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biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:39 am

Two years ago (January 2011), I began biosciking's So Cal Thread (which you can find here), highlighting the parks and attractions local to me in Southern California. This past summer (August 2012), I finally got some time to take a lengthy out-of-town theme park vacation. Since the trip reports from that vacation obviously don't belong in biosciking's So Cal Thread, I figured I'd start biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread, showcasing the places I visit beyond my neck of the woods.

My August 2012 trip was divided into two parts, both parts being on the east coast. The first stop during part 1 of the trip was Carowinds, a brand new park for me. While Carowinds has never seemed to achieve quite the fan following that several other Cedar Fair parks (Cedar Point, Kings Island, Kings Dominion, Knott's) have, it certainly felt very Cedar Fair -- a large park with lots of rides, including an impressive number of coasters. While most of the coasters would rank as decent (not bad but not stellar), Intimidator was a definite stand-out.

Overall I enjoyed Carowinds quite a bit and would gladly return. I'll continue to update biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread with the remaining trip reports from both parts of my summer 2012 vacation, as well as with any additional parks that I get a chance to visit from this point on.

August 2012
Carowinds - p. 1
Dollywood - p. 1
Ober Gatlinburg - p. 2
Busch Gardens Williamsburg - p. 2
Kings Dominion - p. 2
Disney's Hollywood Studios - p. 2
Disney's Animal Kingdom - p. 2
Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf - p. 2
Everglades National Park - p. 3
Busch Gardens Tampa - p. 3

August 2013
Gilroy Gardens - p. 3
California's Great America - p. 3
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom - p. 3
Epcot - p. 4
Winter Summerland Miniature Golf - p. 4
SeaWorld Orlando - p. 4
Silver Springs - p. 4
Fun Spot America - p. 5
Fun Spot USA - p. 5
Old Town - p. 5

