Silver Dollar City
I don’t even know how to begin with Silver Dollar City except for saying it may be my new favorite park. As a big fan of Dollywood, I expected a similarly awesome park. It was apparent Silver Dollar City and Dollywood were owned by the same company. But my takeaway was that Silver Dollar City takes everything Dollywood does well and in many cases exceeds that already high bar.
After procrastinating around on the Branson strip, I finally decided to venture to Silver Dollar City to take advantage of the preview on my one day ticket. As I approached the parking lot, I scrambled to find a parking pass. I must have bought one. I always do. I kept looking but couldn’t find it. Then I found out why- free parking. This has to be one of the largest parks with free parking and I applaud them for it.
Since I’d have an unlimited Trailblazer the next day, my priority on my preview night was any attraction not covered on the Trailblazer (i.e. Flooded Mine) or restricted (i.e. Time Traveler). Anticipating a long wait at their newest attraction, my original plan was to hit Time Traveler at the end. However, it was only posting a 20 minute wait so I immediately made that my first stop.
The presentation of the coaster is outstanding. The oversized sign dominates the entry plaza and is absolutely mesmerizing. Thankfully I didn’t need to queue in the barren first floor, but the second floor had some solid theming with blueprints on the wall and ornate clocks hanging from the ceiling. Then you have the constant ticking sound that’s only interrupted by the gong of a dispatch. When that gong occurs, all eyes shift to the imposing vertical drop.
Silver Dollar City assigns seats to maximize the coaster’s throughput, but on all my rides, my request to sit in the back car was granted. Once grouped, you proceed to the third floor where the theming becomes even more impressive. There are rotating gears on the ceiling (nerd points from an engineer) and this is the first opportunity to see those gorgeous ride vehicles. I love the openness of Mack restraints, but one odd thing here is how the restraints are automatically checked with the push of a button.
I cannot emphasize how important it is to request the back car. The primary reason is the first drop. If you thought Thunderbolt’s drop out of the station was a wow moment, what does that make Time Traveler’s vertical, spinning plunge. Sideways ejector air is every bit as wild as it sounds and Time Traveler has the best drop in the back, no easy feat when there’s a RMC to contend with. The insanity is followed by a disorienting corkscrew that I don’t think I experienced forwards even once.
Before the first launch, the coaster does pause, but I think it’s necessary for the upcoming train to clear the block. This isn’t Lake Compounce; Silver Dollar City believes in multiple train operations. In terms of raw power, Time Traveler’s launch is pretty weak. However, if you’re lucky enough for your car to spin during the launch, you will feel high Gs akin to a tilt-a-whirl.
The vertical loop isn’t forceful, but it is disorienting. Much like the first inversion, I don’t think I once took this inversion forwards. That’s followed by a surprisingly wild S-hill combining ejector air with laterals. Then without having a moment to catch my breath, Time Traveler hurtled through an amazing zero-G roll with copious hang time and that’s followed by a tiny little pop of air entering the second “launch”.
I use launch lightly since it really is more of a speed boost. The finale has the non-inverting dive loop (or whatever it’s called) and these elements feel more like what you’d expect on a standard spinner. Once we hit the brake run, I was in complete awe. I expected Time Traveler to be good. But I was absolutely blown away how out-of-control the coaster felt despite the controlled spin.
If you ride in the back car, it’s an easy 10/10 type of ride. I immediately grabbed a second ride in the third car and the coaster felt noticeably less intense (still a lot of fun, but more like a 9/10 type of ride). So I’ll split the difference and say Time Traveler is a 9.5 out of 10
Since Thunderation was literally next door, I walked right onto the back row. The layout is really unique for a mine train. It’s almost entirely in the woods (except for the bit that opens up by Time Traveler) and the whole course is one downhill run. In some ways, the layout felt more like an alpine coaster than a mine train. This is one of those weird coasters that ends on the lift hill.
Or so I thought. As the train crept up the lift, I noticed a rather large drop off to my left. I couldn’t remember experiencing a drop that large, but maybe the perspective from the lift made it appear larger than it really was. Nope, there was a surprise final plunge after the lift that has to have been at least 70-80 feet tall. You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger drop on a mine train.
It can’t compete with the park’s larger coasters, but Thunderation is mostly smooth and a nice complimentary coaster in the park’s lineup. 6 out of 10
Prior to visiting the park, I took a peek at the map, but I have to say, Silver Dollar City is one of the toughest parks to navigate for a first-timer. This is particularly true in the evening. Since they don’t seem to operate often in the evening, it appears they’ve forgone the typical amusement park lighting in favor of traditional lanterns to fit the theme.
