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I love the pic of Ripsaw Falls. . . surprised I've never really heard much about it.

 

the LOOK of it, is fantastic.

 

It's really good and really long but holy crap is it soaking. Also... the blasters really do hit you in the face from almost point blank range.

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Great report! I know I'm the flume guy but I even balked at Ripsaw Falls on my last visit. It's just so ridiculously drenching.

 

Thanks!

 

I almost didn't ride Ripsaw Falls this past Sunday. I had a toe injury and was under doctors orders to keep my bandage/toe dry. I ended up wrapping my feet in trash bags. I don't care how ridiculous I looked, but that made the ride way more enjoyable since I had dry feet afterwards.

 

I love the pic of Ripsaw Falls. . . surprised I've never really heard much about it.

 

the LOOK of it, is fantastic.

 

As long as you enjoy water, it's fantastic. There is no way to come off dry since you have the splashdowns, an unavoidable waterfall, and blasters.

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Magic Kingdom- Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween

 

Most theme parks celebrate Halloween trying to scare guests to death. Outside of violent villain deaths, fear isn’t really Disney’s MO. Therefore, they celebrate with Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween Party.

 

This event is an upcharge, but it’s well worth it. For one, ride lines are minimal. But beyond that, you also have free trick-or-treating, special shows, and unique twists on classic attractions.

 

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This was my first "after hours" event at Disney World, and it won't be my last.

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Some may call this pumpkin disfigured. Others would call it Mickey Mouse.

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The party officially started at 7 pm, but we could enter the park as soon as 4 pm. So that’s exactly what we did since I had a Fastpass booked for my (then) favorite ride at the resort, Splash Mountain.

 

Splash Mountain is perfection. It’s long. It’s well-themed. It’s refreshing. And the climactic final plunge never disappoints. I’ve been on almost 950 roller coasters, but I think Splash Mountain is better than all but 20-30 of them. 10 out of 10

 

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It's a game of tug-of-war between the crocodile's teeth and Brer Bear's fat keister. Who will win?

 

The most critical ride to experience before the party was Jungle Cruise. That was the only major attraction closed for the event. Out of curiosity, does anyone know why?

 

We used our second Fastpass to skip a 50 minute wait and it was delightfully corny. The guides absolutely make the experience. It also helps when you can see wonders of the world like the backside of water! 9.5 out of 10

 

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Who needs the backside of water when you have the top side of water?

 

After burning some time in the gift shops, it was time for our third and final Fastpass, Space Mountain. This was another priority before the party started. We were both looking forward to the pitch black Deep Space Mountain at night, but Emily also wanted to experience it in its natural state.

 

There’s no such thing as a bad Space Mountain, but I think Orlando’s reigns supreme. Unlike the others, this one focuses on drops. And there are 4 surprisingly intense drops with some bonafide airtime! 8.5 out of 10

 

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Tron's layout was pretty much complete. That just goes to show how much theming they need to add around it before the 2020 opening.

 

By now, the park had officially closed for regular guests. So we began knocking off the dark rides. We started with Buzz Lightyear. Thanks to my buddy, I now know how to obtain a perfect score.

 

Emily was pissed I beat her, so she wanted a second go. While she scored almost 600,000, it was no match for my 999,999. Knowing where the 100,000 point targets are really helps. 8 out of 10

 

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A perfect score!

 

We then rode the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This was my first time riding a US Pooh ride since experiencing the incredible Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. While the story is basically the same, I really do miss that trackless ride system. 7 out of 10

 

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Remember, gluttony is a sin.

 

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was a posted 45 minute wait, but I suspected it would be much less without Fastpass. And indeed it was. After just 20-25 minutes, we were boarding the back row.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever ridden Seven Dwarfs in the back, but it was wilder than expected. It’s no Big Thunder, but some of the turns had some real yank to them. Plus the charming dark ride segment in the middle never disappoints. 7 out of 10

 

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Sometimes, you just want to appreciate the wind in your ears.

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Ah the magic of night. It's the time of day when my camera can make a family coaster look like it's going 100 mph.

 

After a quick snack at Gaston’s, we walked right onto Under the Sea- Little Mermaid. I always forget just how long this queue line is. I’d hate to have to wait in the entire thing!

 

The Little Mermaid is definitely one of my guilty pleasure rides. I love the soundtrack and it does a fairly good job retelling the story. The only glaring omission is the gratuitously violent death scene for Ursula. 9 out of 10

 

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Emily said this report needed some food porn.

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Ariel has utensils to eat food porn with. But no food porn.

 

We then met up with 805Andrew to experience Deep Space Mountain…or so we thought. Instead, we got something much rarer. We got an elusive lights on ride!

 

You see, the Peoplemover broke down. This meant the work lights came on in Space Mountain’s dome. The end result was a truly terrifying experience. I knew Space Mountain had some tight clearances, but I didn’t realize just how tight some of them were.

 

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Poor Slinky didn't meet the height requirement, but I was able to sneak him on.

 

We then made our way towards the hub to watch Mickey’s Boo-to-You Parade. As you’d expect, the parade was packed! But eventually we found a decent spot that wasn’t obstructed by trees or kids atop their parents’ shoulders.

 

I’m not the biggest parade person, but it was neat seeing some unique characters like all the ghosts from the Haunted Mansion. Plus, the soundtrack is still stuck in my head.

 

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These are some characters you don't see everyday.

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I'm impressed Minnie found a Disney appropriate Halloween costume. It seems like every single girl's costume nowadays is Sexy (Insert Profession).

