I'm trying a new format for this report. If you guys think having the photos near the text is easier, please let me know. I figured this may be better than having the mass of photos at the end.
After missing out on Lightning Rod in 2016 and hearing that the ride was running consistently in March-April, we eagerly booked a family vacation to Pigeon Forge for early June. The highlight of my trip was to be Lightning Rod. I absolutely loved Dollywood in 2016 and thought the only thing missing was that world-class coaster and Lightning Rod would fill that void. Well come May, Lightning Rod started having some operational issues but was open nonetheless. Then the coaster was shut down in late May and stayed closed for the entirety of my visit. As the park's staff put it, "The ride works but wasn't up to Dolly's high standards."
Seeing Lightning Rod testing consistently the first day was a real sausage tease. The way the coaster flew down that quad down and into the brake run was unbelievable. But it just wasn't met to be. While painful to see the "CD" on the app, I did appreciate the park being open that the ride would be down so I could spend my day elsewhere in the park. Not going to lie, it sucked seeing Lightning Rod down. The ride seems to be a giant joke among both employees and park goers. My dad bought a Lightning Rod hat and the employee jokingly asked him if he was the first or last person to ever ride Lightning Rod, which I think best sums up everyone's attitude towards the ride. I know I'll return to the park again someday and just hope the ride is running consistently by then.
What a beautiful lawn ornament.
Holy Schilke it's a train! Unfortunately this was the most Lightning Rod action I got during my visit.
Hopefully Sausage Tease the Ride is open by my return visit.
Later that week, Lightning Rod reopened. Saw them walking the lift on my second to last day there.
However, I was able to get on a new coaster. Instead of riding a sexy RMC with a launch and crazy quad down, I instead got an over-cloned Zamperla kiddie coaster. Though to the park's credit, Whistle Punk Chaser fits into the area well and looks really nice. The final turn is also quite smooth which I have found can be a problem on this particular model. Being a credit whore, the allure of this coaster was too much to pass up. 2 out of 10
I really do love the ride's placement in the center of Thunderhead.
I wasn't going to leave Dollywood without a new credit.
Drop Line was the much more impressive new attraction. I never went to the park while Timber Tower was there, but Drop Line's placement is excellent. As noted in the early reviews, the views atop the tower are simply amazing. Thanks to the 360 degree rotation you get breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood. The tower also felt extremely tall as you reached the top. I hadn't heard much about the drop, but I thought it was really good as well. It's definitely much better than an S&S tower, but not quite on the level of a Larson/ARM tower. I'd say the drop's intensity is just a notch below that of an Intamin model. The only thing I wasn't a fan of was the restraints. The way the molded piece rested on my thighs made it impossible to comfortably ride with my phone or wallet in my cargo short pockets. 9 out of 10
Drop Line fits seamlessly into the Timber Canyon section of the park.
And this new ride had 0 downtime while I was at the park.
The views from the top are simply breathtaking. And the drop was just a notch below an Intamin tower in terms of intensity.
Riding this at night was even better as I saw the sunset over the mountains. I highly recommend it if you can time it right.
Tennessee Tornado is still my favorite coaster in the park (for now). It's really unbelievable how smooth this 20 year old Arrow is and I really think the company finally figured it out with this ride. The first drop through the mountain is among the best on any coaster and has some extremely powerful airtime. The first inversion has some weird and awesome hang-time. Then the next two inversions are all about powerful positive Gs. Yes it's a short ride, but it never built up any kind of line in my visit so I was able to reride it probably 20 or so times. I also loved how the operators took a jab at Lightning Rod by calling Tennessee Tornado the fastest operating coaster at Dollywood before several of my dispatches. 9 out of 10
Still my favorite ride in the park at the moment. Epic drop and 3 great inversions.
Most of the layout is blocked by trees.
I wish Arrow hadn't gone bankrupt since Tennessee Tornado is better than most B&M loopers out there.
Wild Eagle is probably the most popular ride with the GP and it's a really fun coaster. I love the first drop and it gives fantastic air-time in the back. The vertical loop is actually pretty forceful and I love the hang-time in both the zero-G roll and corkscrew. While not as forceful as a Batman clone, Wild Eagle is a really good looper and the ride's placement on the hill makes it pretty imposing to look at. It's my 3rd favorite of the B&M wing coasters I've been on (behind GateKeeper and Thunderbird, ahead of X-Flight) and just a notch behind Tennessee Tornado in my book. 9 out of 10
The ride's placement on the hill is outstanding. It's certainly an imposing coaster to look at.
Even the "forceless" B&Ms still have pretty good Gs in the vertical loops in my opinion.