August 2014
Lake Winnepesaukah - p. 5
Six Flags Over Georgia - p. 5
Georgia Aquarium - p. 5
Wild Adventures - p. 6
Magic Kingdom - p. 6
DisneyQuest - p. 6
Here we are at Carowinds, my first time visiting this park. The Carolina Skytower is a nice way to overview the entire park; it reaches an appropriate height and rotates at an appropriate speed to observe everything. It also provides an informative recorded spiel about the history of Carowinds.
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Of course Carowinds is known for being the theme park that straddles two states.
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First things first -- a ride on Intimidator.
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Intimidator is the park's newest coaster, a B&M hyper.
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One of my favorite coaster elements (perhaps my very favorite coaster element) is the first drop on a hypercoaster. Intimidator lived up to my high expectations.
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The second hill.
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It goes without saying that hypercoasters are also incredibly popular for their airtime. I know newer B&M hypers (maybe all B&M hypers) have a reputation for being too mild in the airtime department. However, I do love the floating air they provide.
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Intimidator also features a couple moments with a bit of ejector air as well.
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I've been on a few other B&M hypers (Apollo's Chariot, Nitro, Goliath at SFOG), and I would rank Intimidator right up there with the rest of them. It's always been difficult for me to put together favorite coaster lists, but if I was to try to make one for B&M hypers, I'd probably come up with 1. Nitro, 2. Intimidator, 3. Apollo's Chariot, 4. Goliath. That's just a quick approximation, and really kind of misleading, as I thoroughly enjoy all four of them.
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The turnaround. Intimidator's cars feature staggered seating that's kind of funky but does make the ride feel more open and free.
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I just said I'm not very good at listing favorites, but I can definitively state that Intimidator was, for me and I'm sure many others, the best at Carowinds. The park has a lot of other fun coasters, but I think it would have been lacking a true headliner without this one.
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Prior to Intimidator's existence, I imagine the star of Carowinds was Afterburn, a B&M invert. It's still very good.
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Afterburn is a relatively short ride, but it does pack a punch. It's fast-paced and has powerful forces, plus it contains a great collection of aggressive elements.
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The theming is cool too.
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I've been on far more B&M inverts than I have B&M hypers, so I'm not even going to try to rank them. I do know that this one has a good reputation and is well regarded among the coaster community. One additional pro (plus one con) that I'll point out for Afterburn: Pro -- I love that there's no midcourse brake, but rather a little "airtime" hump instead; Con -- Right after this hump comes the final corkscrew, which for some reason is significantly more headbanging than most other inverted B&M corkscrews.
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Maybe not as highly regarded but actually very underrated in my opinion is Nighthawk, a Vekoma flying coaster.
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I've been on two of the three Vekoma flyers that exist (the other being Batwing at SFA), and on both rides I've been pleasantly surprised. Unlike a Vekoma boomerang or SLC, these flying coasters are not rough. The loop, while forceful, is also nowhere near as intense as a B&M flyer's pretzel loop. I therefore find Nighthawk (and Batwing) to be very comfortable and enjoyable.
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Very attractive too.
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While the high swooping turns and loops are great, I also enjoy the low-to-the ground interaction during the second half of the ride.
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Intimidator, Afterburn, and Nighthawk were my top 3 coasters at Carowinds. Intimidator and Afterburn certainly get plenty of press, but I think Nighthawk deserves its fair share as well. (I know this coaster, formerly Stealth at Great America, used to get a lot of attention for being the world's original flying coaster, but that attention has definitely waned lately.)
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On to the rest of the coasters. Vortex is next.
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I've been on most of B&M's standup coasters, and this one is pretty typical of the early variety. Relatively short and compact, with just two inversions -- a vertical loop and a corkscrew.
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Nothing really to write home about, but there was a definite plus worth mentioning. I actually found this coaster to be surprisingly smooth. I was expecting a total headbanger (much like I remember the Vortex at CGA to be), but that wasn't the case here at all.
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Carolina Cobra is the park's second newest coaster. Also nothing spectacular, though I give them credit for naming a Vekoma boomerang something other than Boomerang (or Zoomerang).
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I'll admit that I was somewhat eager to ride Carolina Cobra to try out the new boomerang restraints. However, though others may disagree, I actually didn't feel like they changed much about the ride at all.
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I've never really had an issue with headbanging against the standard restraints during a boomerang's cobra roll element. Instead, I tend to bump the back of my head against the headrest during the vertical loop (while traveling both forward and backward). The new restraints unfortunately couldn't do anything to remedy that.
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At least the coaster is photogenic.
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Also perhaps more pleasant to look at than to ride is Carolina Cyclone, a standard Arrow double-loop, double-corkscrew coaster.
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I'm probably not being entirely fair. I learned after riding that this was the world's first four-inversion coaster, so I am glad I got to ride a little piece of history. Plus the coaster finishes with a spiral through an excavated trench below ground level, and that was kind of cool.
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And I can't deny that I have always like the way Arrow loopers look.
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Another "Carolina" coaster, this time Carolina Goldrusher. It's neat that all Arrow mine trains have unique layouts that fit them to their specific park locations. This may not be the most thrilling coaster in the world, but I liked it. As an added bonus, it also contained several lengthy trench spirals.
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Ricochet is a Mack wild mouse.
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Pretty standard stuff, but these are always fun.