 

We contemplated riding Pirates of the Caribbean, but we realized we didn’t have enough time before the fireworks. So instead, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and staked out a spot on Main Street.

 

Simply put, Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular was breathtaking. Fireworks alone don’t do much for me, but I am a big fan if they’re paired with dazzling projection mapping technology and music.

 

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Projection mapping makes everything better.

 

We then beat the rush over to Pirates of the Caribbean and walked right on. For Halloween, the ride incorporates live actors. And we were really interested to see how they’d be incorporated. We were slightly disappointed, but that’s probably our fault.

 

I guess I envisioned them running around with the animatronics, but in retrospect, that probably wouldn’t fly with OSHA. Instead, there were 3-4 people on bridges providing some extra narration. While they didn’t add much, Pirates is already a fantastic attraction on its own. 9 out of 10

 

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I felt like Mufasa in the stampede. It seemed like everyone rushed here after the fireworks.

 

We then took a spin on the wildest ride in the wilderness, Big Thunder Mountain. But it wasn’t before Emily caused an uproar in the queue line after she spotted a cockroach. Turns out, Disney does have some scare actors!

 

Per usual, we requested the back and it was great. The laterals on the helices are more powerful than you’d expect and there are some really abrupt pops of airtime. 7.5 out of 10

 

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If I never rode Big Thunder again during the daytime hours, I wouldn't complain.

 

One ride on Splash Mountain simply wasn’t enough, so of course we returned for a night ride. Thankfully no one else wanted to have a Zip-a-dee-doo-dah good time, as it was a complete walk-on.

 

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Raising Slinky up for his christening.

 

We finally got our pitch black Space Mountain ride right before closing. It was difficult navigating across the park after the second parade concluded. Emily was tempted by It’s a Small World, which had been closed all-night until this point, but she chose wisely and picked Space Mountain instead.

 

I knew the main coaster bit would be in complete darkness, but I guess I thought the tunnels and lift would still be illuminated. It was quite eerie being in there with absolutely no lights. But I loved it!

 

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We then finished our night with the Hocus Pocus Spelltacular. This show has multiple showings throughout the night, but the final one is right at park closing. This is unequivocally the best showtime since it’s essentially bonus time.

 

Hocus Pocus was much more involved than expected. I didn’t realize the show included all the other iconic Disney villains or the castle projections. And the “Spell on You” finale was the perfect way to end the night.

 

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The Sanderson sisters aren't afraid of fire. They've survived that once before.

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That's a lot of evil on one stage.

 

We then took our time leaving the park. It gave us a chance to truly appreciate the park’s wonderful atmosphere and get all the photos our hearts desired. And we also ran into Robb, who was doing the same thing.

 

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween was a marvelous event. If nothing else, the reduced wait times alone make it worth it. But then you have all the bonus activities that make it truly special.

 

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Did I also mention Disney had all sorts of cool photo ops throughout the park?

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I always feel like a child walking down Main Street.

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Canobie Lake Park- Screeemfest

 

Best new addition of 2020? Some may say Iron Gwazi. Others may say Orion. But there is no debate. The best addition of 2020 is Canobie Lake Park finally getting season passes!

 

I admittedly may be a *little* biased here.

 

Since the season passes were good for the remainder of 2019 Screeemfest, you can say I frequented the event quite a bit. I think I already got my money’s worth in 2019 alone.

 

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Dreams do come true!

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I saw this dragon quite a bit in 2019.

 

The park definitely attracts large amounts of teenagers. As a result, expect a lot of line jumping. The haunts do offer a $15 skip-the-line pass if you find it getting out-of-hand. Typically, the haunts max out at a 30 minute wait on a busy day.

 

The park’s top haunt by far is Carnivus. The park took the abandoned carnival/circus theme and nailed it perfectly. I love haunts with great sets and atmosphere. Carnivus excels in both these areas and also adds in the obligatory scare actors.

 

Plus you have some unique obstacles. These include a claustrophobia room, vortex tunnel, and mirror maze. Carnivus is the love child of a fun house and a haunt.

 

I visited Hollywood Horror Nights before Screeemfest and I have to say that Carnivus compares favorably to anything there. Carnivus is the only haunt I’d say that about. 9.5 out of 10

 

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This is easily the park's signature haunt.

 

Canobie Lake Hotel is in the same show building as Carnivus and is themed to a decrepit, run down hotel. That’s something I’m unfamiliar with since I only stay at classy establishments like Motel 6.

 

I found the sets very detailed and the scare actors were numerous, but the darkened lighting made it difficult to appreciate some of the finer details. 7 out of 10

 

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Honestly, this hotel looks no different than the Conneaut Lake Hotel.

 

In the past, the Culling has been light on jump scares. Instead, it relies on the creepiness of cult worship taking place in a giant cornfield. I’m happy to say the actors actually try to scare you this year.

 

This haunt has barely any details. Rather it’s all about the jump scares and eerie atmosphere of the cornfield. I found it just ok, but plenty of people were crapping their pants. 6 out of 10

 

Facility 235 is actually attached to the exit of the Culling. It’s sort of weird to transition from a cornfield cult to a nuclear power plant, but I don’t care one bit since it lets me skip another queue.

 

Facility 235 is very short, but it’s easily the loudest of the park’s haunts. The scare actors on this one are quite aggressive and really get up in the faces of guests. 6 out of 10

 

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WTF is that thing?

