|We highly recommend paying 75 cents and riding the trolley
from your lodging to the park entrance. Whether you stay in Pigeon Forge, or Gatlinburg, there are trolleys constantly circling.
The main trolley stop in Gatlinburg is across the main street from the Hard
Rock Café. From there it’s a nonstop run out of town, through
five miles of heavily forested national park, and a few blocks of Pigeon
Forge before turning into the pastoral approach to Dollywood. Riding the
trolley avoids the $6 parking fee and an often distant parking space.
||The instant you walk through the turnstile, you realize Dollywood is a
different kind of park. It does not offer as many rides as its competitors,
and it especially does not offer the roller coaster lineup. But it beats
every park, even Disney World and Busch Gardens, in its array of shows,
arts and crafts demonstrations, and food outlets. It matches the best in
its landscaping and the theming of its premier rides. And while it may have
fewer rides, many of them are unique.
Rockin Roadway. Magnificently themed turnpike ride. Walkers is a full scale 1950s gas station, with lighted pumps and a service bay which serves as a Coca Cola memorabilia outlet. Red’s Diner is a classic drive in restaurant with great burgers, shakes and fries. The turnpike itself features 1950s Corvettes, T Birds, Oldsmobiles, Buicks and a few Cadillacs. The loading pavilion is themed as a dealership and service center, complete with showroom, tuneup equipment, and parts racks. The roadway meanders out through the woods, along the creek, across bridges, behind the swings and bumper cars, around the railroad yard, and past a few 50s buildings. You can shoot a dozen photos in this complex.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage. The most unique rafting
ride in the country. The gradient is not as steep as, say, Kennywood’s.
But rather than the usual fake rock, this waterway navigates a lush green
landscape with trees, bushes, flowers and grassy slopes. Lacking the overall
gradient of other parks, designers compensated by stairstepping the route.
Rafts drift along very gradual stretches, then abruptly descend steep
drops. Ironically, this more closely resembles many actual rivers, with
their pool and drop profile. A final unique feature here is that, instead
of the isolated, often hidden from view trip at most parks, this entire
run is bordered by paved walkways and stairs with people close enough
to high five.
Dollywood Express. The greatest amusement park train ride in the country. Beats Disney, Busch Gardens, Kings Island and Cedar Point. This is the original train that was here before the park, an old narrow gauge timber railroad snaking the five miles up the forested valley. The engine is a beautiful piece of machinery, lovingly maintained. Many visitors shoot a whole roll of film just of this train. Various viaduct and trestle crossings make classic shots. An outlet across the walk from the station sells railroad memorabilia.
Village Carousel. Great medium sized carousel, featuring a 60 animal menagerie. Very photogenic.
Swingamajig. Classic old single row swing ride. Not the most scenic location --- it rotates out over the rooves of the international food court on one side, the bumper cars on the other, the scrambler to the front and the railroad to the rear --- but a great older version of this popular ride.
Demolition Derby. Average version of the classic Bumper Cars. This could use an update.
Twist and Shout. Scrambler. Smooth, comfortable and well maintained but nothing special.
Tennessee Twister. Tilt A Whirl. Typical version, nicely
Country Fair Falls. Log Flume. No match for Kennywood’s, but longer and better than most.
Wonder Wheel. Classic 60 ft. free swinging single bench Ferris Wheel. Great ride, but faces the wrong way. Riders find themselves looking down on the roof of the Blue Ribbon Pavilion, rather than out over the log flume. Parks like Cedar Point, Indiana Beach and Kentucky Kingdom have replaced these with newer, enclosed, taller models, so within a decade models like this and the one at Idlewild may become priceless.
Daredevil Falls. Magnificent. This is the highest, fastest,
and most scenic flume ride in the country, featuring huge four row “logs,”
tight turns, and a 50 mph final drop down a heart stopping natural hillside.