As a result, I struggled to find Flooded Mine. After going down a corkscrew and going all the way round the mulberry bush, I waved the white flag and asked an employee for help. My struggles were rewarded with a complete walk-on. Flooded Mine’s ride system is very unique. I can’t think of another aquatic shooting dark ride and the way the guns are set-up makes me think this attraction was retrofit.
While there are definitely more high-tech shooting rides out there like Justice League, few are as well done as the Flooded Mine. I love shooters with physical sets and targets that respond to being shot, and Flooded Mine had both. It was a pretty long ride too! Any longer and I would have developed carpal tunnel like David Price. This was a hidden gem for me. 10 out of 10
I had waited long enough; it was time for Outlaw Run. I had intentionally waited for the sun to set, so my first ride would be in almost total darkness. Night rides are exceedingly rare on this coaster, but they’re considered one of the best coaster experiences out there. I was surprised to find absolutely no wait and walked right onto the second to back.
The first drop is exceptional and one of the best out there. I was completely ejected from my seat and felt like I was plunging into a black hole. This was exasperated by the pullout causing me to grey out a bit. Outlaw Run then rockets into this weird pseudo-inversion/turn thing. With RMC’s resume, I was actually shocked this element didn’t have air, but it still felt out-of-control.
Outlaw Run then rockets over two airtime hills with some really strong ejector air. The coaster then performs a Stengel dive underneath the lift and followed it with an unexpectedly large drop back into the forest (of course giving great air along the way). That’s followed by a high speed wave turn. I’m still amazed RMC can somehow completely eject a rider while they’re horizontal to the ground, yet they can.
Then there’s one last speedy ejector hill before the ride’s famous finale, the double barrel roll. From POVs, I always thought these barrel rolls were flat. In actuality they’re uphill. The result is ingenious. The first barrel roll is snappy while the second one has major hangtime. The second barrel roll was so slow that it always felt like the train would roll back during the inversion.
Outlaw Run is absolutely relentless. Yes it’s a bit short, but it’s one of those rare perfectly paced coasters without a single moment of dead track. Even the turns (for the most part) manage to provide crazy airtime. Then when you throw in the incredible setting, you really have a world-class ride. It immediately made its way into my top 5, wedging itself between Wildfire (Kolmarden’s that is) and El Toro.
I immediately grabbed a second ride up front. While fun, the back car is the place to ride Outlaw Run. It’s a crime not to experience the first drop and Stengel dive to their fullest effect. I know some have jokingly dubbed this coaster “Outlaw Rough” but those are the same people who call El Toro rough. Sure there are a few more bumps in the back row, but it’s still smoother than 90% of the wood coasters out there. 10 out of 10
I had a half hour left and walked right onto the front row of Powder Keg and that launch hit me like a sack of bricks. I honestly think it was the best launch I’ve ever experienced outside of Intamin’s accelerator coasters. It was one of those launches so forceful that it caused my stomach to drop. What this taught me is Do-dodonpa’s launch has to be pure lunacy if I thought this about little Powder Keg.
The subsequent two camelbacks were massive and loaded with sustained ejector air. Then there’s a turnaround mixing airtime with laterals before speeding through the old Buzzsaw Falls track. Because Powder Keg takes this section significantly faster than Buzzsaw Falls ever did, the turns aren’t properly banked which results in some sustained laterals. And this all takes place in a dark, wooded setting.
The lift hill gives a reprieve from the action and a chance to take in the picturesque mountain view. The final plunge had a nice pop of air in the back and the final turnaround looked like a throwaway element, but it was anything but. The entry has another solid moment of airtime and that’s followed by some strong positive Gs. I immediately rerode it in the back and got another great ride.
I was expecting a family coaster with the 42” height requirement, but Powder Keg blew me away. I honestly liked it better than Storm Runner or even Top Thrill Dragster. It combines a forceful launch with a complete ride. I didn’t think any attraction would surprise me as much as Flooded Mine, but I was wrong, Powder Keg was the surprise hit of the trip. 9 out of 10
With 10 minutes left, I struggled to find WildFire. After passing the correct path a few times, I finally found the big B&M and walked right onto the front row. WildFire is one of the most highly regarded B&M coasters out there, so I was shocked the inversions were relatively forceless. I thought enthusiasts needed a ride to be forceful to be fun? WildFire was fast and smooth.
What I found out the next day is that WildFire is absolutely a back seat ride because of the first drop. Unlike a majority of B&M loopers out there with curved drops, WildFire has a long, straight drop more akin to something you’d find on a hyper and it’s loaded with airtime. As an added nerd bonus, WildFire was my 600th coaster too. 8 out of 10
I had just three hours at the park, but Silver Dollar City had already left one heck of an impression. So needless to say, I was excited to return 11.5 hours later. Actually it was closer to 11 hours since they opened the front gate about a half hour before the scheduled opening. Without any hesitation, I made my way to Time Traveler to beat the rush.
