Touchdown's Smokey Mountain Start to the Coaster Season 4/1-2/09

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Saturday, April 4, 2009 6:11 PM

***A word about my ranking system below. I assign a 5 star ranking to the rides. 5 stars means excellent, this ranking is reserved for rides that I think are truly fantastic and are a must ride (if not must ride multiple times) any time I visit said park. 4 stars means very good, these rides are still really fun and still end up on my must ride rides but they just have one or two things holding them back from the excellent rating. 3 stars means good, these rides are fun but not amazing I try to ride these rides at least once a trip. 2 stars means ok, I wont ride these rides again unless there is a short wait and Ive ridden everything else. 1 star means horrible, I wont ride these rides again and this ranking is reserved for rides that have caused me pain.***

Dollywood April 1st-2nd 2009

When it became apparent that my basketball team would not be going into the NCAA tournament (and thus I would not be spending my money going to see them) I started looking around for something to do on my Spring Break. Of course, I gravitated immediately to doing a coaster trip but where to? None of the Ohio parks were open, nor the PA parks, Virginia was too far away for me to do a 2 day turnaround (and the parks there were only open on the weekend,) as was Georgia. I had no desire to go to SFGAm on their opening day (figuring it would be cold, and even then I really don’t like that park that much) well finally the idea came to me, Dollywood which I was happy to see was actually open on weekdays already. Checking out Google maps, Pigeon Forge was 7.5 hrs away from Toledo, totally doable for a 2 day turnaround, and even better Dollywood like Hersheypark has a deal where if you buy a 1-day ticket after 3pm it is also good the next day. Excited that I could go to the one park left East of the Mississippi that I really wanted to visit but hadn’t yet, I booked the hotel and prayed for good weather.

April 1:

My prayers were answered, both Wednesday and Thursday it was forecasted to go into the lower 70s and be sunny (well sunny through the morning Thursday then clouding up.) I made the trip, checked into my hotel and changed into suitable attire to do the park’s water rides and headed out. I ended up getting delayed by 45 min though because Google maps led me to the old entrance and there was no real signage to point you in the right direction on the old Dollywood Lane. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do all the coasters and water rides at first, but then when I eventually found the parking lot only 2 sections had cars in it. I got a great spot in the front lot and bought my ticket and entered the park to experience my first coaster ride of the 2009 season:

Thunderhead: 5 rides Wed, 3 rides Thur, never waited more then 1 train to ride both days. 5 stars. My first ride I rode in the front seat after that it was in the back. This ride is defiantly better in the back. At first it seemed a little too tame for me, but the more I rode it the more I loved it. It’s a rare find to ride a wooden coaster that twisty, with some nice air and not have to worry about your back at the same time (I <3 Millennium Flyer trains.) This ride will surely find a way onto my top ten wooden coasters, and beats out the Hershey trio for best GCI ride Ive ridden so far. Well after 2 spins on Thunderhead it was time to venture further into the park and ride:

Timber Tower: 1 ride, walk on. 2 stars. This ride in a word is: disappointing. There is no strong G forces and they didn’t have the water effects on. The only reason I would ride this ride again was if it had a short wait and the water effects were on, brushing off that disappointment it was time to ride the other coaster in Timber Canyon:

Mystery Mine: 4 rides Wed, 4 rides Thur, walked on every time. 4 stars. My first Eurofighter, I didn’t really know what to expect. Personally, if I could skip the first half and just jump right to the finale I would be ok with that, at best the first half is a couple of quick air moments at worst (in a seat on the far left side) it is head banging nastiness. That finale though (which I wont spoil by revealing the inside portion) is fantastic, the zero g roll is amazing and the hang time on the diving loop even better. After two spins on this one, it was time to get wet for the first time:

River Battle: 1 ride, walk on. 2 stars. This ride was another disappointment, but mainly because the effects weren’t on (only one target made anything happen) and no one was riding it (all you crazy southerners thinking that 73 is too cold to do a water ride.) Looks like when its fully working this is a fun ride. Im sure Ill give this one another try when I make it back. Anyways time to continue the coaster tour:

