Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Having a Great Past at Silver Dollar City - Part 2

Last time, in the first part of this look at a recent visit to Silver Dollar City, we saw some of the many attractions and other offerings the park has waiting for guests.  If you missed that section, here is a direct link.  Now let's get going, there is still a ton of the park to experience!

I'm ready to volunteer!
The original roller coaster at Silver Dollar City is one that is actually a mix of dark ride and coaster in one.  Known as Fire In The Hole, the ride was built in-house in 1972 by park staff, and features a three story ride path that includes several drops.  Fire In The Hole has a colorful story line that involves a steadily burning town and its residents.

The facade of Fire In The Hole
From the outside of the ride guests can't quite make out what will take place, but any repeat visitor to the park seems to grow to love the silly antics that take place inside. This includes scenes depicting the town in flames, some water filled caverns, a very close encounter with a train and a large drop finale complete with splashdown.  The unique ride is just quirky enough to have acquired a large fan base, and now that I've ridden it I can understand why!

The 'main event' if you will.
This year the park is all about Outlaws, and their capture of course because the "Good Guys Always Win" at Silver Dollar City!  The name of the game is Outlaw Run, and if you missed it you can see Scott and Carol's story on the brand new coaster at this link.

The ride has taken up home just beyond Wilson's Farm and has a wonderfully themed entrance plaza complete with fully realized Western buildings and even an authentic stage coach.

Up the quick lift hill.
Outlaw Run is a wild ride that conceptually involves a trip on a stage coach themed train, and travels out into the beautiful woods that surround the property.  The shot above shows the train just after it leaves the station, starting out its climb up the 107 foot tall lift hill.  It's a quick trip up to the top, and you have just enough time to take in the amazing view from the top before the train turns and plunges down 162 feet at 81 degrees.  From there the ride is a bit of a blur, not only because it is so fast but also because the elements come at riders in rapid succession.

Silver Dollar City builds pretty coaster stations!
As Scott and Carol mentioned in their story, when we hit the brakes my take on what had just happened was humorous yet true.  The ride experience can seem a bit 'insane' at first, because of the amount of speed, intense direction changes, unique elements, and three inversions to boot!  The park and Rocky Mountain Construction have created something quite special with the ride - I can honestly say I've never been on anything like it before.

One can only imagine the other designs that could come from this new track technology, endless I'm sure, but I will be eager to see how this style of ride could be incorporated at other parks.

Splash!  Is anything here not pretty?
Moving back to a much more relaxed, traditional thrill is the park's log flume, named the American Plunge.  Slow moving logs travel down the river and through some extended dark caverns.  After popping out briefly they renter only to exit on the lift hill to the final drop.  You can get a good idea of how that looks from this photo, and be sure to only ride if you are willing to get quite a blast of water!  This isn't one of those flumes that just gives a light mist!

Tucker out those kids!
We've certainly looked at some thrilling attractions that Silver Dollar City offers, but there is plenty for families with little ones at the park.  Above is Half Dollar Holler, an elaborate play area for kids filled with climbs and paths as part of Treetop Trail.  There's also a couple more traditional kiddie rides such as Hugo and Mary's Carousel - everyone needs a photo of their children on a Carousel!

Huge play area for the kids.
On the other side of the property is really enormous area known as Geyser Gulch, which is considered by the park as the "world's largest treehouse."  The multi-story play structure relies heavily on water for fun - the story goes that a massive geyser blasted all the structures of the town Geyser Gulch into the trees, and now there is a massive, connected series of treehouses for kids to explore.

There's blasters located along the side of the structure, where you can aim and blast at targets on the structures located in the middle of Lake Silver.  Once enough pressure has built up the geyser will launch - just make sure you're not standing too close!

That is an instrument or a large sting ray.  I think.
Shows.  They're a really big deal in the Branson area, though I doubt I need to explain that to anyone.  The same can be found inside the park, especially during the Festivals that Silver Dollar City holds.  Our visit was during World Fest, which has several new shows this year from around the world.  A quick look at the roster includes live entertainers from places like Switzerland, Ecuador, Ireland, Austria, Russia, Argentina, and even New Zealand.

Guests line up very early for performances and many groups plan their days around the entertainment schedule.  With so much to see, those who love shows and rides really need more than one day at the park!

A raft heading through the river course.
While I didn't take a spin on it I really liked the look of another of the park's somewhat recent additions, Tom & Huck's RiverBlast!  Squeezed tightly in the Riverfront section of Silver Dollar City, the ride features slow moving rafts that come equipped with water blasters for the riders.  RiverBlast opened in 2010 and was a part of the park's 50th anniversary celebration.