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Wood coaster time. Hurler (both this one and its twin at Kings Dominion) has to be one of the oddest wooden coasters I've ever come across. I guess it's technically an out-and-back layout, but after this first drop it's got more straightaways and turnarounds than ups and downs. It's also pretty jarring.
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Everyone sure seems to be enjoying it though!
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Thunder Road could have (and should have) been so much better than it was; I actually found this coaster to be brutally painful. It's almost hard for me to describe the sensation I had while riding. It seemed like the train lifted off the track a bit during each drop, and then crashed back onto the track at the bottom of the drop, only to then bounce its way up the next hill. This resulted in riders having their spines compressed repeatedly during the ride. I've never minded a little violence from a wooden coaster, but this was so different and unusual that I just wasn't prepared for it. Didn't Thunder Road recently complete a huge retracking job? If so, something certainly didn't go as planned. Haven't I heard that Rebel Yell at Kings Dominion may follow suit with a similar retracking job? Please cancel that, as Rebel Yell ran SO MUCH BETTER than Thunder Road. Then again, there was only one side of Thunder Road operating, so maybe I got the side that hasn't yet been retracked??? If that's the case, finish it quickly! In the meantime, I'll go ride a shopping cart down a staircase.
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Woodstock Express is the park's junior wooden coaster. Despite its small size and lower height requirement, it has a little more bite than you might expect.
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Flying Ace Aerial Chase is the park's junior suspended coaster. It may not seem like it after a couple of my above reviews, but I do try to find the positives in all roller coasters. However, I can honestly say that this one was truly awful. I really can't think of any redeeming qualities to it. It was so slow and boring and pointless, yet at the same time it was a complete headbanger. I kept wondering to myself during the ride how a coaster that didn't do anything could be so rough. Why am I banging my head against the OTSRs when we're barely even moving? Why are there OTSRs at all on such a lame ride? I don't think I've ever really heard anything good about these Vekoma junior suspended coasters, and after now riding one I'm unfortunately not able to come up with anything either. (It also took forever to load and dispatch.)
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Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie is the park's final coaster.
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I didn't have a child with me so I couldn't ride this one. Even so, I think I did pretty well getting 12 of Carowind's 13 coaster credits!
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Carowinds of course has more than just roller coasters. There are two water rides, the first being Rip Roarin' Rapids. I thought this one was quite good. It has a nice setting and offers a reasonably lengthy ride.
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There are some decent rapids throughout, but this is the spot that'll really soak you. It was fun watching different riders' reactions to the downpour. Some literally got out of their seats trying to avoid it.
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Others simply got naked and took a shower.
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Whitewater Falls is the other water ride.
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It's a typical boat flume -- lift, turnaround, drop.
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It may be typical, but it certainly serves its purpose. If you want to get wet on a hot day, this will do the job. Very refreshing.
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Boo Blasters on Boo Hill is a nice combination dark ride / interactive shooting ride.
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The Action Theater was showing the Spongebob film during my visit. These old-school motion simulator theaters aren't that terribly exciting anymore, plus it seems like you can find the Spongebob film everywhere. However, I do have to somewhat admire a ride that is entirely themed to chasing after a pickle.
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Drop Tower Scream Zone is the park's drop tower (had you figured that out?). It's a relatively small Intamin version, maybe 150 feet tall or so, but it's surpisingly effective. The tummy-tickling jolt when released and the speed on the way down are great. Because this had such a short wait, I rode it about ten times.
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Windseeker was the park's new-for-2012 ride.
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I'm not entirely sure I "get" Windseekers. I've been on the ride at Knott's that opened in 2011, and my thoughts on that one and this one are pretty much the same. I suppose they're mildly exciting because of their height, but otherwise these aren't exactly thrill rides. They're just sort of relaxing, which is fine if they're not meant to be thrill rides, but I think they are. I'm also not sure why Cedar Fair is so in love with them, after all the mechanical issues they've had. Since the 2011 installments all seemed to be complete lemons (riders stuck mid-ride, extended downtime, not able to operate when it's windy of all things), I would have thought Cedar Fair would be fed up. However, they then installed a bunch more in 2012, and they had the exact same problems.
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Southern Star is ride I was happy to find at the park, as there aren't many of these looping ships left. Back in the day I did have one local to me at SFMM (called Z-Force), but it was removed when I was pretty young. I did get to ride Z-Force a couple times, and I've missed it since then, so this gave me a chance to re-live the memories.
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It's the same story with Scream Weaver; I'm always happy to find an enterprise flat ride since there aren't any in Southern California. Again, there used to be one at Magic Mountain (called Reactor), but it's long gone. (Incidentally, both Z-Force and Reactor were right next to each other, in the spot where Batman is located today.)
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Snoopy's GR8 SK8 is another flat ride that I very much enjoy. There used to be one of these at Knott's that I loved as a kid, but it was removed many years ago. There is still one local to me at Castle Park though.
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Last but not least is Woodstock Gliders. I had heard that these were a very good set of flyers, and they didn't disappoint.
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Not only can the Woodstock Gliders be snapped out to an impressive height and angle, but you are actually encouraged to do so (the ride attendants even announce the "winner" of each ride). I spent some time watching the ride before riding, and I'm happy to report that I finally mastered how to best fly these things; I did so well that I ended up the winner during each of my rides! A fun way to end a fun Carowinds visit.
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Last edited by biosciking on Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:34 pm.

