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Photo TR: It's About Dollywood, Dang It!

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I was sitting and thinking the other day about what Theme Park Review needs--another Dollywood trip report! Yes, this gem of a park in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains just hasn't been getting enough coverage on TPR lately. Maybe it's because of the rather low-key approach they've taken to promoting their new attraction . . . what was it called? Mild Beagle, or something?


Oh, Wild Eagle. My bad.


So, when Erik Johnson mentioned that he was heading out to the park last weekend, I decided to join him. After all, it had been two years since I'd tasted Dollywood's famous cinnamon bread, and some other friends would be hitting the park, too. So, after a stop in Charlottesville, Va., for dinner with an old friend and a night in a somewhat dodgy Howard Jonhnson's in Salem, Va., I arrived at the Ramada Pigeon Forge around 2:00 pm on Saturday, March 31.


The Ramada was much nicer than the HoJo's, by the way.


Dollywood is one of the top parks in the country (along with its cousin in Missouri, Silver Dollar City). To me, it's like the old, pre-Cedar Fair Knott's Berry Farm on steroids--with a better set of coasters. This is a park that does offer something for everybody.


Here's how their current crop of coasters stack up, starting with the best. There isn't a bad one in the bunch.


Thunderhead--This GCI woodie is still the best attraction in the park. There was more airtime along its twisty layout than I remember from two years ago.


Wild Eagle--I have to admit that I was indifferent to the B&M Wing Riders when they were first announced, but I became more interested as the construction updates came flooding in. This ride is an excellent addition to Dollywood--a perfect ride for this park. It seemed a bit more forceful than the last crop of B&M rides (such as Carowinds' Intimidator), and there's a perfect mixture of great views and thrills on its twisting layout. It even has a beautiful station.


Tennessee Tornado--This is my favorite old Arrow looper--a brief but thrilling ride, with two initial drops that catapault you out of your seat. It's really held up well.


Mystery Mine--This Eurofighter is a bit rougher than I remember from two years ago. But it still has that great theming and nifly "flip" back into the station (one of the best finishes to any coaster).


Blazing Fury--This powered-coaster/dark-ride combo is still a lot of fun, even if it's now "dry." I still get a kick out of the "burning bridge" bit.


Here's a look at a great day at Dollywood.


Yes, I decided to spring for a season pass. Might check out the Smoky Mountain Christmas event this year.


Oh, really? Nut products?


Yep--nut products.


We had some time to kill before Eric Wilson and his family arrived, so I decided to search for evidence of Dollywood's new ride.


Hmm--so odd that I'm not seeing more about this new attraction in the gift shop.


You'd think there'd be some merchandise, at least.


You know, if I owned a theme park and had a great new ride like Wild Eagle, I'd be hyping the hell out of it, you bet! I just don't understand Dollywood's reluctance here.


Cameron is also confused about the park's muted apporach to promoting Wild Eagle.


Well, those memories aren't gonna make themselves. Let's skeedaddle! (That's mountain talk for "go").


At first I thought this was Adam or Joey, but this guy's Polish. So I was mistaken.


"Oh, Canaba . . . er, Canada . . ." (Yes, it's Festival of Nations time--it's like Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, Smokies style.)


We took advantage of the park's Q2Q system--how could we not? It's a great deal!


While waiting for Eric W. to secure a Qbot (or "Quey Bot"), we paid our respects to our honored dead. Rest in peace, Captain Chaos.


We were all sad to hear about Cameron's passing. Cameron was the most surprised of all.


You know, if I were a tequila fiend, I'd probably see this frog band every night, as I tossed and turned during a fevered nightmare.


Hmm--Angus McNasty rarely mews.


"Fire in the hole!" (This phrase used in compliance with federal law when writing about Blazing Fury.)


You know, if you have to ask for extra help via a newspaper headline, you're most likely screwed.


These brave men have not died in vain. No, they died in Pigeon Forge.


Cameron is still wondering where we might find Wild Eagle.


"Eat at Granny Ogle's Ham and Beans, or I'll blow yer durn haid off!"


We braved Adventure Mountain the night before. It's a lot of fun--but going around this rock is a bit freaky.