 

The fifth and final haunt is easily the worst. And that would be the Village. Like the Culling, this one takes place in a cornfield. However, this one is missing a key component of a good haunt, scare actors. There are some, but they don’t appear until the second half of the maze. 4 out of 10

 

The other reason why I hate the Village is because of its location. Canobie puts the Village in Ole Canobie Village. The problem with this is that it closes the midway. I understand there’s a low chance they’d run the flume this time of year, but it’s a shame their dark ride closes for this subpar haunt.

 

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It still baffles me the park closes their "haunted house" for their haunt event.

 

Beyond the haunts, Canobie also had two different live shows. The first was Rocktoberfest, where the park cycles in a bunch of different tribute bands. None of them are great, but none of them are bad either.

 

But I have a major tip for you. Try to ride the Yankee Cannonball during these shows. The ride’s queue is literally across from the stage, so you get some entertainment while you wait.

 

The better of the two shows was Twisted Sideshow. It blended your typical dance show with freak show stunts. The audience in particular loved the sword swallowing.

 

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The dude with the horns was insane and terrifying.

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Some people eat nails for breakfast. Others get them hammered into their face.

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Sparks will fly.

 

Outside of the water rides and Mine of Lost Souls being closed, Canobie typically has everything else operating. Even the Xtreme Frisbee decided to run, which is quite rare for that ride.

 

This was also my first visit since the new-for-2019 Venetian Carousel opened. It looks nice, but it does feel a bit cheap when you ride it. The poles are pretty flimsy and shared between the top and bottom levels. This means if a kid is pole dancing down below, you’re going to feel it. The upper horses are also pretty cramped for adults. 3 out of 10

 

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I'm still confused why the park decided to build a 3rd carousel.

 

Beyond that, I spent most of my visits riding favorites such as the Yankee Cannonball and Turkish Twist. I’ve already shared my opinions on these rides countless times, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

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Screeemfest is one of the best times of the year to visit Canobie. While you do miss out on their great log flume and interesting dark ride, lines are manageable and you can experience Carnivus for yourself.

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Lake Compounce- Haunted Graveyard

 

Haunted Graveyard is the best time of year to visit Lake Compounce. There are three reasons.

 

1) Boulder Dash night rides are legendary and rare in the summer.

2) Their haunt is an hour long (not exaggerating).

3) It’s the cheapest time of year to visit (despite being the best).

 

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Happy Halloween

 

However, I have a confession to make. I never actually did their haunt last year. It feels like a mortal sin saying that, but I’m simply too addicted to Boulder Dash.

 

Usually I end up visiting Haunted Graveyard on Saturday nights. And since Hell will freeze over before they’ll run two trains on Boulder Dash, the ride usually has a 30-45 minute queue*.

 

This year I took a different approach. I visited on the least desirable nights possible. Think a rainy Sunday night or a surprise Friday in November. Now this admittedly was a risk since a park owned by Parques Reunidos could close on a moment’s notice, but I was rewarded with this.

 

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Let the rerides commence!

 

I rode Boulder Dash nonstop for almost 3 hours in both visits. Call me young, but the only pain I was in the next day was my thighs from all the airtime**. Boulder Dash was hauling.

 

What haven’t I said about Boulder Dash? It may be an out-and-back coaster, but the layout is wildly unpredictable due to the mountain setting. You have your traditional bunny hills, mostly on the return run, but you also have several minimally banked turns with some powerful laterals.

 

I think the closest comp for Boulder Dash is Voyage. If you love the Voyage, you’ll love Boulder Dash. Conversely, if you hate the Voyage, you’re going to hate Boulder Dash. And both give two of the wildest and darkest night rides out there. 10 out of 10

 

* Quick aside, but apparently the park did try to run two trains on October 5. However, the blue train valleyed during the test run. At least it’s not the worst mishap they’ve had adding a second train.

 

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No matter how many times I ride Boulder Dash, I'm always excited to ride it.

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Especially when those rides happen at night.

 

** Ok I may have been in a little pain the next day, but that wasn’t Boulder Dash’s fault. That was Wildcat’s fault. The ride was never smooth, but it has somehow gotten worse since they’ve retracked it and added Millennium Flyers. 1 out of 10

 

I’d say it’s the worst wooden coaster I’ve ever ridden, but Parque Warner Madrid’s Coaster Express is in a class of its own.

 

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If you like frights, ride Wildcat. It's one brutal ride.

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Even the park classifies Wildcat as toxic waste.

 

And then on each of my visits, I took a token lap on Phobia. That’s sort of unfair to say that about Phobia, but Phobia is like a burger. Boulder Dash is like a prime rib. Why have a burger when you can have a prime rib?

 

But at least it’s a darn good burger. The airtime on the main ascent and descent is simply incredible, as is the hangtime on the barrel roll. Plus you have a forceful three-part launch. 8 out of 10

 

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RIP Enterprise.

 

Lake Compounce is a charming traditional park. While not all the changes over the past few years have been positive, Boulder Dash is still running like a bat-out-of-hell and the park has a haunt to be proud of. As long as that stays the same, I’ll keep going through the gate.

 

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These fries are a pretty good reason to return as well.

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Six Flags New England- Fright Fest

 

I’m all for anything that keeps amusement parks open past the summer months. Whenever I’ve visited Six Flags for Fright Fest, I’ve never done the haunts. Just the coasters.

 

On this visit, I decided to try something different. I decided to try the haunts. And I’m going to be honest, I was terrified. I was terrified to see just how bad they’d be.