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:04 pm

I really enjoy your Photo Trip Reports and this one is definitely at your quality. Keep up the great Photo Trip Reports!

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:17 pm

Thank you for your detailed trip report and great pictures! Carowinds is a park I have never had a chance to visit and have always wanted to.

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:39 am

After the Carolinas and Carowinds, I headed to Tennessee and Dollywood. Dollywood is a park that I had visited once previously (in June of 2007), and I was certainly looking forward to returning. This second trip was notable for the addition of the entire Wilderness Pass area in the back section of the park. In 2007, the Timber Canyon and Craftsman's Valley areas were not connected, so the park dead-ended in both places. It was great to now have the park be one complete, continuous circuit. Even more important, the three attractions in Wilderness Pass -- River Battle, Adventure Mountain, and of course Wild Eagle -- were brand new to me. I found all three to be unique and excellent additions to the park.

A couple other noteworthy points about my August 2012 visit: First, by visiting in August, I got to experience Dollywood Nights, when the park stays open later than any other time during the year. Also, I happened to be at the park when the National Roller Coaster Museum exhibit was on display. These two perks made my trip to an already outstanding theme park even better.
The butterflies mean we've arrived!
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Let's first check out the park's new-for-2012 coaster, Wild Eagle. (This is an incredible entrance sculpture, by the way.)
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Wild Eagle is of course a B&M wing coaster, the first in the U.S. and one of only four currently operating worldwide. It's the only one I've yet ridden.
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How was it? There seems to be some negativity toward this style of coaster, but I actually REALLY enjoyed it. I've heard people complain that it's forceless, but I found the whole thing to be extremely pleasant -- like soaring on the wings of an eagle. I've heard comments about the restraints constricting too tightly, but I honestly didn't notice that at all. The one thing I will say is that I did find one side to be rougher than the other. It's been several months now since my visit, so I may not be remembering entirely correctly (therefore don't hold me strictly to this; I may have it backwards), but for whatever reason the left side of the train seemed significantly rougher than the right. This was the case during all of my rides (about three on each side).
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Built along the hillside and among the trees, the coaster is pretty well hidden from the rest of the park, so it's not easy to see much of it. However, this setting is fantastic while riding.
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The few places where you can get up close to the coaster, though, show off just how awesome it looks. Overall I truly enjoyed Wild Eagle; a great new coaster style and certainly a great new coaster for Dollywood.
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Mystery Mine was the new coaster during my previous visit, and it seems to be just as popular now as it was then.
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The original Gerstlauer eurofighter in the U.S., Mystery Mine has theming that still makes it stand apart from the rest. While I've never really been able to follow the storyline here (with the ravens and canary), the haunted mine atmosphere works so well it doesn't even matter. Also, the vertical lift hills and stop-start nature of this kind of coaster lend themselves perfectly to an indoor themed ride.
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It's definitely not all indoors, though, with some pretty cool features outside as well. This "climbing the wall" curve is lots of fun, as is the drop that immediately preceeds it. Though not incredibly huge, that drop is so steep it's gut-wrenchingly awesome.
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The ride's finale, however, is unquestionably the best part. The vertical lift, followed by the explosion of fire, followed by the coaster's big drop, followed by the heartline roll, followed by this dive loop -- five awesome elements back-to-back in quick succession. Pretty hard to beat.
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I give Mystery Mine two big thumbs up! My only warning pertains to one of the first indoor turns toward the very beginning of the ride. It's a major headbanger, so brace yourself. Other than that, enjoy!
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Up next is Thunderhead, the park's fantastic GCI wooden coaster.
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This one opened in 2004, so it's nearing a decade in age, but it was still exceptionally smooth and comfortable.
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As I've found to be the case with many GCI coasters, Thunderhead really came alive after dark. While it was great fun during the day, I'm so glad I also got to ride during Dollywood Nights -- it absolutely TORE through the course. In the dark it was impossible to see what was coming up next, and not being overly familiar with the track layout, I didn't know what to expect next. It was therefore some of the most "controlled chaos" I've ever experienced; almost unequaled. Most excellent!
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Tennessee Tornado is Dollywood's Arrow megalooper. I think the consensus is that this is quite possibly the best of the genre, and I would agree. (Interestingly, if I'm not mistaken, it's also the last one Arrow built.) It's certainly smoother than pretty much any other Arrow looper in existence. This ginormous loop is particularly awesome, especially following the drop through the tunnel and the way it "twists" like a tornado.
