Gladly utilizing the Coca Cola $30 days at Silver Dollar City as an excuse to get down there and ride the much anticipated Outlaw Run, I packed up the family and made the four hour trek to the land of "Holy crap, that costs HOW MUCH????", with a pit stop at Lambert's - "home of the throwed rolls". Sadly, it was the only good eats on the trip. While the entertainment capital of the Midwest has no shortage of fun things to do, it seems to be severely lacking in good places to eat.
We checked in for our first stay at Big Cedar Lodge and were totally blown away! About 10 minutes South of Branson on Highway 65, this huge, sprawling resort is tucked away on the picturesque mountainsides overlooking Table Rock Lake. Sound like a travel brochure? Well, the place truly lives up to and exceeds expectations! There are 5 different pools and several massive hot tubs, some of which use salt water, (which is way better than chemical sanitized pools) and there is even a lazy river. There was so much for our family to do at the resort, we just spent a lot of our time there! If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend trying it out. Also, our 4 night stay was cheaper than the nightly rate at most mid-grade hotels in Branson!
But, enough about that. Silver Dollar City is one of my favorite parks in the country because it offers a great, all around experience. It has a reasonable collection of unique coasters, balanced with other rides and shows, the staff is fantastic, the food is a cut above the average park fare, the location is gorgeous and the atmosphere is endearingly relaxed and enjoyable. Unfortunately, due to the shortened operating hours (10-6), I was unable to do as much as I had hoped, but we still had a great time, especially because the crowds were pretty light and the temperature was perfect.
Outlaw Run - I have been chomping at the bit to get a ride on this bad boy and it did not disappoint! The twists and turns on this beast were engineered to the degree that they felt perfectly natural and bat-outta-hell insane all at the same time. The only part of the entire ride that didn't feel quite perfect was the last quarter of the final barrel roll which, due to momentum loss, caused a somewhat uncomfortable shift to the right side as it came out of the the roll - a minor gripe to be sure! The staple factor wasn't bad and the shin bar was only slightly annoying until the ride was engaged and it was completely forgotten. All in all, a spectacular addition to the park!
Wildfire - I am not ashamed to admit that I passionately love it! It is smooth as butter with some good spots of decent force and decent air, with a great view as it sits on the mountainside. A good all around coaster with excellent capacity.
Powder Keg - I would classify this as a good introduction to launched coasters. It is, indeed, a whole lot of fun, but not a white-knuckler. I am glad they were able to make use of the Buzzsaw Falls lift hill, it would be nice if the old concrete waterways were filled in for landscaping purposes. It is great that the fire effect still works!
Thunderation - Unique among mine trains, this is a fun family ride, but it is certainly showing its age. It has become quite a bit more rattly and bumpy in the 5 years since I last rode it. I was also disappointed that the reverse car was removed.
Fire in the Hole - There is nothing like the original dark ride/coaster combo! Unfortunately, it is in dire need of some TLC. Many of the effects are in sad shape or simply not working at all. Sure, it is not a slick B&M coaster or a Disney grade dark ride, but I would love to see a nice chunk of cash invested into restoring this to, maybe, better than it's former glory. New fire effects, gunshot sequence, animatronics, upgraded sound system, collapsing bridge remake, and maybe piping in the smell of burning wood - just a hint of it - would bring this back to life! Maybe I'm just being sentimental.
American Plunge - Another oldie but goodie, in need of restoration. Aside from Disney's Splash Mountain, this is my favorite flume of all time. But the effects and gags have been mostly removed and the few that remain don't work any more. The tunnel used to be mysterious and foreboding with a massive waterfall effect that lit up as the log passed, and creepy statues that "watched" you as you drifted by. There was also a whirlpool scene with a dog rescuing a drowning guy, which is still there, but dilapidated and not functioning. It is still a great flume ride, but it needs help.
Lost River of the Ozarks - This river raft ride is also one of my favorites and could benefit from some sprucing up. It is still running pretty well, but one of my favorite parts was the hairpin turn into the loading station that sent the raft spinning, however, due to extreme boat stacking, loading and sending 3 at a time, that effect is negated.
I am pleased with the new attractions that SDC is investing in, but it is my hope that they will also invest in the upkeep and restoration of their older attractions as well, rather than letting them waste away to their eventual demise.
On our way out of town on our last day, we decided to stop for a breakfast buffet at the Great American Steak & Chicken House, big mistake. Ordinarily, in every day life, if you came upon a giant 40 foot tall chicken, it would strike terror in your heart and you would run for your very life. However, in Branson, where giant animals are born and raised, a giant chicken stands at the door of a restaurant and beckons you saying, "Come on in, it has to be great, 'cuz I'm a giant chicken. I wouldn't tell you wrong. I wouldn't be here if this wasn't the best place ever!" Friends, I am a survivor, and I'm tellin' you, if you see a giant chicken, don't believe a word it says. Just run the other way. The staff acted so unprofessionally it reminded me of an episode of Undercover Diner and the food was deplorable. That's all I have to say about that.
Enjoy the pictures...
Big Cedar Lodge
Do the Harlem Shuffle...board
Private swim beach and marina
All sliders are required to maintain the landscaping
Pick up the pace, you lazy river!
The indoor pool
Swimmin' pools, movie stars...
Where is the turn, I don't see it??
Hillbilly shootout or opening ceremonies, you pick.
I pledge allegiance...
All people are required to lean at SDC
The shooting game is fun, but wish it were returned to the former dark ride and storyline
After him! He's getting away!
What lurks within the trees...
Credit, yes, purchased with legal tender of one child
Thou art sklooshed
They think they are on a quiet train ride through the woods
What a nice little building...
Oh, wait, everybody run, it's gonna blow!
Then, Bammo! The aftermath.
I told you not to play with that there gunpowder!
Where it all began
Volunteer Firefighters needed
The free shindig after park closing
I see you, Wildfire!
I'm gonna get you!
Oh, the horror! Drive, little van, drive!