It was the summer and time to plan a big coaster trip. I had made it to Cedar Point to ride my 100th coaster Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. Now what shall I do after hitting 100? Work on 200 coasters, of course! I decided to cut a path through the Midwest and the Ozarks. It was time to go these parks:
7/12 & 7/13 Six Flags Great America
7/14 Michigan’s Adventure
7/15 Six Flags St. Louis
7/16 Silver Dollar City & Celebration City
7/17 Magic Springs
7/18 Worlds of Fun
That was the plan, anyway. Things have a tendency to change.
Things do have a tendency to change, that’s for sure.
Many years ago, I remember walking through a flea market and one of the vendors was selling Branson trips. He was asking people, “Have you ever thought about visiting Branson!” I thought to myself, “Heck, no!” Why would I visit Branson – to see Yakov Smirnoff? Was he still around? How funny can he be after Communism fell in Russia? His jokes would be like, “In America, I have freedom. In Russia, now we have freedom. What a country!” Was Branson like the Simpsons said…was it the place where celebrities go to die?
Fast forward a few years…I became a roller coaster enthusiast and planned a trip to Illinois. I thought about adding some parks to the trip list and Silver Dollar City came up as a park to do. Wildfire and Buzzsaw Falls looked like neat rides and I had to ride them. I didn’t think the park had much else to do since it had so few rides, so it would be a ½ day park for me. I had originally planned to stay at Silver Dollar City from opening to around 6 pm and then the rest of the night at Celebration City. Then I would head to Magic Springs to ride the relocated once known as the Florida Hurricane coaster, the Arkansas Twister!
The problem was that I printed out the wrong directions from Microsoft Streets and Trips. I made directions from Branson to Magic Springs, AR. It looked like a two-hour drive. Then I checked Tim O’Brien’s Amusement Park Guide and Magic Springs was really in Hot Springs, AR! Hot Springs, AR was further south than Magic Springs, AR. I couldn’t find good directions to the park. I was getting tired of driving long distances. Also, rather than spending a day lost, I decided to stay an extra day at Branson. I’d check out the brochures and see if I could do any of Branson’s shows. I could have also spent one day at Celebration City and another at Silver Dollar City. Yes, I did even consider watching Yakov Smirnoff! I decided to do one day at Silver Dollar City and Celebration City and the other day at Silver Dollar City. I had a three-day City Hopper ticket for both parks, so I might as well get some good usage out of the ticket.
I had the free Continental breakfast at the Econolodge at Branson. They had pastries and fruit. They even had prunes! I wonder if they were for the Branson elderly folk. I headed to Silver Dollar City and arrived a little before 9:00 pm. Parking was free! This was quite a relief and a change from paying $9 to $10 at Six Flags for the same slab of concrete. The park even had free shuttles to the front gate. They were old school buses and propane-powered trams. The park has a kudo for giving free parking and shuttles! I entered the park at around 9:10 and I was ready to hover by the chain, but there was entertainment in the main gazebo. I might as well watch it instead of hanging around the chain. It was the Rise and Shine Cloggers. They did a lot of American and Canadian dances and clogging. These young women were pretty talented! I saw that on the map, the show began at 8:50. Tomorrow I would wake up early to see the entire show.
As it approached 9:30, the Marshall, Deputy, and Schoolyarn opened the park. They grouped the veterans together and took them to the flag raising ceremony. The cloggers and other Silver Dollar City citizens (what the park calls their employees, by the way) danced around and the veterans marched to the flag for the flag raising. Then there was the Pledge of Allegiance and the park opened. I must say that this is the most extravagant park opening I’ve seen. Some other parks just open the gates and start letting people in. There are no ceremonies. Others do a little something, but nothing on the lines of Silver Dollar City. The opening ceremony left a good spirit and a smile in me that lasted the entire day.
