Here’s Part 2 of my Dollywood Trip Report. In case you missed it, check out Part 1 which covers the Jukebox Junction, County Fair, and Timber Canyon areas.
Wilderness Pass – Home to the Firechaser Express & Wild Eagle Coasters
Firechaser Express was one of our most anticipated attractions since my 8-year old daughter is becoming quite the thrill seeker. I knew that my other daughter wouldn’t be interested in the ride, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a play area for younger visitors located right next to Firechaser.
Kudos to Dollywood for predicting the situation where half of a family will ride, while the other half waits. My 5-year old played with the over sized building blocks with my wife, while the older daughter and I rode Firechaser. Theme parks should take note and include more of these mini play areas outside of the main kids’ area.
Firechaser Express is a family roller coaster, but an action-packed one that delivers just the right amount of thrills. The launches, one forward and one backward, are on the gentle side. The hills and turns are a lot of fun and some hills even have some airtime. Firechaser was perfect for my budding coaster enthusiast and quite a fun ride for me as well.
When the ride ended, my daughter said:
“That was SO SCARY… I want to do it again!”
That sounds like the goal for a roller coaster designer to me.
It was a Monday so I was able to take a quick spin on Wild Eagle with very little wait. It was as good as I remember and the view from the top, at the mountainous park and Smoky Mountains, is very impressive. The ride’s location, atmosphere, and even its theme all add up to a unique experience.
While the seating arrangement, on the outside of the tracks is unusual, Wild Eagle is more of a broad audience crowd-pleaser, than a death-defying thrill ride. Wild Eagle is very smooth and has some fun, not too terribly intense loops. And, given the ride’s open restraints you don’t have to worry about banging your head. I gave it a 9 out of 10.
The other attraction in Wilderness Pass is an interactive boat ride called River Battle. The boats seat 8 passengers that traverse a slow, flat course as they shoot their water canons at targets and other boats.
Even non-riding guests can get in on the battle by using the water canons lining the paths. The girls took a few shots at some unsuspecting riders before they returned fire and got us a little wet. The path canons are a nice option if you don’t want to get as wet as you would riding River Battle.
Craftsman’s Valley is an older section of the park where you can see live craft demonstrations from blacksmiths, leathersmiths, glassworks, pottery and more. This is one feature of Dollywood (and sister park Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO) that really set it a part from the other chain theme parks out there.
This section also offers two more roller coasters in Tennessee Tornado (a fun steel looper built on a mountain) and Blazing Fury (a themed indoor roller coaster). The bald eagle sanctuary was cool to see as was the Robert F. Thomas Chapel. Walking into the little country church was like a time warp. There’s also a log flume that I completely missed.
Lastly, in Craftman’s Valley you’ll find one of the most recommended treats at the park. Grabbing some of Dollywood’s famous cinnamon bread, made fresh at the Grist Mill, was the last stop of on our visit. We made it into the mill just in time. A heavy rain storm was rolling into the park just as we took shelter in this sweet-smelling landmark to traditional bread-making.
Dollywood’s A Must Visit For Families & Roller Coaster Enthusiasts Alike
There was still more that we didn’t see due to time (hours were 10 AM to 7 PM on the Monday we visited) and due to the storm that came in the evening. You could easily spend a full day at Dollywood; if not two days depending on the type of rides and attractions your group is interested in.
While we considered it, we didn’t see any of the award-winning shows and the Dollywood Express steam locomotive was down. There are a number of fun family rides that we might try on future visits like Blazing Fury, Mountain Slidewinder, and the rapids ride. All-in-all, we had a great visit. The kids got plenty of rides on their favorites and both my wife and I got to ride with our kids.
“Hidden” Attractions & A Few Tips
I’d highly recommend looking closely at the park map. That might sound like a no-brainer, but if you just walk the park, it’s really easy to miss certain paths and attractions that are tucked away. Dollywood’s terrain and layout are beautiful, but unusual. For example, I’ve been to the park three times and didn’t even know about the Log Flume. It’d also be easy to miss their unique Slidewinder ride if you stayed in the main walkways.
Be ready to walk. Dollywood’s not terribly large, but there’s a slight incline up Craftsman’s Valley. Comfortable shoes and a stroller, if you have smaller kids, are a must.
Another tip, which goes against my healthier preferences, is that you should probably go with the icing on the cinnamon bread.