In my Tennessee Mountain Park... Dollywood Trip Report

Associated parks:

Hey Dolly, what’s you’re favorite color?

Dolly: Ms. Clairol #319.

Hey Dolly, are you offended by dumb blonde jokes?

Dolly: No, because I know I’m not dumb. And I ain’t blonde either.

Hey Dolly, do you support women’s lib?

Dolly: Why sure, as a matter of fact I was the first woman to burn her bra. Last I heard they were still trying to put the fire out!

I just love Dolly. I wish the world were full of Dollys.

That’s because Dolly is not full of herself. Neither is her namesake park. To the novice, Dollywood would seem ripe for an over-the-top romp into the colorful mind of Mrs. Parton. Imagine rides like “The Jolene Jump 2.” Or the “Islands in the Stream Log Flume.” How about the “Coaster of many colors?” Nah.

Actually, Dolly herself is a very small part of the charm that makes up Dollywood. Sure there are those special Dolly touches like false butterflies scattered here and there. But as a whole, the park does not rely on the spectacle herself. Rather it relies on the charm, beauty and life that is Tennessee.

Officially, my visit last week was my second time at the park. But in theory it was my first *true* visit. How so? Well, I had attended about 4 years ago as a part of the Christmas Festival.

Sure, then I was able to ride the Tennessee Tornado and Blazing Fury, but little else was open. The focus during that time of the year is placed on the Holiday than the base park itself.

Since then, the park has nearly doubled its size. Mostly with the addition of Timber Canyon and the much needed access path that now forms a park loop. They’ve added 3 coasters, and several flat rides. All the while maintaining and actually improving the general atmosphere of the already good park.

Dollywood easily fits into my upper tier of favorite parks. Its setting is magnificent. It’s a friendly and fun atmosphere. It’s impeccably clean. It stays true to its origin. It offers something for everyone. But most notably, it has what I call “the Disney trick.” Basically, that’s when a park is so enchanting and so-family friendly that persons who would normally balk at riding a coaster, or thrill ride, hop on with little concerns. It’s almost as though the perception is “Well, if Dolly has her name on it, then it must be fun and safe.”

I guarantee you that if Thunderhead, or Mystery Mine were built at say, Cedar Point, not even half the kids or elder adults would ride it compared to those that do at Dollywood. Now, that’s a good thing, and a bad thing I suppose. It’s a good thing IMO; because it truly exemplifies what I have always said life should be about, pure un-adulterated fun with few limitations. But I would suspect some enthusiasts may see it as nothing more than longer waits with inexperienced riders. I personally don’t see it that way. I waited for every ride… patiently, on a relatively busy day. But I didn’t mind one bit, as the persons that were attending were a part of the charm in the park itself.

Trying to explain Dollywood to someone that’s not been there is sort of futile. It’s like trying to explain how air feels. It’s just nice, refreshing, fun and exciting all together. People just seemed happy. I like that. With each passing day, that’s what I look for more and more. I adore the fact that you are greeted with “We’re so happy you came to Dollywood today!” It’s catchy. I smiled when I heard it, and I carried that smile all day.

Funny that. I think I’ve moved far beyond the days of the next biggest and best thing. I’ve settled into more of a stop and smell the roses attitude that comes on stronger season after season.

That having been said, I will describe for you my personal feelings on the various attractions at the park. I’ll leave them in random order since, quite frankly, I have not the time, nor patience to try and recollect every step I took.

I loved Timber Canyon. It’s very well done, with terrific theming that sets it apart from the rest of the park, but stays within the overall mountain theme. As I said, it has transformed a cumbersome, oddly shaped layout into a much more visitor friendly loop. Over time, it will no doubt become as packed with attractions as the older portions of the park. But all in due time. They certainly have the space now. And they obviously have the foresight, as the area has an obvious developmental direction.

Thunderhead suits the park to a “T.” It’s a GCI masterpiece that makes smart use of its geography, topography, and surroundings to complete the rush element. This coaster was my first of the year, and provided that much needed tickle in my belly I have missed for so long. Again, I’ll not bore you… or me… with detailing every twist or turn.

Actually I don’t think I could recall the layout if I wanted to. All I’ll say is that it was easily one of the best wooden coasters I’ve ridden. By my second ride (as I left the park) it had taken my #1 spot. RIP Legend.

Timber Tower is, okay. It’s just as temperamental as others have said. No wonder it has so much down time, after all, there sure is a lot going on. A rotating ring of seats that rise upward. Then while revolving, the tower tips back and forth nearing water geysers and a roaring bear cave. (Hmmmmm…. ;-) I am glad I rode it, albeit once, but I don’t know if I’d wait it out again. It screams of “Quake” at SFKK. What I mean is, it looks much more fun to watch than to ride. I can’t imagine it would be a long term ride.