Tennessee Tornado: 3 rides Wed, 2 rides Thur, walk on. 4 stars. After 20 years of being the best Arrow Looper I’ve ridden, the Lockness Monster finally has a real competitor for that top spot. This ride is pure fun, the drop into the tunnel, over banked curves and the smooth forceful loops (making me forget Im riding an Arrow) the only thing that keeps this ride back its that it is far too short, this ride is one more element (whither its a loop, airtime hill or helix) away from getting that last star. I still haven’t decided if it will rank above Nessie or not but either way they will be very close to each other in my top 25 steel. After again two back to back rides, that leaves me with one last coaster to do, FIRE IN THE HOLE!:

Blazing Fury: 3 rides Wed, 1 ride Thur, walk on. 3 stars. Wow this ride is so much better then what I remember SDC’s Fire in the Hole being. The scenes are much brighter (letting me see them) and the audio is understandable! Fun ride, really wish more parks would pull the coaster/dark ride combo, a true gem of a ride. After again 2 rides on Blazing Fury it was time to finish off the water rides starting with:

Daredevil Falls: 2 rides, walk on. 4 stars. Im very picky when it comes to flume rides, I believe it comes from first being exposed to them at Santa’s Village in NH and Canobie Lake Park’s rides both of which have long meandering, relatively fast, fun pre big drop sequences. And further bolstered by my next flumes I rode when I started visiting more parks being BGE’s and the MOA’s. I expect my flumes to be more then just a slow short run out to the lift and then a drop, I want some fun before that. This flume delivers, with a cave, and some fun meandering before hitting the big lift. I also love the extra effects of the geysers going off as you hit the splashdown. Best water ride here in my opinion. Now onto:

Raging River: 1 ride, walk on (and my own raft too.) 3 stars. After riding the SDC Raging River I had high hopes for this one, and it didn’t quite meet it. It still had all the great rapids that SDC has but its much shorter. Still a great raft ride though. Allright now time to do the last and most talked about water ride here:

Sidewinder: 1 ride, walk on. 2 stars. Talk about anticipointment, after being told over and over again that this ride transcended all of the water slide rides at amusement parks, I found that to not be the case (and yes I had a full boat.) I prefer my water slides at water parks where they can end in a pool and get you more wet. Blah.

Well I managed to succeed in my goal even though I arrived close to an hour late, I managed to do all of those rides in 2 hours, and I still had one more hour left, choosing instead to do a 180 and loop around the coasters (and Daredevil Falls again) and save the flats and train for Thursday I had a fun re-riding session ending my day on the last train on Thunderhead. I then visited the bakery and had a fantastic chocolate roll (a cinnamon roll where the cinnamon and icing are instead replaced with chocolate.)

Thursday April 2nd:

After managing to do the water rides and the coasters the day before, today was mainly for me to do the shows (and the flats and train) with of course managing to squeeze a few last rides on the coasters. I started my day off with right with 2 rides on the Mystery Mine (while I waited for Thunderhead to open) and then one ride on the woodie before hitting the first performance of:

Imagine: 5 stars. Ive seen the Cirque de Soeil show at Disney World so my expectations for this show were not very high since this was not a Cirque show, however this show came very close to Cirque quality (especially every scene but the group dance opening sequence.) I saw the “A” show which included the Chinese Acrobats, Female Contortionist, Spinning Top Girls (my favorite act in the Cirque show,) 2 Strongmen (who’s finale was having one do a headstand on the others back with only the sholders touching,) Male Contortionist and a finale with the Acrobats again. It’s a shame I had to leave too early and couldn’t catch the second show because this show was really good, with the clown, spinning top girls, strongmen and the female contortionist deserving of extra praise. Time to hit show #2:

Mexico Calpulli: 5 stars. Lets see, fast paced Mexican music, Latina women dancing in those famous big bright Mexican dresses and the band members have some great humor too boot, what’s not to love? I can see why they were invited back great show again now on to a non Festival of Nations show:

Journey to the Center of the Earth 4-D adventure: 2 stars, walk on. Maybe its because I didn’t see the movie (though I doubt it) but this was very disjoined clearly jumping from their mine shaft trip down to the Center of the Earth to a cut and then them going back up. How in the world can you have a show called Journey to the Center of the Earth and not have a chase sequence with a T-Rex?!?! Boo all around, the motion was also quite rough and not timed well. After a quick spin through Chasing Rainbows it was time to hit the flats of the Country Fair:

Dizzy Disk: 4 stars, walk on. The only Disk-O Ive been on is KI’s Avatar so I was quite excited to finally ride a model that had the circular platform. The restraint is quite unique. Great ride, but I think Avatar delivers a better ride, however I trust that should I ever ride a Disk-O coaster that has a circular platform it would be better then Avatar.