The pathway up to Mountainside Slidewinder is one of the best places to get photos of Wild Eagle.
Fly like an eagle.
Mystery Mine seemed to have caught a case of the TC and CD from Lightning Rod as it had a lot of trouble running during my visit to the park. In my first few rides, the fire effect before the final drop wasn't working. After a day being CD, the fire effect was back so maybe that was part of the reason for the shutdown? Anyway Mystery Mine is as good as I remember from last year. The first half seems like a drunk stumbling about but does include that crazy vertical drop with the ride's most powerful air. The second half is where Mystery Mine really shines. The drop is fantastic and the two inversions serve different purposes. The first twist absolutely whips you through it while the second is heavy on hang-time. Some of the tight maneuvers in the first half can lead to a little headbanging, but nothing that ruins the ride. 9 out of 10
Mystery Mine's theming is really impressive.
I hope these riders are ready for insane ejector air.
The finale is where the ride really shines. A great drop and two crazy inversions.
Another look at the inversions.
Firechaser Express may be the park's family coaster, but I am a huge fan of the ride. This coaster is really a jack-of-all-trades. It has two launches with more kick than you'd expect for a ride of this size. Several of the ride's hills give some pops of air, particularly in the back. Then there's the shed. Instead of playing random music and giving the park an excuse to stack trains, this shed is well-themed and contains the climactic backwards launch. The backwards section may be short, but the final drop and turn and pretty wild for a family coaster. Of the park's rides, this one pulled the longest wait and was usually 40-45 minutes in the middle of the day. 8 out of 10
Firechaser Express is one of the best family coasters anywhere.
It has 2 launches.
There are some nice drops.
There's several pops of air.
What's in the shed? Something better than Mystic Timbers.
Just an overall great ride.
Once the top wooden coaster in the world, Thunderhead isn't anywhere near there on my personal list. Thunderhead has a great layout. In the front, most of the hills give decent pops of air, but the air is considerably weaker than on a CCI, Gravity Group, or newer GCI coaster. I didn't get as much air in the back and it's also considerably bumpier, so I definitely prefer Thunderhead in the front. It's a good ride, but not a great one. 7 out of 10
Like any GCI, Thunderhead has lots of twists.
I really like the coaster's layout.
The station fly-by is a great way to get amped up for the ride.
Most of the hills had nice pops of air in the front, but it wasn't quite as strong as the newer GCIs, CCIs, or Gravity Group woodies.
Dollywood also has one other coaster (though debatable to some) in Blazing Fury. Yes it essentially is a giant, well-themed lift hill but the drops at the end actually have some punch to them unlike those on Black Diamond at Knoebels. The effects are old but they are well done and the coaster is good for a ride or two in a visit to the park. 7 out of 10
Dollywood's final major coaster is more of a dark ride, but the drops at the end do have some punch to them.
Fire in the Hole! As an aside, I should yell that the next time I go to Taco Bell to see how many looks I get.
Dollywood's water ride collection is also very strong. Daredevil Falls was new for me since it was closed in my visit last year. After riding it, Daredevil Falls rocketed near the top of my flume rankings and is probably my favorite outside of Disney and Universal. The ride has a great setting by the hill and the final drop is fantastic, tall and fast. Despite the ride's appearance, it also has the perfect amount of wetness as long as you do two things. 1) Lift up your feet after the boat disengages from the lift. 2) Beware crossing the exit bridge if a boat is heading down the drop. 10 out of 10
Daredevil Falls is one of the best non-Disney/Universal flumes out there.
The drop is massive and quite thrilling. You also don't get as wet as you'd think which is a good thing.
I know I've said it a lot this report, but this ride has a great setting like most of Dollywood's rides sans the County Fair area.
Mountainside Slidewinder is one of those attractions I am glad Dollywood has kept around even as they've grown into a larger park. Basically one of those wet/dry water slides on steroids, the Slidewinder reaches much higher speeds. Several of the turns really send the raft flying up the trough and the final drop even gives a pop of air as your descend down it. The layout is also very well concealed by the park's trees. The only real downside is the long hike to reach the loading area, but on the bright side it gives some excellent shots of Wild Eagle. 10 out of 10
I love how the Slidewinder winds its way through the woods.
The blurriness of this photo kind of tips you off how fast these rafts fly down the slide. You really slide up the sides of the walls.
Take the tunnel.