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As with all of Dollywood's coasters, the Smoky Mountain setting adds immeasurably to the ride experience.
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Dollywood may only have four major coasters (Wild Eagle, Mystery Mine, Thunderhead, Tennessee Tornado), but even so the collection is surprisingly varied and highly satisfying.
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My intention is not to imply that Blazing Fury is not a good coaster as well, but I almost classify this one as more of a dark ride than a coaster. Whatever you want to call it, it's definitely unique and fun for the whole family. During my previous visit in 2007, there was a little splashdown pool at the bottom of the final drops. The pool was dry as a bone during this visit. Can anyone tell me if this is a permanent thing, or if I by chance happened to visit on a day when they had drained the pool? I think the splashdown was a nice touch, so it's a shame if it's no more.
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The park's final coaster is Sideshow Spin. I think I technically could have ridden this without a child, but I would have felt too silly to do so, so I didn't. I therefore got five out of Dollywood's six coaster credits, and I was happy with that!
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Time to move on to the park's water rides. Dollywood boasts an excellent selection, with an impressive four different offerings. Smoky Mountain River Rampage was a pretty good rapids ride, with a lengthy duration, some attractive scenery, and the potential to get very wet.
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Daredevil Falls looked incredible and this final drop was fun, but other than that (and I hate to say this) it was actually kind of a boring log flume ride. Am I alone thinking this?
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The coolest of Dollywood's water rides (in my opinion anyway) is Mountain Slidewinder, a very unique flume / waterslide / toboggan combination. I've really never seen anything quite like this anywhere else.
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The ride sloshes through the trough, climbing up the sides and threatening to overturn the riders. This also causes quite a bit of water to fly. The finale is a straightaway drop, which is lots of fun, especially if two sleds happen to be racing each other towards the finish line.
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Also lots of fun is River Battle, the park's splash battle ride. This is actually only the second splash battle I've ridden so far, and I found it to be much better than the one at Legoland CA. There, the vehicles ride on a rail above the water, so it doesn't look very realistic at all. The way these vehicles float on the water made this one far superior. In fact, the theming throughout this ride is very well done.
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I also liked that riders face toward the side rather than forward or backward. It was still a bit challenging to shoot at other vehicles, as they had to be lined up just right, and they usually weren't. However, there were plenty of opportunities to shoot at onlookers (and have them shoot back).
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Plus there were lots of targets to shoot at, triggering different effects. It seemed like some didn't do much of anything, but others really responded -- I shot a target right out of the station, setting off a geyser that had me absolutely drenched from the very beginning.
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Nearby is Adventure Mountain, one of those elevated obstacle courses that are becoming quite popular these days. This was by far the largest and most elaborate version I've ever come across.
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Adventure Mountain really did provide a legitimate workout; by the time I was done I was pretty much a giant pool of sweat (this was August in Tennessee, don't forget). Some of the obstacles were quite tricky and even somewhat frightening; I give the small children I saw doing this a lot of credit.
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The theming throughout was truly exceptional. This cliff face element, plus the geyser seen in the previous pic, are just two of the many examples that showcase the extra touches that made this attraction so great. I also enjoyed that, once you were harnessed up, you were allowed to participate for as long as you liked. Now, I realize that Adventure Mountain will be no more beginning with Dollywood's 2013 season. That's very unfortunate, as this was unique, popular, fun for the whole family, and still very new. I hope Dollywood knows what it's doing. Maybe Adventure Mountain will be sent elsewhere, and hopefully something spectacular will replace it.
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Also new since my last visit was Barnstormer. Once again, great theming.
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I've been on a few S&S screamin' swings, and I especially enjoy these giant versions. They're thrilling yet sort of relaxing at the same time; definitely among my favorite flat rides.
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What are some of the other rides to be found at Dollywood? There's Dizzy Disk, which is fun but nothing incredibly exceptional.
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There's also Lumberjack Lifts, which is pretty cool. I've only ever seen this type of ride at Legoland, so it was neat to have one here. This is certainly not meant to be a thrilling drop tower ride, as it's designed for kids to hoist themselves up and then fall gently back down. However, I found it to be fun for adults too if you make it a race to the top!
