Ranked: The Roller Coasters of Dollywood
Welcome back to another “Ranked” article here on Laughing Place. This time we’re heading deep into the heart of the Smoky Mountains, to one of the newest parks I’ve visited, that’s quickly become one of my favorites: Dollywood! We’ll be looking specifically at the roller coasters of Dollywood for this countdown. I have been on all 9, so without any further ado, let’s dive into it!
9. Whistle Punk Chaser
Dollywood’s typical “kiddie” coaster is one of the smallest I’ve ever been on, standing only at maybe 20 feet or so. For what it is, it’s a fun little ride, with some cute theming to boot. But as the kiddie coaster, it’s naturally going to fall last on the list.
8. Blazing Fury
Blazing Fury is Dollywood’s oldest and most unique coaster. More a dark ride than anything, this charming ride from 1978 takes you on a tour through a town past some quaint, but somewhat dated showpieces. Towards the end of the ride, there are a few drops powered through nothing but gravity, qualifying this as a legitimate roller coaster. While fun and unique, there’s nothing here to best the coasters higher up on the list.
Often cited as one of the best modern wooden roller coasters by manufacturer Great Coasters International (GCI), Thunderhead was actually pretty unremarkable to me. It definitely still had fun pops of airtime and lateral forces, but it didn’t compare to some of the more out-of-control wooden coasters I’ve been on, such as Gold Striker at California’s Great America and GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Dollywood’s newest roller coaster is Dragonflier, in the all-new for 2019 Wildwood Grove area of the park. As you can see from the picture, Dragonflier is a very picturesque ride, with beautiful fountain interactions. Designated as a family coaster, that is actually pretty deceptive, as the first drop and the swoop pictured are actually pretty forceful. I also really love the comfortable restraints on this coaster that come over the shoulder while acting more as a lap bar.
5. Wild Eagle
Wild Eagle was America’s first wing coaster by manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard where instead of riding under or above the track, you actually ride to either side of the track. Located right in the middle of the park, Wild Eagle rides high up into the mountain providing some truly stunning views of the Smokies. The speed is quite impressive, but it is a pretty short ride without too many forces. The view makes it really worth it though, and the queue building is actually pretty impressive, almost looking like a lodge of sorts, along with an original song by Dolly herself playing.
4. Firechaser Express
Perhaps the most unique coaster at Dollywood is Firechaser Express, which I would equate to being Dollywood’s Expedition Everest. Themed to firefighters, this ride features lift hills, backwards sections and a launch, just like Expedition Everest. The theme for this coaster is one of the most impressive in the park, specifically when you pull into the Fireworks Factory, where sound effects and real fire blast you off in a fun backwards launch. This is a true family coaster, enjoyable for youngsters and thrill seekers alike.
3. Tennessee Tornado
One of the last coasters created by pioneers of the coaster industry, Arrow Dynamics, Tennessee Tornado is one of their crowning achievements. By the late 1990s, the company had really perfected their track design, leading to a smooth and intense ride taking place in one of the most beautiful settings of any roller coaster. The only downside to this ride is that it’s painfully short. But if we go off quality and not quantity, Tennessee Tornado is truly a gem.
2. Mystery Mine
During my first trip to Dollywood in October 2020, my now #1 coaster was actually closed for refurbishment, so Mystery Mine was my favorite coaster after my first trip. I will admit that the ride is a little rough, mostly due to the bulky over-the-shoulder restraints. However, the theming on this ride is absolutely incredible. I don’t want to give too much away, as it will really spoil the true surprises located within. The first half of the ride is pretty fun, but beginning with the second lift hill, that’s where this ride truly gets incredible. If you can avoid the slight head-banging, then Mystery Mine is honestly one of the best coasters out there.
1. Lightning Rod
Lightning Rod is without a doubt the most intense, fun and all around best coaster I’ve ever been on, and that includes VelociCoaster. This ride is non-stop from the incredible, unique launch, into the giant sprawling layout set behind a mountainside, completely hidden from view within the park. I have never come out of my seat (in a good way) as many times as I have on Lightning Rod. Specifically the “quad-down” at the end of the ride, leading into the finale is an incredible blast of non-stop airtime. Simply put, Lightning Rod is incredible fun. I rode this ride probably 6 or 7 times during my second trip to Dollywood, and every time I came off with a dorky smile on my face.
I hope you all enjoyed this ranking of the roller coasters at Dollywood. If you want to see some more theme park rankings, feel free to check out my other “Ranked” articles listed below:
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Cypress, CA