DOLLYWOOD & Splash Country
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Herschend Family Entertainment
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/25/16) Lightning Rod Quietly Soft Open For Selected Guests (MORE...)
(5/23/16) Lightning Rod Testing Update (MORE...)
(5/11/16) Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival (MORE...)
(4/23/16) Screamscape’s Official Review of Dollywood’s Splash Country Waterpark (CLICK HERE)
FireChaser Express Grand Opening & Review - Click Here
General Park News - (5/11/16) Sweet sounds from the biggest names in bluegrass and the tangy tastes of the greatest barbeque in the South create a perfect harmony for guests during Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass, taking place from May 13-22. Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Blue Highway, Dailey & Vincent, and The Willis Clan are just a small selection of the talented bluegrass pickers taking to the stage during this annual tradition.
“It always is a special treat to have these great bluegrass performers during my Barbeque & Bluegrass festival at Dollywood,” Dolly Parton said. “There is nothing like listening to these award-winning performers when they take the stage to share their talents with our guests. There is only one thing that makes the music better and that is a plate full of our famous southern barbeque—especially the ribs!”
Below are some of the acts already scheduled:
May 15-16: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage
May 15: The Willis Clan
May 18: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
May 18-19: Dailey & Vincent
May 20: Blue Highway
May 22: The Boxcars
May 22: Balsam Range
All concerts are free and included with park admission. For a complete lineup of concert performances and show times, please visit Dollywood.com.
(3/15/16) Dollywood's Festival of Nations event will run from March 19 through April 18 and feature two guest favorites returning this season. "Mother Africa" will return with an all new show full of acrobatics, live music and dancing. The other returning group is Los Pampas Gauchos, performing a blend of traditional dance from Argentina with comedy and modern showmanship. I actually got some video footage of Los Pampas Gauchos performing at last year's event, which you can see here.
Other acts coming this year are: The United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra, Duo Del Sol (Latin), Via Romen (Russian-Romani / Gypsy), Celtic Coast, Atahualpa (Eduador), David Charrier (France) and Zebra Stelzentheater (German).
(12/13/15) Dolly Parton has made plans to bury a time capsule within the Dollywood theme park that will not be opened until 2046. Within it she will place items from her childhood, memories from her childhood home and an unreleased music track that has never been released. The plans are for the time capsule to be opened in celebration of Dolly's 100th birthday.
2016 - Lightning Rod - (5/25/16) In case you don't follow Screamscape on Facebook and Twitter (and if not, why not? This was big news!) and didn't read about this on Monday, Dollywood quietly opened Lightning Rod to a few select guests for a time on both Monday and Tuesday and is expected to keep doing so until they are ready to fully open it to the general public. I'm told that around noon-ish the park had employees handing out cards to random guests to report to the ride at certain times to ride throughout the afternoon. For the time being they are only running one train, though I'm hearing that they may bump up to two-train operations by the end of the week. So if you are visiting Dollywood this week, keep a sharp eye out for your chance to ride.
I've been hearing that Lightning Rod is getting very close to opening, as some special guests were invited out to take a test run sometime last week. They've been testing fairly non-stop with water dummies otherwise, and quiet word going around is that employees will likely be able to take test runs very soon, as they move towards a soft opening and media opening for guests.
(5/19/16) According to a reader who visited Dollywood, they were told that Lightning Rod has entered the final testing phase and is set to begin employee training as soon as they finish checking off all the safety and operational procedure documentation. Best guess right now is that it may be ready to open in early to mid June.
I don't know how true this last part is, but hearding an interesting rumor that Lightning Rod is running a lot faster than originally intended. Instead of maxing out at 73mph, Lightning Rod has been clocked blazing through the hillside at over 80mph. Nothing was said about adding trims to the experience, so Lightning Rod may really be a wild experience when it opens.
(5/5/16) Mako Madness reports in from Dollywood this week, showing off a special construction site tour they took of the new Lightning Rod coaster.
(4/21/16) The hungry masses have been waiting for an update on the status of Lightning Rod from Dollywood. I contacted Pete Owens who sent Screamscape the latest official word on the project.
"We are resuming testing this week and will open the ride in a couple of weeks when that is complete."
