Friday, July 20, 2012

Dollywood - Trip Report

Last month I took my family on a road trip with the primary purpose of finding roller coasters in lots of different parks. In addition to regular Disney parks updates, I'll spend a few days unpacking our experiences in those parks. I'll give special attention to how these parks compare to the Orlando experience.

We start in Dollywood, which is in Tennessee amid the Great Smoky Mountains. I loved this park. It combines the best of the "local" (or regional) parks with the best of the national-level parks. By that I mean it kept the small-town charm, up-close interactions you expect from a place without a lot of foot traffic, but it also had world-class rides that would put many parks to shame.

The park is divided into themed sections, some better pulled off than others. The front section has a definite 1950s vibe to it, and while this was well-themed, we moved on. The rides we wanted were deeper in. There's a county fair section for kids (an easy enough theme), and there's kind of a backwoods theme to a section along the side. The main strip was themed to the old West, and it was very well done, among the best I've seen. I liked the very long sluice running through the avenue.

The coasters at this park are great. The Wild Eagle is a winged coaster, and it feels different than anything you're used to (there's seemingly nothing holding you up). The big wooden coaster has kick, airtime, and isn't too rough. The older metal coaster is fine as far as that goes, but nothing to write home about. The mine-themed Mystery Mine is a combo dark ride and coaster, and it's incredible what it does to your body (I won't spoil all the surprises). Don't miss.

There's a weird mashup of water slide and log ride that is pretty good, and there's an honest to goodness dark ride called Blazing Fury that is kinda sorta a roller coaster. It's old, and feels old, but it has a charm to it next to its incomprehensibility. Plus, you'll spend the rest of the day randomly yelling "Fire in the Hole!" at strangers.

A water ride encourages you to splash others with water cannons, like a battle. Neat and low tech.

There's a ropes challenge course here which is - prepare yourself - completely free and included with admission. How unheard of!! I loved it. It was also an inventive course, with good (and scary) vistas.

Touring ideas:

  • definitely get the souvenir soda bottle. 
  • it will take a full day to see everything (maybe more than one day) even if you skip all the shows
  • the shows are reported to be great, but we lacked the time
  • there is a line-skipping Qbot technology for a fee; we found it worth the money

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.