Tennessee Tornado still remains the best Arrow multi-looper to date. The first drop rivals Vortex at KI and Loch Ness at BGW as being the best stomach drop on an Arrow. There’s nary one head bang. And although short, it’s a re-ride no matter. I think it got 3 rides out of me. High capacity and fun. Ride in the back.

Blazing Fury had a wait for sure. But it’s worth it to see the “pleasantly plump” animatronic figure warning her animatronic beau that she’s “Gonna jump” from the burning porch roof into his scrawny arms below. Then of course, there’s the “Fire in the Hole” finale. It’s a huge step back in time when you ride this. It’s like the mountain ride at KBF… or the Haunted Mansion at Knoebles. Cheesy for sure, but you just can’t resist it.

Daredevil Falls has the most picturesque drop on any flume I have ever seen… and that includes Splash Mountain. Well done, and fun. I got a little wet, but not bad. And get this… I rode alone, no one else in the boat. It’s almost as though people didn’t know it was there.

When you see the sign on Slidewinder that says “You may get wet” believe it. I go soaked, actually my sweatshirt and jeans did. Not my idea of fun on a semi-warm spring day. Good thing I jog regularly too, that hike to the station practically needs a chair lift! This one I could not ride alone… they require at least 3 people in a boat I think.

Cute is not descriptive enough to describe the New-for-2008 attraction “River Battle.” It’s beyond cute. Although I didn’t ride, there were people willing to brave the chill to try it out. I could have watched it for hours; it’s like watching the squirting elephant at KI… or the Rainmaker show at BGW. It’s just fun to see innocent bystanders get doused. ;-)

Hmmmm, what else was there?

Oh yeah, I rode the Disco… but couldn’t get out of Veggietown, or whatever the kids area is called, quickly enough. It was mobbed. No, not mobbed. MOBBED. I rode the motion simulator, but now there some awful movie in there themed to a gangster chase on Thunder Road. Ick. What happened to the terrific movie they had featuring Dolly and the inventor that flew in a flying machine? That was a hoot… with one of the best lines ever, Dolly screaming “SlooooOOOW Down! You’ll blow my wig off!” Tsk, tsk, Dollywood. Bring it back.

I skipped shows… they are mostly international shows this year, and the one show I wanted to see “Kinfolk” was down for the day. But I love “Heartsong” so it was a must do for me. It tugs at my heart (imagine that) as it embraces the beauty that lies in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains to the tune of some of Dolly’s most catchy songs with some “surprises” along the way. It sure served its purpose. Heck, I spent all weekend singing “Play a song for me Apple Jack, Apple Jack” to anyone who dared come around me. No joke.

So what am I forgetting?

Where I ate? Boring.

What souvenirs I bought? Yawn.

How I was stoked to see the costumes from 9 to 5? (My all-time favorite comedy) Embarrassing!

How I got misty when I saw the actual “Coat of many colors?” Awwww!

Oh yeah… Mystery Mine.

Hmmm… what to say? It was fun. It was shorter than I expected. The inline twists and fallout loop at the end was much better than I thought they’d be. The wait was long, but the “surprises” mid-way through the attraction made it worthwhile. It was jarring. It rattled my head around like the Arrow at the back of the park *should have.* I thought about a re-ride late in the day, but opted for Thunderhead instead. It’s a good addition, IMO because it fits the park PERFECTLY. Oh and it sure draws interest. It’s a visual masterpiece. I think I took about 20 shots of it. (With my brand-new-high-tech Olympus FE-340, 8 Megapixel Digital camera with 5x Optical Zoom and Video! Can you tell I am proud?)

What else can I say about MM? Oh, I kept thinking about how it would have fit Rivertown at KI perfectly. (It was originally conceived for KI who abandoned the project when the rights to its concept theme of “Addams Family” fell through.) But I also thought about how it is much better off at a park that actually cares about the upkeep of its theming elements. By this time, no effect would have been operable at KI. And yes, that’s a slap.

So there you have it. My day with Dolly was a success. I hope there will be many more special days with Dolly in my future. But in the meantime, I hope life treats you real kind. I hope that you have all you ever dreamed of. I wish you joy, and happiness… but above all this, I wish you…

You know the rest.


