Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA
I've lived in Huntington, WV, since 2006. I realized recently that I only seem to visit Kings Island, like many of the other locals around here, and I've been missing out on some of the other nearby parks. I've made it a point to plan to visit all the new-to-me parks that I can withing the next few years. First was Dollywood.
I normally take my teenage cousins with me on park trips, but Dollywood was going to be a different kind of trip for me. My disabled Mom has been wanting to go to Dollywood for a very long time now, so I talked her into going with me. I decided that I was going to take in the entire Dollywood experience, straying from the normal RIDE!RIDE!RIDE! stresses that I usually go through when I visit a park.
About Mom's disabilities; back and foot surgeries, brittle bones, and a balance disorder make it hard for her to enjoy many activities. She has spent the last year with five different foot breaks on three separate occasions. She has missed out on a whole year of seasons, and now that her feet have been fully healed, she was ready for a vacation.
I've been staying away from DW because I simply can't stand contemporary country music. Most of the gospel music drives me mad also. I was hesitant, but then I read the description of the shows that were being presented at the Festival of Nations event at the park, and realized that this was the best time for me to go and see some shows.
I booked the Econo Lodge Riverside in Pigeon Forge. It was reasonably priced, had a really nice pool and hot tub, and an in-room microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. It was also located right in front of a trolley stop! I highly recommend it!
We used the trolley service both days to get to the park. The first day, we brought Mom's wheelchair. Let me say here that Dollywood is very hilly, and pushing a wheelchair up the hills and holding them from speeding down the hills wore me out by the end of the day. Lucky for me, the second day, she felt well enough to walk to the trolley stop, through the front gate, and to the EVC (scooter) rental. The scooter is the way to go for people who can't walk all day.
A note about the trolley service; it saved us money! At only 50¢ per person, per trolley ride, it was a bargain, and we were dropped off right next to the front gate of the park. Notable was the extremely friendly drivers, who were very helpful.
The first day, we arrived at the park at about 3pm. Dollywood has a deal where if you buy your tickets after 3, the next full day is free. So began our first day at the park.
I was planning to get a Q-Bot each day, but lucky for me, lines were almost non-existent both days. I know I give Lo-Q a lot of crap, but this would have been really helpful for me in this circumstance, if the park had been busy. Mom isn't able to do many of the rides at the park, so with a bot, she wouldn't have had to sit for very long to wait for me. Fortunately, I didn't have to swallow my pride, this time.
(In this circumstance, if I had to get a Q-Bot, I wouldn't have been using it to get double rides. In my opinion, one line at a time is how Q-Bot should be used!)
RIDES and ATTRACTIONS:
•Thunderhead was amazing! It was very intense and was filled with pops of air and changes in direction. Not rough at all, for a woodie. Probably the best coaster in the park!
•Mystery Mine was very cool, and would have been nearly perfect if not for the headbanging and jerky shifts. It's not that bad though. I love how it combined a thrilling coaster with dark ride elements. And it had a really fun story/theme.
•Adventure Mountain was a huge surprise. It was new for this year. First they put you into a harness, then hook you up to an overheard track with a rope. You traverse some challenging courses. It was a hit with everyone there, especially kids. I loved the sounds coming from the attraction. The wheels in the tracks clanged against the places where people could change directions, and everyone was laughing and having a great time, including me! Adventure mountain was just as exciting as any coaster that I have been on. It made me realize that I really was afraid of heights.
•Tennessee Tornado was short, intense, and although it has a helix, loop, and boomerang, the elements are unique. The helix is just off of the lift, the loop has a strange twist to it, and the boomerang is very large. If it wouldn't have been so short, this could have been one of my favorite coasters.
•Blazing Fury was disappointing to me. I have heard a lot of good things about it online, but it really didn't impress me much. I love dark rides, but Blazing Fury seemed a bit uninspired.
•Daredevil Falls was pretty interesting. Highly themed, and placed into a pretty small footprint, this log flume had an impressively high drop. It was a little hard to find though.
•Mountain Slidewinder was a little less thrilling than I thought it would be. I remember seeing it on TV commercials and a TLC program about the park, and it looked a lot faster. It was still fun though. I was out of breath by the time I climbed to the top of the mountain.
•Sky Rider was slow, and had a very short ride cycle. It didn't go fast enough for the wings to change the ride vehicle's altitude. Very disappointing.
•Dollywood Express was a really fun coal train. The long cycle was very relaxing. The ride only has one train though, which I thought was strange for such a popular ride. The track is only one lane with a turnaround at each end, so it couldn't have more than one train.
•Dizzy Disk made me kind of sick, but it was a really fun ride. I prefer the ride of this type at Kings Island more. The KI version seats riders towards the inside, and it has a hump.
•Rides that I regret missing included Timber Tower, which looked a little bit slow and boring, and the zip line tour, which I planned on doing, but didn't have enough time.
•DRUM!, which was amazing. The show was from Nova Scotia, and included four different tribes bringing their styles of music together. With 20 performers dancing, singing, and playing many different instruments, along with a live band accompanying them, it was one of the best shows that I have ever seen.
