Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Well, okay then.
As with any theme park, arriving early will provide you with the best opportunity to accomplish the headliner attractions before the big crowds (and long lines) hit. The Main Street area of Silver Dollar City is open one hour before the rest of the park, so arrive early and grab some grub at Eva & Delilah’s Bakery or Molly’s Mill Restaurant. With this plan, you are going to make two passes around the park rather quickly, before lunch, so do not start out with an empty stomach.
Once you have ingested some fuel, feel free to explore Main Street and soak in the ambiance of a very highly themed park. And while you are soaking, grab a copy of the Silver Dollar City Pathfinder which provides news, show times, and a park map. Be sure to participate in the park opening ceremony and for goodness sake, say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem loudly and with pride. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, get ready to rumble like only Theme Park Insiders can!
Look at your park map. Find the intersection of “H” and “4”. That place is a pretty good counter service restaurant called the Wagon Works Grill. Walk to that area. You can still participate in the opening ceremonies; you will just do it from a more advantageous spot. Now, there is a rope blocking you from going any farther into the park until the opening ceremonies are complete. Stand by this rope. Smile. Act like you know what you are doing. Don’t let those nasty, pimply teenagers see you sweat. They can sense your fear, and will use it against you. You are a Theme Park Insider; you’ve participated in hundreds of rope drops before. You know what you are doing, and no punk kid is gonna stand in your way.
Once the rope drops move swiftly down the hill – do not run as trained deputies are on hand to firmly remind you that running is not allowed. And watch out for the Blue Hairs who are burning ECV rubber in an attempt to be first in line at some headliner Broadway-style show that won’t start for another 120 minutes.
Most folks would run to Wildfire, but you are smarter than that. You know that this B&M coaster has four-across seating, and that its 52” height requirement precludes many from riding. No, you’re going to head straight to Powder Keg. It has a 42” height requirement, an extended launch sequence, and is the favorite of most park visitors. You know you need to ride it first. It is a moral imperative.
Sometimes, early in the morning, the soundtrack for Powder Keg is not yet activated. I am told it is because the ride ops like to listen to the launch sequence and make sure everything sounds right. If you do not hear the line, “You’re too close to that nitro” then plan on trying for a re-ride later in the day once your main tour is complete. For some reason, the three or four lines uttered on the soundtrack add a lot to the ride. I don’t know why – they just do! Anyway, enjoy Powder Keg. In fact, enjoy it twice, once in the front row, and once in the back. IMHO, Powder Keg is the best ride in the park, and one of the best coasters in the nation. Other than a morning jog around Disney’s Boardwalk, or a complimentary, made-to-order omelet at an Embassy Suites, there is almost no better way to start your day than the launch sequence and first hill of Powder Keg. Amazing.
That done, push past any disheveled teenagers in your way and make a beeline for the GIANT Swing. It is in the back middle of the park on your map. Feel free to take in the scenery, but walk quickly with a single-minded purpose. Ride twice, if you like it, and if the line is short.
Now, move past all the water works, and head to the Grand Exposition in the top right corner of the park map. This nicely themed midway area is home to a series of common carnival experiences, so choose wisely. You definitely want to get all your spinning rides out of the way now – before you eat lunch. If nothing else, grab a ride on the Electro Spin, as it is the headliner in the area.
Head out of the Grand Exposition and back toward Main Street to Thunderation. This arrow mine train is a lot of fun, especially if you ride in one of the backwards facing cars. In fact, do that, now. Ride backwards - and no peeking! Then ride facing forward and enjoy the scenery.
Okay, you have made your first pass around the park. Head back toward Wildfire. Best route is to go back to the Main Street area and retrace your steps. As you traverse the park, take note of the various skillet food offerings. You should not leave the park without at least trying one skillet meal. Anyway, ride Wildfire. If the line is long, grab any seat. If not, sit in front. Awesome ride. Great scenery. Ride twice if the line is short.
The water rides usually open by 11 AM. On your way out of Wildfire, you will pass the line for American Plunge, the log flume. Ride it. The drop is good, and the tunnel disorienting. You can get very wet on this ride. Fair warning.
Now, head back in the direction of Powder Keg. As you go, you will pass several counter service food joints. The Lumbercamp Falls Skillet is a very good choice for lunch if you are hungry. They have a sausage skillet or a chicken skillet (I prefer the chicken), and freshly made potato chips (Lumber Jack Stack of Chips) which I highly recommend. If neither skillet is to your liking, the Lumbercamp Restaurant is right next door and serves a fine choice of burgers. If you are not ready to eat, just continue with the tour.
Next stop: Fire-In-The-Hole. If it is warm and you don’t mind getting wet, sit in front. Otherwise, the back three rows stay driest. Remember FITH is not a roller coaster; it is a slow moving dark ride. Enjoy its old school charm.