Hmm--Wild Eagle is on the Qbot. But where the hell is it?


Why? Why is this ride so hard to find?


Scre-e-e-e, scraw-w-w-w!


Well, at least we can find Mystery Mine . . . oops, it's broken.


But the smoking area is fully operational.


Hmm--why are all these people lining up way down here to wait for Mystery Mine . . . wait a second. Oh, there's Wild Eagle. It's broken, too.


At least Tennessee Tornado is up and running now.


Thank you for fixing this coaster, Mr. Bumble Snowmonster.


Yes, I know you all came here to see the backside of an Arrow train.


When I first cruised up the lifthill of this ride two years ago and got a look at its layout, I thought I was doomed to life of brain damage thanks to headbanging. That people would have to change my drool bucket hourly. But I was mistaken.


Cameron and Candace are ready to be blown away.


They're hanging on for dear life in the back.


Let's see how they did.


All smiles--yay! Cameron does look a bit cross-eyed, though. More to come.

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OK, I've toyed with you long enough. Let's have a look at Wild Eagle.


This sign picture comes with a side helping of Erik Johnson.


This is one fast lifthill. You're just hurtled over the top into that first drop and loop--a brillant start!


What is this? Some sort of B&M sex manual?


For all of you who've ever wanted a clear view of Blazing Fury's show building, your prayers have been answered.


Tennessee Tornado Control Room Spy Cam.


The backside of Blazing Fury . . .


. . . and of Wild Eagle.


Prepared to get hurled (but I hope not to hurl).


This loop is excellent.


Uh oh! Looks like the Eagle has zeroed in on some prey!


It swoops for the kill.


You can get some good pictures of Wild Eagle from the Mountain Slidewinder queue.


I love how the grass has been flattened here by the wind of the train as it roars by.


This is my favorite shot of Wild Eagle.


Yep--Dolly's got herself a winner here.


Now that is one cooperative pig.


But we all had chicken on the brain that day.


Again with the "nut products"?


Yep--nut products.


Miss Lillian is Eric Wilson approved.




She likes to throw biscuits at people, too.


"Admit that you want Miss Lillian, slave! Admit it!" (She brings to mind a countrified version of Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials.)


Here's a reminder of the park's pre-Dolly days.


Looks like the Dollywood Express is comin'.


This pic is for Matt Jacobs--enjoy!


We had some time to kill before the next train, so Erik decided to ride a goat.


This was my first trip on the Dollywood Express.


Thunderhead--and lots of black smoke.


It doesn't get much more "country" than this.


I can't imagine that this is a great location for a boarding house.


Perfect spot for a still, though.


You want another look at Wild Eagle. I can tell.


I think the fellow in the curious uniform was part of some Russian band we heard performing while we ate lunch.


I not sure which is scarier--the bear or the freaky looking dude with the pick axe.


This is dogwood. It's the state flower of Virginia. Now you know.


Another pic for Matt--wheels! For trains!


Why, this tree's a bloomin' miracle! One more set of photos to come.

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One last look at a great day at Dollywood.


This is called "theming." Good parks will do this with "generic" rides, rather than just plopping them down on a concrete slab.


I think I'll try the $1 lesson first, just to see if I like it.


I like these Screamin' Swing rides, but do find them a little scary. But just when your stomach is ready for them to end, they do.


Mountain Slidewinder is a unique water ride--at least, I don't know of another one like it.


"What're you lookin' at, punk?"


OK, I think you all know what this means . . .


Yes, it's white-grits-lickin' time!


Oh, they bake cinnamon bread there, too.


We did have a wee bit of rain that day.


But that didn't stop Mystery Mine, once it got going.


Cameron decided to change out of his wet clothes. Sort of brings out his eyes, don't you think?


This pizza comes with a coupon for half off a liposuction or bypass--whichever you need first.


Thunderhead towers over the Timber Tower Memorial Picnic Area.


This GCI ride still delivers.


But sometimes it brings out the worst in people . . .


. . . in the form of what they had for lunch. Yes, there were three "protein spills" on this ride while we were there (not among our group, fortunately).


