Yes, Mystery Mine is great. My not-quite-nine-year-old daughter's evaluation: Myster Mine has a better setting, but Maverick has a better track.
Yes, Thunderhead is great.
Yes, Tennessee Tornado is the smoothest Arrow you'll ever ride. Even knowing its reputation, I was surprised with just how darn smooth it was.
Get yourself there when the Mountain Slidewinder is open. They don't make 'em like this anymore. But, they should.
The waterpark is pretty, and has all the basics covered, but nothing that really makes you say "wow". Not worth a special trip, but Dollywood is, so seeing as how you are here anyway, spring for a visit and cool off. It's hot down here. The lifeguards do not appear to be Ellis-trained, so if that worries you, consider skipping it.
The staff at these parks could not be more friendly. Awesome. Operations were good.
Take the time to see some shows. I particularly recommend Dreamland Drive-In. An '06 IAAPA Live-E award winner, and hugely deserving. You are committing an hour, but it is worth it.
Buy yourself a gold pass, even if you're only going for a couple of days. The 20% discount adds up fast, even considering the fact that everything---food and merchandise---is downright inexpensive.
Dixie Stampede was okay. Food was good. The show didn't grab me. My kids loved it. My wife---the horsewoman---also loved it. There was a thunderstorm-induced power failure during the show. Staff handled it very professionally.
The ladies went to Walden's Creek Stables for a 1.5-hour morning ride past an old still, the original homestead on the 500-acre property, and through a couple of streams. She thought the stable took decent care of the horses, and the guides knew what they were doing. Neither is certain at some of these tourist-area stables.
Ripley's Aquarium was really great. The shark tank was worth the price of admission. The buffet was well-stocked, and reasonably priced.
Dinner at the Old Mill was relatively pricey, but hey, it's the Old Mill---a Pigeon Forge institution. You've got to go there at least once in your life.
For mini-golf, we stuck with our Outer Banks tradition, Professor Hacker. The course here in Pigeon Forge is nearly identical.
If you are going to go to the Smokies, and don't have a reason why the last week of August doesn't work, GO THEN. The place was empty nearly the entire week. Our longest waits were less than 15 minutes, any time of day.
Finally---we made the first use of our timeshare, staying in the Wyndham Smoky Mountains resort. Location was ideal for Dollywood; just a bolck off of the brand-new six-lane Veterans Blvd, which is a straight shot from Sevierville to Dollywood, traffic-free. I'll start a separate thread in the main forum about this, but let me just say that a 2BR condo makes family vacations so vastly much more pleasant than one or even two hotel rooms do.
One of the tell-tales of an Ellis staff is that the lifeguards never stop moving, and/or they are always visibly scanning the water. This helps prevent them from zoning out and missing something. That level of scrutiny wasn't quite there. Another surprise; there didn't seem to be any "blocking zone" rules on the tube slides that I could tell; no communication from the bottom to the top that the tub was clear; they just sort of sent people at a more or less regular pace. It *might* have been the right pace, but I couldn't see any way that they could know for sure. This did not happen on the body slides, though, so it is possible I just missed it.
That said, it was well-staffed, and the guards were professional and seemed to be paying attention. It just wasn't quite the standard we're used to seeing, and even my wife (who doesn't perseverate about such things) noticed.
It's a pair of water slides, with these custom-made foam five-seater boats. Low low walls on the boats, so every turn kicks up water that comes up over you. *** Edited 9/3/2007 5:19:44 PM UTC by Brian Noble***
Too bad it was freezing afterwards!
What exactly is Mountain Sidewinder? I saw it on their website and noticed that it says you get wet. How wet? Like a typical log flume wet or drenched?
It is a rubber/latex style boat you sit in. They take several people and weigh them beofre entering the boats (or at least they did when i was there a couple of years ago.)
The chutes are like a log flume, but you have to climb to the top of the hill via a trail that's fairly long. The logs get to the top via a conveyor system.
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