And the winner is...too close to call.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage is a soaking river rapids ride and one of the better ones out there. On the first day to Dollywood, temperatures were in the upper 60s so it was reasonably cold by their standards. However, being from New England I thought it was still acceptable to ride the river rapids and just prayed I wouldn't get absolutely drenched. The rapids were splashing but not soaking and the ride has a great setting. Thankfully many of the effects from last year were off such as the unavoidable water fall and a few of the geysers; however, I was completely screwed over by the final waterfall. As we approached it, the waterfall turned off. Phew that was a close one. However, the rafts were backed up from returning to the station so in a few seconds the waterfall turned back on and there was no escaping the torrent of water. 8 out of 10
Smoky Mountain River Rampage is a very good rapids ride. Great setting and plenty of ways to get wet.
Somebody clearly doesn't want to get hit with the waterfalls.
On the last day, temperatures reached almost 90 degrees. With Smoky River Rampage boasting a long line, I found an alternative in River Battle. I pity the operators that have to listen to that music all day but the ride itself does one thing very well, getting you drenched. Cranking the gun got tiring after a while, but I loved how interactive some of the ride's many targets were. I wasn't expecting them to actually do anything, but a few set off massive geysers towards the onlookers who were manning the water cannons. I still prefer river rapids rides, but this is another fun attraction. 7 out of 10
If you want to stay dry, this is the wrong ride for you.
Other than Drop Line, the only other major thrilling flat is Barnstormer. This easily has the best theming of the Screamin' Swings I've been on and that theming definitely makes it one of the stronger ones out there. The cycle is short like all of them, but the strong floater air on the full swings is as full as always. 8 out of 10
Barnstormer is a great screamin' swing thanks to the theming.
It's the best one out there barn one (you see what I did there). I crack myself up.
Speaking of crack, no trip to Dollywood would be complete without food. In my few days there, I sampled a wide variety of dishes. I should begin with a disclaimer. I did NOT have the cinnamon bread. I don't believe in drugs. Actually I just don't like sweets so I was able to resist the bread while my family gobbled several loaves down like they had an addiction. If I survived the pitch forks for this statement, my favorite items were the fried chicken cart near Dolly's museum, a cheesesteak from the skillet place, and the kettle chips near Daredevil Falls.
I also went to Aunt Granny's Buffet and while the fried chicken is miles better than what I can get in the Northeast, it pales in comparison to the chicken I had at some of the local restaurants in Pigeon Forge. Though for theme park food it is very impressive. I did try the Lumberjack Pizza and was very disappointed. I remember hearing how good and large the pizza was, but instead I got an overpriced and cruddy personal pizza. I'll stick to Regina in the North End of Boston for my pizza fix.
Step right in to get some crack. Since I lack a sweet tooth, I was able to resist the Cinnamon Bread.
I was a big fan of the kettle chips. Fresh and great toppings.
It also wouldn't be a Dollywood trip report without some Jesus. They had some nice new shirts that let you show your love for the man upstairs.
Like last year, I had a fantastic time at Dollywood. With the season pass I purchased, I am strongly considering a return trip later this year to try and get on Lightning Rod provided it's operating reliably.
Excellent report! I can't wait to visit this park someday. We're driving right near Eastern Tennessee on our trip this summer, but we just don't have the time or money in our budget to stop. The park really has a solid line-up, even without Lightning Rod. Once that thing starts running reliably, that's icing on an already beautiful cake (excuse my metaphor).
I don't mind metaphorical sweets, it's just the actual ones I hate . Dollywood was a must visit even without Lightning Rod, but that ride looks like it elevates the park to an entirely different level. Hopefully by the time you visit the ride doesn't have the downtime it has over the past year and a half. It has been frustrating to say the least to see the entrance closed off and have a sexy RMC basically mocking you.
Enthusiasts all over the world would be so happy if Lightning Rod even got eventually up to TTD/KK reliability levels (then again, LR shouldn't be affected as much by high winds as the Intamin rockets)
Top 10 steel: Steel Vengeance, Millennium Force, Maverick, Mako, Incredible Hulk, Banshee, Diamondback, Raptor, SheiKra, Montu Top 10 wood: Mystic Timbers, Shivering Timbers, Beast, Racer (KI), Viper, American Eagle, Woodstock Express, Blue Streak (CP), Mean Streak (RIP), Wolverine Wildcat
With a week down in Pigeon Forge and a season pass valid at both parks, I also made time to visit Dollywood's Splash Country. Until ytterbiumanalyst's report, which included a snake capture, I hadn't seen any coverage on this park. Thankfully my day didn't include any snakes and was instead filled with minimal lines and several great slides. What also really stood out was the park's setting. Like Dollywood, the park is nestled in the woods. This has a few benefits such as concealing the slides and also preventing the water park problem of walking on hot asphalt. The water park did have a very strange layout because of the setting and there were quite a few dead ends, but that's more of a minor comment. After visiting the park for parts of two days, I can confidently say that this is the best water park I've been to outside of Splashin' Safari and the Disney water parks.
