Does a bear scream “Sh*t!" in the woods?
New Dollywood coaster represents park's biggest investment ever
The latest episode of The History Channel show, “The Fast History Of…,” is about amusement parks, and I am one of the talking heads! More info at the bottom of this article.
Dollywood announced today that it will be debuting Big Bear Mountain, a family-friendly, launched roller coaster, in spring 2023. Boasting nearly 4,000 feet of track, it will be the park’s longest coaster. It will also be Dollywood’s single largest attraction investment to date.
With a projected top speed of 48 mph and no inversions or especially big drops (the highest point is 66 feet off the ground), the coaster is not designed for major thrills. It will, however, offer three launches, which should get everyone’s adrenaline pumping. With a minimum height requirement of 39 inches, the attraction will be relatively accessible to a wide range of visitors, including children as young as four years old.
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What will distinguish Big Bear Mountain will be its backstory, which will focus on Big Bear, a mythical, enormous black bear. According to legend, the fearsome best terrorizes folks in Wildwood Grove, a wooded section of Dollywood that debuted in 2019. An explorer, Ned Oakley, invites guests to board the coaster, which is tricked out to look like off-road vehicles, in search of Big Bear. The cars will incorporate onboard audio and feature sound effects, including narration from Oakley. The course will include rock work, a waterfall, and a darkened cave in which (shh! Don’t tell anybody!) Big Bear may or may not be lying in wait.
“The Smokies are all about adventure and going exploring,” Dolly Parton said in a press release. “I’m excited our guests will be able to head out on their own trip into the Smokies to see if they can find that Big Bear!” The beloved, multi-hyphenate entertainer was on hand today to help make the announcement about the new ride at her park.
The Wildwood Grove land includes other attractions designed for young children and families including Dragonflier, a relatively mild suspended coaster in which the train hangs beneath the track. Many of Dollywood’s coasters include themed elements and storytelling features, such as Mystery Mine, which takes passengers for a hairy ride in the dark through an abandoned coal mine.
With 3,990 feet of track, the launched ride will span about 100 seconds. That’s long, but not among the longest coasters in the world. Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure, for example, is over 6,000 feet. For comparison, Big Bear Mountain will go faster and offer more thrills than toned-down coasters such as Dollywood’s FireChaser Express and Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. But the launched ride will not reach the speed of more intense rides such as Cheetah Hunt, a launched coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa that tops out at 60 mph.
Big Bear Mountain will be Dollywood’s tenth coaster. The park has an impressive lineup of thrill machines, including the highly regarded Lightning Rod, a launched ride which hits a potent 73 mph and includes a giddy quadruple down element in which the train dives down four times in rapid-fire succession.
Famously, Ms. Parton is not a roller coaster fan and does not board them at her namesake park. Big Bear Mountain would likely be mild enough that she, along with other thrill-challenged folks, could tolerate it. But, as Parton told me once in an interview, “I've got too much to lose — like my hair! Lord knows what else could fall out of me. I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather do than be scared to death [on a coaster].”
How excited are you about Big Bear Mountain? Have you been to Dollywood? If not, is it on your theme park bucket list? If you have been, what is your favorite thing to do there?
As its title suggests, the History Channel show, The Fast History Of…, attempts to cram the story of a topic into a 30-minute program–with commercials. Its most recent episode (number 15) is about amusement parks, and I was invited to participate as one of the talking heads! You can watch the show on demand via your favorite cable TV provider.
Among the wham-bam parade of facts, figures, personalities, and events are accounts of Coney Island, the evolution of the roller coaster, and the contributions Walt Disney made to the industry. Upon viewing the program, I was surprised to discover that a few of the details were not quite accurate or downright incorrect. (If you are an eagle-eyed parks aficionado, maybe you could have some fun identifying the errors.) The quick-paced romp through the history of amusement parks is nonetheless entertaining.
Have you seen the show? Were you familiar with the history of parks before seeing it? Did you learn anything new?