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Dollywood Discussion Thread

P. 771: Onsite employee housing under construction at Dollywood

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Trip report from last Saturday through Monday.

My review of the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, including Dollywood

 

My wife and I got into the area on Saturday early afternoon. We went straight to white water rafting. It was a fun short hour and a half trip through mostly class 3's and a few class 4 rapids. This was my first time white water rafting and it was a blast! I was hoping it would be more of a workout, but it was really tourist friendly.

 

We got to our cabin after that, which was located about ten minutes out of Pigeon Forge. WOW! We're usually resort snobs (Hyatt, Westin, etc), but this place was amazing. Our cabin was really clean and secluded. Our cabin had a hot tub on the deck, a pool table, kitchen, and everything you could need. The only thing we didn't like is that there wasn't a gym nearby and no good places to go running. We need our daily endorphin release...

 

Gatlinburg: We spent our first night moon shine tasting and we had dinner at the Smokey Mountain Brewery. This was a great time. Our perspective was a little blinded by the moonshine on the first night. When we went back the next day, we realized how crowded the strip was with tourist traps, foreigner run souvenir shops, and chain restaurants. That coupled with the most amount of smokers we've seen in one place in a long time and people who don't know how to walk without obstructing traffic, we stayed away as much as possible. After that, most of our time in Gatlinburg was spent in the National Park area, aside from another return trip for Moonshine and the brewery.

 

Pigeon Forge: Just no, unless you love tourist traps and overrated restaurants. No offense to anyone, but it almost reminded us of a redneck Vegas strip or just a very large carnival. Similar to driving the strip on Gatlinburg, you couldn't get out of there without breathing in a ton of exhaust fumes. We were given the advice to stay away from the Pigeon Forge strip and we tried to keep to that, which turned out well.

 

Dollywood: I have mixed opinions on this park. We went on Monday and I was expecting staff friendliness comparable to Holiday Word. Instead, we got cold rude staff, with the exception of only a few. Southern Hospitality?? The park was nice, but it was no Silver Dollar City. We couldn't put our finger on it, but for some reason we just didn't care for the park that much. I hit all of my credits and I could tell my not-so-roller-coaster-enthusiast wife was having a miserable time. We left at about 130 and went and ate lunch in the National Park by the river. We waded around in the creek for a while, soaked up some sun, and relaxed. After that, we went back for some more moonshine tasting... another made another carb loading trip to the Brewery for some good beer and pizza... At 7 o'clock it was time to give the park another try! We may or may not have shared some Moonshine in the parking lot, since the park doesn't sell alcohol. The park at night was much better. I really liked the lighting package on Wild Eagle and my wife was tipsy enough to actually want to do water rides... Overall, we ended up having a decent time, despite our rocky start. We topped it off with a firework ride on the front row of Wild Eagle. We agreed the park was 'OK' in our eyes and we would probably come back if we were already staying in the area. Keep in mind I'm not really big into the Western themed parks and we usually have the best times at Cedar Fair parks. Another thing I'll have to comment on is the fact that the park was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be, but it was still decent.

 

My thoughts on the roller coasters:

 

My rating system:

One star: good for the credit, not for the re ride.

Two Stars: fun rides, mostly good for a ride or two

Three stars: My re rides, marathoners, what I usually like to spend my time on repeatedly:

 

Blazing Fury ( * ): This was a fun credit. I like old rides like this. We only rode this once.

 

Fire Chaser ( ** ): The coaster was fun and more intense than I thought it would be. My wife didn't know about the backwards launch, so it was fun watching her being caught by surprise. It still rates as a family coaster for me and that's where I'll leave it. We rode it first and only once.

 

Mystery Mine ( ** ): It was a little painful, but it was fun. I liked the scenery and it packed more punch that I would have thought. One ride. We would have probably ridden it again, but it wasn't worth waiting 20-30 minutes.

 

Tennessee Tornado ( ** ): Definitely Arrow's best work, but it didn't do much for me. My wife went into it hating it.. so she left hating it, which is why I only got one ride.

 

Thunderhead ( *** ): I really enjoyed this ride. It was rougher than most GCI's, probably due to age, but smooth enough for rerides. Although it probably is the best GCI I've ever ridden, it didn't stand out as the best GCI I've ever ridden like I thought it would. If all else fails, it's a great looking coaster.

 

Wild Eagle ( ***): This was our favorite and our second wing rider. I was really surprised by the punch it packed, since I was expecting a slower smoother ride, but still fun, like X-Flight. We finished our day at the park with our fifth and final ride during the fireworks in the front row.

 

Honorable Mention: Sidewinder was a great ride. I've never been on anything like it and we really enjoyed it. The flume was OK and we rode our first ever, and probably last ever, splash battle (thanks moonshine...). It was fun, but I'll wait until we have kids to ride anymore...

 

Here are a few pictures we took of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Dollywood:

 

Getting ready to wake up from our 8 hour drive with white water rafting

 

Our Cabin

 

 

Moonshine tasting

 

Dangerous stuff

 

After... moonshine tasting...