Welcome to Dollywood's Splash Country, one of the best water parks I've visited.
Many of the slides have great settings in the woods or along hills.
The crown jewel of the park is RiverRush, the park's water coaster. While I have always heard everyone rave about Splashin' Safaris water slides, I hadn't heard much of anything about RiverRush. I found RiverRush to be a shorter more intense version of Wildebeast. Three of RiverRush's drops had amazing airtime, even surpassing the air on the shed drop on Wildebeast. I think I still prefer Wildebeast because it's twice as long, but RiverRush does more with what it has. I had to wait about 30 minutes for each ride while many of the other slides were 5 minute waits, but RiverRush was definitely worth it. 10 out of 10
Why I haven't heard more about RiverRush baffles me. It's an amazing slide.
It may be shorter, but I found it more intense than Wildebeast.
3 of the drops give major airtime.
There is absolutely no way their butts are currently touching the raft.
RiverRush alone is enough of a reason to visit Splash Country.
After RiverRush, Big Bear Plunge is the other standout attraction. While at first it may look like another family raft slide, Big Bear Plunge has a major difference. Instead of slowly meandering along, Big Bear Plunge instead has a shorter more action-packed layout with 2-3 large drops. You absolutely fly down the slide and a few well placed waterfalls conceal the upcoming drops. 8 out of 10
Most raft slides are long and drawn out. Big Bear Plunge cuts right to the chase and features 2-3 really large drops.
The ride's pacing is really impressive. This along with RiverRush shouldn't be missed.
The park has a very strong collection of body slides. Fire Tower Falls is the tallest. Like all of these vertical drop water slides, it's always a bit unnerving going over the edge but it was a lot of fun. Most impressively, this one was very easy on the back, which is something many of these slides struggle with. 8 out of 10
Fire Tower Falls is the park's most thrilling slide and is thankfully really smooth on the back.
I honestly preferred Mountain Scream the best of Dollywood's speed slides. While older than Fire Tower Falls, the enclosed green slides pick up some major speed and you absolutely fly down the slide. Like Fire Tower Falls, it's also very smooth on the back. I didn't get a chance to try the middle slide, but got a few rides in on the green ones. 8 out of 10
These were the best of the park's body slides. The green ones were very fast and had some really intense turns towards the end.
There's also the picturesque Butterfly slide. While short, the slide does have a decently steep drop and you fittingly end in a butterfly shaped pool. The ride's placement in the front of the park is great and it's definitely worth riding since it never had a line, but it's only good for one ride due to its length. 5 out of 10
Something tells me this is Dolly's favorite slide.
The park also has several of the mat slides. The best of the bunch was the Mountain Twist, which had a custom, twisting layout down a hill 8 out of 10. The park also had two mat racing slides. The first, Slick Rock Racer, is one of the standard 3 hump ones 7 out of 10.
The second is TailSpin Racer, the new for 2017 attraction. Slick Rock Racer was pretty good, but I wasn't a big fan of TailSpin Racer. The enclosed section blinded me with chlorinated water which was something I haven't had happen on any other mat racing slide. TailSpin Racer was definitely fast, but without goggles I wasn't able to enjoy it as much as I should have 4 out of 10. It looks like I actually forgot to grab a photo of TailSpin Racer but that's partially due to the ride's placement. As mentioned, the park has a weird layout and TailSpin Racer is off in its own area. There isn't another slide anywhere near it.
Mountain Twist was the best of the mat slides. There were a few small drops along the course that gave good speed around the turns.
I liked how Slick Rock Racer was built on a hill, but it was no different than the other 3 hump racing slides.
The park also has one of those toilet bowl slides, but I skipped it due to the line. I've ridden the same slide at several other water parks and decided to wait for an extra ride on the much more unique RiverRush.
Overall Dollywood's Splash Country is well worth a visit if you are in the Pigeon Forge area for a few days. The water park has an excellent setting and the slide lineup is excellent, anchored by RiverRush.
The Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area is arguably the world's capital for mountain coasters. I had the opportunity to ride the 5 operating mountain coasters during my visit, including the one at Rowdy Bear Mountain on its inaugural day. And the mountain coasters don't stop here as the under-construction Anakeesta is opening a single rail version later this year which will be unique to the region. When I passed Anakeesta, it looked like they still had a significant amount of work to do but hopefully it will be open by the time I make my next visit.