Unfortunately Time Traveler had some technical difficulties to start the day, but I was off the ride about 40 minutes after the official opening. I was again granted the back car, but the riders of car 2 decided to take the back instead when we reached the boarding platform. It’s still a good coaster up front, but I did miss experiencing the crazy air on the vertical drop and S-hill.
Afterwards I made my way over to the Grand Exposition area of the park. This is essentially Silver Dollar City’s version of Dollywood’s County Fair, except with a lot more trees. The only people who visit this section of the park are families, fans of spinning rides, or credit whores. Can you guess which group I fell into?
Of course the latter. I shamefully walked right onto the Grand Exposition Coaster. This was actually one of my priorities early in the day since it wasn’t part of the Trailblazer pass and I noticed it had queues reaching 30-40 minutes the day prior. That’s insane for a kiddie coaster! As far as the coaster, it was your standard Zamperla kiddie giving 3 laps. 2 out of 10
I reclaimed some of my dignity for being in the Grand Exposition area by riding Electro Spin. This is one of those large diskos, but this one was noteworthy for its proximity to nearby trees. I’m pretty sure a taller rider could graze their arms against the leaves. Otherwise, this one had a comparable cycle time and speed to the others out there. 7 out of 10
Along with rides, Silver Dollar City is also well known for their shows and food. If I had an additional day, I probably would have checked out some of the shows, but I’m admittedly more of a ride person. What I couldn’t possibly skip though was the food.
I started with the sausage and potato skillet. For a late breakfast, it was a really heavy dish loaded with potatoes. It came out piping hot and tasted great. Also, I should probably state here that you will not find the obligatory cinnamon bread in this report. I would rather ride the worst SLC than eat sweets.
I got a quick reride on the Flooded Mine before returning to Outlaw Run for a mini marathon. I believe I got 10 or so rides in a row, primarily in the back car. After experiencing the coaster in total darkness, it was interesting to whiz past all the trees and actually be able to admire the beautiful view cresting the lift. With each ride, I kept liking Outlaw Run more and more.
I also found it interesting that Outlaw Run never developed any sort of a queue during my visit. I’m guessing that never happens since this was a long weekend too. It was actually faster for me to use the regular entrance than to walk all the way around to the Trailblazer entrance, though the latter did give a nice view of the double barrel roll. Really that and the lift are the only two parts that can be seen offride.
While leaving Wilson Farm, I hopped onto the Giant Barn Swing. With only one arm running (seems to be the norm for most screamin’ swings), the standard queue had a sizable wait that I bypassed. Despite explicit instructions not to touch our restraints, the girls next to me pulled their’s down and triggered one of the weirdest faults I’ve ever seen- a restraint being closed too much.
A quick reset and adherence to the instructions had us on our merry way. Like all screamin’ swings, the cycle felt far too short, but the max swings we did get had some decent airtime. I particularly liked staring down at Lost River of the Ozarks on the backswing. I was not expecting that added thrill. I can only imagine what the Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood must be like. 7 out of 10
I’m from New England, so mid-90 degree heat isn’t exactly my friend. Therefore, I was ecstatic to skip another lengthy queue and climb aboard Lost River of the Ozarks. This river rapids was definitely the cure as I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to not come off this ride drenched.
There were at least 3 rapids that nailed 3/4 of the boat at once (the small drop off the lift and the two in the final tunnel). Then there were 4-5 others that weren’t exactly slouches either. Add in an unavoidable waterfall and I hope you have a lifeproof case for your phone. As an added bonus, Lost River is extremely well landscaped making it one of the best rapids rides out there. 9 out of 10
My next stop was FireFall. While it was pretty good for a double shot tower, the launched S&S towers just don’t do it for me. That’s especially true after riding the crazy drop tower at Bigfoot so many times the day before. Launching above the building was cool and there were two nice pops of air, but this was a one and done for me. 6 out of 10
Time Traveler had a posted 120 minute wait, so I thought it was the perfect time to use my single Trailblazer skip to reride it. Unlike earlier, I was able to get the back car and was treated to another fantastic ride. I’m really excited to see more of these extreme Mack spinners pop up. While I would love for an uncontrolled spin, I completely understand why they have it. Maybe an uncontrolled ride can be a perk at an enthusiast event much like the mythical trimless Voyage rides.
After a quick ride on Thunderation, I doubled back to WildFire. The night before, I thought WildFire was in the middle of the woods. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s strategically placed in an opening, which enables it to provide breathtaking views of the Ozarks. This really is one of the most photogenic coasters out there. Even if you miss the coaster, you have the gorgeous mountains to distract your eye.
