March 23, 2012
Pigeon Forge TN
It had been about 3 and a half years since my last trip to one of my favorite theme parks in the Smokeys. In that time the park had changed quite a lot, with Adventure Mountain, Dueling Daredevils, and of course, 2012’s new attraction, Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster all being added. The offer of a new major credit was too good to pass up, so I planned a trip for opening day 2012.
I woke up around 5:30 AM on Saturday, got ready, and headed north-west to Pigeon Forge. I’d never driven this way before since this was the first trip to Dollywood since I’d moved to NC. It was actually quicker than going from WV, since you didn’t have to go thru Sevierville & Pigeon Forge. If you could go thru the national forests at a speed faster than the 35 MPH posted limit, I could get there in about 3.5 hours.
I mistakenly thought the park opened at 10 AM when in fact it opened at 9 AM, but that’s okay. I had all day. And I had decided to get a Q-Bot before I even went to help with lines. So, around 10:20 AM that morning, I was pulling into the parking lot. You can clearly see the top of the lift & loop on the new coaster from the parking lot. It looked impressive up on the mountain. I got in line behind the slowest family on this earth trying to get a one day pass. I’m so impatient. I was really looking forward to getting the Q-Bot.
Eventually I made it in and headed to the Q2Q shop first. They actually sold Q-Bot stuffed toys AND shirts. After paying my $15 I immediately reserved Wild Eagle, with about a 15 minute posted wait for Q2Q. I walked up the mountain, took some pictures, walked by Dueling Daredevils, and then made it to the new plaza in front of Wild Eagle. First things first, the Wild Eagle statue was impressive. I want one for my front yard. The area looked nice, and this was the first time I’d been here since they added Adventure Mountain. It now looked like a complete part of the park, and not as out of place as it did when they first added the walkway from Mystery Mine to Tennessee Tornado.
Once I figured out where the Q2Q line was I went up and realized I still had 3 minutes to wait, which was fine. When I could check in, I went in and was assigned to the left hand side. The ride ops hadn’t got their rhythm down yet, and dispatches were slow with a decently long line. The station was very nice, and the whole queue was shaded, which was nice. It’s those kinds of touches at Dollywood that I love, with all of the major coasters having covered or heavily shaded queues. My wait was about 25 minutes for the front, and I immediately reserved a ride on Mystery Mine once I got in line, so that was my next stop. It had apparently not been up at opening, but had since been added to the Q-Bot. First things first, it was Wild Eagle time.
Wild Eagle–My first ride was in the front/outer/left hand seat. The restraints were comfy, and much like a B&M flying coaster. The ride rounds the turn out of the station and goes up the steep lift hill up the mountain. And it goes very fast. The first drop, while not really that large, was really great, and gave great airtime in the front. The smooth first loop was a lot of fun and fast, but then the best part of the ride came, the zero G roll. In my seat, you really get a lot of hang-time, weightlessness, and a total feeling of disorientation. I loved it! After that you head up into the Immelman inversion, which again was smooth and fun. There were loads of foot choppers from here on out as you hit a massive corkscrew. There was a trim between the Immelman and corkscrew, but I didn’t feel it hit. After the 4 inversions you have a nice airtime hill and lots of twists and turns with more foot choppers before hitting the final brake run.
I was far more impressed than I thought I would be with Wild Eagle. Wild Eagle wasn’t anything revolutionary. It’s wing seats are just another variation of any other ‘sitdown’ looping coaster. It’s between a floorless and an inverted coaster. It does things that inverted coasters don’t do easily like the great straight first drop, but has the views of a floorless and inverted combined. I think that if this ride had floorless seats, it’d be just slightly less fun, but still much of the same. It’s a great addition to Dollywood, and I could ride it quite a bit. It won’t make it into my top 20, but it’s in no way a bad ride, nor was I in any way let down.
My next stop was Mystery Mine. I went up the Q2Q entrance and finally got my wish of a front seat ride. The ride ops were arguing with some annoying kids that were trying to make them let them all on a train together, even though there were a ton of them and they were partially made of ‘single riders’ and ADA riders. They were getting on the operator’s nerves, so he came over and scanned my Q-Bot after telling them they’d be riding in different trains. He then sent me to the front. This would be my first ride on Mystery Mine after having Lazik surgery, so I was actually able to enjoy the theming.
