There is lots of debate over what state in the US has the best coaster collection. Most conversation centers on California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but there’s one state that usually overlooked. With three major theme parks and a significant collection of World class coasters, Missouri is one of the most underrated coaster destinations in America. With the end of seasonal park season on the horizon, my friend Pete and I decided to make the trek from Ohio to visit these three major parks which I’m dubbing “The Missouri Triangle.”
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We departed Ohio on Wednesday, August 11 utilizing a “drive-only” day to tackle 10 hour drive from Columbus to Branson. If you’re able to visit Silver Dollar City on a Thursday participating area grocery stores offer “Price Cutter Thursday Tickets”(https://www.silverdollarcity.com/Tickets/Special-Offers/SDC-Price-Cutter). This promotion offers significant savings on what is one of the more expensive theme park tickets outside of Disney and Universal. After a quick stop at a King Cash Saver on the way we got into Branson and settled into our hotel for the night. We woke up early on Thursday morning, grabbed some breakfast and headed to Silver Dollar City for rope drop. The park’s tickets are more expensive but do include basic parking. You have the option to pay for closer “premium” parking but SDC does run trams to all parking lots so you really aren’t sacrificing much in terms of comfort and convenience. With Time Traveler on our minds we decided to walk to the parks entrance and after a quick exchange of our Price Cutter vouchers for tickets we were on our way into the park and towards one of the rope drop points in the park.
The park opened promptly at 9:30 and we headed to Time Traveler, the park’s 2018 Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster. Time Traveler and the majority of the park’s other coasters were running one train. This was understandable on a weekday and luckily the parks swift operations made most wait times minimal. After a roughly 15 minute wait we were assigned a row in the back car of the train and made our way upstairs to the loading station. Time Traveler is such a unique coaster experience. A 90 degree drop out of the station, three inversions, and 2 LSM launches would already make this a pretty amazing looping coaster but the addition of the spinning really elevates it to a world class coaster experience. Unlike smaller scale Mauer, Gerstlauer, or Zamperla spinners, the focus really isn’t on the spinning action but experiencing the looping layout in different directions. The tophat and elevated turns are especially interesting as they change dramatically from ride to ride. After an incredible ride on Time Traveler we headed to the back of the park for one of our most anticipated coasters of the trip the RMC topper-track Outlaw Run. Outlaw Run is easily one of the most slept on RMC creations. It features a stunning 162 ft(49m) drop off of a 107ft(32m) lift hill followed by sequence of overbanks and wave turns that lead to the stunning double heartline roll finale. That double heartline roll is easily one of the most thrilling and memorable coaster finales in the world. Like all of Silver Dollar City’s coasters Outlaw Run is not easily visible from the midway making getting pictures of this coaster difficult. The stunning Ozark setting more than makes up for this, and Alan Schilke’s use of terrain in this layout is really masterful. After my rides, Outlaw Run became the favorite RMC coaster I’ve ridden. There’s something about it’s intense but balanced sequence of elements that make for a perfect coaster.
After a couple amazing rides on Outlaw Run we headed towards the parks unique S&S air-launch coaster Powder Keg: A Blast in the Wilderness. This strange coaster began it’s life in 1996 as a premier water coaster called BuzzSaw Falls until being closed in 2003 to reopen in 2005 as a family oriented launch coaster. Despite its reputation as a family coaster Powder Keg actually features a pretty intense 53 mph air launch and drop over 100 ft(30m). Powder Keg proved to be quite the surprise for us, it pulls some significant forces and has quite a few moments of intense airtime. After Powder Keg we got a ride on the park’s gorgeous B&M looper Wildfire. While it features a relatively straight forward layout, Wildfire benefits greatly from its stunning mountainside setting. We sat in the recommended back row to experience the maximum forces on Wildfire‘s straight initial drop but found the airtime lacking in comparison to some of the park’s other coasters. Wildfire neighbors the park’s classic 1981 Barr Engineering flume American Plunge. This proved to be the wettest flume of the trip and offers a lengthy and enjoyable ride through a wooded setting.
We headed back to the right side of the park to secure one of two remaining coaster credits, Thunderation. This 1993 Arrow mine train lived up to its reputation of intensity and a masterful use of terrain. The final coaster we rode (we skipped the Zamperla family Grand Exposition Coaster) was the classic dark ride/coaster hybrid Fire in the Hole. This house-built indoor attraction features an elaborate powered dark ride section which is followed by three drops including a final splashdown. We followed that with a ride on the parks unique shooting dark ride Flooded Mine. This classic float-through dark ride opened in 1968 and takes guests through a flooding prison mine. The ride has since been modified to include pistols for guests to shoot a various targets but has preserved much of the classic gags and special effects. We followed this with a ride on the parks classic train ride. Not only does the train provide some great views of the park and Outlaw Run but it features a mid-ride hold up by bandits.
The parks new for 2020 addition is the impressive Barr Engineering Mystic River Falls. This river rapids ride features the tallest drop of its kind on any rapids ride in the western hemisphere. The ride replaced the existing Lost River of the Ozarks rapids ride and features some impressive landscaping. Mystic River Falls is a stunning ride to watch and is integrated very will into the parks landscape. Unfortunately, the ride shut down while we were in line for it so we were unable to experience this impressive attraction. We concluded our day with some great rides on Outlaw Run before heading out through the park’s multiple gift-shop exit and heading to our hotel in Kansas City.
We went to Silver Dollar City with high expectations and I feel like the park definitely met them. The park’s atmosphere elevates the park above your typical regional theme park. Its collection of coasters is easily one of the strongest in the country with every one feeling very intentional. Outlaw Run and Time Traveler are world-class coasters set alongside a strong set of supporting coasters that any enthusiast will appreciate. The park also offers some great food options at reasonable prices including the famous Herschend cinnamon bread. The only criticism I had was the lack of more ride-specific souvenirs. The park features lots of general Silver Dollar City souvenirs alongside merchandise for it’s newer attractions. I would love to see them embrace their historic rides in the way Cedar Fair has in many of it’s parks. Overall Silver Dollar City remains an easy park to recommend to everyone. It really is among the best themed entertainment offered in the United States.