Dollywood 2016


  • November 19, 2016
  • Pigeon Forge TN
  • Dollywood
  • ACE Smokey Mountain Coaster Fest
  • Photo Album

Dollywood 2016

Ah, Dollywood. One of my favorite parks. Not too far away. Very well themed. Great food, great people, great rides. Dollywood is one of the few parks that really gets it and has it all. At this point, any time they announce a new ride or attraction, there’s never any feeling of “If only they’d add…”, but a feeling of “Of course, that’s what they would add”. And I love it. Sadly I hadn’t been there in about 4 years just due to circumstances. I’d wanted to get there early this year for their new roller coaster, but unfortunately, the ride had…issues.

Dollywood is a great park regardless of whether their star attraction is open, but I really, really wanted to ride Lightning Rod. The ride did get some what more reliable towards the end of the season, and since there was an ACE event, even if it weren’t open, if I were to go to said event, at least there would be ERT and friends to make up for it. So I signed Isaac and myself up for it, and on Friday I left work early to meet up with Isaac and park my car along the way.

After passing thru all of the smoke from the wild fires, which we were heading towards before passing, we arrived at Gatlinburg around 8pm. We’d decided to find some food before checking in, so we rode by the resort I’d booked, then back in to Gatlinburg, parked, and found out our first choice for food was closed already (Gatlinburg is not a party town, and stuff closes way too early, in my opinion). So we headed to No Way Jose’, a Mexican restaurant which had good food, but gave me bad indigestion all night long. Then we headed to the resort, only to find out they had three restaurants there we could have chosen from.

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Dollywood 2012

12DWBanner.jpgDollywood | Photos | Videos

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.

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Dollywood 2008

DW08SpringBanner.jpgDollywood | Photos | Videos

March 29, 2008
Pigeon Forge TN

I decided in early 2008 that I would start my coaster season off at Dollywood since I hadn’t been since 2006 and there was a coaster credit there I hadn’t gotten since I didn’t go in 2007. So, while everyone else went to Spring Fling, I went to Dollywood. I left home at about 7:30 AM and arrived to dismal skies and cool weather, but running rides. I was hoping Mystery Mine wouldn’t be down a second Saturday in a row.

In fact, everything was running except Timberrr Tower, which was testing. Mom and Dad had to be out of town for part of the weekend, so I opted to stay at home Friday nite to take care of the animals and leave early Saturday morning instead. Saturday morning I woke up around 7:30 AM, fed the animals, took a shower, got dressed, and headed southwest to Pigeon Forge.

The drive wasn’t long and I only stopped in Wytheville to get some gas and breakfast.  Once I arrived in Pigeon Forge, though, I couldn’t remember the back road to the park, so I had to wait in traffic. That time of year, however, wasn’t as crowded as summer and Xmas time. I’m so used to going into the old entrance to Dollywood that having to go in the new way was weird, but not completely foreign.  The sky was gloomy and threatened rain all morning, but at this point it was still dry.

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Dollywood 2006

DW06Banner-2.pngDollywood | Photos | Videos

December 16, 2006
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

The morning came far too early. We’d been joined by 2 more late comers at the cabin in the middle of the nite. I was waiting on everyone else to get ready and around 10:30 AM we started to roll off the mountain. I had told everyone else to be at Dollywood’s front gate that early so that they would be waiting on us to arrive, as then I could pass out tickets for our buffet. We stopped at a gas station to grab a few things and found our way to the park at about 11:00 AM.

After parking we walked towards the front gate when we heard Barron yell at us. We stopped to wait on Barron and Brandon and continued to the gate. After arriving and making our way inside the number for the buffet fluctuated, and I can’t count, so after paying, counting, miscounting, going back, paying for more, and then handing out tickets, I sent the group on their way with instructions for buffet at 4:00 PM. However, I gave my admission ticket out as a food ticket by accident while losing my food ticket. That would be the cause for more confusion later and I just wanted to ride Thunderhead.

We headed up to the Timber Canyon area of the park. They’d not only added a whole new section with one major flat ride, a small tower ride, and kid’s play area, but Mystery Mine, the next year’s new attraction, was almost complete as well and looked great. I love the lumberjack/beaver theme in this area. We walked up to the Thunderhead station and they were running 2 trains. But the weather was beautiful and I assume they were expecting a large crowd. We hopped on the middle. Thunderhead was still running great as usual. We hopped around for another ride before heading back to look at the new section of the park.

