Dollywood's Rides of the Past
In 1986, an East Tennessee theme park I loved became something much bigger, a place that continues to expand, change and delight millions of visitors. Silver Dollar City was that theme park, a place most of you know today as Dollywood. Since its opening day, hometown girl Dolly Parton has worked diligently to put her touch on this Smoky Mountain attraction.
I have been fortunate through the years to see her many times at the park as she welcomed new additions and shows. The 2019 addition of Wildwood Grove (the park’s biggest expansion to date) is sure to delight long time Dollywood fans and inspire new ones. Through the decades Dollywood has welcomed new rides and retired old ones. Here’s a look at some memorable ones at the park through the years.
The Veggie Tales/Sideshow Spin Coaster
At the height of the Veggie Tales popularity, Dollywood added this kid coaster in its Country Fair area. As you lined up for the ride (which was often a long ), there were plenty of items that made you feel like you were at a fair where the vegetables were the stars. The brightly colored cars of the coaster looked a bit like train cars. This was a real crowd pleaser as it provided a way for parents and children to ride together. While that coaster is gone, there is a new kiddie coaster beside Thunderhead called the Whistlepunk Chaser.
Thunder Road/White Lightning
For years you could walk through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and find a motion ride of some sort, so why not have one at Dollywood? Thunder Road was Dollywood’s answer and with much fanfare, this state of the art motion ride came with an action packed, moonshine themed movie filmed. The ride is gone and is now home to Dollywood’s Dreamsong Theater and the “My People” show.
When this ride opened, it was a cold day and I remember my son riding it at least 5-times, getting completely soaked. He was fine for a few minutes after he got off the ride but the chills hit him quickly and we had to go and get him a change of clothes. The life of this beaver themed river ride was relatively short, but during its run, there were countless gallons of water shot out of the boats’ guns and the ones surrounding the ride. Definitely a great ride on a hot summer afternoon. Today, the area is the Plaza at Wilderness Pass, a multi-use area that also provides a great place to just relax while wandering through the park.
Dreamland Forest & Bullfrog Creek
When our kids weren’t yet tall enough to ride the big rides at Dollywood they loved spending time in the Dreamland Forest. The centerpiece was a giant treehouse filled with interactive activities including a place to shoot foam balls at each other or on the other side at Bullfrog Creek, shoot water at each other. Eventually Dreamland Forest would disappear to make way for the Owens Farm Area of the park and the thrilling Barnstormer ride.
Passengers aboard this unique ride were hoisted up 65 feet above a big pond as their seats began to spin. Next thing you know, the tower started to lean and you just wanted to yell “TIMBER” as the tower started to lean toward the water. At times you felt like you might just spin out and land in the pond. Timber Tower was one of my son’s favorite rides and when it was taken down he wasn’t happy. Now, Dropline sits in the spot where Timber Tower once stood and so far my son (and nearly everyone else) is just as happy with this thrilling experience.
For Dollywood’s 25th season, the big new attraction was Adventure Mountain. It wasn’t at all like other rides as people power is what fueled it. Riders were strapped into a harness and connected to a rope system as they climbed as high as 36 feet off the ground trying to navigate a two-acre course. Eventually, the ride came down and was replaced with the Firechaser Express dual-launch coaster.
These are only a few of the rides that have come and go, but are here a few others I remember fondly.
The Flooded Mine Ride and the Log Flume – Both of these water themed rides were carry overs from the Silver Dollar City days. Today, the only remnant of either ride is a tunnel at Daredevil Falls.
The Thunder Express - The first outdoor roller coaster at Dollywood was the Thunder Express. You boarded it where you board the Tennessee Tornado today. One of the most unusual things about this coaster was the fact that once you got in the seat you had to cross your legs at the ankle so the bar would come down.
My son was also a big fan of the old Convoy Ride in the Country Fair area, a ride he went on many, many times with Papaw and his dad. The old Tilt-a-Whirl called the Tennessee Twister was also one of the rides we hated to see go, but at least they kept the Scrambler.
What were your favorite rides at Dollywood that are now gone? Let me know in the comments.