I will admit to being a mountain coaster fan and just wish they weren't quite as expensive. However, I would much prefer to pay to ride these than to whore out a kiddie coaster so it's all in perspective I guess. I would rate the 5 mountain coasters I rode as follows:
1) Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster- 8 out of 10 2) Goat Coaster- 8 out of 10 3) Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster- 7 out of 10 4) Ski Mountain Coaster (Ober Gatlinburg)- 6 out of 10 5) Rowdy Bear Coaster- 6 out of 10
Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster It may be the first in the area, but it's my personal favorite, just edging out the Goat Coaster. This seems to be a common opinion among both coaster enthusiasts and the GP. I tried to hit this at night, but was greeted with a line spilling out the queue and a full parking lot. I returned a few days later and got a walk-on during the day. That's a much better situation since I didn't have to worry about anyone ahead of me, which meant I could go full tilt down the track. The ride's strength is its length as it's by far the longest one in the area. The turns give some strong laterals and the final few turns tower above the roadway. There are a few tiny drops along the way, but they weren't able to give pops of air like the Aquatic models I've been on. If you only have the chance to ride one mountain coaster in Pigeon Forge, this is the one I recommend.
This is a situation where the first is still the best.
Great setting? Check. Long ride? Check. Good speed? Check. It does everything a mountain coaster should.
Goats on the Roof The Goat Coaster isn't too far behind the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. While shorter, the Goat Coaster's turns are considerably more intense and provide some really powerful laterals. Unfortunately there are no mini drops like you see on other alpine coasters, but that's not what the coaster focused on. The other benefit with this mountain coaster is the night rides. While the other mountain coasters in the region also offer night rides, they illuminate the course with multicolored lights. Goats on the Roof takes an entirely different approach and gives pitch black rides. I found the latter much more intense as you couldn't see the turns coming until the last minute. Thankfully the park spaced the cars out especially far for these rides so you didn't have to worry about the cars up ahead.
But the real reason I'm here is for the coaster.
Fun by day...
Better at night. Other than the ending, the entire ride is pitch black.
Goats on the Roof also has (you guessed it) goats on the roof. The attraction is so weird that it just has to be experienced to appreciate its greatness. Feeding the goats with the dilapidated bicycle is one of life's greatest pleasures and the gift shop is littered with goat paraphernalia. While the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is the best mountain coaster in the area, I think Goats on the Roof is the better overall attraction thanks to the goats and an almost as good coaster.
Goats on the Roof is everything that's right with tourist traps.
If you want to make a new best friend, you can place food in this cup and get some exercise by pedaling this unergonomic bike to deliver it to the goats.
Or you can deliver it by hand if that's more your thing.
It was impossible to visit Goats on the Roof and not buy a shirt. This place is so weird that it's amazing.
Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster This one was a really fun ride as well. It had a heavily wooded setting and absolutely flew down the course. There were also 1-2 small drops that gave tiny pops of air. So why was it not as good as the two in Pigeon Forge? The length. This one felt half as long as the Goat Coaster.
I was far too lazy to walk back down and take a photo of the sign. Thank goodness for camera zoom.
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster had an outstanding setting and the track that was there was good, but it was the shortest mountain coaster I had been on...to that point. More on that later.
Ober Gatlinburg While I visited primarily for the mountain coaster, Ober Gatlinburg is definitely the most established of the mountain coaster locations. The experience at Ober begins with an awesome aerial tram up the mountain. The journey takes about 10 minutes. The ride gives fantastic views of the Smoky Mountains as you would expect, but you can also see some quirky houses on the mountain such as a full-scale replica of the Barbie Dreamhouse and a weird house hanging over the edge of a hill.
Enter on street level, ride up to the mountains.
The aerial tramway is not only an efficient mode of transit, but it also provides breathtaking views.
But onto the real reason you're reading this report, the mountain coaster. The Ski Mountain Coaster was a mixed bag. It's setting and ride time were both excellent. The turns were quite fast and there were a few tiny drops that almost gave pops of air. Where this coaster suffered was in the comfort department. All of the other mountain coasters I have been on have provided smooth and comfortable rides. For whatever reason, this one is pretty bumpy the whole way down. I thought I maybe got a bad cart, but this opinion was shared by my family after they rode. It's really a shame since a smoother ride would really make this one of the better mountain coasters.
This way to the mountain coaster. It's a long journey from the street to the ride.
The layout and setting are great; however, the ride's bumpiness was not so great. All of the other mountain coasters have been extremely smooth, but not this one.
Up the mountain they go.
Through the trees!