Country Flyer: 4 stars, walk on. Why in the world have I not heard of this ride before on the coaster sites? It’s a variation on the beloved flyer (although alas you cant snap it) that sends you up into the air. What a great fun ride, wish there were more of these around, ok time to see a suggested show:

Heartsong: 4 stars. Ive never really heard Dolly’s music before this, and was told this was my one real place to experience it in a hokey (in a good way) video complete with water effects and animatronics butterflies. It was everything that I was told, fun little show. There is a good chance Ill be adding some of her songs to my Itunes line up the next time I make a Dollywood Playlist. Ok time to ride the original ride on the property:

Dollywood Express: 4 stars. I love train rides, even if they only have one station. This one was great, gave some great views of the park and Smokies.

By this time I was starving, and after surveying the different counter service places around the park over the past two days I realized that dinner there would end up running close to $15 at any one of those places. Meanwhile the park had a buffet that came highly recommended was going to run me $20 with tip so I of course chose the latter and after filling up (knowing all that I had was a sandwich for dinner on the way back) it was time for one last coaster run before making that long trip back north.

Final Evaluation of the Park: 5 stars. What a beautiful park, complete with great shows, good coasters and a whole heaping load of charm. This will not be my only trip here, I loved it, wished it was closer. Pigeon Forge is also a whole lot less repulsive then Branson (which is way too touristy even for me, Pigeon Forge is more like the Dells which I can stand) that I could see myself spending more time here next time too (especially to see the National Park.) I love going to parks that are not all about the coasters, and this is one of them that deserves to mentioned in the same breath as BGE and its sister SDC. Really hope I can make it here for a Christmas too. Also couldn’t hav asked for better crowds and weather (save the deluge I ran into in Cincinnati on the way back.)

Thanks for reading this rather long TR!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009 11:46 AM

^ Excellent review! Add a few pictures and reviews of the food and you'd have an Unofficial Guide to Dollywood in the making!

We went this past Sunday and Monday and the crowds were still very manageable, as the longest we waited was 10 minutes for Mystery Mine. Thunderhead is a rare coaster that both the 48" youngster and 75" adult can enjoy together, and your assessment of Mystery Mine is right on. Glad you had a great time!

Thursday, April 9, 2009 2:51 PM
rollergator's avatar

Glad you had a great time, nice TR about a favulous park. Surprised Timber Tower is still around, I thought they were intent on removing it after the incident a while back.

Nonetheless: Country Flyer: 4 stars, walk on. Why in the world have I not heard of this ride before on the coaster sites? It’s a variation on the beloved flyer (although alas you cant snap it) that sends you up into the air.

Now I haven't been since before MM opened, so I searched the DW site and found Sky Rider, which to me looks like your basic Chance Aviator. Since they're virtually everywhere, they don't ever get much "publicity". This is what you're referring to, right?

Last edited by rollergator, Thursday, April 9, 2009 2:52 PM
Saturday, April 11, 2009 11:19 PM

^Virtually everywhere? Ive never seen one before in all my travels (and Ive been to most of the major parks not located in CA) where have you seen them? Looking at I missed the one in KD but I dont think Ive been to another park with them. Its fairly new design, 1999.

Monday, April 13, 2009 1:07 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar

Flyers range from blah to more thrilling than any coaster.
Aviators are all blah.

A couple more locations: Elitch Gardens and Kemah Boardwalk.

Last edited by Acoustic Viscosity, Monday, April 13, 2009 1:07 PM

AV Matt
Long live the Big Bad Wolf


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