 

Keep in mind, I had low expectations. I wasn’t expecting Hollywood Horror Nights, but if a smaller park like Canobie can pump out decent haunts, surely Six Flags could. I thought that was especially true since they were a $35 upcharge (or free with my membership thankfully).

 

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Oh how naive I was.

 

I started with Midnight Mansion, which is in a downright bizarre location- Houdini’s queue line. The queue line is the ride’s exit. The preshow literally takes place on the ride platform. And then the haunt goes through the queue line. It’s so stupid that it’s sort of comical.

 

The indoor portion looks cheap, but at least there’s no dead spots in terms of theming or scare actors. The problem is the outdoor part. There was nothing. No theming, no scare actors. Just nothing.

 

And at the time, Midnight Mansion was in contention for the worst haunt I had ever done. Little did I know that it would be the park’s second best haunt… 3 out of 10

 

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First Canobie and now Six Flags. Why do New England parks like closing their indoor rides in favor of haunts this time of year?

 

Six Flags New England’s other four haunts are in the Boonies…aka SFNE’s Picnic Grove. You don’t even feel like you’re in the rest of the park when you’re there. It’s like the Bat at Kings Island. You have to travel through the woods, down this steep hill, and over a wooden bridge.

 

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Believe it or not, this ominous looking path starts in the kids area.

 

For me to really appreciate a haunt, I need to be immersed. This was impossible with Nightmares and Slasher Circus 3D. You see, both these haunts take place in a food stand.

 

Nightmares was a nightmare. The scare actors didn’t look like they wanted to be there and it just wasn’t cohesive. The only thing that made me jump was the employee with an air gun at the exit that blasted me in the face. 2 out of 10

 

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Some high quality theming right there.

 

But the crowning achievement of bad haunts was Slasher Circus 3D. You don those cheap paper 3D glasses Blockbuster used to provide with 3D films. I kept waiting for the haunt to use 3D effects, but it never did.

 

All it did was play off-tune instruments really loudly. Oh and there was another employee by the exit with an air gun. Except this one missed us initially, so she ran down the exit path to blast us. WTF? 1 out of 10

 

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Words cannot describe how bad this haunt was.

 

The final two haunts took place in the woods. I was hopeful SFNE could utilize that setting to their advantage.

 

Terror Tales is a long haunt through half-baked fantasy IPs. Honestly, I really liked the concept. There was just one problem. The lack of scare actors. I think I counted three total in a five minute haunt.

 

And one was so bad it was laughable. As you walked into the castle for the Queen of Hearts, there was a dude dressed in drag. That about sums up the Six Flags scare actor experience. 3 out of 10

 

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I think the last time I was in SFNE's Picnic Pavilion was for TPR's Bizarro Bash back in 2011.

 

The final haunt blew me away. Aftermath: Zombie’s Revenge was a perfectly…decent haunt. Not good, but decent. But for Six Flags, that’s a home run.

 

This haunt uses the wooded setting to its advantage. That setting plus cheap, ragtag set-pieces are perfect for a zombie apocalypse. And there were some neat effects too like quicksand (simulated with a hidden trampoline) and a lighted sea.

 

Like Terror Tales, this one’s weakness was the lack of scare actors. Thankfully what few scare actors present scare were actually quite good. Some even chased people outside of the maze! 6 out of 10

 

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That man in the burlap sack was consistently chasing guests out of the haunt.

 

Fright Fest also brings twists to a few attractions. The most notable is the fact that the New England SkyScreamer runs backwards. One of the most underrated benefits of this is the fact that it protects your face from the chilling autumn breeze. 8.5 out of 10

 

However, the SkyScreamer queue took an eternity due to a guest altercation. A guest had apparently placed their glasses on the ride platform and the ride attendant accidentally stepped on them.

 

That guest then did the only logical thing they could think of- call the police. Not security, but 911. They then angrily stood on the ride platform refusing to move. Security eventually came, but it took 20 minutes to sort out.

 

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Traveling in reverse 400 feet in the car is quite intimidating.

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The same could be said about an angry guest that required security to escort her away.

 

But my favorite modification is what they do to the Tea Cups, err I mean Terror Twist. SFNE’s Tea Cups are already ridiculously easy to spin, so when you add in fog and lighting effects, it becomes one of the most dizzying rides on the planet. 10 out of 10

 

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I know this looks like crap from the outside.

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But the Tea Cups overlay is actually awesome.

 

I also got my last rides of the season on Wicked Cyclone and Superman. Unfortunately, I was only able to get one ride on Wicked Cyclone due to one train operations. But my one ride was worth it.

 

Wicked Cyclone may be towards the bottom of my RMC rankings, but it’s still a fast-paced flurry of airtime. And per usual, it was running faster than the summer. This thing loves the cold. 9 out of 10

 

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I have to give SFNE credit that they're usually pretty good about running two trains on the major coasters. And in the rare event they're down to one train, they do usually have a sign like this at the entrance.

 

The undoubted highlight was Superman. Back when it opened, I preferred it in the back row. But something happened during the Bizarro transformation. It started to feel sluggish back there. Because of that, I became a front row rider.

 

But it has been no secret that Superman has been running faster than it has in a long time in 2019. And on this October night, I was reconverted into a back seat rider on the Man of Steel.

 

On this day, even the final bunny hills were giving sustained ejector. Heck, even the little speed hill after the overbank gave a pop of air. That never happens!

 

Superman may never top the Golden Ticket Awards again, but these rides brought me back to my rides in the mid-2000s. Superman made a triumphant return to my top 10 steel list. I’ve long said it has one of the best layouts on earth and when it hauls, it’s a truly special ride. 10 out of 10

 

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Superman was even more super than usual on this night.

