point in the day, the park isn't really crowded but there was plenty of people who bought the Time Saver pass to skip the line. That is Dollywood's version of Fast Lane or Flash Pass. I've said this time and time again; don't buy a Fast Pass until you know the park is crowded. You can go for 2 or 3 hours in the park without needing it and by then, you might be able to get the bigger rides out of the way. Save your money unless you know you need the Fast Lane. I watched people do this at Carowinds and it blew my mind that they spent top dollar for a pass they didn't need.
While we were waiting in line, we had let a girl in front of us because her two friends were in the second row ready to go on the ride. I figured why not let them go together. They were appreciative that we did that for them. Now it's our turn to get on. The ride itself wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I was bracing myself for every loop, twist and turn on this ride so that I didn't get ear/neck bashed in a classic Arrow Dynamics manner. There was an awesome tunnel on this ride that was very cold inside, which felt very good!
Dead end after Tennessee Tornado?
After we came out of the Tennessee Tornado, it looked like we had hit a dead end so we turned all the way around and went to the front of the park. Later on, we found out that we could have kept going and continued on through the park. Oh well.
Fire Chaser Express; back row
On our way back towards the front of the park, I figured why not get another ride on Fire Chaser Express, this time in the back row. The line for this had built up to a 30 minute wait, but we waited anyway. I really enjoy this family coaster here at Dollywood. Even though it only reaches top speeds of 34 miles per hour, it feels much faster because of it's compact design! I really love the special effects as well!
Lunch time @ Lumberjack's Pizza
We bumped into a pizza place where we decided to grab lunch. They had these gigantic 1 lb slices of pizza that looked pretty damn good. Because I was extra hungry, I decided to order a dozen garlic knots as well. Great, this is going to be a lot of food. Two slices of 1 lb pizza and 12 pretty damn big garlic knots. The total price only came to 29 dollars, which isn't bad for the amount of food that we got. The food was really good and we sat there and ate it until we finished it. It was a tough task, but we did it.
An even tougher task would have been to finish off an entire pie, 12 lbs of pizza. I know that sounds ridiculous, but they have a contest there that if two people can finish that pie within an hour, they will win two Gold Season Passes to Dollywood. I seriously don't think I could have done it, even at my heaviest weight!
Where are all the rides?
After we ate lunch, we wandered towards the front of the park to look for some more rides, but we couldn't find them. Where were they?? We did most of the big rides and we knew that there wasn't much left, but where do they hide this stuff? Like I said, I don't come into a park I haven't been to with a game plan; I think that's part of the fun, having that challenge of finding things and working out a system of your own at a park.
Barnstormer; S&S Screamin' Swing
We came across the Mountain Slidewinder and the Barnstormer. I really didn't want to walk around in wet feet all day, so we skipped over the water rides and went right for the Barnstormer. The Barnstormer is an S&S Screamin' Swing ride similar to Skyhawk at Cedar Point. Love these rides. Got in and out without a hitch. They were only operating one of the arms today, not sure why.
Blazing Fury time!
This was the time that we found out that Blazing Fury and Tennessee Tornado were right next to each other, but it was time to get on Blazing Fury. We looked all over for it, but finally found it. They only had one train in operation, so there was a little bit of a line and people trying to scam themselves to the front of the line using the Time Saver Pass.
What is Time Saver?
From what I can tell, the Time Saver Pass will get you to a certain part in the line, but not to the front of the line. Some parks and some rides, it will give you first priority but much like Six Flags, the Flash Pass/Time Saver pass, you will be inserted into the line, ahead of a large number of people. Here at Dollywood, it looked to be the same thing; you get inserted into the line ahead of people. This group of people thought that they could use their Time Saver Pass to get right to the front of the line, but they were denied. They tried making a stink because the ride operators had let someone in a wheel chair get in the front of the line ahead of everyone. There is a big difference between a Handicap Pass and a Time Saver/Flash Pass. Handicap Passes get priority because of their inability to wait in long lines. This group of people was giving the ride operators hell for allowing the Handicap people to get on the ride, but not them.
Blazing Fury was a unique mine ride that started off very slow and actually reminded me a lot of the old Golden Nugget ride that is now located at Knoebels, but it did pick up the pace before the ride had ended. Decent little mine ride. Too bad we didn't wind up coming across this after Tennessee Tornado like we should have.
We wanted to get on the Dollywood Express, but they weren't going to load people onto it for another 20 minutes, so we made a stop and hit the Carousel real fast. This Carousel had some really unique animals on it and some of them looked really creepy. After that, we hit the bathroom, filled our cups with water and lined up for Dollywood Express. This is a 20 minute train ride around the park. It was nice to be able to stop and relax but because it was so hot, I wound up coming off this ride extra tired! As you can tell, I don't do well in the heat.
Next in line was the Wonder Wheel. This isn't the same kind of Ferris Wheel at Coney Island, so don't get any ideas. It was a smaller and older style Ferris Wheel and the cars rocked with your every movement. The only thing about a Ferris Wheel is that you take more time loading and unloading people than actually riding.
Demolition Derby; Bumper Cars
It's time to raise some hell on the Bumper Cars. Oh wait, this was a crappy and slow version of the Bumper Cars. After you ride the Bumper Cars at Knoebels, every other set of Bumper Cars stink!
We did all the big rides, now it's time to wander around and hit some of the flat rides. They have a Waveswinger called the Waltzing Swinger, a Scrambler, a kiddie coaster called Sideshow Spin which we were able to get on, but not in the front row. Other rides; Sky Rider, which is a variation of a swing ride that brings you a bit higher than the Waveswinger. This one has a control gear to "fly" out like the Flyers, but not quite. They also have a Dizzy Disk, which is a Disc-O ride. I love these rides and that's probably because I have the chance to get on them as much as I'd like!
Lemon Twist is their version of the Tea Cups. A couple people on the ride before us had it spinning really fast. I spun it fast in one direction then stopped and went the other way. We both got really dizzy when the ride stopped, because they really put the brakes to the ride to stop it at the end. Amazing Flying Elephants is the Air Dumbo children's ride. You sit in the elephant, hit a button and it flies as the ride rotates. We only rode it for shits and giggles.
By this time of the evening, we had done all of the rides that we wanted to do. The only ones we didn't do were the water rides and the children's drop tower. Other than that, we did everything that we could have done so we decided to go see a show. Usually at theme parks, shows are only between 15-30 minutes but not this one. This show was one hour and it was a play chronicling the music from the 50s and 60s. It was a pretty good show and I would have enjoyed it much more if it was music from my era; the 80s but it was good to sit and relax in an air conditioned building for an hour before we left the park for the day.
After we came out of the show, thunderstorms had started to roll in, so we rolled out. We hit all of the rides we wanted to and we had a great day here at Dollywood! I would definitely recommend this park to anyone. It has a great family environment and there is so much to do. Between all of the shops, the shows and the rides, you could easily spend a few days here just moseying around! They also had a zip line attraction, which we didn't do. One day, we will hit a zip line but today wasn't that day.
We had an awesome week, an awesome vacation and it's almost over but we extended our visit in Tennessee for one extra day. If the weather is nice, we'll get out there and hit a couple of mountain coasters in the area and find some other stuff to do around here. It really looks like there's a lot to do here in the Smoky Mountains.
Have a great night everyone, thank you for reading. Unfortunately, Sunday is the day that we have to drive back home to reality but we are hitting a short work week followed by a weekend trip to Cedar Point starting on Thursday directly after work. I cannot wait to see the Madhouse that Cedar Point will become on 4th of July weekend!