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Dollywood PTR - 4/2/11


Guest TombraiderTy

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Guest TombraiderTy

If memory serves me right, I haven't posted a photo trip report since summer 2009. Therefore, I may be a bit rusty in my writing here, but hopefully the pictures speak for themselves.

Following a short week of planning, I headed down to Dollywood on Saturday, April 2 with four close friends- Cody (rcfreak339), Paul (TOPGUN1993), Miranda and Caitlin. While the majority of us had been to Dollywood at some point or another in the past, it was Cody's and Miranda's first time visiting the park. We left early morning and drove most of the five-and-a-half hours in darkness with minimal traffic. After arriving in Pigeon Forge at roughly 8:00am, we found our way to Dollywood.

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The parking lot was empty, pardon a few other cars. We parked within walking-distance of the entrance and headed-over to the gates, waiting for the park to open. While in the entrance plaza, we noticed the information board carried some disappointing news...

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However, we were happy to learn that the information was outdated when an employee came over and removed the attraction from the list :D

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Upon being allowed inside the park, we queued up near the entrance to Timber Canyon. Reflecting the near-empty parking lot, the park too was pretty dead.

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The park officially opened at 9:00am and we quickly made our way to the first attraction of the day, Thunderhead. Thunderhead is a twisted GCI wooden roller coaster that opened in 2004 and is easily one of my favorite thrill rides anywhere. In all honesty, I'd choose this attraction over practically any Kings Island roller coaster.

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We boarded the first train of the day and sat towards the back. Although the rear of the train is often rougher and more painful on wooden roller coasters, it's bearable on Thunderhead and extremely fun. After our first ride, we quickly entered the waiting queue a second time and rode again.

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One of my favorite things about Thunderhead, despite the fact it's only 100 feet tall, is that it accelerates very quickly and maintains its high speed through-out the full ride. The entire experience is very out-of-control, yet the attraction is not unnecessarily rough or painful. The layout is also extremely unpredictable with countless twists, turns and pops of airtime. Perhaps its most famous feature, the station fly-by, is also great.

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Following our two rides on Thunderhead, we headed further down Timber Canyon past the currently-closed Timber Tower.

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Timber Tower is a HUSS topple-tower that opened a few years back (2006, I believe). Like many other HUSS attractions, it has been the victim of constant and prolonged downtime. In fact, Dollywood has stated that the ride will be closed all of 2011.

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Not only was the tower sitting empty and motionless, but the pool around it had also been drained.

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Although the attraction is visually interesting and exciting when it's operating, actually riding it is nothing too special. I was not impressed when I tried it back in 2008, so it wasn't a major disappointment for me that it was closed.

Continuing down Timber Canyon, we reached Mystery Mine. Mystery Mine is a highly-themed Euro-Fighter roller coaster that opened in 2007. Its famous for its steep drops, intense inversions, tight turns, ground-hugging elements and creepy themeing and effects.

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Cody

Although a tad on the short side, Mystery Mine is very exciting and intense. The finale is especially great, featuring a fire effect, 95-degree drop and two twisted inversions.

Continuing around the park, we left Timber Canyon and entered Wilderness Pass. This is where River Battle is located. The attraction appeared to be open, yet nobody seemed willing to ride with the chilly morning temperatures. Therefore, additional pictures and information will be provided later :P

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Further down Wilderness Pass was Adventure Mountain, easily one of the highlights of the trip.

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Adventure Mountain is advertised as America's largest challenge course, featuring over 100 different challenge rope features. Guests are suited into a harness and attached to an overhead track as they travel through one of three different unique courses- Rocky Top Trail, Black Bear Cliff and Geyser Gorge. Each course had its own distinct and unique feature.

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Paul

Adventure Mountain is a very unique attraction that I hope to continually see at more and more amusement parks in the coming years. It's interactive, challenging and fun, although it does have a lower capacity. I was surprised by the fact that Dollywood included Adventure Mountain with park admission, considering that other parks like Nickelodeon Universe in Mall of America charge for similar attractions. I was also impressed by the different levels of difficulty that Adventure Mountain offered- guests were always given four choices of pathways. While three of the four were typically tricky rope courses, there was always a simple bridge as the fourth. This allowed anybody who was a tad nervous or unwilling to still continue on the attraction.

While Adventure Mountain was filled with people later in the day, it almost felt as if we had the whole structure to ourselves in the morning. We completed all three courses without waiting for anybody but each other. Overall, we spent roughly 45 minutes continually moving on the attraction. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed on the attraction (for understandable reasons), so no pictures from any of the towers.

At roughly 10:30am, we arrived at Tennessee Tornado, a massive Arrow Dynamics looping roller coaster.

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Cody

Like all attractions before, there was no wait for Tennessee Tornado. Despite single train operations, we walked right on and grabbed seats towards the back. The ride itself was exciting and smooth, although the duration is a tad on the short-side. None-the-less, we all enjoyed Tennessee Tornado.