 

So in short, come to Fright Fest for the rides not the haunts.

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That whole corner of the country has been daunting me my whole enthusiast life. I need to get out there! Looks really beautiful in the fall, too. Thanks for these reports! We're both doing October trip reports in February

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^ Halloween is a much more exciting time at parks than Valentine's Day!

 

I'm really lucky to have the New England parks up my way since they're relatively close to each other and each one has their strength. SFNE for thrill rides, Canobie for charm, Story Land and Santa's Village for cuteness, Lake Compounce for Halloween, and Funtown/Palace Playland if I want a good lobster roll and ride roller coasters while I'm there.

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Dollywood- Smoky Mountain Coasterfest

 

Smoky Mountain Christmas is an amazing time to visit Dollywood. It’s especially amazing if it’s during Smoky Mountain Coasterfest, an event through ACE that is the best time of year to get night rides on the world’s best coaster.

 

Lightning Rod played hard to get with me, but once I finally rode it, I was addicted. It immediately became my number one coaster. And after an additional 40 rides on this masterpiece in the span of 28 hours, it only separated itself further from the pack.

 

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Santa- "What do you want for Christmas?"

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Me- "An empty station on Lightning Rod."

 

Lightning Rod is perfection from start of finish. There isn’t a single moment of dead track. Just look at these elements.

 

- Surprisingly forceful launch

- Ejector pop 200+ feet in the air

- Big drop that’s as good as any other RMC drop

- Gargantuan wave turn with 3-4 seconds of sustained, sideways airtime

- WTF turnaround with 3-4 seconds of sustained, sideways airtime

- Off-axis airtime hill with powerful ejector airtime

- A rare straight hill with even more powerful ejector airtime

- The legendary quad down with even more powerful ejector airtime

- A speed hill that makes the quad down feel like a quint down

- A half loop that has (you guessed it) strong airtime

 

When the worst part of a ride is an ejector pop almost 200+ feet in the air, you know a ride is unbelievable. And this all takes place on a heavily wooded mountain at what feels like 100 mph.

 

Even better is the fact that most of my rides occurred at night. Beast fans will be triggered, but Lightning Rod is easily the world’s best night ride. The entire back section is pitch black and when you finally emerge from the darkness, you rocket down the quad down with dazzling Christmas lights before you. It’s magical.

 

Part of the event included free cinnamon bread, but I couldn’t pull myself away from Lightning Rod. The coaster is that good. I’m breaking my rating system for this one because Lightning Rod deserves it. 12 out of 10

 

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I'm still not used to seeing the door open.

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What a beautiful sky...and an even more beautiful ride.

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Even at the end of the ride, Lightning Rod is still hauling.

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Funny story about this photo. I accidentally took a wrong turn on the way to Dollywood and ended up in some apartment community...which just happened to have some sweet views of Lightning Rod.

 

Not only did I ride Lightning Rod an unhealthy amount of times in normal park hours and an energetic ERT session, but the event also included a rare photo walkback for the coaster.

 

Even during the walkback tour, Lightning Rod was harder to photograph than Bigfoot. Part of the reason why Lightning Rod is such a great night ride is exactly why it’s a royal pain to photograph. It's all tucked away in that valley. But I did get some nice shots of the elusive first second drop.

 

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Good luck getting these shots on a regular day.

 

We actually had ERT on two coasters. And because of the plunging evening temperatures and Lightning Rod’s history, I figured if one ERT session were to have a hiccup, it would have been that one. In fact, Lightning Rod only went down once over two days. And even that was just for a protein spill.

 

So what ride crapped the bed for our ERT session? Blazing Fury.

 

Some riders even had to be evacuated. And honestly, I think that was the highlight of their day. But it did reopen later in the day and I got my ride. As a coaster, it’s nothing special outside of one surprising pop of air. As a dark ride, it’s a nice, retro attraction. 7 out of 10

 

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If you told me this ride would have more downtime than Lightning Rod, I wouldn't have believed you.

 

Another big reason for my return visit was to finally experience Wildwood Grove. In my March visit, I saw the new area sitting idle from atop Thunderhead. This time, I finally got to explore the area.

 

Wildwood Grove is an excellent family area. Almost every ride there can be experienced by parents and kids simultaneously. And the tree that’s the centerpiece of the area looks stunning at night.

 

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This so perfectly Dollywood.

 

The one attraction I did experience was Dragonflier. If you told me a decade ago that Vekoma could produce an inverted coaster this smooth, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s glass smooth.

 

Dragonflier is a family coaster with bite. That overbank is a borderline inversion and pulls some serious Gs. I can’t believe that element is on a family ride. Then the helices came close to making my legs tingle. 6.5 out of 10

 

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Dragonflier is 90% family coaster.

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And the other 10% is this completely awesome and out-of-place pseudo inversion.

 

Usually I go back and forth whether or not Tennessee Tornado or Wild Eagle is the second best ride in the park. Thunderhead ended that debate. These were the fastest rides I’ve ever gotten on Thunderhead.

 

While it had a bit of a shuffle to it, the airtime was fantastic. The drawn out hills had some nice sustained floater airtime and the turnarounds (big and small) had powerful pops of ejector air. 8 out of 10

 

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I don't remember Thunderhead ever running this well.

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Wildwood Grove offers some new shots of Thunderhead.

 

Tennessee Tornado is a big “What If” for me. What if Arrow hadn’t gone bankrupt shortly after this ride was built? Because Tennessee Tornado is a wild and immaculately smooth ride.

