Hey all, time for a new year, new Photo TR thread. Looks like Canobie Coaster beat me to the punch, so now you'll have two reports for your viewing pleasure from:
I live in Central Florida, but I realized on this trip that this is my 4th year in a row going to this park. That's a testament to how great this park is, and honestly in a lot of ways it reminds me a lot of the way Disney does things, in terms of creating an atmosphere that makes you forget about everything else and just relax, enjoy the place, and have a good time.
The entire Pigeon Forge/Gatilinburg/Sevierville area is sort of a Bizarro world version of Orlando's International Drive in a way. There's the same TGI Fridays and Applebees, a line of Marriotts and Days Inns, a Titanic replica and a Ripley's, but instead of being in the packed, hurry-up-or-you'll-miss-it atmosphere filled with people driving extended-length rented Tahoes on a Fiat 500 driving record that is Orlando, you're treated to country air, laid back attitudes, serene surroundings, and a 35mph speed limit. Which...I suggest you don't exceed, as on my second night in town, Pigeon Forge P.D. didn't let me pass go before slapping yours truly with an $83.50 ticket for doing 55mph in said 35mph zone. Oops. But hey, $83.50 for 20 over ain't bad by today's standards.
There are parks with 15-20 coasters that don't have as good a line-up as Dollywood's 8 coasters, all of which are outstanding. The food is amazing, the people watching is entertaining, there's shopping and shows to watch.
So, our first day at the park took place on Saturday, March 30th. I was nervously checking the Weather Channel app the days prior to my visit, and the way things shook out, Saturday was 75 degrees, followed by a massive rain and cold front Saturday night, in which there would be a freeze warning and a 40-degree temperature drop. I literally turn the heat on in my house if it's 60 degrees out, so I knew this would be the day to make the absolute most out of...
...As did everybody else. Hoooooooly sh*t. I've been to busy days at Dollywood before, or so I had thought. In a total of about 8-9 visits to the park in the past several years, I've had days where Fast Lane was necessary. Never have I ever seen it like this. Traffic to get to the parking toll booths was backed up about 1/4 mile on Veterans Blvd. In all, it took us 90 minutes from the time we joined the traffic jam, paid, parked, and walked to the park, foregoing what was at least a 15-tram line-up rivaling the Monorail line queue going out of Magic Kingdom at night.
I have to call the park out on this to be fair: they do not have a good system in place to handle this. They had all the parking toll booths open, but immediately after, it was the New Jersey turnpike at rush hour. 6 lanes going into one. Southern drivers, who adorn their massive vehicles with Trump stickers, stick figure families, and Salt Life, also can't drive or merge for sh*t. But this wasn't the end of it. When we finally wound up a few hills to lots I've never seen before, the park employees were standing there but not actively guiding guests where to park. Guests were parking and then walking in front of vehicles, cars were diverting down rows and then coming back out, creating more merge jams. The tram queue was spilling out to where cars were driving in to park. We ended up parking in some random gravel lot that I believe was the employee lot for Splash Country.
Since our legs work, we made the trek to the main entrance, which was about a 15-20 minute walk. Getting into the park took only seconds. However, minutes later, an absolutely heart-crushing discovery would be made. Time Saver and Time Saver Unlimited, had sold out. I *almost* bought Time Saver Unlimited online a few days prior, and I wanted to boil my face in one of the skillets in Craftsmen's Valley for my terrible lapse of judgement. See, last year, a few friends and I visited on a Saturday around the same time of year in the same weather conditions, and we had Time Saver Unlimited but didn't really need it, as even Lightning Rod was a walk-on by 6pm or so. My "wait and see" approach had failed.
A day like this, I might add, would also be a good opportunity for Dollywood to cash in and serve. f*cking. alcohol. I mean, I get it, y'all are good Christians up here in these Smoky Mountains and Prohibition and The South and yada yada, but you could at least make an exception and install a few taps or buy a few bottles of vodka for us card-carrying gays.
Mercifully, Dollywood decided to stay open an hour later, and I think a lot of people got fed up with the lines by about 5:00, so waits became reasonable later in the day. The shortest Lightning Rod's line would ever be was a posted 75 minutes, which was about 65 minutes in reality.
Anyway, this is probably the longest summary I've ever written so I'm going to let the photos do the talking now.
Absolutely stunning scenery up here in the Smokies
I honestly did not realize when I took the photo of the giant eagle, that the girl in the foreground had a tank top on with a giant eagle on it, too. Heyyy sis!
