In an industry that’s always evolving I’m always looking for something I haven’t seen before. During a recent trip visiting parks in the Southeastern U.S. I found several that caught my attention. If your park is looking for something different, you might consider one of these.
One of my early stops on my tour was at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to see their new Wildwood Grove section of the park. It is themed to Dolly Parton’s childhood. “When I was a little girl growing up in the hills of the Smoky Mountains,” Parton recalled, “I’d often let my imagination just run away—something I still do now—dreaming these big dreams about what it’d be like to venture off with a family of bears in to the woods or how fun it would be to hitch a ride with the butterflies and dragonflies.”
So visitors can expect to find bears here, and they do, friendly bears that let guests meander with them at the Black Bear Trail. Black Bear Trail. Built by Metallbau Emmeln, it allows guests to hop on the back of a friendly black bear and explore. The ride system is Metallbau Emmeln’s Pony Trek system, which is found in amusement parks worldwide, but with bears rather than ponies. It’s a mild family ride. I couldn’t resist. Climbing onto the back of one of the friendly bears, shown here, I glided through the beautiful scenery, enjoying the landscape, accompanied by a joyful banjo tune.
In nearby Gatlinburg I stopped at Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park to ride their Mountain Glider. It’s a Rollglider built by Walltopia, the first in the U.S. The Rollglider is a low capacity aerial ride that would require an upcharge in an amusement park. It combines the thrill of free falling and hang gliding into one ride, a cross between an inverted coaster and a zip line. There’s a lift hill leading to a twisted overhead rail. Riders sit in a harness hung below the track and are free to swing out around the turns. The two and one-half minute ride on the Mountain Glider features a 90 foot drop.
At Playland’s Castaway Cove, Ocean City, New Jersey, owner Scott Simpson had completed installation of their new Squadron 33, a Technical Park Aerobat. Squadron 33 is the first Aerobat to appear in North America. “It replaced Technical Park’s Heavy Rotation ride,” Simpson told me, “which was a big thrill ride, very fast. I was looking for something better suited to our customer base. It’s an interactive ride. Guests control the planes themselves so they can just sit there, roll it back and forth, or roll it over. People love the interactivity since they can control the amount of thrill.” This is a ride that makes sense for any size park, and I expect to see more of them in future years.
After 15 days on the road covering 2,000 miles I finally returned home with lots of information, a camera full of photos, and a head filled of wonderful memories. Then reality hit as I unloaded a pile of dirty laundry.