Dollywood Is One Of America’s Best Theme Parks
If it weren’t for Walt Disney World, Dollywood would be the most elaborate park I’d ever been to. The atmosphere, scenery, and themeing are top-notch. It’s everything a Theme Park should be. There are rides for thrill seekers, children, and families. When I went on an early September Wednesday, the park became my own little slice of heaven.
I admit the main reason I wanted to go to Dollywood was to ride Lightning Rod. Developed by RMC, this coaster has been prone to breakdowns over its one-year lifespan. As I walked up to the ticket counter, the park employee told me that everything was operational. This included Lightning Rod. My excitement was through the roof.
Obviously, the first attraction I went towards was Lightning Rod. Dollywood lets its guests in before the rides open, so I waited outside the ride entrance with about 20 other guests. Right when the park opened they let people into the queue for the coaster. I managed to get 3 rides on Lightning Rod in about 20 minutes.
Already ecstatic with my day, it was time to do some other Dollywood attractions. As my girlfriend and I walked around the park, we were in awe of how beautiful it was. Setting off to find Wild Eagle, Dollywood’s B&M wing coaster, I stopped at a few other rides along the way.
Blazing Fury was a fun attraction. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a coaster, but the scenery inside the ride is fantastic. You’ll ride through animatronics of firefighters and fire scenes, and even treated to a few coaster elements. But again, this isn’t a coaster. It’s a dark ride with coaster elements.
Tennessee Tornado is right next to Blazing Fury. I wasn’t too excited for this coaster, but I wanted to give it a try. The Arrow Dynmaics coaster is quite old and it shows. This might quite possibly be one of the worst coasters I’ve been on. It’s just way too rough. Also, the coaster seems to stall coming out of the vertical loops. It wasn’t my favorite coaster, but it’s still a credit.
I finally made my way to Wild Eagle, the parks B&M wing coaster. Having been on two wing coasters before ( Gatekeeper at Cedar Point, X-Flight at Six Flags Great America ), I had high hopes for Wild Eagle. And while this wing coaster wasn’t my favorite of the three, I still loved it.
My first ride was in the front, and I had the train to myself. I’ll admit that the front isn’t my usual first option, but I opted to give it a go. There are a few things this ride is missing. First, there are no near-miss elements on the coaster. Second, the infamous dive loop found on Gatekeeper and X-Flight. The front row was nice for the view, but without some of the signature wing coaster elements it didn’t feel the same.
I was able to get two consecutive rides on the back of the Wild Eagle train. The coaster was a lot better in the back. As usual, you get a lot more air time and it seems to ride a lot faster. So, if you do Wild Eagle I’d suggest trying front first, but make sure you do a back row ride as well.
Firechaser Express was the next coaster up on my list. It’s more a family coaster, but it’s extremely well themed. I won’t give anything away about the coaster. I’ll say that of all the family coasters I’ve done, this is the best.
It was nearing lunch time, and as I looked for a place to eat, I noticed the entrance to Mystery Mine. This was one of my most anticipated coasters of the trip. The Gerstlauer Euro-fighter was fantastic. The coaster is a tad slow in the beginning, but it really picks up during the second half. I’ve been on coasters similar to Euro-fighter’s before, but never the real thing. Absolutely loved this coaster, even if it was a tad rough.
With Mystery Mine completed I had found a pizza shop right outside the ride. Of course that happened to be the spot of Dollywood’s newest attraction, Dropline. Normally I’ll never go on drop towers, but my girlfriend insisted I do it. With much reluctance, I went on the attraction.
I’ll admit that it was quite cool. You rotate around going up and at the top of the tower, and then you’re dropped. It seemed like it took an eternity for the tower to drop me, though. Still, I’m proud to say I did Dropline, but it will be a while before I do something like that again.
I knew after lunch I wanted to ride the parks wooden coaster, Thunderhead. Made by GCI, this coaster didn’t disappoint. While I didn’t feel as much air time as other GCI coasters such as Mystic Timbers, it was still a great wooden coaster. I’d recommend riding in the back, as I do most woodies. The trains are the comfortable Millennium Flyer trains that GCI has become known for. And the back row isn’t as rough as other woodies.
After doing all of the coasters, it was time for a few re-rides. First, we made our way into the gift shop where I bought a Lightning Rod shirt. Overall, the merchandise at Dollywood is quite good. Maybe not as abundant as the Cedar Fair parks, but still quite strong.
I went back to Lightning Rod and got three more rides on the RMC. This included a front row go on the coaster as well. And while it’s definitely a thrill to be on LR at the front, the back row still offers a lot more airtime.
It was time to ride the train. My girlfriend and I are theme/amusement park train lovers. If there’s a train at a park, we are going to ride it. Overall, I thought the Dollywood Express was an enjoyable ride. You go through a lot of the wilderness that surrounds the park, and get great views of the coasters.
That train ride worked up an appetite. It was finally time to try the famous Dollywood cinnamon bread. All I’ll say is that the bread was probably one of the best things I’ve eaten. You get quite a bit of it, so be prepared to share or have some left over.
After the bread, we figured it was time to leave (Although, I did get one more ride on Lightning Rod). Dollywood is a such a beautiful park. It’s clean, the staff is amazingly friendly, and the operations on the coasters are really Disney-esque. (Of course, I went on a very slow day). If you’re in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, go to Dollywood. It’s really worth the price of admission.