Now it is time to get wet for sure! Therefore, head toward the white water raft ride, Lost River of the Ozarks. Along the way, you will pass Aunt Polly’s restaurant. It is cafeteria style, and it is very good. It provides another excellent lunch option if you are hungry and have not yet eaten.
Ride the Lost River, then head into Geyser Gulch and Splash Harbor. You will pass the Dockside Grill, which serves a mean skillet Philly cheese steak sandwich. Yet another good lunch option, although seating is limited here.
On to Geyser Gulch/Splash Harbor! If you have kids, they will want to play here for a good long while. If not, at least check it out and marvel at a kids play area done right. The place is amazing. WARNING: If you venture into Splash Harbor, you will very likely get soaked. The jerks on the water guns (usually adults like me looking for a fight) love to blast unsuspecting, innocent bystanders.
From Geyser Gulch/Splash Harbor, head to the WaterWorks Waterboggan. It is only open from late May to mid-August, but if you are lucky enough to be at the park when it is in operation, then climb aboard. If you are not soaked already, you will be by the time you are done with this ride. Enjoy.
From here, the ride portion of your day is winding down. Head back to the Grand Exposition and ride or re-ride any midway spinners you missed or liked in your previous stop. I love to use the spinner rides as extreme blow dryers after getting soaked.
Next up is the Flooded Mine. This attraction is a shooter like Disney’s Buzz Light-year, although without all the high tech wizardry only Disney, Universal, and Busch can afford. Enjoy the ride for what it is: a highly themed, Disney-on-a-budget, pastime. You can usually ride a couple times in a row if there is no line. Have fun.
When you exit the Flooded Mine, head toward Main Street, take your first right, and go to the Train Depot. Hopefully, the train will be in the station soon. If not, well, you can either skip to the next step and come back later, or wait patiently, setting an example for any unattended brats that are frolicking uncontrollably.
Whatever you decide, head back toward Main Street. Along the way, you will pass a series of counter service restaurants on your left. If you have not eaten, feel free to try whatever suits your liking. It’s all good.
Proceed onward to the Swinging Bridge and cross it. While doing so remember that this bridge was pretty much the only “attraction” in the park other than the Marvel Cave when it opened years ago. If there are any teenagers goofing off on the bridge, tell them to stop, and if they question you, remind them of two things: 1) you have a salaried job, and 2) you are a Theme Park Insider. Both points are impressive on their own, but when combined, most teenagers just bow down to your glory with a whimper, not a shout.
After the bridge, tour Grandfather’s Mansion. It is a fun diversion, but nothing major. The slanted room may drive you crazy, but then again, is that really a bad thing? There is a small measure of peace that comes with insanity. Once you exit the Mansion, if you have not eaten yet, bear right and go to Big Jack’s Sandwich Shop. Get the world famous Big Jack sandwich (pick the size best suited to your group), and fall in love with food all over again. Yum.
You are done with most of the “main” attractions. However, you are at Silver Dollar City, so there is still a lot to do. In any order you choose, be sure to accomplish the following tasks before you leave:
1) Visit Marvel Cave. The tour is included with park admission and should NOT be missed.
2) See one of the headliner shows (usually the one in the Opera House is the hottest ticket in the park).
3) Watch some demonstrations. There are so many things going on in the park that you should really circle the whole place again and take time to savor all the subtle nuances Silver Dollar City has to offer. Check the park map for anything that may interest you.
4) Visit the Silver Dollar Saloon. The show is not the best vaudeville in the world, but it is a lot of fun, and the root beer floats are delicious.
5) Re-visit your favorite rides, especially Powder Keg if the soundtrack for the ride was not operational during your AM ride.
When you’ve had all you can take, and the blue hairs are charging up their ECVs, and even those rotten, greasy teenagers are sitting on benches lamenting their sore leg muscles and crying for their WoW accounts, it is probably time to leave. If you want to eat dinner in the park, the Lucky Silver Mine Restaurant is a decent buffet right near the park entrance. The food is not the best in the park but the underground setting, atmosphere, and air-conditioning are delightful. Moreover, the food is good, just not great, but still better than anything at a Six Flags or Cedar Fair park, I assure you!
When the park closes, there is a free concert at the Echo Hollow Amphitheater. If you like country music or Hee-Haw sensibilities, then by all means enjoy the show. Otherwise, head back to the hotel for some well-earned rest.
Oh, and if you happen to bump into any teenagers in line for your parking lot tram, casually but forcefully remind them of their place in life and push right past them and onto the tram. If they make a fuss, just report them to the Sheriff. He is usually standing nearby saying “Goodnight” to all the visitors.
Ahhh, I sure do love Silver Dollar City!
Click this link for more TPI information about Silver Dollar City.
To those who haven't visited, the Marvel Cave tour is highly recommended, but it's also a little bit of a hike. One out of shape fellow in our tour group had to be helped out early because he couldn't finish the tour and was having trouble catching his breath. Most should be able to go through fine, but those with physical ailment/heart condition/etc should take extra care.
