Despite actually having a trip planned to sister theme park Silver Dollar City, we ended up ditching our flights and jumping in the car to drive to Dollywood this week. While the drive from Orlando isn’t particularly convenient, it was good to get out of the city for a quick trip to one of our favorite parks. Let’s look at our day at the park including the good and the bad.
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We’ll start this report with some of the shortcomings. The park, while generally very lively when busy, didn’t seem able to handle the sheer amount of people that decided to visit the Smoky Mountain theme park this Wednesday. With the major water rides down for the count, no Lightning Rod or Barnstormer, crowds really were forced into opposite side of the park boosting lines of 45-120 minutes for most major attractions. Lines for coasters we understand, but it was the hour+ long lines for food that really was unusual. The park seemed severely understaffed and the operation was a bit of a miss.
Now onto all the excitement of Dollywood’s (operating) coaster collection! Let’s start off with the ‘reimagined’ Mystery Mine. The coaster definitely has that early-era Eurofighter feel to it still. However, the new-for-2021 turn/drop/turn sequence is glass smooth and I really don’t miss the old horseshoe turn much. The ride is still a gem and highly unique. I wish more coasters ended on a high note the way Mystery Mine does.
If you’re an avid reader of our site, you’ll know we absolutely adore Wing Coasters. Thus, it’s always good to get a ride on Wild Eagle. The way the ride is built onto the tallest plot of land in the center of the park still offer absolutely incredible views. It’s always a must-ride for us!
Firechaser Express was only running two trains on this busy day, having a fluctuating wait time between 60-120 minutes all day. Luckily some extensive down time and a queue dump at Tennessee Tornado got us a Time Saver pass we got to use at Firechaser Express. After recently riding Pegase Express and Wakala in Europe, it was exciting to ride the original again. While they have definitely fixed some of the operational setbacks found on Firechaser Express for the newer coasters, the use of terrain for Firechaser remains unique.
Wildwood Grove is still quite the impressive expansion and much appreciated on busy days like these. A dozen or so solid flatrides and a family coaster make for a great place to hide some of the crowds. In addition, the area is gorgeous and perhaps one of the very best family areas in the US. For us Vekoma fanboys it’s all about Dragonflier of course!
While Tennessee Tornado did pull in quite the crowd today, it’s unusual two-train operation lead to a 2-hour delay in the middle of the day. Given we truly always come for Tennessee Tornado, it was a no brainer to wait it out after the queue was dumped to be the first back on board after a reopening. The wait was worth it. Tennessee Tornado is running very well, it was flying. Seeing it with two trains for the first time was quite a treat as well. We’ll also easily consider this the best night time coaster at Dollywood thanks to the use of terrain in a dark corner of the park.
Last but not least is Thunderhead! While I am admittedly a big fan of GCI wooden coasters, Thunderhead is a very good one at that. In years past it hasn’t always ran consistently smooth but with Lightning Rod down, the maintenance focus was clearly returned to Thunderhead which was running in prime condition. The layout focuses on placing the turnaround and large elements towards the outside of the ride plot and the middle is filled with high-speed elements and fast pacing. Don’t miss this coaster in the dark during the fall/winter months. It’s a solid coaster for night rides!
Overall, our day turned out great. The first half was plagued with terrible operations and some frustrations, but once Tennessee Tornado reopened and we got a few rides in on that, we felt satisfied and made the best of our day riding some other coasters around the park. It helps that we’ve visited so frequently!
EDIT: an interesting blueprint has surfaced featuring Dollywood’s highly-anticipated 2nd phase of Wildwood Grove, which was rumored to be a major coaster. Looks like those rumors were true – but what is the coaster, exactly?
Thanks for checking out this Dollywood report. If all goes as planned we’ll be at Silver Dollar City in a few days!