My plan today was to hit the coasters. Any coaster that I couldn’t hit today due to long lines would be ridden tomorrow. As I walked through the park, I kept on singing in my head, “Everybody sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah!” Thanks Robb and Elissa! It was also a pretty hot day, but the numerous trees gave some nice shade that cooled things down a bit.
I headed to Wildfire first. It seemed most people were headed this way too. As I headed to Wildfire, an employee was saying hi to everyone. He told a kid in the stroller to watch out because he had a woman driver. The Wildfire queue is pretty nice looking. It has a bunch of professor’s drawings. Even though the ride is two seasons old, the whole queue even smells new! Wildfire is a B&M and I’d ride most everything made by them. It’s a floored coaster, but people’s feet never seemed to touch the floor. Take away the floor and it could be a floorless coaster. I rode the coaster three times in the morning. I was alternating between the back and front, or whatever row was empty or had an open seat.
This is a compact but thrilling B&M. It’s very smooth and has a lot of good B&M elements. I think it’s also one of the few B&Ms that don’t have a loop after the first drop. The first element is an Immelman. I think the back seat gives the best ride. It gives great airtime during the first drop! I tried the other rows – even the next to the last row – and I never got airtime except for the back row. The lift hill and the observation deck give a great view of the surrounding landscape. If you look around while going up the lift, you see miles and miles of trees and mountains. Most other parks give a view of the backstage areas, so you see employees on break, used coaster parts, or all sorts of backstage junk. Speaking of which, no matter where I went throughout the park, I never saw a backstage area from any ride or any coaster. I wonder where they hid it!
Next was Buzzsaw Falls, a unique hybrid flume ride/coaster. The wait was a few minutes. The queue was nearly empty! I rode it two times, once in the second row and once in the third. The flume ride and coaster part were short, but the coaster part was very smooth and fast. I suppose you could dry yourself off in the breeze! The lift hill before the drop gave another good view of the countryside and of Wildfire. The final drop down the coaster track and back into the water didn’t make me too wet. I got some mist, but that was it. I think the side water shields displaced most of the water.
As I was leaving Buzzsaw Falls, two men were sitting around and one had pinstripes that looked like he was in jail. A woman asked him, “Are you in jail?” He said, “If I’m in jail, then you are too! We’re in the same place!” Hmmm…these citizens are pretty nice folk!
I headed to Fire in the Hole next. The ride had a few minutes wait. It was a combination coaster and dark ride. It was more like a dark ride with some thrilling coaster drops. The ride went through a town on fire and the fire department that was trying to save it. The ride wasn’t too bad. It was much better than the Underground at Adventureland! The last water splash got me wetter than Buzzsaw Falls! I had my mouth open for some reason and some water went down my throat! The water was pretty gross! It didn’t seem like a coaster, but if Roller Coaster Database lists it as a coaster, I’m counting it!
I decided to ride Thundernation, which meant I had to go to the front of the park. There was a few minutes wait and they were running two trains. The coaster had the infamous backwards seats, but I would do the forwards seats to see what the layout was first. Thundernation is very unique in that the lift hill is in the middle of the ride. The coaster immediately dropped out of the station and went running down a helix and some other maneuvers. I was again singing, “Everybody sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah!” The part after the lift hill seemed a little short, though. I rode the backwards seats and the ride seemed more intense and a little rough.
I decided to take a break and watch a show. I decided on Extreme Stunts on Wheels since it was the next show to take place. If you’ve seen the X-Games or played any Tony Hawk games, you know what to expect. The show was pretty good and the kids were pretty talented. Plus, where else can kids get paid to do what they enjoy doing? It looked like a fun summer job.
I decided to ride my final coaster credit: the Runaway Ore Cart. This was a kiddie coaster, but I didn’t see any maximum height restrictions or if you had to ride with a kid. I went through Tom Sawyer’s Island, hunting for the coaster. I had trouble finding it, even with a map. I remember standing by the carousel and then I heard the rumble of a coaster. I looked behind me and saw the Runaway Ore Cart speeding. There was my credit! I had the longest wait for this coaster than any other in the park. I waited 15 minutes! I was able to ride on my own. The coaster went around four times and had a similar layout as the High Speed Thrill Coaster at Knoebel’s. It had some nice laterals. They weren’t violent. In fact, this is one of the better kiddie coasters I’ve ridden. The citizen counted down to how many times we had to go around.