•Imagine was a Russian Cirque show. It was just as entertaining as any other Cirque show I have ever seen, but not as good as the one I saw at Sea World in 2001.
•I saw a '50s 60's singing show outside of an old-time diner, that reminded me of the Happy Days TV era. It was really nice, and my Mom got sang to by the cute, "Fonzie" type guy.
•Mom saw a gospel show by a singing group called Kingdom Heirs. I caught the end of the show, and was as impressed as I could be with that style of music. She said it was the best gospel concert she ever saw. I was impressed by the drummer in the live accompanying band.
•Zambia was a group from Africa, I believe. I was excited to see it, but was not impressed. It was a singing group of black people making fun of hillbilly music. It kind of hurt my ears. I wanted them to sing songs form their native land, but they sang gospel, bluegrass, and country instead. It was a waste of time.
•Heartsong was a Dolly Pardon movie. The theater was cool, with it's forest settings and lights that changed with the scenes in the film, but I found the movie to be very corny. If you like the country thang, with square dancin', people sittin' on tha portch, and kids swimmin' in a river, you might enjoy Heartsong, but it was not for me.
Other than Heartsong, I believe that the shows that I mentioned above end when Festival of nations ends. I wanted to see a few of the regular shows, but they were not playing yet.
There were a few shows that I missed, that I wanted to check out, but even after a day-and-a-half, we didn't have enough time to see it all.
It's true that the staff really is super-friendly. I asked a few staff members if they put on the southern accent as part of the experience or if it is genuine, and they all said that it was really how they talk. I never knew that people really talked like that. lol
The third day in Pigeon Forge, before making the six hour drive back home, we stopped at Wonderworks, and saw a magic show at Wonderworks. Wonderworks was fascinating. It was similar to the one in Orlando; an arcade for the mind. The magic show was very childish, with illusions that I easily figured out. The guy actually used "Magic Sand", which you can buy at any department store in the toy department, and called it a magic trick. It was a waste of time.
Just before leaving the town, we had dinner at Damon's Grill. Expensive, but very good. I ate too much.
I really understand why people speak so highly of Dollywood. The theming was as good as Disney, in my opinion. The staff, and practically everyone in Pigeon Forge, was friendly. It was a very relaxing trip that both my Mom and I really needed.
This afternoon, a day after we returned home, I went through the many pamphlets that I collected on the trip. I realized that I left Pigeon Forge without doing some really cool things, like Magicquest, Ripley's attractions, and ZORB. I guess I'll have to do them next time I go.
...Because I'll definitely go back someday.
Sounds like a fun trip. I am sure that beyond the trip you will cherish the memories of being able to go with your mom.
Cool TR. I agree with Dave. While visiting the park is a memory worth having in itself, sharing that with your mother will be something to cherish in years to come. You will be glad you did this with her. Been doing stuff with my mom for the last few years now.
Oh, and as for considering a Lo-Q...LK, are you going soft on us?
(Que Moosh and/or Gonch)
Man LK you got me wanting to go to Dollywood! I have never been but have always wanted to go. Nice TR too!
The memories are the reason I wanted to take this trip with her. A few months ago, she had an epileptic seizure. Her throat closed up, and she quit breathing on her own. I had to breath for her until the medics arrived, which saved her life. She's only 56.
I want to make as many memories as I can with herAt that moment, I realized that loved ones could just go at any time. I want to make as many memories as I can with her. I can't take for granted that she'll always be here.
She's getting a lot better, by the way. She quit taking one medication, and it seems that her mind is more clear and her balance is much better as those drugs slowly get out of her system. She is on a new epilepsy drug right now, and it has completely eliminated her seizures, so far.
Her bones will always be brittle, from now on, which really sucks. She has to carefully watch every step that she takes.
Although she needed this mini-vacation, I really needed it too. I've been the one taking care of her all this time, and work has been pretty stressful lately. I feel better now.
I'm not going soft, as far as Q-Scam goes. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If it worked the way that Lo-Q pretends that it works, it would be great. I would love for them to find a way to keep the system from being abused.
I've never felt the need for a Q-bot at Dollywood, even during the busy season. It's definitely one of my favorite parks. Oh, and you didn't miss much on Timburr Tower. If Dizzy Disk made you queasy, then the tower would have done even moreso, and it isn't even a fun ride IMO.
LOVE Thunderhead, but it's a totally different beast at nite (Go in December for nite rides!).
I'm excited to go ride Mystery Mine now that I don't wear glasses. I didn't see anything the last time cause I took my glasses off.
Did you eat at Dollywood at all? Food is an attraction in itself there. Oh, and the Heartsong thing, First time I went to Heartsong, about half of the effects were working, and it was pretty cool. I was told it was better with all the effects working. Last time I rode it, no leaves falling, and I don't recall it raining, nor did the banjo player come out. Its cool if they have effects going. Did the butterflys come out?