(3/29/16) Dollywood fans, Dollywood has announced that their coaster enthusiast event known as "Thrills in the Hills" has been officially postponed, according to an announcement on the website. While the event was originally slated for April 8-9th, 2016, they have yet to pick the new official dates at this time, though they do say it will be sometime later this season.
Based on this decision, it seems likely that Lightning Rod may not be ready to open until at least the second half of April at this point. In a statement from RMC themselves issued last week regarding the delayed opening of Lightning Rod, they confirmed that they are working with the subcontractor for the coaster's launch system to "bring it up to speed" as during the course of testing they "determined that the third-party launch system would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation." RMC "will not sacrifice safety or ride quality in the name of saving time. RMC never has nor ever will open any new attraction until it has passed our rigorous standards."
All good things you want to hear... and while it is always disappointing to everyone, including RMC themselves, when an attraction isn't ready to open as early as we would like it to, you don't want them to rush to open it just because you had already planned your trip. Chances are, if they rushed it to open on time, the attraction would then suffer from extended periods of downtime or operate at a substandard level, which would have likely caused you to be unable to ride anyway.
Let the experts do their job, and build the ride that I know you are all just dying to get a taste of. When it does open and you ride it, it will be worth the wait.
(3/23/16) While Lightning Rod isn't quite ready to roll for guests, one of our readers was at the park for the passholder preview date and sent in a few pictures of it to share, including a look at the colorful and well themed station / queue building exterior, as seen from inside the park.
(3/16/16) The official word from Dollywood is that Lightning Rod will not be ready for guests on passholder preview day or during the grand opening weekend. The date has not been selected yet, but here is the official statement from the park.
"Lightning Rod will not be open to the general public at this time due to extended ride commissioning. Lightning Rod is an innovative ride featuring new technology never before used on a wooden coaster. The ride manufacturer asked for additional time to commission the ride. Keep watching Dollywood.com for future updates."
In the meantime, the park did post a video showing off the train making a run through the course. Check it out below.
(3/12/16) What a difference a day makes because I’ve got great news for all you coaster and Dollywood fans out there. I’ve been trying to find out more information on the status of Lightning Rod and it seems the coaster did make a secret successful test run a few days ago, and that things were looking up! Flash forward to some new information that just came my way, and it seems after successfully testing the launch system in various ways for awhile, they made a couple of full speed test runs on Thursday night, and have testing it successfully pretty much most of Friday.
So what does this mean? While I think it may be difficult to have Lightning Rod ready for the passholder previews… there is always a chance. The great news is that the overall situation is not as dire as it had been sounding over the past month, and even if the coaster isn’t ready on opening day, it should be ready to roll soon afterwards, as long as testing continues to go favorably.
(3/10/16) Just since I've had so many people asking me about what was going on with Lightning Rod, I figure I'll mention it again for those who missed what I've said already, and perhaps I'll be more blunt about it. According to everything I'm hearing from my sources, and from others... do NOT expect to see Lightning Rod running in any fashion by the park's passholder preview day (Mar. 18) or on opening weekend (Mar. 19-20).
While I'm not going to go into details about what I had heard... because this is all unofficial information and nothing from the park itself, but from the sound of things Lightning Rod may not be ready to open in March at all. April is likely, but since I've yet to hear anything about having a successful test run, we really can't even begin to guess when the coaster will open until it reaches that point. Once the test runs start, if all goes well, I can see it being ready to open within a couple of weeks. So until then... stay tuned! It should be worth the wait!
(3/3/16) Dollywood is sharing some fun comparison images this week showing off how the real construction of Lightning Rod looks compared to the concept artwork they unveiled last year. Check it out!
(2/26/16) For anyone wondering about the status of Lightning Rod at Dollywood, Rocky Mountain Construction answered that question with a post to Instagram showing off the last unfinished section of track with the message, "Two piece of track left to put up!".
Now, keeping in mind that Lightning Rod still has a new prototype launch system that needs to shoot the train up the entire lift hill that needs to be tested, have the kinks worked out, and broken in for several hundred cycles, I'd say that the chances of Lightning Rod being ready by opening day are slim. I know all eyes will be watching over the next few weeks, so we'll keep everyone advised as best as possible.