In celebration of this achievement, it was time for lunch! I decided to eat at the burger place across from the Saloon. It looked like the Saloon show was going to start in 20 minutes and the line was pretty long. Could I eat lunch and make it to the show? I ordered a burger and fries. The burger had some vegetables on it and was actually pretty tasty! I did manage to polish off lunch in 5 minutes, just in time to get in line for the saloon show. I was near the end of the line and I ended up in standing room only in the balcony. I didn’t really care if I was standing or not. I’m glad I was standing because I got some better video than if I was sitting. The saloon show was pretty funny. It lasted 45 minutes and could have been longer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another saloon show – I don’t think I’ve even seen the one at Disney – but this was a good one with talented performers.
I rode Wildfire one more time. This was the longest wait I’ve had for it – 10 minutes. It gave me a chance to admire the detail in the queue, from the professor’s drawings to his office. It was another good Wildfire ride!
It was getting close to 3 pm and Celebration City was set to open, so I headed over there. My main goal was to ride the Ozark Wildcat. I had seen the video from Roller Coaster Adventures and it seemed like a short ride, but not too thrilly. Still, it seemed like the major ride in the park. I entered the park and unlike Silver Dollar City, there was no shade! It was over 100 degrees that day and I felt every single Fahrenheit of that temperature.
I headed to the Thunderbolt first. Only a few other people rode with me. This reminded me of the Windstorm at Old Town. Unlike the Windstorm, the Thunderbolt had more comfortable seats and ran on a two-train operation. It was as turbulent as the Windstorm, though! This coaster made me dizzy!
I then headed to the Ozark Wildcat. I wasn’t expecting much from this coaster. As you may recall from my previous trip reports, I really hate twister coasters. They tend to me too rough for me. Well, the Ozark Wildcat is a twister and I was expecting to be roughed up. I got a lot more than I bargained for. The coaster had my favorite Millennium Flyer trains. The trains also had very comfortable seats. It felt like you were sitting in your own easy chair! The seats were comparable to Lightning Racer, which I love too because of its comfiness.
The ride itself was very smooth. The twists and turns were incredible! It gave some great airtime! It may just be 45 mph, but it feels much faster! My favorite part of the Ozark Wildcat was the three hills that gave a 1-2-3 punch of awesome airtime! I rode the coaster about five more times and trying out different seats. No one seat was better than the other. I pulled my seatbelt as far as it would go and put three clicks on my lapbar. I was ready for maximum airtime!
After I rode the Ozark Wildcat, I had to reorganize my top 5 wooden coaster list. Here’s what it looks like now:
1.) Lighting Racer, Hersheypark
2.) Ozark Wildcat, Celebration City
3.) Shivering Timbers, Michigan’s Adventure
4.) Dania Beach Hurricane, Boomers!
5.) Phoenix, Knoebel’s
I took a break and rode the Orbiter, which was by the Thunderbolt. I normally don’t do flats, but I did this one since there was no line. The seats were nice and hot. They must have been made from metal and left out in the sun too long. The ride just spun you around up and down, up and down… It wasn’t too bad. I rode the Thunderbolt one more time to experience its turbulence. As I was exiting the Thunderbolt, I didn’t see where I was walking and tripped. I bounced off the sidewalk and skinned my knee. It was a tiny scrape and I tried to clean it up first. I was going to go to First Aid to get a Band Aid, but I had to first ride the Ozark Wildcat again. I was in the area, so why not? It was another great ride. I would have kept my butt in the seat if I weren’t concerned about the scrape. I finally headed to First Aid for a Band Aid. The Band Aid didn’t stay on too long. With the oils in my skin and the sweat, the Band Aid had nothing to stick to and fell off. Oh well…there’s another scar as a “souvenir” of another coaster trip!
