Five Changes You’ll See at Dollywood in 2019

Wildwood Grove is obviously the flagship addition to Dollywood in 2019, but there are some smaller changes at the park that you won’t see advertised on a billboard. Below are five changes found at Dollywood in 2019 (so far).

1. Thunderhead received some new track!

One of the most exciting updates for us coaster enthusiasts is the rather extensive retracking that Thunderhead received during the off-season.

Now don’t get too excited – only the first drop and turnaround received new track. But hopefully the work will continue over the next year or two.

The base of the first drop and the first turn are both taken at high speeds (Thunderhead reaches a top speed of 54 mph), so the smoothness is very noticeable.

I was never that bothered by the ride’s supposed roughness. After all, it’s an intense, twisted wooden coaster that opened 15 years ago (happy birthday, Thunderhead!). If you want smooth, head over to Lightning Rod. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the new track.

2. Lightning Rod is (still) operating without a zero car.

This was technically a change made in late 2018, but if you didn’t make it to the park after Lightning Rod reopened from its several months of downtime, this will be new to you.

The decorative zero (or “lead”) car designed to look like the hood and grill of a hot rod has been removed completely, resulting in an amazing open-air, exposed ride experience for the lucky two riders in the front row.

There have been a few changes made to the coaster’s two trains since it opened in 2016. The “trunks” on the back of the train were also removed by 2017.

Before being removed altogether, the lead car was replaced with a lighter version in 2018. Rumors suggest that the decorative piece may have been removed to improve the reliability of the coaster, but the park has not commented on the change.

While the front of the train certainly looked very cool, I actually prefer the open-air ride in the front row. It’s well worth the wait if you can spare the time. And if this change in any way makes the finicky coaster more reliable, I’m all for it.

3. Mountain Slidewinder is no more.

According to the park (via Screamscape), the iconic Mountain Slidewinder water toboggan ride has permanently closed.

Rumors have swirled around its potential demise for years. It was a guest favorite and was one of the oldest attractions at the park.

It offered an out-of-control, unpredictable ride down the side of a mountain. It was a toboggan-style water ride typically reserved for water parks.

And the queue provided up-close views of Wild Eagle, which was a big plus for coaster photographers.

The age of the attraction and cost of upkeep likely contributed to its demise. The land it occupies is very hilly, so it will be interesting to see what the park plans to do with the space in the future.

Mountain Slidewinder will no doubt be missed by many.

4. Skyzip is gone, too.

The up-charge zipline attraction that soared over Wilderness Pass is gone as well, which is a bummer – I was planning to finally give it a try this year.

Open since 2009, the attraction seemed to be well-liked. I almost always saw someone zipping overhead or suiting up at the kiosk.

Perhaps it will make a return in the future.

5. The complimentary hand sanitizer has evaporated.

This is undoubtedly the least significant change on this list. Most people likely won’t notice the missing jugs of hand sanitizer at every restroom in the park, but for germaphobes like me, this is a big loss.

Even though it’s well known that nothing beats old-fashioned hand washing, having a backup squirt of germ-killing hand sanitizer is a pleasant placebo if nothing else. Even though Dollywood is one of the cleanest theme parks I’ve ever visited, at the end of the day it is still a theme park. Perhaps it too will return someday. Either way, I’ll keep a bottle in my backpack at all times.


Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments section below what other smaller changes you’ve seen at Dollywood so far in 2019.

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5 Responses

  1. Colleen says:

    There is a relaxation station that I didn’t see 2yrs ago. It’s nice to sit at for a bit.

  2. Charles says:

    Just a thought, but I think Splash country should put in a replica of this ride so it can live on for all of its fans in a more appropriate setting.

  3. lisaLISA says:

    We don’t need anymorr roller coaster we need more water rides more rampage rides tired of roller coasters

  4. Tammi says:

    me too, Lisa, I doubt we will be back again this year, too many favorite things being removed. Are the pirate boats still there?

  5. Anthony says:

    lisaLisa…. unfortunately no one rides the water rides at Dollywood. Unfortunately I never rode slidewinder, as I was either a single rider, or it was closed on the multiple trips I went to DW. But the lines were just never there, especially compared to the roller coasters you are tired of. Another water ride I’m surprised is still standing is the white water ride, there’s NEVER a line. I’ve only rarely seen a more than five minute wait for Daredevil falls, and I’ve been to DW all times of year, April, May, July, August, October, busy or empty. So its not just a matter of me lucking out, and seeing short lines on non busy days. As to Tammi’s question about the pirate boats, they were removed two seasons ago to put in an outdoor, patio are, a place to sit and relax, although I assume they took this ride out for maintenance costs and not ridership as that was quite a popular attraction. On the plus side, they built up a new kid centric area in Wildwood grove, so Its a nice trade off.

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