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Gatlinburg 2006

GPFBanner06-2.pngObër Gatlinburg | Hard Rock Café |Photos | Videos

December 15, 2006
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN

It was that time of year again. Time to suit up in my warmest winter attire, pack up the Xterra, and head to Tennessee for a weekend of coaster riding. I took Friday off from work so that I could get a head start and meet up with some friends who were visiting the area during the same time period I was, and since I hadn’t seen them since a new addition to the family I was excited to spend the evening with friends.

I waited till Friday morning to pack as I knew I wouldn’t need much and knew what I was going to take with me. But during packing somehow I hurt my back. After a week of headaches and now a back ache I took some Aspirin that never really kicked in. I left the house around 10 AM. As prepared as I was, the warm winter attire was definitely not needed as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was out in full force. Weather for the weekend was calling for highs of 66° and lows of 50°, but it was at least 70° by this point.

The drive was about 4 hours, with traffic upon arrival to Pigeon Forge not as bad as I’d expected. I had called Daniella and made plans to meet up with her family at an arcade in Gatlinburg but they called and said they were heading somewhere else as the price vs. fun factor wasn’t worth it. After a couple more failed attempts, we decided to hit up Obër Gatlinburg, which I’d never been to. So I told them I’d park by the Hard Rock Café since I had dinner plans there for the evening, and then walk up to meet them.

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Dollywood December 2005

05DWoodBanner.jpgDollywood | Photos | Videos

December 17, 2005
Pigeon Forge, TN

I didn’t sleep very much and woke up by the morning sun through the windows around 6 AM, but I laid in bed until about 8 AM as no-one else was awake. Eventually, though, everyone did wake up so I showered and got ready, as did everyone at Beth’s Cabin, and eventually everyone made it into the Element. The park didn’t open until 11 AM according to the website, but I had Ed’s backpack in my car so we went back to Best Western to drop that off so that Ed could pick up Mike B.

We had a lot of time to kill and needed to eat so we decided on breakfast at a sit down restaurant on the Pigeon Forge strip. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it wasn’t as crowded as the parking lot made it seem. We all sat down and ordered. I was in the middle of a conversation when I look around to see the waitress with our food. It wasn’t any longer than about 5 or 6 minutes. That was by far the quickest service I had ever gotten at a sit down restaurant, and the food was good. I ordered the big breakfast  which had 3 ginormous pieces of country ham, three eggs over easy, plus biscuits and gravy. All was good, but even I couldn’t finish my food, nor did anyone else at the table.

Ed called to say that the park had opened and that they were waiting for us so we paid and headed to Dollywood, making our way on the tram to the park gates. We saw Ed, Tina, Mike B., and Nicole standing around waiting. Everyone except Danny had pre-paid their tickets and dinner meal tickets to me. This was the first lesson we learned on the trip, don’t trust me to know what I’m doing. It is actually cheaper for a Season Pass holder to buy tickets, so Nicole got a refund for me to put towards her Season Pass since she wants to come back next year a couple of times. This didn’t take long and she paid for the tickets as I went over to pick up the meal tickets for the group.

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Pigeon Forge 2005


In 2004 I had the bright idea to go to Dollywood in December for my first visit to the park. Since it was open and they run the coasters in the winter, I wanted to go try out Thunderhead. I wasn’t aware until last year just how close the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area was to where I lived. And Thunderhead was screaming at me to come and ride. So I brought it up to a few people and we planned an informal event on a Saturday in December. Ten of us, and we all had lots of fun. After coming back and talking about it for some time several other friends and acquaintances decided that they would like to come as well if we did it again. Well in 2005 we did it again. With seven more people than the previous year.

So, months of planning went into this weekend.  Of course, I took it upon myself to plan.  And one thing the group (or most of them anyways) learned was not to trust Clint with money.  More importantly, I should say, don’t trust Clint with Math.  Ever.  Ever ever, in fact.  I did a good job with planning the meal, though.  So after literally almost a year of planning, we had a group of 19 going.  Then Josh and Brandi had to back out.  So we were down two people, but since they weren’t going to eat at the buffet and they didn’t have to pay to get in with their season passes it wasn’t hard to adjust.

The week finally arrived.  I was driving from Southern West Virginia to Pigeon Forge by myself.  I was off for the week prior to the trip, so I was able to adjust my sleeping as I was a day sleeper during that time.  So on Friday December 16 I woke up early and headed south.  The drive from home to the Pigeon Forge area is about 4 hours, but all interstate once I reach Bluefield, Va. which is about an hour from home.  Since my Xterra drinks gas like a fish drinks water, not to mention I’m in need of new tires (c’mon income tax refund), I borrowed my parent’s Honda Element for the weekend.  I got my ginger pills, bufferin rip off, XM Radio, and CD case from my car and off I went.  Thank goodness for XM Radio.