Ober also had several other attractions such as a carousel, water slide, alpine slide, chairlift, ice skating rink, arcade, and some kiddie rides. I skipped these attractions, but the alpine slide was tempting. I just know I'd do a bad job regulating my speed on the way down which could result in a dangerous ride.
One of the highest elevation carousels in the world.
Ice skating in Tennessee just sounds so wrong, but it seemed popular.
They even have a water slide.
The alpine slide looked tempting, but I know the speed demon in me would make an overly thrilling ride.
Because Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg doesn't already have enough mini golf courses.
Rowdy Bear Mountain The newest mountain coaster was unfortunately the worst I've been on. Rowdy Bear Mountain was clearly unfinished on the coaster's inaugrual day. The inside of the building was unfinished and the zipline coaster was still under construction. As for the coaster, it was by far the shortest alpine coaster I have been on and that includes the Gatlinburg one. The ride does reach a good speed and the double helix ending is nice, but the ride is over way too quickly to justify me spending $15 to ride it again on a future visit.
I wasn't able to get a really good photo of the coaster since much of the facility was still under construction, but I'm sure it will look nicer by the end of the year.
Pigeon Forge is really the Vegas of the southeast. This town is littered with tourist traps. Everywhere you look, you will see brochures and flashy billboards trying to lure you in. I for one can appreciate a good tourist trap and had plenty of time to explore Pigeon Forge in between visits to Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains.
Speaking of the Smoky Mountains, they really were impressive. We stopped by both the Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome. The latter gave the most impressive views of the mountains since this was the highest accessible point to pedestrians and you could rotate 360 degrees and see mountains everywhere. The hike to the Clingman's Dome wasn't too difficult, probably about a half mile and 10-15 minutes long and the views were certainly worth it.
The Clingman's Dome is a must if you want to admire the Great Smoky Mountains.
Usually I skip big tourist places when I'm touring parks, but I'm glad I stopped by the Smoky Mountain National Park.
The mountains really were beautiful.
The Island is one of the newer complexes in Pigeon Forge and is really nice. It combines rides with food and shopping. The marquee attraction of the complex is the almost 200 foot tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. I passed on the Ferris Wheel since I think Drop Line gave me comparable views, but the wheel did definitely look nice. The rest of the rides were mostly of the kiddie variety, but they did have one of those SBF Wave Riders under construction and it honestly may be open now at the time of this writing. They also had a decent looking ropes course, but I also skipped that since I prefer the ropes courses in the woods. There were a ton of restaurants and I had to pick the Mellow Mushroom. Who wouldn't want stone fired pizza. Despite looking like a tourist trap, it was actually really tasty.
The marquee attraction of the Island is definitely the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.
It looks great by day and even better at night.
I was interested in riding this, but unfortunately it wasn't open yet. It looked nearly ready to go though.
I prefer the wooded ropes courses I find in the northeast, but this did look like a pretty solid course.
This is an awesome name for a store.
This may be one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen, and I recently just watched Ghost Rider 2.
How can you resist stone fired pizza?
Pigeon Forge is one of the mini golf capitals of the world. I tried two courses- Hillbilly Golf and Ripley's Old MacDonald Farmhouse Golf. Hillbilly Golf was fantastic. The inclined railway to the course perfectly captures the quirky atmosphere of the course. Every single hole had some kind of obstacle to hit your ball through and that's my favorite kind of mini golf course. I'm not a big fan of the adventure style mini golf courses that rely more on landscaping than obstacles. I think the most impressive thing is how Hillbilly Golf survived both the Gatlinburg Fire and a major wind storm earlier this year. While playing the course, you could see the scorch lines along with many fallen trees.
This is my kind of mini golf course.
Your experience begins with a unique inclined railway.
Hillbilly Golf must have a golden horseshoe somewhere considering the fire stopped right at the edge of the course and they survived a major wind storm.
Since I suck at golf, I love the obstacle holes. It evens the playing field.
Old MacDonald Farm mini golf wasn't quite as good as Hillbilly but still fun. Rather than placing obstacles on the course, Ripley's positioned interactive elements around the outside of the course. If you miss a shot, they will let you know. If you make a shot, they may also let you know. Or you could have my luck and get hit with a geyser after sinking a put. Most of the holes themselves were straightforward and actually far too easy. All of the holes were concaved inwards so if you hit the ball anywhere remotely close to the hole it would automatically sink in. The course also has a very interesting pricing scheme. If you only play one course, it's $16 which is insane for mini golf. But you can add each of the other two courses for $1 each.
This was probably the best maintained of the mini golf courses I saw.
I'll win a game of mini golf the day pigs fly.