I decided to ride the Fireball next since the line was so short. I rode this type of ride at a fair once called the Claw. It was essentially a round-shaped ride where riders were strapped on the inside of the circle. Then the ride spun around and swung back and forth. I remember my stomach bouncing around as I rode the Claw at the fair. I entered the Fireball and was stapled right into the ride! I thought I would faint from the lack of oxygen! As the ride was getting ready to swing, the ride suddenly stopped and went back to its load position. Someone broke the Fireball! We all were told to leave the ride until things were fixed.
It was getting extremely hot, so I rode the Double D Down flume ride to cool off. This was an interesting flume ride. The first drop was a mild one with two “speed bumps” down the drop. The second one was higher and dropped straight down. I didn’t get very wet!
I then rode the Accelorater (that’s how the park map spells it). This was a small S&S spaceshot ride. I waited about 5 minutes for it. It wasn’t the tallest one ever or even the most powerful one, but it gave me my airtime.
I decided to ride the last coaster I didn’t get a chance to ride – the Jack Rabbit. I waited about 5 minutes for this one. The Jack Rabbit reminded me of a combination Galaxi/Wild Mouse coaster. The turns on this coaster were tigher than any mouse I’ve ridden. The coaster was also very rough! It jostled me around so much that I expected some ribs to break. I couldn’t endure another ride on this coaster.
It was getting extremely hot, so I decided to head back to the hotel for a shower and a quick bite to eat. I fought the Branson traffic. The main Branson strip has some of the worst traffic I’ve seen. Cars were running at a snail’s pace. It would have been easier to walk. The alternate routes were better, but were backed up at points too. I did spend some time at the hotel before heading back to the park at 7:00 pm. It was now cooler. I headed back to the Ozark Wildcat and did five more rides. I waited about 5-10 minutes for each ride. The loading and unloading of the trains seemed pretty quick. After my 10th ride of the day, an AP reporter saw my Florida Coaster Club t-shirt and wanted to interview me about the coaster. After I got home, I searched for days on the article and finally found it. My last name is misspelled in the article, but it sure is nice to be quoted. Here’s the article:
I did two more rides on the Ozark Wildcat and started the head over for Celebrate!, the laser light show. I grabbed a soda and found a place on the grass for the show. The show was about a spirit who showed a grandfather and his son entertainment from the 1950’s to present. It wasn’t bad, but it could have used more lasers and fireworks.
It was around 10:30, so I decided to squeeze in two rides from the Ozark Wildcat. In all, I rode it 14 times! I would have ridden it over and over until they threw me out, but I was getting tired. I headed back to the hotel to prepare for the second day at Silver Dollar City.
The next day, I woke up early so I could catch the entire Rise and Shine Cloggers show and the opening ceremonies. I filled up on the complimentary Continental breakfast and ate my share of prunes. I arrived at the park at 8:30, just in time for the show. Then came the opening ceremonies again and the flag raising ceremony. It still left a smile on my face. The day was hot again, but again the shade from the numerous trees helped a lot.
I headed to Wildfire first again and rode it three times in a row. I think I enjoy this coaster the more I ride it. I practically had no wait. Next up was Buzzsaw Falls. I rode it in the second row. A group of young men rode in the back. One particular man was dressed to the nines in cowboy gear. He must have spent a lot of money at the country section of the Gap. As the boat departed the station and hit the water, a big splash went over the back and got the cowboy man soaking wet! He was laughing about it and one of his friends started splashing everyone else. It was funny until my next Buzzsaw Falls ride, where I was I the back. The boat left the station and splashed right into the water. Now the wave hit me and I was soaked! As the boat came back to the station at the end of the ride, there was no one in the queue and the ride op asked if we wanted to stay. Sure, why not? I was wet already! Then the boat left the station again, dropped into the water, and I was splashed again! Doh! I thought about riding Fire in the Hole next, but I didn’t want to get any wetter! I instead did Wildfire three more times with very little wait.