 

Enjoying Gatlinburg

 

More downtown Gatlinburg at Smokey Mt. Brewery

 

Kade's Cove in the national park

 

Trying to enjoy some nature

 

 

The building looked really neat

 

Not really feeling it at this point

 

Love them or hate them, I love it when you have a B&M towering over you throughout the park

 

Wild Eagle

 

meh Chaser Express

 

 

The backward launch was more fun than I thought it would be.

 

Ready to leave for a while..

 

Thunderhead looks really good.

 

A little break from the park we weren't digging at that time.

 

Having much more fun. Moonshine makes everything better.

 

Having fun

 

Wild Eagle looked really nice at night.

 

My wife was getting really annoyed with me nerding out with the camera.

 

Super cool

 

The verdict: Not bad! (but a far cry from our favorite park)

 

Bye Dollywood! I'm sure we'll see you the next time we get the urge for white water rafting and moonshine tasting!

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We went on Monday and I was expecting staff friendliness comparable to Holiday Word. Instead, we got cold rude staff, with the exception of only a few. Southern Hospitality??

 

You must of had some random bad luck here because normally Dollywood has one of the friendliest staff of any park in the country.

 

And good choice on Smoky Mountain Brewery, love their beer selection!

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The staff really surprised me. I really tried to be friendly expecting the same in return, but I got nothing! We did have a few good encounters, but I think we just got unlucky with the bad apples.

 

Our favorite encounter with a good staff member was with a middle aged woman loading the eagle. She jokingly said "Yall have been having some fun... I can smell it!" I told her we'd been moonshine sampling and she said "Of course you have, this is Tennessee! And I'm jealous, too!"

 

We laughed about that one for a while. We didn't know how she was going to respond after her first accusation, since the park doesn't serve alcohol, lol.

 

Another thing I forgot to mention which seemed odd to me is how all of the coasters were on one side of the park.

 

 

We went on Monday and I was expecting staff friendliness comparable to Holiday Word. Instead, we got cold rude staff, with the exception of only a few. Southern Hospitality??

 

You must of had some random bad luck here because normally Dollywood has one of the friendliest staff of any park in the country.

 

And good choice on Smoky Mountain Brewery, love their beer selection!

 

The had one of the best IPA's I've ever had. The brewery was great. The pizza was excellent. Yelp steered us in the right direction again!

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My problem with Dollywood staff is that they do sometimes come off as unfriendly. I have noticed this for a while BUT I believe I have this feeling, not really because they are unfriendly, but because they are an older staff that's not nearly as upbeat and positive as staffs like sfog. Sfog I used to hate but now they are one of my favorites. Their staff might not be as friendly but IMO they come off friendlier BC they are very very excited and upbeat.

 

Dollywood staff isn't rude by any means, except I have ran into an old grouch a few times but normally they are fine. Just not nearly as upbeat and fun as younger staffs.

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Wow! All this talk of rude, unpleasant Dollywood employees. Has the world ended and I wasn't raptured? This is unheard of. In the 7 years that I have had a season pass, I have never run across any employee that has been anything less than sweet and personable. Now granted, it wouldn't shock me if most of the employees are just thankful and happy that they've woken up in the first place. I mean seriously, if you had 9 toes in the grave, you'd have a more joyous outlook on every day you're alive. Cause you know, it's better than the alternative.

 

Is it just me, or did this post get rather grim?

 

Anyhoo!

 

What I was trying to say is that I have never had a bad experience, or felt that anyone had been anything less than welcoming and nice. Me n' tha fam love Dollywood. And we will continue to get our season passes as long as they'll have us.

 

Guy "Thank you for riding Firechaser Express. Ya'll go out there and have a ding dang digitty dog day here at Dollywood. And remember, be sure to try the cinnamon loaf over yonder at the Grist Mill. It is deeeee-licious! And each loaf is sealed with a kiss from the Baby Jesus himself. Ya'll come back and see us real soon." Koepp

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On the subject of staff, I wonder if DW is experiencing some of the same "modern age" pains that SDC is going through. It used to be common for SDC to have a plethora of staff who had been at the park for 10, 20+ years. They still have quite a few, but more and more are being switched out for young, cheap, moved-in-from-out-of-state workers. I mean, it's not a "problem" but it is a change. The older, quirkier, friendly staff who used to be a bigger deal when the parks were small are now kind of getting lost in all the modern corporatism and expansion of HFEC. I hear a lot of stories...

 

I have a feeling you just ran into a few bad eggs on a bad day though. Or they simply came off differently to you than they meant. I've seen lots of that too where yankees from the north simply won't get what some of the SDC employees mean when they are kidding with them.

 

Overall though, HFEC still does a good job with their employees from a large theme park chain standpoint. They still outperform CF and SF parks bar-none in my book.