Mystery Mine–The ride was still immensely popular. The theming was really great, but I didn’t hear the song playing in the queue. Also, the video screen during the final vertical ascent and some fibre optic effects during the ‘explosion’ weren’t working, the screen having been replaced temporarily with a lit static picture. Anywho, on to the ride; The drop into the themed section and the twists and turns were very janky. Even worse than my first trip when Mystery Mine was newer. The first vertical drop was fun, but the section outside after that was painful. Then it’s twisty/turny back into the other vertical chain lift. The explosion and drop were fun, but after that, it’s rough again into the inversions, which give major hang time, but hurt with those over the shoulder restraints.
Having had my one and only ride on Mystery Mine (since it closed shortly there after for the rest of the day), I went to Thunderhead. I had reserved it while in line for Mystery Mine. I was excited to get back to one of my favorite coasters in the world. I did take some photos of the section where Timbur Terror was, which now had a lot of picnic tables on it’s ‘pier’. I waited for a third row ride on Thunderhead.
Thunderhead–Wow. I don’t know if I just missed it really badly or if it was just running insane, but this ride was running as good as it does at nite. I loved it. There was airtime on every hill, the first drop was as great as always, and the twisty-GCI layout always impresses. But it had more air than I remembered. Its just a tad less violent than American Thunder (the coaster formerly known as Evel Kenivel). I love Thunderhead. It really is one of the best, and deserves it’s high praise. I’d go to the park just for Thunderhead alone.
I was hungry by this point so I went and got a huge slice of pizza, cookies, and Sprite. After filling up, I walked down the mountain, around, and then back up the other side to go to Dueling Daredevils. As nice as that area was before, it’s still very well done with the barn. Dueling Daredevils was fun, but the ride time seemed way shorter for a Screaming Swing. Next up was a quick spin on Blazin’ Fury. The final splashdown is no more but the ride, while quirky, is still a neat addition. Dunno if they’ll ever re-do this as has been discussed in the past, but for what it is, Blazin’ Fury is fun.
After that I headed back to Tennesse Tornado, or as I like to call it, Arrow’s Last Stand. I was going to ride in the front, but ended up in the 3rd seat back. It was still smooth, with a great first inversion that provides major hangtime. The worst part about the whole ride is that it’s too short. And it uses Arrow’s rolling stock, but whatever. Its still a great, fun ride.
I wondered around the park a bit more, thought of doing the Adventure Mountain courses, but didn’t, and eventually ended up on the train. It got very cloudy on the train, and the temperature dropped significantly. When I got off I headed over to put my stuff in a locker. It was raining and everyone was getting wet. I walked up the mountain to Mountain Slidewinder, where I was willing to wait for more riders, but after standing up there for a bit, we had to evacuate the mountain due to lightning.
The clouds were breaking up and coming back all at the same time. I walked around some more and wanted to ride something, but every time the rides opened, lightning would strike and everything closed. I got another ride on Wild Eagle, this time on an inside seat near the middle. This was the last train before it closed again for weather. I will say, it’s interesting sitting beside the track and seeing the workings of the train going up the lift and on the brakes. You don’t see this on other coasters.
When I got off, I went over to Thunderhead to wait out the re-opening, which eventually came. This time I rode in the very back, after a quick rain storm, and the ride was hauling. I made my way back down the mountain and up the other side for some cinnamon bread, which was outstanding, then tried to go ride water rides again. Sadly, everything kept closing for lightning so eventually I called it a day.
Dollywood is a great park with great food, rides, theming, and awesome employees. I do wish it never rained so that I could have gotten the other rides done, and I should have watched some shows, but I guess that gives me reason to go back.
I toyed with doing more stuff in Gaitlinburg & Pigeon Forge, but didn’t. I did have dinner at a buffet (Not terrible, but I wouldn’t go back), and went back to my hotel to watch a movie and sleep. Sunday was decent because the weather was nice. I had breakfast, toyed with going to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, but decided to go home instead.