Those kiddies are trying to spray non-riders!
As the rafts slowly move around the course there's tons of theming that contain targets for them to aim at.  That also includes human targets, as there are plenty of places where riders can spray at those on the pathways around the attraction - but guests not on the ride can fire back!  These 'splash battle' style rides seem to be popular at the parks they've shown up at - and when RiverBlast opened it was billed as the largest in America.

This mine is flooded!  See!
Silver Dollar City has another quirky ride, this time a shooting target dark ride named The Flooded Mine.  What was once a thriving mining operation now has a problem with an endless rush of water that has flooded the caverns.  Guests sit on boats as they travel through various scenes, and are equipped with their own gun as they pass targets.  Like with other similar rides, the guns keep track of your score as you go - something that's pretty simple unless you're me, apparently, since I read my score upside down the whole time, much to the amusement of Scott and Carol!

Train time! A perfect break.
The park's train ride, formally named the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train, is a great way to relax for 20 or so minutes during your day at the park.  The ride takes the cars through the park and then out into the surrounding woods, including a trip through a dark cave.  You can get some of the best views of Outlaw Run from the ride as well, it passes right in front of the crazy first overbank element!  Make sure to have your camera ready.

That "whaaa" face is perfect for the character!
There's more to the train than just a pretty view of the park and the landscape, though.  At one point a couple of over-the-top train robbers make an attempt at robbing the passengers, but fear not - they're a bit too slow to pull it off.  The comedic performance garners plenty of laughs from the train passengers, especially smaller kids who aren't quite sure what to make of the duo.

An Arrow mine train! Woohoo!
There's still one more large coaster at the park that we haven't yet checked out, and that's Thunderation.  The ride is an Arrow mine train, and it is no secret that I love riding these types of rides.  Thunderation was one of the last ones that Arrow created, so the engineering and design standards are well above those found on similar mine trains built in the '60s or '70s that are known for their crazy transitions and seemingly constant lift hills.

Directly out of the station.
Thunderation takes full advantage of the hilly topography of Silver Dollar City - the lift hill is actually near the end of the ride so things start off quickly right away.  The trains leave the station and after a small drop meander across the hillside briefly before entering an enormous multi-level helix that tightens as it progresses downward.  That ends with a sudden tunnel, which is followed by a significantly large swooping drop even further down the side of the hill.

Zooming through the forest on Thunderation.
After a climb back up the train starts up the really, really big lift hill which gets them back up to a height above the level of the station.  If you really look at the trains on the lift hill while waiting in line it's amazing to see how much elevation change takes place and how much lift is needed to correct that.  After the lift there is one more big (big for a mine train, anyway) drop and a quick turn in to the brakes.

I had high hopes for this ride and I must admit that even outside of my affinity for Arrow mine trains Thunderation is great!

Welcome to the Grand Exposition!
As rides became more popular as an offering at Silver Dollar City there was one thing missing: flat rides.  The park has several larger dark rides, water rides, and coasters, but unlike many parks you do not pass lots of flat rides as you walk around.  That was more than fixed with the addition of a whole new area, named the Grad Exposition, which is a two acre land that contains a total of ten rides.  The expansion added and additional 5,000 rides per hour to the park's capacity, something that I'm sure eased operations around the entire property when it debuted in 2006.

All smiles on the Mighty Galleon.
The area is themed after the many expositions that took place that showed off the latest technological marvels of the late 19th century.  I noted that this section of the park was very level, and how that struck me as odd - until Carol informed me it used to be a parking lot!  Makes sense now!  The mix of the rides that are in the area cater to all visitors.  There's bigger thrills like the Magnificent Wave Carousel, Mighty Galleon, and Racing Regatta - but also ones for kids like the Ladybugs and a kiddie coaster, too.

Spinning, spinning - a bit too much for me.
Above is the Electro Spin, another one of the more thrilling rides that the Grand Exposition offers.  The land also has shops and food, and the theming is top notch in helping make it feel like it could have come out of the late 1800s when everyone had an idea or two for a crazy ride they wanted to build.  There's plenty of areas for parents and non-riders to wait, something that fits the needs of guests at a park as diverse as Silver Dollar City.  They keep in mind that not everyone wants to spin around until they want to lose their lunch!

One of many scenes like this around the property.
There you have it - my take on a park that I've wanted to visit for years now.  I'm so happy I got to check it out, and while my day was more than full I think there's still plenty I missed out on.  That means another visit sometime down the road!  Special thanks to the park for helping us see and do all we could, and thanks as well to Scott and Carol for showing me around.  If you have the chance to add Silver Dollar City to an upcoming trip, by all means I would recommend doing so!