Regarding the cave tour - don't be tempted to do the "lantern tour." It's an upcharge and it sounds much cooler than it actually is (most of the lights are off - the only light you have is the lantern you're carrying). Most folks can probably walk around their house in the dark for 45 minutes to recreate this effect.
And Bob, I do most of my "work" during football games on Sunday and Monday when my family knows I am lost to them anyway! ;)
Now it is time to get wet. Therefore, head toward the newest ride in the park: Tom & Huck River Blast (warning: jerks on water guns in and around this attraction – usually adults like me looking for a fight – love to blast unsuspecting, innocent bystanders). Even when lines are long for this attraction there is so much wet fun to be had, that waiting is usually not an issue. Also, if you have not yet eaten, Aunt Polly’s restaurant is nearby. It is cafeteria style, and it is very good. It provides another excellent lunch option if you are hungry.
The Lost River of the Ozarks is a fun-for-the-whole-family white water raft ride. If you are not already soaked from Tom & Huck, you will be soaked soon. Ride the Lost River then head into the Geyser Gulch play area. If you have kids, they will want to play here for a good long while. If not, at least check it out and marvel at a kids play area done right. The place is amazing. Incidentally, along the way to Geyser Gulch, you will pass the Dockside Grill, which serves a mean skillet Philly cheese steak sandwich. Yet another good lunch option, although seating is limited here.
Return to the original touring plan beginning with the paragraph about the Flooded Mine.
Incidentally, I just got back from my first SDC visit of 2010 and will share some updates (and pictures) soon...
As usual, our first stop was Powder Keg. Despite rumors that this uber coaster was having technical difficulties this season, it seemed to be running better than ever. In fact, it felt faster than previous years, but I am sure that is just because of my coaster hibernation all winter. I did notice that the "Whoo-wee, we made it!" recording at the end of the ride was oddly missing, but I am sure it will be fixed before my next visit in August.
Fire In The Hole has received a lot of off season love. There's plenty of new Baldknobbers to look at and the whole ride has received a thorough scrubbing. It all looks and smells fresh and clean. One of the ride ops notified me that more refurbishments are on the way over the next few years and that engineers are even going to try and get the "falling bridge" effect working again! Yay!
Flooded Mine, an old school shooter, also received some refurb love during the off-season. Plenty of new scenes and targets are provided, but more love is still needed. A few of the set pieces are a bit long in the tooth, but overall, it is always nice to see updates.
With a 52" height requirement, Wildfire is the only "adult" coaster in the park (although Powder Keg is definitely not for the feint of heart!). My middle son was finally tall enough to ride, so we went three times in a row with his very first ride being front and center of the train. I could swear the boy shed a tear or two of joy, but I could not be sure through my own very misty peepers! Funny what can make a calloused theme park Daddy turn on the water works these days! =)
Speaking of water works, both Splash Harbor and the WaterWorks Waterboggan were removed prior to the start of the season. To replace those much-maligned attractions, Herschend added a new river battle ride called Tom & Huck's River Blast. While the theme and immersion of this new attraction are amazing, the fun factor is completely dependent on the crowd level. If there are lots of dueling riders and aggressive bystanders, the attraction is a hoot. If not, the stationary targets within the ride provide few thrills and little fun. Our first day the park was only moderately crowded, so the action was a bit tough to find. But on day two a few school buses arrived bearing teenagers galore. Normally I would hate a park full of screaming teeny-boppers, but for Tom & Huck they are a necessary evil. The action was fast and furious, and if not for our bright yellow Mickey Mouse ponchos, we would have been soaked. Some folks call it cheating, I call it planning ahead! Overall, Tom and Huck's River Blast is a fine addition to SDC's slate of whole family attractions and something definitely worth riding on the busier days.
The rest of the park was its usual self: beautifully landscaped and brimming with fun things to see and do. The food was amazing as usual, and the World-Fest shows (especially for the Chinese Monks and Fiery Fiddles) were top-notch.
We had a great visit, and look forward to several more through the course of the year. Again, if you are a theme park fan and you have not had a chance to visit Silver Dollar City, you owe it to yourself to plan a trip. Outside of the Disney & Universal parks, I can scarcely imagine a better themed experience.
For those who don't know but do care, in 2011 SDC is adding a new kid-friendly attraction, Half Dollar Hollar. Located across from the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Train Depot, Half Dollar Holler is designed especially for kids through age 7, with a safe single-access entry and structures such as treetop funhouses, climbing nets, sand play, mini-wave swings, and more. Additionally the park's hand-carved carousel is returning to anchor the area. If you have lil’ ones in the group that meet the right demographic, a stop in the Hollar is a must.
Using the touring plan above, visit the Hollar after visiting the train and before crossing the Swinging Bridge.
Maybe next year we'll get that new coaster...
Anyway, what other questions do you have?
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