Meanwhile, while you wait for Lightning Rod to open you may want to hit the ice cream freezer at your local store to see if you can find the new Lightning Rod themed flavor of Mayfield Ice Cream called Lightning Rod, Smoky Mountain Fudge.
(2/3/16) A Screamscape reader sent in some Lightning Rod pictures from the Dollywood Winter Warm Up event over the weekend, including some awesome shots of the cars. Check them out!
(2/1/16) Dollywood hosted an ACE Winter Warm Up event over the weekends and held an unveiling of the new Lightning Rod coaster trains for those in attendance as well as a construction tour of the new coaster. According to the report the layout is now nearly complete and the park hopes to begin testing around mid-February. For photos from the event showing off the tour and awesome themed train cars make the jump over to Coaster101. Hats off to Dollywood on this one, as the Lightning Rod trains look to be one of best looking themed trains I've ever seen.
(1/21/16) Dollywood has posted a new aerial construction video showing off the entire Lightning Rod site as seen from a DroneCam as the twisted layout winds all around the hillside terrain. Check it out below.
(1/16/16) Dollywood fans interesting in getting in on the first rides for the park's new Lightning Rod coaster may be interested to know that the park will be hosting a “Sneak Preview Day” for season passholders on Friday, March 18th from 10am to 6pm. On this day the park will not be open to the rest of the general public, and this also happens to be the day that they expect to open Lightning Rod.
(1/9/16) Sorry these are late, but a reader sent in some great pictures of the Lightning Rod construction site late last month. Check them out!
(12/22/15) Coaster101 has posted a new construction update from Dollywood, as they looked over the Lightning Rod progress.
(12/16/15) A new video posted to YouTube gets very up close to Lightning Rod at Dollywood, shooting video while driving down the road right next to the coaster, even passing under the lift hill. Check it out below!
(11/18/15) Our friends at In The Loop hit up IAAPA and interviewed Dollywood's Pete Owens about the park's new Lightning Rod coaster and below that video you will find a new official POV video of the entire Lightning Rod coaster experience, from start to finish.
(11/5/15) A great time-lapse video shows off the progress made on the new Lightning Rod coaster going up at Dollywood from September through to October.
(10/19/15) A reader sent in some great new pictures of the Lightning Rod construction site this week.
(9/10/15) A reader stopped by Dollywood on Labor Day and sent in three new Lightning Rod construction shots. You can see the wooden structure up on the hill is getting quite tall already.
(8/7/15) Dollywood, along with Dolly Parton, pulled back the curtain to reveal all the juicy details about their new roller coaster project for 2016 called LIGHTNING ROD! As our rumors had suggested for the summer, this will indeed be the world's first LAUNCHED wooden coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction as well as become the world's FASTEST wooden coaster.
The launch itself will shoot the train of riders uphill, up to the top of a 20-story tall hill, at 45mph. The top of the lift hill is actually a double-crest, so you get a little air-time at the top, rise up and then drop down the big drop 165 feet at 73º and hit 73mph, making this the fastest wooden coaster in the world. Throughout the 3/4 mile track lenght, you'll hit 12 major air-time moments along the course as the train rockets over the terrain style course on Rocky Mountain's smooth-slick track through the woods. There are a ton of over-banked turns, and near inversions... but no actual inversions... and as Pete Owens put it best... "because it doesn't need too." It's going to be so fast, so smooth, so twisted and out of control feeling and as you approach the last third of the ride you'll hit an amazing Quadruple-Down series of hills as you make your way down the mountainside for the finale.
Look for Lightning Rod to open in March with the rest of the park, in the Jukebox Junction section of the park. Check out the animation below, as well as a video below that showing off the big announcement in the park with Dolly Parton herself.
DOLLYWOOD’S SPLASH COUNTRY -
Review by Lance Hart
Here at Screamscape our family are big fans of waterparks, and we've traveled across the country to visit many of them over the years, and have written quite a few reports about our favorites which you can find scattered throughout our many "Features" articles.
Today we add to this famous list another waterpark that is very deserving of your attention: Dollywood's Splash Country. The park is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, just across the road from the world famous Dollywood theme park, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, nestled right in-between the theme park and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, surrounded by the lush and beautiful hillsides that make for the perfect terrain for a truly incredible waterpark.