Continued below

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Guest TombraiderTy

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Random picture, but I find it comical how most every amusement park in the country now seems to have a 3-Point Challenge. Dollywood's was simple but nice.

After Tennessee Tornado, we rode Dollywood's fourth and final roller coaster (ignoring VeggieTales Sideshow Spin, anyhow), Blazing Fury.

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Blazing Fury is an older attraction, predating Dollywood. It opened in 1978 when the park was still known as Silver Dollar City. The majority of the indoor-ride twists through various mine and town scenes before plunging down three separate drops. The coaster isn't too thrilling, but it's still fun. However, the first-riders amongst my group all found the whole experience to be bizarre and unusual.

We decided on one more attraction before taking a break to eat. Daredevil Falls, a large flume ride, opened in 1998. It features a 66-foot drop and an extensive mining theme.

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Photo courtesy of Cody

It was still a tad chilly, so Miranda and Caitlin opted out on riding. However, they were willing to snap our photo as we braved the cold weather and wet ride.

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It was nearing 11:30am and, having had breakfast at roughly 2:00am or so, we were awfully hungry at this point in time. Therefore, we decided to get lunch at Miss Lillian's Chicken. Each of us got a BBQ sandwich platter with roasted fresh cut potatoes, baked beans and a pickled spear. I chose to substitute double potatoes for beans, however.

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Dollywood is well-known for its phenomenal food. However, I must confess I was slightly disappointed by this meal- the vegetables were a tad bland and the sandwich wasn't anything special. However, the food did curb my hunger and was a decent value.

Once we finished lunch, we decided to check-out Dollywood's newest attraction- Barnstormer.

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Paul

Barnstormer is an S&S Power Screamin' Swing. It's themed to daredevil airplane pilots and features various airplane-related signage and props throughout the area and queue. Overall, it was a thrilling and impressive ride.

Something I noticed while in the area was that playgrounds and play areas seem to always be located nearby the major thrill rides at Dollywood. This allows for younger siblings and children to still have fun and enjoy themselves while a parent or siblings goes off and rides the neighboring roller coaster or attraction.

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I thought this was a great idea and an awesome way to make sure nobody was left out while within the park.

By this point in time, we had ridden practically every major thrill ride at Dollywood. Therefore, we decided to head into the park's tamer County Fair area and enjoy some smaller flat rides.

The Amazing Flying Elephants was the first of two attractions we rode. The attraction is pretty much a smaller copy of Disney's famous Flying Dumbo's attractions. Riders are capable of lifting and lowering their elephant-shaped ride vehicle by pushing and releasing a small button. When timed right, this can turn a simple fair ride into a mild thrill ride.

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The other attraction we rode in County Fair was Wonder Wheel, a small Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel. We waited longer for Wonder Wheel- about 10 minutes- then we did for any other ride through-out the day.

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As expected, both rides were enjoyable. However, neither was anything to write home about.

Prior to the trip, Paul and Cody had heard of "Cinnamon Bread" and decided to give it a try. Both seemed a tad too excited over some simple bread...

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Photo courtesy of Cody

The two split the bread and shared some with the remainder of the group. Although indeed tasty, I feel as if my expectations were set a bit too high when the bread was previously compared to crack :P

Following our sampling of the Cinnamon Bread, we began to head back around the park in reverse. Traveling counter-clockwise, we passed through Craftsman's Valley and into Wilderness Pass. We stopped at SkyZip, an upcharge zipline attraction, and purchased tickets. We were told to return at 2:00pm, giving us time to ride another attraction.

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Photo courtesy of Cody

The weather had definitely warmed-up since the morning, but it was now slightly windy. However, acknowledging the lack of a line, Caitlin and I decided to give River Battle a try. The remainder of the group chose not to ride, but instead to torment and torture us with the water guns located along the perimeter of the attraction.

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Cody

After a thorough drenching, it was about time to dry-off on SkyZip. Although we had initially been told to expect a larger group, we were pleased to discover that our group of five was being joined with only two guests. This allowed quicker training and gearing-up for the zipline.

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SkyZip was composed of five separate ziplines, the longest stretching 850 feet. Small hiking trials and a suspended bridge were also included in the attraction, as well as a professional photographer who documented your adventure (although photos were an extra cost). I'm not 100% certain how high the lines were, but I believe that a couple of the five reached heights of over 100-feet. They spanned over pathways, trees and attractions (including Adventure Mountain and the side of Tennessee Tornado).

As expected, the attraction was pretty intimidating and nerve-wracking. Despite the safety equipment- harness, helmet, etc.- being suspended from a line so high from the ground is still a frightening experience. However, SkyZip proved extremely enjoyable and was very thrilling. I don't know if I'd pay for a second time, but I'm glad that I did it a first time.