Pigeon Forge is also the go kart capital of the world. I had never been on an elevated track, so I did some research to find the best one. That led me to Fast Tracks. The Elevated Track was really fun and definitely the best track I've driven. The upward helix actually had some laterals because of its compactness and then the track ends with a double down that almost gave some airtime. Fast Tracks also had two thrill rides- a Skyscraper and a Bungee Jump Tower. I passed on the Skyscraper since I didn't want to pay $20 for something I can ride with a wristband at the state fair. Then the Bungee Jump Tower looked sketchy and awkward. On any jump, you had to hug a punching bag the whole way down.
Fast Tracks was the go kart track I picked and I was very impressed. This double down was quite fast and almost had some airtime.
Helix of death.
Skycraper had a long cycle, but I wasn't going to pay $20 for it.
That poor due went butt over tea kettle on the way down. The Bungee Jumping just looked so awkward.
I was also able to cross zorbing off my bucket list on the trip. The Outdoor Gravity Park has 3 zorbing courses- one twisted, one straight downhill, and one with a mix of both. I tried the latter. I am definitely glad I tried it and did enjoy it, but I definitely preferred the mountain coasters. Because of the murkiness of the balls, I couldn't really see anything outside of the ball which took away some of the effect of rolling uncontrollably down the hill. The zorbs meander pretty slowly for most of the course, but there were two brief moments when they got a full head of steam going.
Zorbing was a cool experience, but not necessarily something I need to try again.
I also stopped in the Hollywood Wax Museum and thought it was a pretty good one. The figures were on par with the Tussauds wax museums and the really cool part about this museum was props. For most of the characters, you could grab props to get some great family photos. For example, most of the western figures had cowboy hats positioned nearby. It was a small touch, but something I hadn't seen before. The wax museum a second building next door with 3 upcharge attractions- a 3D shooting dark ride, a mirror maze, and a haunted walkthrough. I tried the shooter, the Castle of Chaos, and thought it was below average. It was nearly impossible to tell who was shooting or what you were shooting. One positive was the movement. Usually on these rides only the seat moves a little, but on this one of the whole platform spun and moved around the room.
This was actually a pretty good wax museum.
Thanks Arnold for paving the way for celebrities to become politicians...
This MagiQuest esque building holds the 3 upcharge attractions.
Dollywood may have good food, but I found even better offerings in town. My two favorites were Mama's Farmhouse Kitchen and the Old Mill. Both had colossal portions and delicious fried chicken. I also had some great burgers at JT Hannah's, the Smoky Mountain Brewery, and the Local Goat Brewery. The latter was weird since the outside sign said Local Goat Tavern, but every inside sign said Billy Goat Tavern. I also had to stop at Try My Nuts. They had a lot of interesting varieties, but the ones I sampled were too sweet for my tastes. I like my nuts salty .
I didn't spend too much time in Gatlinburg, but I stopped here.
Tennessee seems to have a major goat fetish.
Identity crisis? Local Goat on the outside but Billy Goat on the inside.
I want you to try my nuts.
This store is everything that's right with Pigeon Forge.
And yet again the south loves their Jesus. They had the Biblical Times Dinner Theater along with the Christ Museum. As tempting as these places were...yeah who am I kidding. They weren't tempting.
If you want the Seven Holy Feasts of the Lord, this is the place for you.
Too bad the interactive exhibit isn't the crucifixion.
I don't think I'll feel the need to indulge in as many touristy things in my next trip to Pigeon Forge, but it was definitely worth checking out all that the town had to offer in my most recent trip.
Canobie Coaster wrote:Speaking of the Smoky Mountains, they really were impressive. We stopped by both the Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome. The latter gave the most impressive views of the mountains since this was the highest accessible point to pedestrians and you could rotate 360 degrees and see mountains everywhere. The hike to the Clingman's Dome wasn't too difficult, probably about a half mile and 10-15 minutes long and the views were certainly worth it.
I went to Clingmans Dome last year. Had a beautiful view of ... nothing!
The participation trophy of mountain views.
So, I might be a little jealous of your beautiful day!
Seriously, anyone going to Dollywood should drive the hour to Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap. A bit of nature, a lot of great views, with little actual effort required. I mean, the tacky tourist traps are kinda fun too, but yeah.
Actually, I've had Hillbilly Golf on my list for a while now, and still haven't made it there. Looks hokey as heck and probably a lot of fun.
Wow that would have been very disappointing after hiking all the way up there.
We purposely scouted the weather for the clearest day on our trip and we reaped the benefits once we got to the top. We also really lucked out since the weather was only around 70 degrees which is a far cry from the 95ish degree weather we had last year on the TPR tour there.