 

That drop through the mountain is incredible. Getting sustained airtime like that in complete darkness is dreamlike. And then you have a floaty first inversion and forceful second and third inversions. 8 out of 10

 

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Dollywood definitely doesn't skimp on the lights.

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It's weird actually being able to see the loop.

 

Wild Eagle is still one of the weirder wing coasters if you ask me. In many ways, it feels like your usual B&M floorless layout just with wing coaster trains. And that isn’t a bad thing if you ask me.

 

I love the straight first drop. It feels more like a drop on a hyper coaster. It’s a shame B&M doesn’t have more of these on loopers. And then the rest of the ride is quite scenic and floaty. 8 out of 10

 

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Fly like an eagle. Or if you're an enthusiast, whine about the vest restraints and forcelessness.

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Another shot courtesy of the Lightning Rod walkback.

 

After the mine was closed in my March visit, I made sure to take a ride on Mystery Mine. While I love the drops and theming, it really is an awkwardly paced coaster. 7.5 out of 10

 

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This is the prettiest looking mine I've ever seen.

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I love the ending...and am confused by the start.

 

While Dragonflier helped take the burden off Firechaser Express, I’d still argue the latter is the park’s premier family coaster. It’s really impressive how many pops (albeit very, very tiny pops) of airtime this ride has. And then it mixes in multiple launches, some laterals, and even a backwards bit. It really is a jack-of-all trades. 7 out of 10

 

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I just wish something like this existed when I was a kid.

 

The only non-coaster I rode was Drop Line, which is a seriously underrated drop tower if you ask me. I think everyone agrees the view is amazing, but I find the drop as good as an Intamin tower. 9 out of 10

 

Plus Drop Line is an absolute tank and will only close if Hell freezes over.

 

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Drop Line takes you way above Wildwood Grove.

 

With each visit to Dollywood, I love it more and more. It goes without saying I’d love the park that is home to my favorite roller coaster, but Dollywood is so much more than just Lightning Rod.

 

It has a boatload of other high-quality attractions, well-produced shows, great theming, friendly employees, yummy food, and I could just keep going on and on. What I’m trying to say is that Dollywood is one of the best parks in the world.

 

And going during Smoky Mountain Coasterfest and making some new friends was just icing on the cake.

 

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Goodbye from Dollywood

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Big smile on my face reading that entire report and seeing the photos. Dollywood at the holidays might honestly be my favorite place on Earth, even more so than Knoebels in autumn. Fantastic park with a fantastic set of rides. Lightning Rod might not be my number one, but I agree that night rides on it are breathtaking. The kiddo and I got a front row ride at closing the last time we visited with only one other person on the train at the time, and it was a life-changing experience, being hauled like a bat out of hell through those backwoods and feeling completely out of control.

 

I love it so much. <3

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Some pretty fantastic photos here! Dollywood has got it all. They've done so much since my last visit 5+ years ago and it's great to hear all of the coasters are still holding up well.

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If anyone else was wondering what magical time of the year he was talking about, the Fest event was Nov. 16. So, I was probably correct that I didn't miss an equally good time by not going in late December. Maybe this year.

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Fantastic review (and photos) of Lightning Rod. I was lucky to get on this several times after travelling half way across the world. I thought it was daring of Dollywood to create something so extreme, but it fits in brilliantly with their top-notch line-ups of attractions.

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Big smile on my face reading that entire report and seeing the photos. Dollywood at the holidays might honestly be my favorite place on Earth, even more so than Knoebels in autumn. Fantastic park with a fantastic set of rides. Lightning Rod might not be my number one, but I agree that night rides on it are breathtaking. The kiddo and I got a front row ride at closing the last time we visited with only one other person on the train at the time, and it was a life-changing experience, being hauled like a bat out of hell through those backwoods and feeling completely out of control.

 

I love it so much. <3

 

The fact that Lightning Rod exists at such a well-rounded, top notch park like Dollywood makes it even better. There isn't a bad time to visit Dollywood, but it's even better at Christmas.

 

Some pretty fantastic photos here! Dollywood has got it all. They've done so much since my last visit 5+ years ago and it's great to hear all of the coasters are still holding up well.

 

Thanks! And more is likely on the way since they still have a huge plot of cleared land by Wildwood Grove.

 

If anyone else was wondering what magical time of the year he was talking about, the Fest event was Nov. 16. So, I was probably correct that I didn't miss an equally good time by not going in late December. Maybe this year.

 

I certainly wasn't complaining that Smoky Mountain Christmas started before Thanksgiving. I figured temperature related closures would have been less likely early in the season.

 

Fantastic review (and photos) of Lightning Rod. I was lucky to get on this several times after travelling half way across the world. I thought it was daring of Dollywood to create something so extreme, but it fits in brilliantly with their top-notch line-ups of attractions.

 

It took me several tries to finally get on Lightning Rod, but it was a game changer for Dollywood's line-up.

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Pigeon Forge Fun

 

One of my goals this trip was to knockout some new coaster credits in Pigeon Forge. So I began with the Island at Pigeon Forge, a vibrant and energetic shopping center along the strip.

 

This complex is home to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel that can be seen for miles away. That would have been a totally respectable reason to justify my visit. But you know me better. I was there for the Spinning Parrots kiddie coaster.

 

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Welcome to the Island.

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Dick would make for a good Scrooge in the Christmas Carol.