I arrived in Sevierville around 1pm.  Beth, who had picked up Kris Allen and Danny Perkins were heading to Louisville to pick up Mike Case and Matt Scott as their flights landed…or so she thought.  Unfortunately, when Matt arrived in Cincinnati, they canceled his flight to KY, so he was on a bus that took far longer than they had anticipated.  I arrived to Pigeon Forge after Tina and Ed  so I met up with Ed as Tina waited at the NASCAR Speed Park for Nicole.  Half of the power was out in Pigeon Forge, and none of the traffic lights worked.  The coaster at NASCAR Speed Park was closed for the weekend as well.

Ed was at Best Western, so we headed towards Gatlinburg, stopping for me to pick up some stuff on the way.  We stopped to look at Hillbilly Golf, which never opened, and then we rode thru Gatlinburg for my first time.  Tina called and she and Nicole decided to meet us back at the parking lot by Hillbilly Golf.  Since we weren’t far away, we drove around downtown Gatlinburg a bit.  While down there, I had seen a Ferris Wheel and a Yo-Yo and something else I couldn’t make out up on a hill.  We drove up a road to see if we could get closer to investigate, and found a park that had to have been closed for quite some time, as everything was needing to be painted, de-rusted, and what not. It was abandoned.  It only had a couple of rides in it, but it looked quaint.  I couldn’t figure out how to turn around, but the gate to the park was open, and that was the only place the road let to turn around, so I turned around by the Yo-Yo and headed back down. I’d never driven thru an amusement park before, and I didn’t really mean to this time.

So we picked up the girls at the parking lot and headed to park in Gatlinburg.  We went to the far end, paid, and left the Element in a covered car park.  Then we headed out into Gatlinburg, as none of us had ever really been there.  We were going to go thru the Ripley’s Haunted House, but I wasn’t paying $14 for it.  That was far too expensive for something I’ve done elsewhere, and while good, it wasn’t amazing.  So we walked more, found a candy shop where I had a wonderful green apple dipped in caramel and chocolate, and then we walked down to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokeys around 4pm.  Mike Bartlett was just arriving in the area and was going to meet us here in a while.  So we paid and went on in.

The Aquarium was wonderful!  I had been thru the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach and loved it, so I knew I would like this one.  It was very similar, but also different; though that could be more because it has been a few years since I had been thru the one at Myrtle.  We wandered around looking at fish and what not until we arrived at the tunnel going under the shark and fish tanks.  We all really enjoyed standing on the moving walkway as sharks, sawfish, eels, turtles and more swam around us.  We liked it so much that we wanted to do it again.

Then I realized something.  Mike may have been trying to call…but you don’t get a signal when you’re under thousands of gallons of water on your cell.  So we went to call him, but actually saw Mike standing on the balcony above us.  We went up to meet him, and got a chance to do the first half of the aquarium all over again, which was fine, as we really kind of wanted to anyhow.  This place really was great.

We spent quite a lot of time at the aquarium, saw some feedings taking place, and petted the stingrays and lots of other stuff.  Then the crew picked up a few things at the gift shop before we headed out.  It was getting dark by this time.  Walking down main street Gatlinburg, someone saw a shop down one of the offshoot alleyways.  I mentioned how we had plenty of time, so we could go and look.  We did.  After coming around to the back of the shops, we walked down by the hotels and what not on the other street.  Then I saw something I had read about and was interested in, Mystery Mansion.  This was a haunted attraction in Gatlinburg that I’ve heard good things about, so since everyone wanted to go, we headed towards the Tiki Torches.  Tina was happy about that…

We arrived to the almost glowing white house to see nobody else around.  The attraction was open, but it was still early, and no one was there but us.  So we paid our way and headed in.  This was by far one of the best haunted houses I’ve done in a while.  This was a rather large attraction.  They have live actors that can not touch you, nor can you touch them.  It was really well done.  And it was an entire building filled up with haunted house offerings.  I was spooked a couple times, after complaining to the actors that they weren’t doing their job by scaring me.  They made up for it after that.

One thing that was fun was standing on one of the balconies that were outside on the front of the ‘mansion’.  Mike B. made the comment that it would be funny if it dropped.  We laughed.  A few minutes later, we were in an ancient Egyptian Tomb themed area, and I went onto another balcony.  And it DID drop.  It also made me scream.  Good job, scared me.  The actors got better.  We were the only ones getting the attention, after all.  Oh, and I have to say that the room with the doors was a nice touch.  As well as the first room, which was very much like a generic version of the first room on Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure?  Well, except that you don’t get Rod Searling talking to you, and you have to find your way ‘behind the fireplace’.