Is this sign new? I don't even know. I've never waited for Thunderhead any longer than the top 3-4 steps. Today, the entire queue house would be full (of people and also wasps), and spilling outside of the entrance.
Thunderhead's station fly-through feature is something I wish GCI still did. Always ride in the back row!
I love the crap out of Thunderhead, by the way. It's a totally "out of control" feeling woodie and theres not an inch of straight track. It's insane laterals, perfect pacing, and twisted airtime all over the place. It's a very aggressive wood coaster, but easily re-rideable. I wouldn't call it "smooth", because it isn't, but it isn't rough nor does it ever cause any kind of jackhammering or unpleasant sensations at all. It's perfect and one of my favorite wood coasters.
Mystery Mine seems to have no rhyme or reason to either getting a smooth, enjoyable ride or having your fillings shook loose and minor skull damage.
How would it ride today? Neither! It was closed throughout the entirety of our visit, but according to the Dollywood thread it has since re-opened.
Did you think I was f*cking lying to you up there?
It's cool, you didn't read the narrative anyway.
Pros of Wild Eagle: Some good forces, great views, good first drop, one of the oldest yet somehow still the smoothest B&M Wing Coaster
Cons of Wild Eagle: B&M inversion layout that's been done 100 times over, kind of slow in some spots
My photos aren't in chronological order, by the way, I took them at random so this Photo TR is kind of a "loop around the park"
Pros of Tennessee Tornado: absolutely everything because it's perfect
I wish Sh*t Flags Magic Mountain had gone into bankruptcy after X instead of Arrow.
This last Arrow Custom Looping Coaster is absolutely their best. A true treat of a ride, the mountainside mine shaft drop is one of the best drop sensations on any coaster. In the back row, you really get ripped down into it. The huge loops are great and you can't believe that you're in a classic Arrow train that you'd normally be doing "brace position" in.
This photo can instantly cure any hint of erectile dysfunction in our older enthusiast friends.
Just kidding, that's definitely a medical problem you should talk to a doctor about, silly.
When walking through the entrance, a few guests were walking back out and I almost had a heart attack.
I've been there, man, and I'm pretty sure I have PTSD from trips to the park with Lightning Rod c*ck teasing up on it's hill but closed, and those were dark days. Fortunately, today would not be one of those days.
Walking past the "Lightning Rod", and into the main queue. It was a 75 minute posted wait at this time, down from 120 minutes earlier.
Hey, remember when people thought this was going to be called "Shot Rod"?
Not only was it up and running, but it was two train operations all day long and I don't think it went down a single time.
How do I feel about Lightning Rod?
Lightning Rod can jizz all over my face and I'd be sticking my tongue out.
In case any of you pervs wanna know what Lightning Rod's ass is made out of.
The "quad down" sequence everyone always talks about is just amazing. It feels like the train is going to go flying off the track on every single hill, but it's never uncomfortable like something Skyrush would deliver. Lightning Rod just feels absolutely nuts in the most amazing way.
Like Tennessee Tornado, the end into the brakes is taken at high speed. I'm jealous of anyone who has gotten to take pictures on the other side of the mountain, because this ride is just pure bliss.
Is it my favorite coaster? Yes. I'm sort of indecisive, so it took me about a month to complete and submit my TPR coaster poll. Not because it's in ANY way complicated, but once you've ridden hundreds of coasters, settling on even a "top ten", resulted in me having like 15 coasters in my "top ten".
But what never changed was Lightning Rod, El Toro, and Expedition GeForce all being tied in my #1 spot.
If you were in a polyamorous relationship with these 3 coasters, Expedition GeForce is the attractive, steady, consistent partner with a good job and El Toro is the fun partier who rocks your world in bed. Lightning Rod is the manic attention-seeker who takes you out drinking all night, then sets your car on fire at 4 in the morning.
We should all modify the front of our cars to be like this!
I always go with the TimeSaver at Dollywood if Lightning Rod is running. I went the day after you and the longest line was just a half hour, but I had no regrets getting on Lightning Rod as many times as I did. I also like online how they say how many TimeSavers they have left on a given day so you can somewhat gauge crowds.
Thanks! I had no idea they stated how many TimeSavers are left. Do you know what the daily limit usually is? Probably won't be back until next year, but that's really good to know, especially as I'm trying to hopefully book an SDC trip within the next few months.
xVicesAndVirtues wrote:Thanks! I had no idea they stated how many TimeSavers are left. Do you know what the daily limit usually is? Probably won't be back until next year, but that's really good to know, especially as I'm trying to hopefully book an SDC trip within the next few months.