 

As I’ve ridden more and more of these SBF Visa spinning coasters, I’ve started to like them less and less. It’s probably because they’re everywhere now. But at least they’re comfortable. 2 out of 10

 

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Most are drawn to the Island by the Ferris Wheel. I was drawn by this dinky little coaster.

 

What I did really enjoy was Reverse Time, this innocent looking junior Trabant/wipeout. I hadn’t seen one that small, so I wanted the new flat ride credit. And let me tell you, this ride does not mess around.

 

Once it reaches its max height of 15ish feet, you get some surprising floater air more akin to what you’d get on a frisbee ride. Combine that with laterals and you have a bonafide, little thrill machine. 8 out of 10

 

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I kid you not, this ride had some serious airtime.

 

I then continued down the parkway to Rowdy Bear Ridge, which was home to one of the most bizarre coasters I’ve ever seen, the Alpine Flyer. Really it’s more like a shooting dark ride with two key distinctions. One, it’s gravity powered. Two, it’s not a dark ride.

 

You see, this ride is entirely outdoors. So you’re given this laser gun to shoot these unthemed targets. The most bizarre thing is that not all the targets are actually targets. WTF? Only like a third of them have a sensor for you to hit.

 

I think the ride system could work if it were themed and indoors. But as it stands, the Alpine Flyer is basically a slow, suspended wild mouse with no drops and a cheap shooting gimmick. 2 out of 10

 

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Cool concept on paper.

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But the execution felt cheap and flawed.

 

It was then time to finally experience the Jurassic Jungle Boat. There was no way Emily would let me burn money at this train-wreck in past visits, so I took advantage of this solo visit. Most girlfriends have to worry about their boyfriend going to strip clubs when they’re unsupervised. Mine has to worry about me riding kiddie credits and crappy dark rides.

 

I want to start by talking about the ride system. Even though you’re in a boat and a trough filled with water, you are pulled through the layout by a chain. This is especially comical as you struggle to turn a corner. It’s like watching someone move a sofa into an apartment.

 

As expected the animatronics were delightfully awful. They looked worse than Howard the Duck. They were bad on their own, but the fact the ride didn’t even try to hide the hardware made it even funnier. But the funniest thing was how the dinosaurs had banshee-like shrieks instead of roars.

 

Jurassic Jungle Boat was objectively awful. While I certainly chuckled, I can’t justify giving this place any more of my money. But you totally should since it’s a crowning achievement of fail. 2 out of 10

 

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My life is now complete.

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How did these wax figures beat me into line?!?

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The animatronics were all downhill from here.

 

And it wouldn’t be a visit to Pigeon Forge without riding an alpine coaster, so I made sure to ride my favorite one, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster (SMAC). I’ve ridden this one a few times, but I’ve never done it at night.

 

Unlike the one at Goats on the Roof which is in complete darkness, SMAC is adorned with more rainbow colored lights than a pride parade. It feels like you’re experiencing a real-life version of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road.

 

But unlike how I drive in Mario Kart, SMAC had quite a bit of autobraking- more than I remember in the past. That being said, it’s still an incredibly long ride with some decent laterals and maybe a pop of air along the way. 7 out of 10

 

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As cool as the lights looked, I sort of wish it was in complete darkness like the one at Goats.

 

One of the attractions I was most looking forward to was the Mountain Monster. It was home to a thrill tower from Soarin’ Eagle. It’s very similar to the one at Foxwoods up in my neck of the woods or Branson’s Bigfoot Tower. Except this one had a third attraction- this pseudo skycoaster thing.

 

It’s actually the same ride system as the TerrorDactyl ride in Colorado that is a staple in viral videos. However, it wasn’t to be. The Mountain Monster had closed for the season.

 

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This was the lone attraction I saw closed for the season.

 

So I ate my sorrows away at Mama’s Farmhouse. If you love southern food and lots of it, you need to make Mama’s Farmhouse a priority the next time you’re in pigeon forge. It’s all-you-can-eat and unlike Old Country Buffet or Golden Corral, the food is actually amazing.

 

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Fried chicken, fried catfish, biscuits, and gravy. I love the south.

 

While the anchor of any Pigeon Forge visit will always be Dollywood, I will always make time for these overpriced tourist traps. It’s our civic duty as Americans.

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^ First, that foodplate looks great!

 

Second, that Jurassic Boat Ride kinda looked like several ...um... dark rides I remember riding in Japan.

Nothing wrong with that. A few of them in China, too.

 

Third, that Junior Trabant/WipeOut looks like it'd perfect for our park, Playland(PNE). We already have a

Mini-Spinner coaster here (called 'Bug Whirled') which is fun for kids and the adults, too. This would be a

great addition.

 

Great TR of Pigeon Forge! So much stuff there, I had no idea. Looking forward to more of your adventures!

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^ Mama's is one of the main reasons I haven't had as much of Dollywood's food as other people, but I have no regrets.

 

I'm guessing the haunted houses you're thinking of didn't cost $15-16 though.

 

The only issue with Reverse Time is that it has a limited capacity. SBF has a larger model I've ridden at Quassy, but I oddly thought the smaller one was better. The smaller one has airtime while the larger one focuses on laterals.

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Thanks for posting your trip and notes. My husband and I will be going to Dollywood in June, and we're super excited. The scenery looks amazing as I'm sure the coasters are too!

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Gatlinburg Fun

 

Whenever I visit the Smoky Mountains, I always try to stay in Gatlinburg. Not only is Gatlinburg a charming and walkable town littered with tourist traps, but it saves me the frustration of trying to find parking.

 

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Gatlinburg is a really nice town to walk around. You have Christmas trees.

