Volcanomania Trip, final part, Thunder in the Mountains!

Associated parks:

Saturday, April 10, 2004 1:47 PM
April 5, 2004

Weather: Sunny, high in the upper 50's
Coasters Ridden: 3 of 3
New to me: All 3

This report is part three of my Volcanomania trip report.

My sister and I left Charlotte at about 7 in the morning. The ride should have taken less then four hours, but I decided to take the scenic route, through the Maggie Valley, up a short stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and through the Smokey Mountains National Park. It was a wonderful, beautiful ride, but everything in the Maggie Valley was still closed for the season (we wanted to stop for some breakfast there), the part of the Blue Ridge Parkway I wanted to travel was closed, and about halfway through the park (the road is some 30 miles through the park) we got behind this guy that did 15 the rest of the way. By the time we got to the other end of the park there were another 25 cars behind us. We didn't get to Dollywood until almost 1:00. I did, on the way, get a few distant shots of Ghost Town in the Sky. It is sad to see that roller coaster up there so lonely, I hope someday someone can rescue that park, but it does not look good.

Dollywood is interesting, it is located in a long valley, so the parking lot is really long, but only a few rows wide, so you pretty much have to get to the entrance by tram, no matter where you park, and we were all the way at the back. The entrance area is nice, and really wasn't that busy. I could not find any discounts on the way out, but we did get a five dollar discount with my sister's military ID, so we got our passes and headed in. There was only one place to head right of the bat, and that was into Thunderhead Gap.

After a long uphill walk, we come to Thunderhead, which is just WOW!!! This is one great ride Dollywood has on their hands. Not only does it offer the fantastic laterals that GCII twisters are famous for, it also has great speed and spectacular airtime, both the nice floater air, as well as incredible ejector air, and on every single hill. And it is not just the forces, it is the way in which they are introduced. Every twist and turn on this ride is different, and it has several surprises in store for the rider, interesting hops right into head choppers, or a funky flat spot in a curve that give a surprise pop of air right in a steep lateral. Also, even with just a few operating days under their belts, the ride crews were excellent. They were fast, efficient, and rarely allowed the two trains to stack. Our longest wait might have been 15 minutes for the ride, if that. We got off, and got right back on, with little wait.

This is a ride NO coaster fan should miss. GCII has really out done themselves this time. It goes right to the top of my list, and the only thing that would make it better were if it were not a ten hour drive from me.

After enjoying Thunderhead, we decided to actually ride something else in the park. The park is spread out pretty good in the valley, with several paths that lead off towards dead ends. Visiting, you can expect to do a lot of walking and a lot of hill climbing. Most of the theme is this Tennessee country look, mining, old west, that type of thing, with a dash of Victorian town thrown in. It mixes well, and looks very nice. The park was also very clean, including the restrooms (very important), and the employees were all very friendly and outgoing.

The park was having their Festival of Nations event, with different acts, products, and crafts from around the world. The were Italian stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, that sort of thing. They had the park decorated in international flags and streamers, all very colorful.

We next took a ride on the Smokey Mountain Wilderness Tour, which is a motion simulator. It was entertaining, but nothing spectacular. The next section of the park is a dramatic departure from the theme of the rest of the park, it is a 50's themed area. It looked good, with the shops and restaurants all built to have that retro 50's look. There were plenty of classic cars that were restored and looked great, as well as several that were not restored and made to look like they were part of a used car lot, very clever. As we roamed further down this section we got to the area where most of the flat rides are located, as well as the railroad station. I didn't get a chance to ride the train, we kept missing it, but it is a very impressive park train, and actual narrow gauge Baldwin locomotive.

A good suggestion for the park would be to get some more flat rides. Every one of the flats, which included a carousel, tilt-a-whirl, yo-yo, scrambler, 60 foot Eli wheel, and bumper cars had very long waits, with the queues spilling out into the main walkways. We waited 15 minutes for the carousel, which is an unimpressive modern ride with fiberglass animals, and all the other lines were much longer.

While here we ate as well. The food was very good. I had this chicken flatbread thing, which they called a sandwich, but really it was like a salad. Rachel had a root beer float with homemade ice cream. They were very good, with a price on par with most other parks.

We now started to make our way towards the Tennessee Tornado, with a few detours. One was Dare Devil Falls, a nice combination of log flume and dark ride. Rachel did not want to get wet, but I took the gamble and had a good ride, which was relatively dry.

We then wandered past the eagle sanctuary and on to Blazing Fury, which really proved to be a surprise. A combination of darkride and roller coaster, it takes you past several scenes of a burning town and then does a series of sudden, well themed drops. A very fun, interesting ride.

Finally we made it to the dead end of this section and on to the Tennessee Twister. This ride may well be the best Arrow looper I have ever ridden. It is short, but the inversions are very intense, and the transitions are quite smooth, which I find unexpected from an Arrow. I especially liked the setup of the first drop though a tunnel and right into the huge loop. This is the one where Arrow finally got it right.

Heading back down to the main part of the park, we traveled through the kids interactive area, with all sorts of activity areas for the little ones, and I took a ride on the Mountain Slidewinder, again, Rachel did not want to get wet. Neat wet/dry type of slide, it slooshes through high banked turns and into a tunnel. I would have ridden again, there was no wait, but I think I will wait for the escalator to be installed, it is a very long hike to the top of this terrain hugging ride.

Finally, we finished out the day at the park with Thunderhead, catching the last train of the day. What more can I say about this coaster, but get down there and ride it, you will not be disappointed.

While Thunderhead did not disappoint, I think overall the park did. We were not really interested in the shows, of which there are many, and the rides they had besides Thunderhead and Tennessee Tornado did not really justify the price of entry. The flat rides were common to just about every other park, as well as most traveling fairs. If you like to shop you will like the park, there are plenty of stores to choose from. Most of it is not really souvenir shopping though, and much of the product you find can be found in town for cheaper (Rachel saw a blanket she liked at the park, but found the same blanket in Pigeon Forge for a third of the price). Overall it was a nice park, but besides Thunderhead I see no compelling reason to return to the park. But Thunderhead is truly a work of art!!!

Many pictures are posted here:


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.

*** Edited 4/10/2004 5:48:52 PM UTC by Black 7***

Saturday, April 10, 2004 4:35 PM
I agree with some of your comments. I'm not a fan of shows either, I just want to ride the rides, so Dollywood to me is not my favorite park, although I do enjoy their coasters and unique water rides. Plus, I don't go to theme parks to shop around, and look at crafts and arts. I agree the flat rides are pretty much found anywhere else,nothing all that unique. It was a park I'd visit maybe 1 time, and probably wait 4 or 5 years till I'd want to go back, but I don't think the price is worth it to me in my opinion. It is more of a park for a whole family to go to including Grandma and Grandpa, as it has a little bit of everything for all different demographics.
Saturday, April 10, 2004 5:53 PM
Too bad you didn't get to ride the steam train. It is very unique compared to the other parks that have tiny plantation engines.

I agree that Dollywood, while being a nice park, doesn't have much to offer in the rides department. Perhaps they'll be more rides in the future.


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