I think it's about 350? You can pick a random day and check on the site.
The thing they seem to run out of first is wheelchairs. I was SOL when I broke my ankle.
So, as I said before, we were in Pigeon Forge for the entire weekend. Saturday night, a massive cold front came across with a line of rain and storms, then the temperature absolutely plummeted for Sunday. Like, high in the 40s, low in the 20s with freeze warning plummeted.
Being Central Floridians, we decided to take it easy on Sunday and then make Monday our second day at Dollywood, when the high would be a more bearable 50 degrees.
Here's some of the other stuff we did in Pigeon Forge that weekend, plus more Dollywood:
Saturday evening, as the winds picked up but before the temperature fell off a cliff, we decided to partake in some Mini Golf. This course also featured a cute train ride around the perimeter of the property.
We had the place mostly to ourselves. We had less than 2 hours before the weather was going to report 100% chance of rain, so I think everybody retreated to the warmth and shelter of their hotel rooms.
A look inside the train ride's tunnel
Unfortunately, some of the holes that I expected to have better theming, such as inside the mountain, had none. But hey, we still had a great time
As the wind was beginning to pick up and the threat of rain could be felt in the air, we decided to hit up Smoky Mountain Brewery. If you're in the area, I highly recommend this place or Calhoun's, which is also owned by the same people. Both are open late, offer reasonably-priced eats, and also have house brews with a good variety. Everything from a light lager to an amber to a piss ale for you vinyl record enthusiasts.
No sooner did we sit down and get our first drinks, the metal roof revealed the sound of a downpour outside.
Our table came with a nice view of where the magic happens!
Fast forward to the next day, with the deep freeze in the air, we were feeling festive, so we checked out the huge Christmas store
Good thing I'm already on the naughty list.
One thing I was honestly impressed with was the amount of little village models etc, and the details these had. There's even a wave swinger!
Whoville was included!
Despite the temperature, I was determined to get to at least one of the area's alpine coasters on this visit.
Last year, my friends and I attempted to ride Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster on a Saturday night in July, only to find this entire queue full and overflowing into the parking lot.
Today, however, it was cold af.
With about a 2-3 cart wait, we were out and up the mountain!
One hundred sixty feet and climbing!
This would be the last photo I'd take on the alpine coaster. Funny thing about altitude...as you go up, the temperature sure goes down!
The ride was great, but boy was it cold up there on this day. There were some great laterals and it was a decent-length ride, definitely worth the price, plus there was a re-ride special at a discount
Word got out that I was on the naughty list, next stop was straight to prison.
*Disclaimer* If anything said in my previous report was too much for you, the following photos and commentary may be. That said, this place does advertise as being "for the entire family"!
The first area at Alcatraz East Crime Museum is all about medieval f*cked up things people did to other people.
Oh, just some leg irons, a whip, and a branding iron!
A little history, plus the various infractions that could earn you an appointment with Dr. Pain back in Early America
Some various items used in actual prisons in the past, including the infamous "Prison Strap", some shackles, badges, and cuffs
And the ultimate in crime and punishment. This was the actual "Old Smokey", the electric chair used to execute prisoners in the Tennessee State Penitentiary.
Monday morning would reveal snow-capped mountains, which was a nice sight to look at
It was in the mid 40s when we arrived at Dollywood, yet some totally insane people were riding the river rapids ride.
Dollywood is such a stunning park. The natural scenery in the mountains, in addition to pretty wood structures just brings it all together. Here's the famous Grist Mill where the legendary cinnamon bread is made. Unfortunately, as I'm working on the summer body, I had to skip that this visit.
What a difference a day makes! This would be the longest Thunderhead's queue would get all day.
I hate to say something as cliche as "they don't make them like this anymore", but Thunderhead is truly the superior GCI and feels far more "out of control" than the newer ones.
A bored photo guy next to the Dollywood theatre
Now this is a great sight to see.
Anybody in this room? No?
How about on this floor? Anyone?
Wow. It doesn't get any better than a 1-2 train wait all day for one of the best coasters in the entire world. While a lot of the regional parks stick to weekend-only operations during the pre and post season, Dollywood is open weekdays! This creates a great opportunity to visit an awesome park in the spring with minimal waits.
And that's a wrap for Dollywood!
I'm SO happy to report that Lightning Rod was consistently running 2 trains with absolutely zero downtime that I observed during the two days there. Hopefully the days of unreliability are behind them and we can all visit knowing this spectacular RMC will be there for us to ride. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to this extraordinary park. If you've never been here, what are you waiting for?
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