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Imagination Cinema houses the park's motion theater simulator ride. I know the film changes semi-regularly depending on the occasion, but I believe Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure is the default. Last time I was at the park was during the annual Kids Fest, and they were curiously showing the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera that used to exist at Universal Florida. At any rate, I know Imagination Cinema is also closing up shop for good and, unlike Adventure Mountain, I don't think this is any big loss. I'm glad I got to try the Wilderness Adventure and I think it's appropriate that Dolly Parton be part of a ride at Dollywood, but this wasn't all that great; I could tell it was made back when simulators were meant to be pure chaos and incoherence. It would have been much nicer had they made it a more Soarin' over California or Europe in the Air type of experience, being able to appreciate the Smoky Mountains rather than manically plowing through them. Oh well, just my thoughts...
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Rockin' Roadway is a very Autopia-like car ride. Certainly acceptable for what it is.
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Dollywood Express seems to be a very celebrated attraction at the park.
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I'm not a hardcore train aficionado, but I always do enjoy train rides at theme parks. I definitely liked this one too, though it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. From what I'd heard, I thought it traveled through some of the Smoky Mountains separate from the park. While riding, however, I never felt all that terribly removed from the park itself. (I'm not complaining, just making an observation.) Also be prepared to get covered in soot!
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Aside from rides, I know Dollywood is very famous for its shows. I wasn't too interested in seeing any, but I did watch the Wings of America bird show. (Had Sha-Kon-O-Hey still existed, I'm sure I would have watched that one too.)
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The star of Wings of America was of course the bald eagle.
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The bald eagles can also be observed in the nearby Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.
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As mentioned, the National Roller Coaster Museum was on exhibit during my visit to Dollywood. Time to finish up with a look inside.
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Lots of old-time photos on display.
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A tour of theme park history wouldn't be complete without Mr. Disney.
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There were several displays devoted to individual ride manufacturers. Arrow was probably the most interesting.
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There's no denying Arrow's importance in the development of the modern roller coaster.
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How many have you ridden?
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I figured some of you might enjoy this one.
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Another amusing blast from the past.
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I liked that dark rides were included as well.
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There was more than just posters in the museum. There were models too, such as this one of the Crystal Beach Cyclone.
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There were also various artifacts, such as cars from coaster trains. The old one belonged to Belmont Park's Giant Dipper in San Diego.
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A fitting end to my visit. Dollywood is an excellent theme park, and I very much look forward to returning yet again.
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Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:42 pm

Great Photo TR! Dollywood is high on my bucket list because of its wilderness theme and it looks like it has QUALITY!

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:28 pm

Always nice to see Photo TR's of other Theme Parks in the nation, very nice pics and I hope to see more of your Non-SoCal adventures :) Dollywood is definitely on my theme park bucket list and hopefully will get to it someday! =)

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:39 pm

Your photos are awesome! Great photo trip report. Glad you photographed some of the flats. I love looping ships as well and enterprises, so it was nice seeing those in there. The Dollywood photos were great, especially one of the Barnstormer ones - the one where the sun was setting.

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:22 pm

Great photos. As far as Blazing Fury goes, I think I remember reading they now have magnetic brakes where the splash pool was and the water apparently doesn't go well with the brakes so it's now a dry ride.

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:01 am

Great update! I noticed the photo of GCI's projects is wrong. It lists the Roars in the wrong order, it says SFDK 1998 and SFA 1999. I also find it interesting it lists the old names for Evel Kinevel and Terminator even those was obviously made after they changed the names. I know, just nitpicking... but it is a museum after all, you expect it to be accurate.

Re: biosciking's Non-So Cal Thread

Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:19 pm

Loved your reports! I was also at Dollywood in August (and March) and thoroughly enjoy that park.

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