It was time for a show. I decided to see For the Glory, a musical based on a Civil War battle in Missouri. I didn’t take too many history classes, but I never knew about a Civil War battle in Missouri. Did the Civil War really reach that far out? The performers were talented and sang their hearts out, but there wasn’t much story. Still, the music was pretty good. I wonder if Ted Tuner will make it into a movie? If he does, please let it be not a snoozer like “Gettysburg!”
I was going to do a few more things before lunch. The next train was going to arrive in about 10 minutes, so I decided to ride it. It was partially a typical train ride at any other train ride at an amusement park. The citizen gave a small spiel about the rides and other buildings as the train passed them by. He also cracked jokes, most of which were pretty good! What made the train ride worthwhile is being robbed in the middle. The train makes a stop and two brothers try to rob the train, but they come up empty handed. The Conductor deals with them appropriately.
After the train ride, I checked out the Runaway Ore Cart, but the line was really long. I went to Thundernation for a forwards and backwards ride. It was a pretty good forwards ride, but backwards was still a little rough. Here I am again singing, “Everybody sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah!”
I finally hit lunch at the Mine Restaurant near the front. It was a buffet lunch. The restaurant gave mediocre food in mass quantities. The fried chicken was pretty good and the ribs were so-so. The corn was from a can, but good. I didn’t touch the green beans because they came from a can. I hate canned green beans. I thought it was a good deal at around $10.
I hung around the front for a bit to watch a water balloon-throwing contest and waited for a gazebo singing show to start. As I waited, I wandered around the gift shop and somehow made my way out the side to the petting zoo. At a small seating area, I heard some great music. I wandered down and saw the Homestead Pickers playing. They were a bluegrass band and they were great. They also talked to the audience and shared antidotes. I think this was my favorite show because the performers were the most open and friendly. I came back for a later show, which was their jam session. They wanted to bring me up to play guitar, but I’m no Stevie Ray Vaughan! I’m not even a high school band quality! I’ve only seen guitars on MTV and played air guitar. You don’t want to hear me sing either! The Homestead Pickers seemed like a good bunch of people for a band and I think I will buy their CDs soon from their website.
I had seen and done everything I wanted to do at Silver Dollar City, so I left at around 5:30. I missed the mine tour, but I was always off doing something else or the wait was too long for tour. Nothing really meshed time wise between me and the mine tour. Well now I have an excuse to return!
Silver Dollar City wasn’t a park I thought much of when I visited. Sure, the coasters sounded neat, but that’s all I wanted to do. Instead, I found a park with friendly people, good food, great rides, and a nice attitude. It has a different flavor than other amusement and theme parks that I’ve grown quite fond of. Silver Dollar City has landed a place on my top 5 amusement and theme park list:
1.) Islands of Adventure
2.) Cedar Point
3.) Silver Dollar City
I headed up to Kansas City. I drove for about 4 ½ hours before finally deciding to stop at a Motel 6 at exit 20 on I-70. I was looking at billboards to try to figure out where to stay. Some hotels I had never heard of and didn’t want to take a risk. Others seemed of questionable quality. Then came the billboard for the Motel 6, which was $32.99. Say and laugh all you want at Motel 6’s, but most of them are pretty clean and have basic accommodations. The one I stopped at wasn’t any different. The room was kind of small, but it was fine for sleeping and showering.
Tomorrow: Worlds of Fun and the trip home
SDC is a park for people (like me and you) who like the whole "theme park experience". If you only like coasters, you will probably be disappointed.
Next time you go, try one of the "Skillet" dinners - you won't be disappointed. Also the cave tour should not be missed.
Laugh your troubles away at Riverview, the world's largest amusement park.
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