Lightening Rod Roller Coaster at Dollywood

Lightening Rod Roller Coaster at Dollywood- Fastest Wooden Roller Coaster in the World

Guest post and photos by Jamie Rhein

Side Saddle Sling flings two riders head over heels in a thrill ride using this 200 ft. tower.

I’m not necessarily an obsessed thrill seeker, but I do like an adrenaline rush. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains is an adrenaline rush playground. Thrill rides and one-of-a-kind experiences are part of Pigeon Forge’s DNA.

They are certainly in Stan Checketts’. Checketts has created thrill rides around the world for four decades and isn’t slowing down. His latest creation The Mountain Monster will open soon. I was lucky enough to tryout each part that sent me soaring and my heart pounding.

Checketts, who was in town for a meeting chortled with glee as I went flying 200 hundred feet in the air somersaulting over my traveling companion and fellow thrill seeker.

The somersaulting is part of Checketts’ Saddle Sling ride that flings two passengers sitting back to back upwards for what seems higher than a bird’s eye view.

The Mountain Monster also includes two other rides, equally heart-pounders that use the same 200 foot tower.

For more Pigeon Forge thrill seeking, here are more options. I did them all.

Lightening Rod-  Head to Dollywood theme park to find this speed treat of the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.  There are 3,800 feet of track that follows the curve of the mountain as the 24-passenger ride goes 73 mph over a 165 foot drop, a half loop and the twist and shout.

For a wooden coaster, this ride is fairly smooth even as it careens passengers to a 45-mph start from a standstill.  We road in the very back car for this speed quest. So fun!

View from top of Smoky Mountain Wheel

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel  You can’t miss this Ferris wheel. Located on Margaritaville Island, the shopping, eating and arcade playground connected to the Margaritaville Hotel, the Great Smoky Moutain Wheel is like a beacon.

Smoky mountain wheel

Smoky Mountain Wheel is a Pigeon Forge focal point

Climb into a enclosed gondola for splendid views of Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. Once everyone is loaded into the gondolas there are several complete circle go rounds. This is not a once you get on you are getting off type of Ferris wheel. Instead, sit back and enjoy the people watching and scenery as you head 200 feet up and come back down again over and over.

pigeon forge, zorbing

Zorbing in a zigzag

ZorbingOutdoor Gravity Park. This is the only place in the United States you can climb into a rubber ball inside another rubber ball filled partly with water and roll, tumbling and zigzagging down a hill.

pigeon forge after zorbingHonestly, I wish I had done more than one ride since I was already soaked from the first one. Plus, it was a blast. There are three options from which to choose. I picked one of the zigzag courses.

Even though I was holding onto a camera to film myself, I had no concept of my path from top to bottom. Left? Right? Up? Down? I have no idea, but what fun.

The water is added once you climb into the inner ball. I’d say it is thigh deep, just enough to give something to slosh in on the madcap trip down hill.

I had on shorts and a T-shirt but brought clothes to change into because getting soaked is unavoidable. Happily, the changing room has hair dryers.

Snow TubingPigeon Forge Snow that brings the winter inside year round is a fabulous concept. It works. I’ve been snow-tubing in Ohio. Although there isn’t the height at Pigeon Forge Snow that I experienced at Snow Trails or Mad River Mountain, there is the speed.

pigeon forge snow tubing

Like a regular snow hill, riders are given a tube specifically made for this sport. A conveyor belt brings riders to the top of the tubing lanes. Then it’s a matter of waiting for the signal that says its time to fly on down to the bottom. The great thing about this ride is that riders can go over and over again though hour long intervals.

What I loved here was the number of families with kids enjoying each other as they sped to the bottom of the hill. I heard one dad say over and over again. “This is the last trip.” I think he did five more as each kid wanted their turn to race him down.

Check each attraction’s website for hours and prices. They vary.

My thrill experiences were courtesy of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism as part of the Midwest Travel Journalists’ meeting. Opinions are my own. I had a blast!