Poll: Best Nighttime Coaster Ride at Dollywood?

Dollywood is home to two of my favorite roller coasters to ride at night: Wild Eagle and Lightning Rod.

But each of those rides offers something unique after the sun sets. One offers unprecedented views (even at night) and the other offers almost no views at all.

I found myself torn, so I decided to analyze each:

Wild Eagle

A flight on Wild Eagle is unforgettable regardless of when you ride the steel wing coaster – soaring through the air on the “wings of an eagle” at 61 mph with no track above or below you is adrenaline-pumping fun from start to finish.

The slow climb up the 21-story lift hill allows you to admire the faint silhouettes of the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. You’re treated to unobstructed views of the often-starry Tennessee night sky.

But as serene as that ascent may be, what goes up must come down. The 135-foot first plunge is exhilarating. Slicing through the brisk, clear air at 61 mph will jolt awake any tired eyes. Flying through the coaster’s four inversions in the dark is laugh-out-loud fun.

The entire ride is refreshingly invigorating and a spectacular finale to a day at Dollywood.

Lightning Rod

The world’s first launched wood coaster is crazy by day and crazier by night (read my Lightning Rod review). Unless you’re graced by a full moon, prepare for a pitch-black, out-of-control race through the dark.

When your hot-rod train leaves the station, say goodbye to civilization and your eyesight – the lights inside the station will be the last you see for a while. The zero-to-45 mph launch whisks you over a hillside, and the 165-foot drop plunges you into utter darkness at 73 mph, making Lightning Rod the fastest wooden coaster in the world.

What follows that first drop is pure insanity: twists, turns, drops and more – all in total darkness. With no way to see what lies ahead, you are at the mercy of the ride as it ferociously careens through the 3,800 feet of wooden track.

I’ve ridden 175 roller coasters across the country – many of those at night – but my first nighttime ride on Lightning Rod remains by far one of the most memorable.

Final Verdict

Riding Wild Eagle and Lightning Rod in the dark are two totally different experiences, both spectacular in their own ways.

If you prefer a gentler (but still forceful and thrilling) ride through the cool, dark air, I recommend a night flight on Wild Eagle.

But if you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to end your day at Dollywood with a bang, look no further than a pitch-black, crazy-from-start-to-finish ride on Lightning Rod. You won’t regret it.

After much (probably too much) internal deliberation, I choose…Lightning Rod.

What’s your favorite Dollywood coaster to ride at night?

But let’s not forget the park’s major outdoor coasters: FireChaser Express, Mystery (partially outside) Mine, Tennessee Tornado and Thunderhead.

I’m interested to know what your favorite is. Vote in the poll below, and feel free to elaborate in the comments section.

This post originally appeared on the Dollywood Insiders blog where I also write.


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