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I have to chime in here: Dollywood (and SDC) to me has always exemplified what I feel Customer Service as well as overall experience at a theme park should be, and after just one weekend at Dollywood a few years ago, they quickly became my new favorite theme park that truly understands creating an overall experience accessible to all members of the family, from people who don't do rides at all to thrillseekers (Thunderhead is in my top 5 wood coasters, and Wild Eagle in my top 5 steel). The rides are all great, the way the staff truly seems to care and go above and beyond really sets it apart, the food is above average, and the attention to detail is wonderful.

 

If you had a bad experience-I would chalk it up to one bad day as I have never had one at the park. SFOG is my home park, only a couple of hours from me, whereas Dollywood is a little over 4 hours away-yet I have found over the past few years I enjoy Dollywood more. I get the Gold Pass every year and have been doing so since 2012, and plan to again next year.

 

Although I get both the SF Season Pass and the Dollywood pass each year, my visits to SFOG are hit and miss...but the Dollywood ones are always great. I think they knocked it out of the park as far as a family coaster with Firechaser, excited to see Dream More open, and hopeful that they have their own Outlaw Run on the way in the coming years!

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Guys, maybe I just made it sound worse than it was. We didn't experience any staff that were overly rude, but just an abundance of staff who were extremely cold. Like "I hate my job" cold. I expected something more like Holiday World, after reading all of the reviews.

 

We still had fun at the park, but I really wish they would serve alcohol. Maybe just a few local TN craft beers. I'm no alcoholic, but my wife and I really enjoy having a few beers at a park during the back half of the day. It makes my wife, who really doesn't care much for parks like I do, lighten up a little. I know DW is a family park, but I've rarely encountered people who are obnoxiously drunk at other parks that do serve alcohol. I'm good at spotting drunken problem situations in public, since I do it for a living, and I've yet to see that at a park.

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How stingy are they on the rain, particularly for FireChaser? I've had a few close calls with rain at Dollywood but nothing shut the rides down on me. What do they do if it rains?

 

Though two years ago, we rolled in during a storm. After it passed we went to the park and I got my first Wild Eagle ride as the rain was evaporatin off the mountains, it was gorgeous.

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It isn't the fact they they hate their jobs. Dollywood is approaching the end of their Great American Summer festival and hosts are scheduled for 7 weeks from 9:00am-10:30pm which of course they are not going to be used to when the park usually closes at 7pm the weeks before the festival. The hosts at Dollywood all love their jobs from what I have known, they are just getting run down and exhausted from being out in the heat for 13 hours a day back to back!

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How stingy are they on the rain, particularly for FireChaser? I've had a few close calls with rain at Dollywood but nothing shut the rides down on me. What do they do if it rains?

 

Though two years ago, we rolled in during a storm. After it passed we went to the park and I got my first Wild Eagle ride as the rain was evaporatin off the mountains, it was gorgeous.

It rained the last time it was there. They will close the rides if there is thunder in the area, and will reopen them once the rain has stopped. At least, that was the case for me. I have yet to ride their coasters in the rain, as they always close down in the rain!

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How stingy are they on the rain, particularly for FireChaser? I've had a few close calls with rain at Dollywood but nothing shut the rides down on me. What do they do if it rains?

 

It rained a couple times when we were there and nothing got shut down. There was a steady light rain when we rode Fire Chaser and the staff didn't seem to be concerned with it at all.

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How stingy are they on the rain, particularly for FireChaser? I've had a few close calls with rain at Dollywood but nothing shut the rides down on me. What do they do if it rains?

 

It rained the last time it was there. They will close the rides if there is thunder in the area,

 

^This. If there is lightning within a certain radius of the park (10 miles I think?) then they will shut down the outdoor attractions. Otherwise, they are very lenient with keeping the rides open during rainy conditions. Basically, as long as there isn't a significant storm in the area with either lightning or heavy rains, the rides will stay open.

Edited by ernierocker
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Dollywood rides close for lightning when it is within a 10 mile radius and still operate in the rain. Now if the rides start having issues due to the rain such as FCE then that would be the only time they would close.

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blazing fury will stay open when every other ride in the park closes. But be warned- that line WILL be long if it is the only ride open. you'd be better off staying in line for a coaster, as many people will leave the line, making your weight shorter.

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blazing fury will stay open when every other ride in the park closes. But be warned- that line WILL be long if it is the only ride open. you'd be better off staying in line for a coaster, as many people will leave the line, making your weight shorter.

 

 

When I was there on June 21st, Blazing Fury went down, then 10 minutes later, the whole park went down because of thunderstorms.. Talk about crappy luck.

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The flat rides usually stay open longer than the coasters during storms. Thunderhead is usually open a few minutes longer than the metal coasters.

 

But usually storms come in fast so everything shuts down close to the same time but if the storm is missing Dollywood don't be surprised if the coasters are closed and the flats are open. Once the storm is close all rides will close except for blazing fury. When it storms ask the host their policy. Most will tell you the same thing.

 

As for rain, I have been on thunderhead while it was pouring!

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