This summer I had been planning a Tour de Whore down the Jersey Shore (wow that's a lot of rhyming) to hit several of the boardwalks I've just never gotten to. Whenever I cross the New York Bridges, I usually divert to Pennsylvania and if I do enter New Jersey, I spend almost all of my time at Six Flags Great Adventure. This time I would see the shoreline so famous it has a trashy tv show named after it. My trip came early when I was sent to Pennsylvania for work. What better way to start the trip than to take a side-trip through New Jersey.
My trip began with Six Flags New Jersey. I couldn't enter the state without stopping there. It also helped that it opened at 10:30 while all of the boardwalks opened at noon or later. Going in, I knew I would have a short visit so I had a very focused plan of attack. Get the elusive Joker credit and get as many rides on El Toro that I could in an hour. As I rolled into the lot, there were overcast skies and I got a great parking space up front. With hardly any security line, it looked like I shouldn't have any lines to deal with. The only question I had was whether or not Joker would be open. I went 0/3 trying to get on Great Adventure's version last year. Then I also have gone 1/2 with SFNE's Joker and 0/1 with Great America's.
According to the water tower I'm at Six Flags Great Adventure.
I only see one ride in this photo I'd be riding today.
I walked over to Joker and got behind 7-8 other people who were waiting by the entrance. I didn't see any activity by the ride and then I heard the clickity clack of a car going up the lift. I finally got on a coaster as elusive for me as Lightning Rod. Now I know Lightning Rod is a better coaster and I'll throw a siesta once I finally get on that beast, but today it was a little victory. Speaking of Lightning Rod, I think the ride op is a coaster enthusiast since he saw my Goats on the Roof shirt and asked if I got on Lightning Rod.
I was on the second train of the day on the green side. I left the station going forwards, as I prefer that direction since you have two levels of the ride where you travel in reverse. Having been on New England's a few times, I knew what to expect but I still really enjoy this ride and it's one of my favorite clones out there. I only rode once, but my one ride had less flips than SFNE's (I also noticed it barely flipping during testing). I got 2 flips, but the whole ride was smooth and it's a nice compliment to the B&Ms and Intamins. 8.5 out of 10
Hey what do you know? Joker was actually open!
I really like the ride's placement in the park and it looks great as you walk through the entrance.
Not as many flips as SFNE's, but still a very fun ride.
A light drizzle was now coming down so I hoped El Toro would be running. After walking down a desolate path and getting a little lost, I eventually made my way over to the Bull. I saw a quarter full train rolling out of the station so I knew it would be a walk-on. As eager as I was to get into line, I first had to give Bugs Bunny a George Washington to store all of my loose articles since not even the ever-reliable zippered pocket is sufficient for Six Flags. I know there have been pages of comments on the park's fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo policy, but my quick thoughts are I don't mind having to empty everything from my pockets as this is a very intense ride and not everyone will have zippered pockets. What does irk me is how Six Flags charges for the fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo. I know it's only a dollar but Universal, Morey's, and a few other parks don't charge for fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo if they enforce a no loose article policy on an extreme ride.
With my Joker credit, I spent the rest of the time riding El Toro. Still as awesome as ever.
Enjoy this photo. It's the last I got before my phone took a nap in the nearby fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo while I rode.
Speaking of an extreme ride, I got 4 fantastic rides on El Toro without even having to leave the station (Thank you Great Adventure for being awesome like that. SFNE I know it's futile, but please do take note). I took 3 in the 2nd to back and one in the very front. The first drop is still my favorite outside of giga coasters . I know everyone talks about the Rolling Thunder hill, but I think the 2nd and 3rd hills give equally as epic sustained ejector air as well. Last year during ERT, I remember there being a pretty pronounced jolt after the turnaround but I noticed it missing this year so the Bull was back to giving smooth but bat out of hell rides. 10 out of 10
After my fourth ride, there were riders waiting for the back car so I went down the exit ramp. It was extremely tempting to stay since the park was still as empty as Michigan's Adventure, but I decided to stick with the plan. No Nitro, Batman, or Zumanjaro for me today. No Kingda Ka either but that wasn't entirely by choice. Of course it was down with less than ideal weather conditions. It was also tempting to check out the recently opened Battle for Metropolis, but I also skipped that since I had ridden Great America's version last month. Though if it's anything like Great America's, it's definitely a win and a much better dark ride than I thought Six Flags could and would pull off.
With my Joker credit in hand and some rides on one of my favorite coasters, I was ready to begin whoring and departed for the one, the only, Seaside Heights.
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