Tennessee Tornado at DollywoodI don’t think Dollywood’s Tennesee Tornado is very well-known even in some enthusiast circles. Maybe it’s because it has a relatively short track length. Maybe it’s because it only has three loops and not five or six. Or, maybe it’s because it was designed by Arrow. Once, a leading designer of steel roller coasters, Arrow was a fixture in the amusement industry. They have a number of landmark roller coasters, but also many coasters that give punishing rides. The excitement and enjoyment of a good loop is easily lost when you’re too busy getting your head bounced off of those hard horse-collar restraints.

Tennessee Tornado – Theme & Scenic Lift Hill

Thankfully, Tennessee Tornado is a big exception to what’s nearly a rule. Built in 1999, the terrain looper offers a surprisingly smooth, but brief ride. Like a few of the other rides at Dollywood, it’s built right on the side of a mountain. The station has a down-home country theme and its adorned with posters that have tornado tall tales. In my two visits to the park, it’s been a near walk-on, so don’t expect to have much time to check out the queue. Still, the look of the station was worth noting as many parks go the sparse route.

Tennessee Tornado at DollywoodThe trains had some theming touches as well. They looked great with a brown, worn metallic look and rivets. The seat and restraints are the same run-of-the mill Arrow design. After the train moves out of the station, it takes a u-turn to the left. Then, it turns to the right and climbs the lift hill on the edge of the mountain. While the train might feel familiar, the view from the lift won’t be. You’re reminded of the Dollywood’s pretty, mountainous terrain as you look out from the lift. Don’t look too long. If you’re seated towards the back of the train you’ll get pull over the crest and get treated to a surprising burst of speed. Suddenly, the gentle scenic climb is over and the ‘Tornado has grabbed everyone’s attention.

Tennessee Tornado – A Looping Mountain Coaster

After getting pulled over the crest, the train drops just a bit and takes a speedy turn to the right. You almost get a ‘down the drain’ type of feeling as you find a tunnel at the end of this banked turn. The train plummets down into a black hole; a tunnel that follows the slope of the mountain. Flying back out into the sunlight, you rise right up into a massive vertical loop. It looks a bit wider than your typical tear drop-shaped loop. The loop’s large size give it an almost B&M-like feel as it seems like you’re upside-down for quite a while.

The train returns to the ground and rises up a hill. It takes a turn and then dives into a standard vertical loop that’s followed immediately by a sidewinder loop. Then, the train zips its way through the first large loop and back to the final brakes just a few seconds later.

Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood

Did Arrow Save the Best for Last?

What’s also shockingly B&M-like is Tennessee Tornado’s surprisingly smooth ride. As a knee-jerk reaction I was prepared for the typical punishment, but it never came. As a Pete Owens from Dollywood shared, Tennessee Tornado was Arrow’s last looping roller coaster. It certainly seems like the company was on the right track so to speak. Maybe they had found the recipe for a much more enjoyable looping experience. Sadly, it was too late. As the story goes, all of the development issues with X at Magic Mountain a few years later caused the company to go bankrupt. One has to wonder if the company had designed more coasters like Tennessee Tornado sooner, if they’d still be around. This is a short, but very satisfying ride with a unique layout. It’s another great reason to get down to Pigeon Forge. Final Rating – 7.0 (Good)

See more images of Tennessee Tornado. What do you think of Tennessee Tornado? Leave a comment below.

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

12 Responses

  1. @BodyBldrMarcus

    Yeah…I had to YouTube this ride to see what it was about and it is definitely short. They could be a lot happen with this ride given the landscape surrounding it but I guess they chose not to capitalize on it too much. Even still, it looks like a ride I'd get on in a heart beat.

    • CoasterCritic

      I had the same thought. I kept looking out at the surrounding area and drawing in a few more elements with my imagination. But this was the park's first big ride. Dollywood might not have had the funds to make it much bigger back then.

  2. Jonathan Hawkins

    It is a damn shame that Arrow went out of business just as soon as they finally got it right. Though short, this coaster is very smooth, really intense and unique, especially with the big drop through the mountain. I still look forward to riding it every time I go to Dollywood. It was also important because this ride was where it all began for Dollywood in terms of moving toward more of a thrill seeking audience. The success of Tennessee Tornado led to Thunderhead, Mystery Mine and Wild Eagle.

  3. Joe

    to me the beginning of a ride is the most important and this one has a great one this should be an 8 good review

  4. @AaronBryan72

    We went to Dollywood for our honeymoon a few weeks ago during a torrential downpour. I walked right onto the ride and was the only rider. Very smooth ride, other than a little lag going through the loops due to the empty train behind me. The Tornado, and the rest of Dollywood for that matter, does wonders at incorporating the landscape into the ride. Overall, it's an excellent ride.

  5. Bobbie Butterfield

    Short but sweet. This was the first time I ever rode a roller coaster I couldn't see – except for one large vertical loop – and about which I knew nothing, so I went into it blind. It was only as the train came off the initial drop and headed into the tunnel that I thought WOW, this is some good airtime! Really fun ride, which is saying something for someone who only recently began to appreciate inversions, and as others have said, very smooth. I think I I blew an opportunity, however. After leaving Dollywood I learned that at one point the park put cameras on the 1st three rows so that riders could view their videos after the ride and upload them onto YouTube; whether this is still the case I don't know.

  6. ttroyer210

    You need to go ride Wildfire at Silver Dollar City it’s a lot like this coaster and is one of the smoothest loopers I’ve ever ridden

  7. Mark

    It's definitely the best of the big Arrows, although the last bump into the brakes was a bit rough in the front seat. It feels like Dollywood ran out of money at the end of the ride … there could have been an additional inversion or helix to soak up some of the speed after the sidewinder before ending abruptly. I liked it much more in the back than the front.

  8. Bobbie

    This is an old thread but in case anyone is still looking at it I have a question to which I hope someone knows the answer. I write theme park reviews for a couple of different websites and want to be as accurate as possible. As of 2008, Dollywood added cameras to the 1st three rows, enabling riders to view their on-ride videos and upload them to YouTube. Is this still the case? I honestly didn’t notice when I rode Tennessee Tornado last year. Great ride either way.


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