Nevertheless, it sounds like you had a good day despite the weather and the inflated expectations. Thanks for the report and the pictures, Dollywood looks as beautiful as I remember it!
One thing: Lumberjack Lifts?! Robert, please! ;)
Anyway, onto the big dogs in Orlando!
And although Mystery Mine is a bit jolty in that outside section - the rest of it is amazing. Ride it at night and that last drop and heartline roll is terrifying. And Thunderhead is my #1 wooden coaster - but I haven't ridden The Voyage or Terminator yet.
Yes, Dollywood is not Disney and it's not Great America or Busch - but it does offer incredible food, amazing crafts, wonderful music and breath-taking scenery. They're getting better and better with the rides.
Don't count it out!
From that interaction, I would bet that this is an older style park. They really need to address their customer service. I won't forget that email...
It seems that they have a lot of older style rides that you don't see anymore..and that is a good thing. I think that theming is sadly overlooked by the metal parks of today. I am very glad to see this blog post because of that! :D I think it would be really interesting to see what they do when Dolly is in town. I find that parks tend to reflect the local culture (like my beloved Kennywood) and they all have something good to be experienced. Yay for theming and atmosphere!!! :)
Folks who love shows and shopping will love Dollywood more than just about any other theme park in the country. But ride and immersive attraction fans, who aren't that into shows, will probably scratch their heads and wonder what the fuss is about.
When I write about theme parks, I'm judging them on this: Would I want to travel across the country to see this again? Every park we list on the site (and some we don't) are well worth doing for locals and regional tourists. If they weren't, we wouldn't list them, or talk about them.
But not every park is worth traveling across the country to see. If you love music and shows, Dollywood is. If you don't, Dollywood isn't.
I hope that this clarifies things.
All that said, I see in the Timber Canyon and Wilderness Passage leg of the park the potential for a great destination theme park. There's not enough back there yet, but everything that Dollywood's put in that area has been solid (even if MM wasn't my cup of tea).
Rides: No it's not Busch Gardens and does not have ten coasters but not everyone in the family wants coasters. And NO IT IS NOT DISNEY it actually HAS three large coasters. It has the perfect mix three large coasters, one family style coaster and plenty of other rides to suit ALL AGES and are not all themed around characters that we liked when we were eight years old.
Attractinos: Dollywood is home to three national organization including, The American Eagle Foundation, Chestnut Tree Foundation, and the Southern Gospel Music Hallf of Fame. All three you will not find at other parks. And because of Dollywood's efforts they are giving back to the comunity and educating park guest on important facts. Did you know because of the work of the American Eagle Foundation (Housed at Dollywood) the American Bald Eagle the symbol of our great nation was taken of the endangered species list last year?
Shows: While Dollywood may not have multi-million dollar productions they do have spectacular shows. Dollywood has won more Big E Entertainment Awards from the IAAPA than any other theme/amusement park in the WORLD. Winning the largest award (The International Heartbeat Award) three years running.
Crafts and Shops: Outside of it's sister park, Silver Dolalr City, in Branson Missouri Dollywood has the largest array of unique crafts and shops featured at a theme park. Dollywood is all about preserving a long forgotten heritage that they now bring to life every day for new generations.
Sorry for the long post but I want to make it clear that if you truly enjoy parks that go behind concreate and steel and have the ENTIRE package Dollywood is definitely worth a visit.
I was floored when you panned Thunderhead. I agree it is not as out of control as the Voyage, but Thunderhead's re-ridability and use of terrain and the twister format make it one of my favorite woodies anywhere.
You mention little about "one and only rides" Dollywood offers like the Slidewinder, Blazing Fury, Dare Devil Falls etc. Almost wherever you go on the park there is something you have to be at Dollywood to ride, it does not exist anywhere else or anywhere close.
I agree on the shows. Dollywood currently has the best in the industry. Sha-Kon-O-Hey is musically an increible show. My favorite at the park is Dreamland Drive-in.
The food is also the best anywhere. It is a bit pricey but the portion size is rediculous.