*Side bar* - This visit to Dollywood came on the heels of a week spent in a mountain top cabin outside of Pigeon Forge. The evening prior was spent at Dixie Stampede (OMG how fun is that! Who knew?!) It was followed with a hike through the Smokies, the most beautiful place I have ever seen. If I may be so bold, I advise each of you that as you visit parks this season, take the time to visit the surroundings. I’ve never discovered anything new about myself while riding a coaster. I learn all sorts of things about myself when I am surrounded by nature. *** Edited 4/1/2008 12:36:52 AM UTC by Shaggy***


a_hoffman50's avatar
I'd read it, but the lack of line breaks hurts my eyes.
eightdotthree's avatar
Would love to read this but I don't have the attention span to fight the run on paragraph. I would recommend switching to the plain text editor when copying and pasting from Word.

Sorry about that, I posted and ran... hopefully better now.



coasterqueenTRN's avatar
I thought it was awesome, Shaggy. I feel the EXACT same way but you just put it into better words. :)

I liked the Dolly/crazy helicoptor guy thing as well. Too bad they discontinued that!


Well done Shaggy. I think you nailed every aspect of what I LOVE about DW...and then some. This is easily/definitely one of the best written TR's I've ever read.

I survived a Japanese typhoon and the Togo flat ride of death!!!!!!
I love Dollywood also. I visited Dollywood for the 2nd time last fall. I went to the Comedy Barn, it was very funny and entertaining. I climbed the chimney tops, it was great. I've also hiked to Clingman's Dome and the trail at Newfound Gap, and one of the trails off of the nature drive that leaves from Gatlinburg. They were all really great.
Come on guys, Pile on Shaggy now, The park has atmosphere and disneyesque charms.

Something I say makes a great park!

Don't be a hypocrite now, PILE ON!

By the way John, GREAT TR! I completely agree about the disney trick. Things are less intimidating but no less thrilling.

SOmething for everyone and ATMOSPHERE OUT THE WAZOO!

But I miss my flyers, Really I do! Im gonna cry, They're welling up.


janfrederick's avatar
Yah! 9-to-5! Awesome! Great, now I have the theme stuck in my head......bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-duh-duh-duh.....Say, they could make a Dabney Coleman garage opener ride at Dollywood. It'd be sweet!

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
eightdotthree's avatar

Charles Nungester said:
Come on guys, Pile on Shaggy now, The park has atmosphere and disneyesque charms.

Something I say makes a great park!

No one has ever debated you on the quality of Dollywood.

Shaggy said:
Where I ate? Boring.

Actually, its not boring! Was it not memorable? I can tell you that one of the things I look forward to at Busch Gardens is where I am going to eat.

Where did you stay? My girlfriend and I were planning a trip that included two days of hiking and a day at Dollywood last year but had to bail. Would love to know more or see pictures cause we are planning it again for this summer.

Mamoosh's avatar
Great TR Shaggs. I dig Dollywood too. And check out that profile pic...WOOF! You're still a hottie! lol :-)
rollergator's avatar
The great thing about this TR is the craftsmanship, the care, and the attention to detail. It's so fitting for a DW report. Thanks Shaggy! :)

P.S. Unlike the food at MOST parks, the food there is pretty memorable. LOL!

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

a_hoffman50's avatar
Man I was looking forward to that helicopter ride thing this year! That is too bad. One of the highlights of my last trip to Dollywood was the place where I ate... Mis Lillian's. What a hoot! Good TR and thanks for the paragraphs!
I love Dollywood. Seems like the only time I get there is in November for ACE Coasterfest. I am hoping to get there this summer.
Kick The Sky's avatar
I am taking a huge family vacation out there next month. We are spending time doing the things in Pigeon Forge ect... with Dollywood only being a day or two of our week long vacation. We, too, are getting a mountain top cabin. Can't wait. I'm thinking this will be one of our more relaxing vacations, especially after the disaster that was our last Disney vacation.

Certain victory.

My fiance and myself was there last Sunday and it wasn't busy at all. It was actually slow and there were no waits for anything!

It was her first time there. It was my second time since it became Dollywood. I love the park! We bought season passes since we want to go down for the Christmas lights. I was told by employee that they have the ok to run the rides in temps down to 32 degrees this year.

We did take in the Rythym of the Dance Show. SPECTACULAR!! We were very impressed with it! It lasted about 45 minutes. We also checked almost all the shops! I have never seen so much merchandise in one park before!

Thunderhead was running awesome! It is easy to see why it was #1 Wood.

Watched River Battle and think it is nice addition to the park.

While riding Tennessee Tornado, we noticed the cabins on top of the mountains. I did some searching online once home and now have changed our honeymoon plans. Have to look at our finances. But we are looking at staying in one for 6 nights.

I've done the cabins-in-the-mountains thing. It's great. I'm thinking about staying here this upcoming August:

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