In fact once you get your ticket and head down the path to the park entrance, you may just quickly forget just where you are, as you pass into what may be one of the most well themed and beautifully landscaped waterparks anywhere. Your ears will be filled with the sound of waterfalls, trickling rivers, laughing children and gentle music as you enter the first area where the entry to the Downbound Float Trip (aka: Lazy River) sits to your right, with a backdrop of cascading waterfalls. To your left is the Little Creek Falls kiddie play area for the little kids, and there are plenty of lounge chairs on either side here if you wanted to plop down and park your stuff.
Of course this is just the tip of the ice-berg, as Splash Country has several great areas you can sit and relax in. You can keep walking straight ahead and up a rise to find the huge Mountain Waves area, dominated by a 25,000 sqft wave pool. Or head down the hill to your left and you can hang out at Bear Mountain Fire Tower area, dominated by a huge water fortress structure, complete with a massive bucket of water on top that dumps down on everyone below every couple of minutes. Keep walking down the path from here and you'll come to one of my favorite and very secluded areas, The Cascades... a highly themed 8,000 sqft lagoon that you can wade in, with a zero-depth entry point on one end for the kiddies with fun interactive elements, or play on the two kiddie sized slides in the middle, or wade out to the far side to hang out under the rocky waterfalls.
While The Cascades is surrounded by plenty of lounge chairs, the area also features a deluxe upgrade that can really up the relaxation factor of your day at Splash Country to the 100% satisfaction level. I'm talking about the Retreats and Canopies the park has available for rental. The Retreats are bigger (200 sqft) and offer you not only a shaded space where you can relax, but a safe place to keep your valuables (with a locker box) and your own sun-deck if you want to catch some rays. The Canopies are smaller (65 sqft) shaded spaces, perfect for couples, complete with two chaise-lounge chairs.
You will spy Retreats and Canopies scattered out around the park in various areas, though a large number of the Retreats are in The Cascades. While I've never been one to try out this kind of thing before at other waterparks, my family and I were able to try out a Retreat in The Cascades and I may never be able to go back to roughing it again. Ours also featured a nice table, a phone where you can order food to be delivered right to you, and a TV to watch if you so desired (so no missing the big game!). However sometimes the benefits of the Retreats are more than what is advertised... especially as a parent. The Retreat gives your group of kids a "base" where they can not only keep their stuff for the day, but your kids can venture off on their own, allowing the older kids to go wild and slide for a bit while you focus on the smaller kids, and everyone knows to come back to the Retreat to check in. The park also offers refillable drink bottles, which you can't take on the slides with you, but the Retreat makes a perfect place to take a break every so often, rest, get re-hydrated, maybe eat something and head back out for more fun in the sun. They are available on a first-come basis as you enter the park, so inquire about availability, it really will make your day.
With everyone's gear settled, sunscreen applied, its time to head out into the waterpark for some wet fun and wild thrills. I've already mentioned a few of the more mellow ways you can spend your day, so lets focus now on the more WILD times you can have. If you are near The Cascades or Mountain Waves I'm sure you've spotted the huge Fire Tower Falls slide tower, featuring a pair of near vertical dive slides that you wont soon forget. Not far from here is the Big Bear Plunge (big raft) slide that winds through twists and tunnels along with a big splashdown, or take on the parks newest thrill slide, RiverRush, which has Tennessee's first and only water coaster slide that will take you on a wild experience like no other.
Venture over to the other side of the park and you'll find a wild assortment of other slides like the Wild River Falls (raft slides) or the short but wild Butterfly slides that are themed to look like the Dollywood butterfly logo. Near here is the Raging River Rapids (big raft) slide, the three Mountain Scream body slides, the SwiftWater Run bowl slide, the Mountain Twist slides that you go down head-first on matt that are much wilder than they look, or venture up the valley to race your friends down the always fun Slick Rock Racer.
After visiting so many waterparks that are essentially giant concrete pool pads, roasting under the harsh sun standing in long lines, a day spent at the lush Splash Country waterpark where you are never far from the natural green landscape that surrounds the whole park will change your mind about how a great a day at the waterpark should really be. Check the park website for the official schedule, but it’s usually open from about Mid-May to Early to Mid-September. So treat yourself to an enjoyable and relaxing experience at Dollywood's Splash Country... you'll thank me later if you've never been.