Alexander: Finally! After a couple months of delays, our summer Dollywood visit actually happened – just in time to ring in the fall season!
It was an extremely busy day at Dollywood, but since we were in the area for a wedding anyway, we couldn’t not stop for a look at the brand new Wildwood Grove and a few rides on some of our faves!
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First stop: My #1 coaster, Lightning Rod!
This was our first time riding with the new zero-car – and we were lucky enough to nab a front-seat ride!
Still running great! Not as fast as evening rides I’ve had in 2016 and 2017, but much smoother than our 2018 rides!
Next we headed to Dollywood’s massive new-for-2019 environ, Wildwood Grove!
Wildwood Grove is a beautiful, meandering midway that starts near Mystery Mine and leads guests all the way to the back of Thunderhead.
At the far end of Wildwood Grove is Dragonflier, the area’s new signature and Dollywood’s 9th roller coaster!
Dragonflier is a production model Vekoma family inverted coaster. The layout can be found in a handful of European and Asian parks, but Dollywood’s is the first installation in the Western Hemisphere.
While Dragonflier is an excellent coaster that complements the largely beautiful Wildwood Grove, landscaping around the ride’s back half was clearly rushed.
The queue itself is a shady, comfortable place to wait out the crazy Labor Day crowds, but it’s view of the coaster isn’t quite up to par in the foliage department.
Aside from that slight nitpic, the ride is a slam-dunk! It’s a great layout with solid forces, surprising terrain, and impressive passing.
While we wished the ride had higher capacity (this model runs a single, 20-passenger train), we realize that Dragonflier isn’t quite long enough to justify the cost of a second train (and the various mechanical adjustments that would come with it).
We ended up waiting over an hour for the little invert, but nobody said Labor Day Weekend at Dollywood would be quiet. Plus, this is a great ride that dazzles guests both onride and off!
Now if we could just clean up this very “backyard-looking” area over here. Maybe some sod and lava rock?
An interesting detail about the current generation of Vekoma family inverts is that they do gently swing out to the sides on turns. This offers an extremely smooth ride despite some sharp transitions – like this final turn into the station.
We also got a ride on Thunderhead this visit, which has had lots of track work since our last ride (particularly at the bottom of the first drop). Wildwood Grove offers some great new vantage point of Dollywood’s original woodie.
You can even get a shot of both Dollywoodies in action if you’re lucky!
The exit for Dragonflier passes directly under itself, offering some interesting vantage points.
The loose article net underneath the ride is a little low.
Aside from Dragonflier, the park has several additional rides themed to wildlife.
There’s lots of great landscaping and polish all around! Literally the only part that needs work is just that area by Dragonflier.
Dragonflier didn’t open on time with the rest of Wildwood Grove, and we can only assume that they rushed to have it open before Memorial Day Weekend. Hopefully in the offseason they’ll be bringing its landscaping up to par with the rest of the area!
By the time we left Wildwood Grove, the park was so busy that we decided to just start making our way back to Orlando early. We’ll be back again (hopefully) this year for a full day at the park!
That concludes our Dollywood Labor Day Weekend Update! Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out some of our other recent posts and updates:
Disneyland Paris – The Lion King & Jungle Festival – August 2019
Disneyland Resort Update – August 28th, 2019
Coaster Kings Radio Special – Kawaii Coaster Kings – Part 2