So we walked back to the main street and picked up my car after checking out Ober-Gatlinburg.  We took the girls back to their car after checking on Mike’s, which was by the Aquarium.  We were to meet the rest of our group at the Hard Rock Café at 8pm, but I wanted to get there around 7:30 to make sure they knew we had quite a few coming.  I parked, the girls parked, and the five of us went on in to the Hard Rock to meet Brian, Alicia, and his good friend Brad.

We all got a table and waited.  Beth and company were supposed to be there soon.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Beth and Co. were not having a good trip.  They did finally arrive at the hard rock around 9:20.  We had eaten by that point and had a very nice time getting to know one another in person.  Hard Rock was standard, but there were far more Mohawks & kilts working there than at other Hard Rock Cafés I’ve been to.

When the BethBus did arrive, we walked down to Wendy’s for them to eat as Hard Rock was getting crowded.  We all sat there for quite a while, and eventually went our separate ways.  Beth had rented a cabin, so Matt, Danny, and I rode in my ride for the weekend up to the cabin.  We got turned around a couple times, but found it.  It was really quaint, even without the Foosball table and the fact that their hot tub didn’t work that nite.  Oh well.  Sleep came fast for me when I eventually made it to my bed.  Would tomorrow cooperate?

Dollywood Summer 2005


My plan for 2005 was to visit a park every month from March to December. Well, plans change.  I did a SoCal trip in March, but had to skip Camden Park in April because I was very busy. Then May came and went and I had to skip Carowinds. Twice. But June lead me to Kennywood, one of my favorite parks, and in July I would be in Johnson City TN for 3 days regardless, so I decided it would be easy to go down a couple days early and hit Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg for some rides and fun. Well, my mother had to be out of town for most of 2 weeks for training on her new job. Couple that with some other obligations early in the week and I had to scale the first part of the trip down to one day of Dollywood. Unfortunately, I had to take 3 days vacation and a holiday, which I could have used later. Oh well…

Since I worked nite shift I usually spent the entire nite awake and slept all day, even on my days off. During the previous weeks I’d had a problem doing this on my days off, which would not have been a problem since I needed to be up during the day Thursday-Sunday. Right, like anything is that easy. So, the Wednesday nite before I was to leave I didn’t sleep because I was up till 3pm the prior day. I kept thinking “I can’t go to Dollywood on no sleep, I need to get to sleep” all nite. But sleep never came. Of course, I got sleepy at 5am, right as I was getting ready to leave.

I got ready regardless and made my way to town for an ATM stop, then in the opposite direction towards Pigeon Forge. The drive was just about 4 hours. It isn’t a hard drive, and certainly not a boring one, but I would have liked to have had company. I arrived at Dollywood at about 11am. It was hot, humid, and extremely crowded. And that was just the parking lot. On top of that I was totally exhausted. I didn’t know how I was going to enjoy anything. I had planned to leave the park around 8 PM when the park closed, but I knew I would leave way before that. I honestly flirted with the idea of sleeping in my car a couple hours before I went in. No deal, Thunderhead was only a short ways away so I paid my money for parking and headed in. Thankfully, they offer tram service.

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Dollywood 2004

December 11, 2004
Pigeon Forge, TN
Dollywood Photos

Who says the season has to end in October? Earlier in the year I thought about how I wished I had had the chance to go to Dollywood for Thunderhead this summer, as it looked amazing. I checked the Dollywood website to see when they opened up for the season the following year so that I could plan a visit, but I noticed that Dollywood is opened thru December for their Christmas festival, and that the coasters are open unless the temperature drops too low. I thought that maybe it would be a great way to end the season and I told a couple people about it, inviting them along.

Little did I know everyone would take my trip and do all the planning for me. When I mentioned it again, Danny told me that it had been discussed and that we were planning on the 10th of December. This just happened to be the day of another even that I wanted to avoid and since Friday was not good for most people we switched it to the 11th. As with most plans that I make far enough in advance, something drastic comes up and I have to cancel. So I didn’t have my hopes for actually making it to Dollywood but when it came down to it, I was able to go and I talked a friend into going and meeting the 8 others that had committed to the trip.

For most of the week prior I had some slight dread that everything would fall thru, but on Saturday morning around 8:15 am Jamaal and I started to head southwest from our homes in southern WV. I was a a day sleeper during this period of my life due to work and as such I was unable to sleep the night before. Well, I guess the caffeinated Iced Tea I had for dinner/breakfast didn’t help much either. But I decided that I would drive down, that way Jamaal could drive back that evening and I could sleep.

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