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Now, story time... the last of the five lines (Bald Eagle Swoop) took riders from Tennessee Tornado towards the center of the park. Our guide warned us that, due to the winds, there was a chance we may get stuck on the line. Therefore, we needed to tuck our knees in and try and make ourselves as much like a "ball" as possible. Now while some people in our group decided an extended zipline ride would be exciting and actually tried to get stuck- flailing their arms, etc.- I decided to follow the instructions and successfully cross the line. However, I apparently abandoned the ball shape midway through the line in order to fix how much I was spinning... which ended-up slowing me down. As I inched towards the end platform, I heard one of the guides announce "He's not going to make it" before I started to slide backwards. I soon enough came to a stop in the center of the line, directly above Blazing Fury's showbuilding, an estimated 90ish feet in the air. I noticed various park guests looking up at me, probably surprised by my situation.

After a few seconds, a guide started to zipline down towards me from the end platform. After a brief collision, he grabbed onto me by wrapping his legs around mine and began to pull us both towards the platform with his hands on the cable. A few brief moments later, my feet touched the landing platform and I was able to continue moving forwards on my own. I was unhooked and joined the remainder of the group, all who had gotten a kick out of my failure. Even worse, however, were the photos... which I do not plan on posting here :P

Once our group was out of our harnesses and back on the ground, we decided to try for one more ride before heading home. Mystery Mine had closed earlier due to technical difficulties, leaving us with Thunderhead.

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Paul

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Photo courtesy of Cody

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Photo courtesy of Cody

Following the last ride of the day on Thunderhead, we headed to the car and began the long ride home.

Overall, it was a great day. The weather was fantastic, the crowds were minimal and the rides were fun. Although Dollywood's quantity may be slightly lacking in comparison to Kings Island, its quality is still superb. I definitely recommend the park to anyone who's never visited.

So yeah... unless I forgot some recent trip report, this was my first PTR in almost two years. I hope you liked it I guess... yeah :P

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Very nice trip report and very nice photos! Glad you all had a great time. Dollywood is one of the parks on my list that I've been wanting to make a for a long time now, hopefully I get the chance to visit soon. Thanks for taking the time to share!

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Cool PTR, Ty. Dollywood is one of my favorite parks, nice to see some pictures of it, brings back some good memories. From your opinions, I feel like I really need to shell out the money for trip on the zipline next time! Thanks for posting! :)

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The Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel at Coney, while smaller than Dollywood`s, goes faster than Dollywoods. It provides quite a fun little stomach tickler that is not present on Dollywood`s wheel. I highly recommend you make a visit down to Coney to check it out sometime.

Excellent trip report. Thanks for sharing! I hope to make it down to Dollywood sometime this spring, but finding time maybe difficult, unfortunately.

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Ty - thanks for sharing. With you, Cody, and Paul snapping pictures - you knew there would be a few amazing ones in there (and there are more than a few). Note to self - need to get back to Dollywood and try Adventure Mountain and the Zipline.

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Ty,

It's hard to know where to start...a really fun trip report to read/look at. :)

After looking at your /everyones photos I feel like I have walked through the park. It seems like a very scenic park...just what I like. It's cool that after driving such a long way that you were greeted with an empty park...that had to help enjoy the day even more. I have never made it to Dollywood yet...but what with reading Avatar's and your TR I really have to make it there soon.

There seems to be quite a few unique experiences at the park...the Thunderhead station fly-by sounds awesome, "River Battle" looks like loads of fun...I would trade that ride for any of several rides at KI...including The Crypt. ;) (By the way...will our bet ever be settled?!) Adventure Mountain also looks like a lot of fun...but what's with those wussy harnesses?

I don't know if it's just Cody's photography skills, but Daredevil Falls looks amazing...nice themeing.

I agree, it sounds like a great idea that the park has play areas for the little ones near the big rides. :) Too bad KI doesn't do that. I don't think a lot of adults realize that something doesn't have to be over-the-top big to thrill little kids. I can't count how much time my nephew's played at The Laughing Place at WDW.

YOur Sky Zip story is funny...although not probably to you. :P (By the way, how much was it to do that?)

Thanks for the report, judging by your photos this will be trip you will always remember*.

...yet the attraction is not unnecessarily rough or painful.

By the way...is this proper english? It seemed to make my head swim. :P

*Future alzheimer's not withstanding.

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...yet the attraction is not unnecessarily rough or painful.

By the way...is this proper english? It seemed to make my head swim. :P

*Future alzheimer's not withstanding.

I see no issue with TombraiderTy quote, English-wise....In days of olde, fussy English teachers would claim it was a double negative, but those days are probably long gone...

Terp, part time grammarian (and parliamentarian, but that's a story for another state...er....)

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Awesome PTR Ty. Next time you guys go back go to Dollywood make sure you pick up the Rice crispy Treat of WIN OMG it is the best rice crispy treat located in the sweet shop by the main gate.

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