Mystery Mine: modern coaster with 85 foot vertical drop
Mystery Mine: modern coaster with inverted loop and 85 foot vertical drop

Winter blues, blech! Who needs ’em? If you’re like me, you’ve been suffering from the short, gray, cold days of winter. Let’s face it, the post-holiday season isn’t much fun, especially when there’s only bitter cold instead of snow. There are only so many ways to beat the mid-winter doldrums: you can build a backyard ice rink (more on that later), your team can miraculously make it into the Super Bowl (nothing more on that later; I’m happy for the Ravens and their fans, but am not much into football myself) –or– you can start planning your summer vacation. So I thought it would be fun to review one of the places we went last summer: DOLLYWOOD! Who knows? You might decide to add it to your list for this summer.

Dollywood, a fun, mountain theme park
Dollywood, a fun, mountain theme park

Dollywood is an amusement park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. My dad and step-mom moved to Tennessee from New Orleans post-Katrina so we take a road trip south (making sure to log a few miles on either Skyline Drive and/or the Blueridge Parkway) every summer. We’ve been to Dollywood for the last three years straight. My kids love it. In a nutshell, it is an Appalachian themed, less expensive, smaller “Disney World” type park. (Instead of the princesses, you get Dolly Parton. She owns the park and has redeveloped the entire area, which is where she’s from. I’m as much of a country music fan as I am a football fan, but it’s hard not to like a woman who puts so much back into her own community.) I joke that every ride has to have water, ropes, or both as part of its design. Check out our pictures below and tell me what you think!

Thunderhead, a classic wooden roller coaster: clangy, clacky, whiplash inducing, nostalgic thrill ride
Thunderhead, a classic wooden roller coaster: clangy, clacky, whiplash inducing, nostalgic thrill ride

Lumberjack Lifts is a “ride” but really, it’s a race. You strap yourself into a seat and then race the other “riders” to the top by pulling yourself up via rope and pulley. I usually race paired with my youngest, who weighs less and has great arm strength (she’s a gymnast). But my husband and oldest usually beat us anyway. (That ride is rigged! ;-))

Lumberjack Lifts
Lumberjack Lifts

If you’re hungry there’s PLENTY to eat. Portions are excessive so be prepared and don’t over order! 🙂

American Amusement Park FoodLumberjack's PizzaGiant Pizza Slice!

More water rides… Daredevil Falls and River Battle!

Log flumes = Rx for youth

River BattleRiver Battle 3River Battle 2

One of our favorite parts of the park was a place called Adventure Mountain. It’s a manmade mountain with three ropes challenge courses. You and your family are put into climbing harnesses with a lead that attaches to a frame (so there’s no real risk of falling) and then you are able to navigate ropes courses with spouting water geysers, mountainside cliffs, tightropes, and all sorts of different swaying wooden bridges.

Adventure MountainAdventure Mountain 2Adventure Mountain 3

And for us science fiction lovers, there were even aliens — at Dollywood!

Spot the aliens :-)
Spot the aliens 🙂

Aliens like piggy-backs too

Who knew aliens would make it easier to meet fellow earthlings? Chatting with other alien owners in line made waiting easier.
Who knew aliens would make it easier to meet fellow earthlings? Chatting with other alien owners in line made waiting easier.
Monkey in the Middle
Monkey in the Middle

The best roller coaster is the Wild Eagle, which was America’s first wing coaster. It just opened last summer. I wish I had a picture, but I had to put my camera away before we got close enough. This coaster was well worth riding (and when we went, there was almost no line for it). Smooth and fast, you really did feel like you were soaring. The only caution I have is if you don’t like feeling confined, think twice. I have to admit, I was thankful for the harness (obviously you can’t ride without it) but it must adjust automatically as you move. By the end of the ride it was so tight, I almost couldn’t breathe!

There are a lot of other things to do in the area. (Last year I reviewed the Titanic Museum. If you missed that, click here). Bottom line: I love Dollywood and I’m sure my family will continue to go every summer. We love amusement parks and Dollywood is clean, fun, and reasonably priced. Everyone was nice and the rides were unique enough to be memorable.

Have you been to Dollywood? Are you thinking about going? What’s your favorite amusement park? Have you started planning your summer vacation yet?