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Pumpkin men.

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And a wood carved dachshund sign paying tribute to the passionate love between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

 

My day began with a trip to the Pancake Pantry, a restaurant that has always had a prohibitively long line in past visits. This time I was going to visit this breakfast establishment through Hell or high water, so I set my alarm for 6:30 am and was the first guest there.

 

And per Murphy’s Law, this was of course the one day that this restaurant never developed any sort of wait. However, I don’t care one bit because the pancakes were delicious.

 

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Gatlinburg takes Christmas very seriously.

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Yummy!

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And since I was still hungry, I paid the Donut Friar a visit.

 

After walking around town for a bit, the attractions started to open and I began my day with Ankeesta. This is one of Gatlinburg’s newest attractions and it’s home to the area’s best mountain coaster.

 

However, Rail Runner is a bit of a time-consuming and expensive credit. Rail Runner costs $12-13 per ride and that doesn’t include the $25 ticket required to reach Anakeesta’s summit. I personally don’t mind the scenic 20 minute ride up-and-down the mountain, but it is a bit of a time commitment.

 

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Protip- buy your ticket online.

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If only a park in Connecticut had a sky ride on a mountain...

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The views from the summit are incredible.

 

It’s also entirely possible Rail Runner could have a sizable queue if you arrive later in the day. Rail Runner starts at the highest point and unlike most mountain coasters that dispatch riders with the smallest interval possible, Rail Runner doesn’t dispatch the next car until the prior rider has hit the brakes.

 

While this is awesome for people (such as myself that like to go full tilt), it creates one heck of a line. But I’d almost say this mountain coaster is worth even a sizable queue because of how aggressive it is.

 

The laterals on this thing are insane. Most mountain coasters at least have minimal banking on their turns. This one has no banking. You will literally fold over sideways on some of these turns. I personally love it, but it’s not for everyone. 8.5 out of 10

 

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The descent is steep and unbanked.

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Did I mention the views at Anakeesta were incredible?

 

One experience that never has a wait is Earthquake the Ride. Do not be fooled by the wax figures in the queue line. That’s just a sign a ride is going to be spectacularly awful.

 

As you wait for the employee to finally get off their phone and open the door, an audio recording hypes you up promising a “real train” and “real effects”. You’re also informed this ride earned four stars according to some magazine or website I’ve never heard of.

 

But you know what? I agree with that. This ride does deserve 4 stars. 4 stars out of 10. It’s a dated simulator with the most random effects possible, but it’s so bad it’s funny. 4 out of 10

 

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Now open!

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How do these wax figures keep beating me into line?!?

 

Rowdy Bear Mountain is home to the worst mountain coaster I’ve ever ridden, but they are home to the unique Mountain Glider. In my spring visit, I took a lap on the left side. So this time I wanted to try the right side.

 

But this was one of the hardest credits ever for me to get. My weight was an issue.

 

Now I'm about 160 lbs, so it wasn't because I was too heavy. In fact it was the other problem; the operator was worried I'd travel too slowly and find the ride boring. I assured him I was a dirty credit whore (just kidding, I said I wanted time to enjoy the view) and he didn’t have a problem.

 

I have to say, I think the right side was running wilder than the left side. The brakes on this side slowed me down a lot less (maybe because of the concern of it stalling). This made a few of the turns towards the end have some nice swinging. 6 out of 10

 

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I think I was the only one who wanted to ride this.

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The mountain coaster seemed more popular among guests.

 

After an evening at Dollywood, I returned to Pigeon Forge to try a haunt that I’ve heard nothing but positives about in Mysterious Mansion. And I have to say, this is everything I could have wanted from a haunt.

 

For one, the atmosphere was top notch. The house was decked out with theming and it reminded me of those creepy houses from the old Scooby Doo cartoons.

 

Second, the scare actors were amazing. I think there were only 2-3 total, but they run throughout the house and are much less predictable than scares in the other haunts I’ve done.

 

Last but not least, this one isn’t a straight forward haunt like others. This one is also a maze with all sorts of dead ends and hidden pathways. This really heightened the sense that you were trapped in a haunted house. This is what set Mysterious Mansion over the edge. 10 out of 10

 

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Now this is how you do a haunt!

 

Just for comparison, I decided to try Ripley’s Haunted Adventure immediately afterwards. And it was also quite good, but for an entirely different reason.

 

This one had barely any live scare actors. There were maybe only 3-4 spots in the 10-15 minute attraction with a live actor. However, it more than makes up for it with all the gigantic animatronic jump scares.

 

The finale in particular stood-out and made me jump twice. I won’t spoil the ending, but it really is fantastic and it’s so well done that it would fit in perfectly at Hollywood Horror Nights.

 

This haunt also had all sorts of fun-house effects too like a vortex tunnel and shifting floorboards. From a hardware standpoint, Ripley’s is better than Mysterious Mansion. But I don’t like it quite as much due to the lack of live scares and linear path. 9 out of 10

 

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Not quite Mysterious Mansion, but this was impressive too.

 

One other thing I did was visit the Red Rocket Retro Arcade, which is a bit of a deceptive name. This place is decked out with all sorts of newer arcade games; however, I still loved it because it had like 10-12 different pinball machines.

 

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I wouldn't call this retro, but I would call it fun.

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^ man.. now you're just torturing me, since the Spouse doesn't want to make the drive to Dollywood/Gatlinburg for our vacation this year.

 

sigh

 

 

at least we're gonna go to Charlotte / Carowinds for a few days

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