Didn't get to Dollywood last year as I canceled going in December. Definintely going this summer, and may go back this winter again.
EDIT: P.S. Blazing Fury is so well liked because it's so bad. However, if you sit in seat 1-3 (Like Magnum), you get crazy ejector airtime on the drops. It can be painful with the restraints.Last edited by Tekwardo, Monday, April 26, 2010 10:27 AM
Sounds like a nice trip. I need to get down there ASAP!
So glad you got to do this with your mother. I haven't gone with my folks yet, but they go up there every other year or so. Dad is in his 70's and Mom in her 60's and they love it. It's funny how Dollywood can look extremely crowded, but have almost no waits on their rides. Shows, however, can be a different thing. You can actually book the shows on the park's q-bots. It's awesome how they hire retirees to basically run the park. They are nice, and can dispatch the heck out of some trains without a locker policy in force.
We "re-named" the park "DollyFOOD" when we went because the food was just so AMAZING.
When we were there for the Season Pass preview day, we got the Q2Q just for the shows. The rides were all walk on all day long. There were times that we would get back to an empty station but they still would not let us re-ride.
LK, I'm glad for you that you did that with your mom. I'm sure you'll never regret it, and always remember that day fondly.
LK, that was an amazing TR! It definitely put a smile on my face while reading it. I am so glad you got to visit the park, especially with your mom. She sounds like she enjoyed it as much as you did! You will both cherish those memories forever. :)
I have been trying to get my parents to go for years. They don't like to ride rides but they love shows and trains and would enjoy the atmosphere of the park. My dad cannot walk around too much but with the scooters I am sure he would enjoy the park a lot more. :)
Pigeon Forge (and Gatlinburg) is one of my favorite places to visit, even for a rocker chick like me. ;) I LOVE that whole area and look forward to going down there as much as I can. It also helps that Thunderhead is STILL my all-time favorite woody. ;)
-TinaLast edited by coasterqueenTRN, Monday, April 26, 2010 3:54 PM
Tekwardo, we ate lunch at the same place both days; the corn dog stand near the Back Porch Theater. We had dinner the second day at Aunt Grannies, and it was pretty good, for a buffet. Mom usually doesn't eat a lot and I was so excited that the last thing on my mind was food. We just ate whatever was close. I kind of regret not eating at some of the different places.
The only effect that I noticed was a splash when the kid jumps into the swimmin' hole. Before the show, I noticed ladybugs flashing on and off near the front of the screen, in the trees. Now I am pretty disappointed that more stuff didn't happen. It was corny anyways.
I heard exactly one rock song the entire trip. CCR's "Down on the Corner", which played at Aunt Grannies. AG actually played some decent music. A lot of Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, you know...the so-called "cool" music.
Dollywood kind of put my music-snobbery into check.
I was planning to get a Q-Bot each day,
OK, I don't know who you are, or what you've done with LostKause, but you better return him this instant!
j/k. Nice report, man. Sounds like an enjoyable trip and lots of memories for you and your mom to hold on to. It's an uncool person that won't take his parent(s) to an amusement park.Last edited by RatherGoodBear, Sunday, May 2, 2010 9:58 PM
Haha, RGB. If lines are long, I don't want anyone cutting in front of me, so I feel like I, reluctantly, have to get one.
My Mom's health has improved tenfold the last few months. It wasn't long ago that I believed that she wouldn't be around much longer, but she's done a complete 360°. She's only 56. As warm and fuzzy as it sounds, this trip mixed two things that I love the most: theme parks, and my Mother.
Boy, that was mushy.
One very interesting tidbit, I work at the local paper, and you can always find a camera around my neck. Throughout this trip, I didn't want to have anything to do with taking pictures. I get pretty tired of looking at screens all the time, so I didn't bring a camera on purpose. So, all these memories have to be recalled from memory.
Yah know, Disney is starting to offer a service called Photopass. They have photographers stationed at different photo ops. You give them your card and they snap a picture. When you get home, you go online and grab the pictures that you like. It is one of the best innovations to come along in a while. Now if they can figure out how to link it with the onride photos, which shouldn't be too difficult, they'd have a home run.
Sure beats being distracted by a camera!
They do have it hooked up with Test Track at Epcot. It is funny how we always avoid the front gate photographer at every other park, but search out the photopass photograpers at Disney.
I almost always avoid the photographers in a park, but Photopass does sound interesting, and if it was priced right, I might consider purchases on some trips.
However, the one really big reason I would probably NOT use the service is that I like to take photos as an artistic expression, as I am sure many of us do. There are so many amazing coaster pictures here at CoasterBuzz and IMDB, and I really enjoy looking at them.
Photopass would be fantastic for a family looking for photos of their group standing at various locations throughout the park, but it's not going to work out for amateur or pro photographers.
No, but it complements them quite well. The photopass photographers will also shoot using your camera. They are stationed at locations that make ideal shots.
And of course, if you're behind the camera, you're never in the shot.
Sometimes, that's the point, RGB.
...But I get it.
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