"Hello, maintenance? We need one of those 'nut products' signs at the Thunderhead play area. Thank you."


Being an engineer, Cameron can't resist playing with his gears from time to time.


Prepare for an ear-splitting scream when this train flies through the station.


Cameron and Candace are deaf now, thanks to the previous train.


"OK, we'll give some land to the Rookers and the Longtails--but we don't want the Peeps!"


Mystery Mine is nice and dry now.




My favorite coaster finishing move.


We decided to finish up with the car ride, because none of us had ever ridden it before.


"Look! I'm big enough to drive my own car!"


It's a good car ride, complete with a "radio" that plays 1950s music.


Cameron gave me a sweet deal on this De Soto.


Hmm--I think I now know why he was able to give me such a good deal.




Here we see the Smoky Mountain food chain in operation.


Well, some people have a trashier imagination than others.


"I shall name him George and I shall love him and pet him and hug him and squeeze him . . ."


Well, it's about time to wrap this up.


Thanks for a great day, Dollywood.


And are thanks to KT for making it even better by providing . . .


. . . chocolate martinis! Thanks for reading.

Edited by cfc
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Great trip report as always, Chuck! More angles of Wild Eagle are always wanted and you can never get enough Dollywood photos as you catch different details throughout the park each time. Also, it seems like the overall verdict from the reports I've read is that Thunderhead is still the best coaster in the park, which is no suprise since it is one of the best woodies out there (& my personal favorite). I can't wait to get down there and try it out.


Anyways, the freaky looking dude with the pick axe moves around the park yearly now it seems! First, in Timber Canyon at the Mine Shaft, then in Craftsman's Valley at Lucky 7 Mine, and now along the train route! Where will he be in 2013?!


Timber Canyon at the Mine Shaft


Craftsman's Valley at Lucky 7 Mine

freaky 3.bmp

Along the train route

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Great TR, Chuck! Looks like you guys had an awesome time, and you've got some really nice photos here. I may get shunned from TPR for saying this, but I've never had the cinnamon bread while at Dollywood. It's definitely the second thing on my to do list for my next visit, right behind getting a ride on Wild Eagle.

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Great TR. And yes, Miss Lillian is awesome and so glad we were told to check her out on this visit.


And I was about to say I'm sorry we didn't hit up the car ride or that area but then I saw this....



And I'm happy we didn't. I saw enough support of the Vols that weekend, didn't need the extra signage.

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I'm loving all the TR's from Dollywood, even though I'm going through withdrawls. I did get a season pass because I would like to check out the park during their Holiday in the Park (or whatever it's called). I'm also hoping to get back to the park sometime this summer. Hopefully sooner than later.

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Awesome pictures Chuck! I was so sad I missed you all on Saturday. I looks like you and tha crew had a great time. Well, until Cameron found out he was dead. That will put a damper on a great time. I remember the first time I found out I was dead. I cried. Good thing I got better. Now it's old hat. It happens 2 or 3 times a year.


Wild Eagle rocks! It's a perfect fit for the park. Glad you enjoyed it.

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Sorry I missed you too, Guy--and that you couldn't make it last weekend, Scott. Here are two bonus pictures. Although we didn't play any mini-golf on this trip . . .


. . . we did check out this classic attraction, where we encountered a horrifying prehistoric beast . . .


. . . the Flash-a-saurus! Yes, seeing this monster can make you go blind!

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Thanks for posting this excellent trip report!


I've been to many parks around the country, but this park is at the 'top' of my list to visit for the first time.


I live in Southern California, and I visit the 'Disneyland Resort' about once a week, but I can't wait to make my way to Dollywood! It seems great in so many ways, between attractions offered and awesome food.


I can't wait to make my way to this amazing park in the near future.

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Great TR, Chuck! I always love seeing pictures of Dollywood. Still have never been there.


^I second your . You need to go--your whole family would love it.

Edited by cfc
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Great TR, Chuck! I always love seeing pictures of Dollywood. Still have never been there.


^I second your . You need to go--your whole family would love it.


One of these days we'll make it up there! I've actually only been to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge once. Sad, I know.

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