Like Outlaw Run, WildFire never seemed to develop any sort of a queue. I think the ride’s location in an absolute dead end helps, but the operators are extremely efficient and I rarely saw the coaster stack.
I was still relatively damp from Lost River so I decided it was the perfect time to hit the park’s flume, American Plunge. Offride, I couldn’t help but notice how tall the final drop appeared so I was excited to check it out. The layout was a lot more expansive than I expected, as it wound through the forest and even included multiple tunnels.
But the highlight was definitely the final plunge. Not only was it tall, but it also had a little pop of air to boot. Then came the splash. And holy moly was it soaking. This wasn’t Ripsaw Falls wet, but it wasn’t too far behind. While most flumes repel the water outwards, American Falls sends the water straight up and back down into the boat. What a great flume! 9 out of 10
My stomach was rumbling, so I picked up a bag of pork rinds. At $5, this was quite the deal. The bag was equal in size to a bag of Lays at the store, but instead filled with freshly prepared goodies that can best be described as a potato chip crossed with bacon. It took an hour, but eventually that bag was completely emptied.
Other than Time Traveler, Powder Keg was the only other major coaster garnering a significant wait. The app said the queue peaked at about 40 minutes, but thanks to Trailblazer, I was able to get about 3 rides in that time span. Like Outlaw Run, Powder Keg is another incredibly difficult coaster to photograph since it also runs through the woods.
The last coaster (I know it depends who you talk to) was Fire in the Hole. I was sort of hoping they’d yell “Blazing Fury” as it dispatches to mirror how Blazing Fury’s ops yell “Fire in the Hole” before each dispatch, but instead they stuck to the ride’s name. The dark ride section is definitely dated, but it’s a charming attraction I’m glad the park has kept around.
The climax is without a doubt the final 3 plunges. The drops tracked as well as an Arrow helix, but the generous restraints prevented any pain. The second drop was forgettable, but the first one had a surprise pop of air and the last one included a splashdown, a fitting end to a coaster about fire. 6 out of 10
Silver Dollar City even has a fun house in Grandfather’s Mansion. Actually it’s more of a crooked house, but whatever you call it, it’s an interesting diversion and not something you’d expect from a larger corporate park like this. The strength of the attraction was the consistent theme throughout as it was a stark contrast to the fun houses that usually don’t give a rat’s booty about theming. 6 out of 10
The last major attraction I needed to hit was what started it all for the park, the Marvel Cave. As an added bonus, I booked a Lantern Tour because a) I heard they were cool and b) it allowed me to reserve a time instead of spending precious time queuing.
The tour guide I had was exceptional. He usually answered any of our questions. I say usually since we had one fellow in our group who basically had an orgasm anytime a history question was asked and he tried to answer it himself. This probably makes me a terrible human being, but I couldn’t help but chuckle when he hit his head on one of the narrow passageways after talking over the guide’s warning.
The tour lasted almost 90 minutes and I loved every moment. This was completely unlike any attraction I’ve ever experienced in a theme park and in many ways, it didn’t even feel like we were at Silver Dollar City. We were 500 feet below the ground appreciating a true natural wonder of the world.
And for you ride fans, they have you covered. There’s a cool inclined railway at the end of the attraction to return you to civilization. No trip to Silver Dollar City is complete without a tour of the Marvel Cave.
After exiting, I grabbed a reride on Time Traveler since the queue had dropped to 20 minutes and then I fueled up on a delicious calzone from Crossroads. Admittedly I was already full, but I didn’t care. The calzone looked really good and it was.
To finish my day, I planned to make one last tour of the coasters, making a very prolonged stop at Outlaw Run. In the end I think I had almost 30 total rides on Outlaw Run. And I very well would have done more if park closing wasn’t a constraint.
With 20 minutes left, I decided to ditch Outlaw Run and try to get a night ride on Time Traveler. It was tough leaving Outlaw Run, but Time Traveler looked like it’d be pretty dark along the course. I reached the coaster at 9:47 only to find that the queue had already been closed for the night. One of the employees said they don’t like to keep rides open more than a half hour past closing, so this is something to keep in mind if you visit on a busier day.
Thankfully Thunderation was literally next door so I was able to get two last rides on this underrated mine train. I sort of am glad Time Traveler’s queue was closed since Thunderation was a really awesome night ride. The wooded setting was almost pitch black and the sense of speed, particularly in the back of the train, was exceptional. This really is one of the best mine trains out there.
When the clock struck 10, I was sad to leave Silver Dollar City. The park really succeeds in every way. It has a fantastic coaster collection anchored by two world-class coasters. Then it has some standout water rides, flat rides, and dark rides. Add in a wonderful cohesive theme, mouthwatering found, and Marvel Cave, and it’s apparent why Silver Dollar City is so highly regarded.