I've been wanting to get to Dollywood ever since Thunderhead was installed, and the subsequent years after when Coasterbuzz club had the event there. Just never managed to make it until now. We bought a 3 day ticket for $99 deal they had running. I felt that was a decent enough value. We stayed at the Wilderness in the Smokies resort which has a really nice indoor and out door waterpark. We didn't get to do the outdoor portion due to it only being open on the weekend.

I really like how Dollywood does their preferred parking with a separate entrance(separate lot.) Really made it easy to get in and out everyday. They have their Gospel and Harvest fest going on, so it wasn't ideal for seeing the Dollywood shows I've read about so much over the years. That's one of the things that I was looking forward to, and didn't get to experience one show. It was all Gospel music into the afternoon, so that was all that was going on while we visited.

As soon as we get through the entrance we head right to Lightning Rod. We waited about 50 minute for our 10th row ride(assigned seating.) The ride itself was non stop from the moment the launch kicks in until hitting the brakes. It's my 2nd RMC(Wicked Cyclone is the other,) and we were both amazed. The pictures of the triple down don't do it justice as much as experiencing it. It's totally out of control, and doesn't feel natural to have that much airtime in succession. It almost made me feel euphoric when we hit the brakes.

The only other wooden coaster(if you call it that,) that I can compare it to in intensity is El Toro, and you'll know what I am talking about. I think this may be even more intense than that. It's one of those rides I wanted several rerides to see if that really happened or was I just imagining. My wife said it hurt her thighs similar to Sky Rush, but there was no side bars to hold on to prevent that from happening(Like on that ride.)

I don't really rank coasters, but if I did Lightning Rod would up near the top of the list. For the record I don't consider them wooden coasters, so I'd have to put that on my steel list. It would rank near the top. It's a great coaster, and I'd suggest to all that its one that need experienced. 10 of 10.

First in order we went from Lightning Rod to Blazing Fury. Ok indoor fun. Sort of reminded me of Black Diamond(Aka Golden Nugget Mine ride.) Wouldn't go to the top but was one we re rode several times. 5 of 10.

Next was Tennessee Tornado. This was one I was looking forward to for quite sometime as the smoothest Arrow looper in existence. I really enjoyed it, and had no problems with head banging(my wife did.) It really is the best Arrow Looping coaster. Love the drop into the mountain, and the inversions the precede. I wish there were more of them designed after. They would probably be B&M smooth if they changed the trains and restraints. 7 of 10.

Wild Eagle was another coaster I really enjoyed. Makes me want to ride Gatekeeper again to compare the two. We rode several times with the first being a front seat left side ride. Great pacing and intensity made it a fun one. 7 of 10.

Firechaser Express wasn't too intense, and due to the lines we only rode one time. That one time was a lot of fun thanks to a foreign lady that wasn't a coaster rider being on board. We rode in the front, and my wife and I laughed the whole entire ride because of that lady. When we'd go to try to re ride we'd just leave and say we're not waiting for that because that lady won't be on board for a second lap. 6 of 10.

Thunderhead - This is another coaster I was really looking forward to since it opened. I thinks it's by far the best GCI I've been on. We rode this several times. It's one of the few coasters where I enjoyed the back more than the front. That's not the usual for us, and wooden coasters. It's the highest intensity GCI that I've ridden and I see why people rank it where they do. Blows off my local Wildcat and Lightning Racer in my opinion. 8 of 10.

Now to the rest of the experience. Dollywood is really lacking in flat rides. The S&S swing was great, but after that there isn't much. None of the water rides except the Rapids was open. We weren't getting that wet. Train was ok. The rest of the park was just ho hum.

Thursday we didn't get to ride one coaster because when we got there they were down or when we got to the line it was too long due to the other coasters being down. At the same time Lightning Rod, Tennessee Tornado, and Wild Eagle were down at the same time when we went to the other coasters they were all at over an hour wait. We weren't waiting that long. Then we did try to go to one of Dollywood's original shows for 1pm, and it was cancelled due to a performer Illness(never heard that before.) It was really disappointing to be in park for 3 hours and not experience one ride or show. At least we had good food at the Backstage Restaurant. The food and service was the only bright spot of that day.

Our overall take from our visit was that we really love the park and atmosphere, but just wanted to experience the shows too. We've never seen a park with so many theaters to perform shows, and I am sure they awesome as the reviews I've read said. We'll go back again when they have enough new stuff to make it worth it. We won't return during the Gospel Festival though.

Last edited by Coasterfantom2,
eightdotthree's avatar

Love Dollywood! Next trip stop at the grist mill and buy some cinnamon bread.

We did stop there but refrained. It was tempting, but my wife liked the craft vendors. She spent a good amount of money there getting Christmas gifts for family members.

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